Bill Gates’ personal net worth — an estimated $US80 billion — rivals the GDP of Ecuador and tops Croatia’s.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which he and his wife set up in 1997, gives away nearly $US4 billion a year.
The Financial Times wrote that “through the stroke of pen on cheque book, Gates probably now has the power to affect the lives and well-being of a larger number of his fellow humans than any other private individual in history.”
How did the world’s wealthiest man get to where he is today? Gathered from 20 years of interviews, these quotes show how Gates grew from startup nerd to software titan to history-shifting activist.
'It's pretty amazing to go from a world where computers were unheard of and very complex to where they're a tool of everyday life. That was the dream that I wanted to make come true, and in a large part it's unfolded as I'd expected. You can argue about advertising business models or which networking protocol would catch on or which screen sizes would be used for which things. There are less robots now than I would have guessed.'
'Most of our competitors were one-product wonders ... They would do their one product, but never get their engineering sorted out.
'They did not think about software in this broad way. They did not think about tools or efficiency. They would therefore do one product, but would not renew it to get it to the next generation.'
'We had really bet our future on the Macintosh being successful, and then, hopefully, graphics interfaces in general being successful, but first and foremost, the thing that would popularise that being the Macintosh.
'So we were working together. The schedules were uncertain. The quality was uncertain. The price. When Steve first came up, it was going to be a lot cheaper computer than it ended up being, but that was fine.'
'You know, even when we wrote down at Microsoft in 1975, 'a computer on every desk and in every home,' we didn't realise, oh, we'll have to be a big company. Every time, I thought, 'Oh, God, can we double in size?''
'Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centres, but just for the hell of it go three miles aside and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no running water ... The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.'
'Eradications are special ... Zero is a magic number. You either do what it takes to get to zero and you're glad you did it; or you get close, give up and it goes back to where it was before, in which case you wasted all that credibility, activity, money that could have been applied to other things.'
'I'm certainly well taken care of in terms of food and clothes ... Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organisation and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.'
'The most important work I got a chance to be involved in, no matter what I do, is the personal computer. You know, that's what I grew up, in my teens, my 20s, my 30s, you know, I even knew not to get married until later because I was so obsessed with it. That's my life's work.'
'You have to have a certain realism that government is a pretty blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well.'
'You know, development sometimes is viewed as a project in which you give people things and nothing much happens, which is perfectly valid, but if you just focus on that, then you'd also have to say that venture capital is pretty stupid, too. Its hit rate is pathetic. But occasionally, you get successes, you fund a Google or something, and suddenly venture capital is vaunted as the most amazing field of all time. Our hit rate in development is better than theirs, but we should strive to make it better.'
'Our modern lifestyle is not a political creation. Before 1700, everybody was poor as hell. Life was short and brutish. It wasn't because we didn't have good politicians; we had some really good politicians. But then we started inventing -- electricity, steam engines, microprocessors, understanding genetics and medicine and things like that. Yes, stability and education are important -- I'm not taking anything away from that -- but innovation is the real driver of progress.'
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