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Bill Gates (b. 1955)
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Bill Gates discovered computers at Lakeside School in Seattle, which leased a timesharing system when he was in the eighth grade. He and his friend Kent Evans took to the Teletype almost instinctively—until the older kids came in and kicked them off. Gates and Evans would not leave quietly, however, and two of the older kids, Paul Allen and Ric Weiland, soon befriended their young rivals. Over the next few years the friendship deepened as the rivalry continued, driving the four to learn as much as they could about computers and programming. They began calling themselves the Lakeside Programming Group.

What may have set Gates apart from his friends was his fascination with business. Even before computers he enjoyed leafing through Forbes and Fortune, dreaming about what it would be like to run a company. Everything he and his friends did turned into a business, even if the only pay was free computer time.

In his senior year, Kent Evans died in a climbing accident. Ric Weiland had gone to Stanford and Paul Allen to Washington State, leaving Gates the last member of the group still at Lakeside. Upon graduation, he had to decide whether to go to Harvard, as his parents wanted, or try to start yet another business with Allen, who by then had dropped out of college. He chose Harvard, but before the end of his first year he found himself with Allen again writing a BASIC interpreter for the MITS Altair 8800, a project that would result in the formation of Microsoft.

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Altair 8800

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Related Links

An Open Letter to Hobbyists, Bill Gates
Read the full text courtesy of the DigiBarn Computer Museum.

The $100 Billion Friendship
Interview with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Brent Schlender, Fortune magazine, 1999.

Bill Gates Interview
Transcript of 1993 video oral history from the Smithsonian Institution.

Popular Electronics
Scans of the January 1975 issue, cover and Altair article.



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STARTUP Gallery Map, click to view full map
Bill Gates (b. 1955) is discussed in the It Happened in Albuquerque section of the STARTUP Gallery. Click on the map to explore any section of the gallery.