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Microsoft

Bringing Up Bill 169

Posted by kdawson
from the plenty-of-freedom dept.
theodp writes "Over at the WSJ, Bill Gates Sr. describes what it took to turn an unruly 12-year-old into Microsoft's founder and the world's richest man. This included throwing a glass of cold water in the boy's face when he was having a particularly heated argument with his mother at the dinner table. 'He was nasty,' says Libby Armintrout, Bill's younger sister. 'I'm at war with my parents over who is in control,' Bill Gates recalls telling a therapist, who told his parents that their son would ultimately win the battle for independence, and their best course of action was to ease up on him. The rest, as they say, is history. The accompanying Gates Family Album is also worth a look."
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Bringing Up Bill

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  • His life achievements notwithstanding, obviously Bill never outgrew this mentality, from his "open letter to hobbyists" on the antics of Microsoft, especially from the 90s onward...
    • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @02:32AM (#27719163) Homepage

      This is kind of tabloid territory here, but I am reminded of numerous accounts of "Bill Rage" in MS meetings. If you wanted to pitch an idea, you'd better be able to take on serious verbal abuse, sometimes simply because he didn't like the "name of one of the features" or because he didn't like some other minute aspect.

      There have been so many reports of this over the years that you could really see a pattern forming around his behavior, and people around him had to "adapt" to his eccentricities.

      For the most part, however, these outbursts didn't occur outside of closed doors. You don't see any videos on youtube with gates losing it in front of a camera.
      (not even in the pie incident, really)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @02:43AM (#27719209)

        If you wanted to pitch an idea, you'd better be able to take on serious verbal abuse, sometimes simply because he didn't like the "name of one of the features" or because he didn't like some other minute aspect.

        Yeah, and their stuff sucked a lot less back then, too. You wouldn't have seen Vista on Bill's watch; it took a Ballmer for that to happen.

        When a company no longer has someone at the top who is willing to call bullshit for what it is, that company is headed downhill.

        • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @02:56AM (#27719261) Homepage

          WinME happened on his watch. So did MS Bob, Clippy, and every internet search initiative you can think of.

          • by Frnknstn (663642)

            IIRC, MS Bob was designed by Bill's wife, so I think we can cut him some slack on that one. She's the one person Bill wouldn't challenge ;)

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Hal_Porter (817932)

            MS Bob was managed by his girlfriend who he later married [wikipedia.org].

            And actually the Search Doggy [toastytech.com] from Windows XP came from Bob

            http://toastytech.com/guis/bob.html [toastytech.com]

            Search Doggy was a very good dog, he always found my files when I lost them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by stonewallred (1465497)
            At risk of being modded down, I liked WindowsME. Once I got an update disc from Gateway it never BSoD on me again and worked flawlessly for five years. Only when my Gateway died, did I switch, and then to Windows 2000. I just went to XP a couple of years ago. Call me technologically conservative or non-geek, but I would rather run a tried, proven and fixed system and benefit from being a real late adopter, than be cutting edge. Cheaper and more reliable my way.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by flydpnkrtn (114575)

              I agree with your sentiment on running a "tried, proven and fixed system" but Windows ME was anything but... it was still based on the broken hybrid DOS/Windows model (VXDs, cooperative multitasking... yay!), whereas Windows 2000 was essentially Windows NT 5.

              If you really wanted to stick with a "proven" platform you could have stuck with NT 4 SP 6a :)

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                cooperative multitasking

                Huh? Windows used pre-emptive multitasking since Win95. Of course, you could still disable interrupts if you wanted to...

                • I still consider Win 95's model of "oh god bad stuff happened throw up a blue screen and tell the user to restart" cooperative, when compared to NT 4's preemptive style. At least in NT 4 when an app crashed and burned task manager could usually kill it...

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by LordLimecat (1103839)
              Thats because the update disk contained windows 2000. Suprise!
            • Mod +1 funny for obvious reasons.

          • by db32 (862117)
            Bob/Clippy sadly must be forgiven. Melinda Gates was responsible for those atrocities. Do you think he would kill the pet project of the one he shares a bed with?
        • You realize he headed the Vista project?

        • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @03:43PM (#27723041) Homepage

          Sorry?

          VisualBasic, Windows 95, 98, ME, ActiveDirectory, Bob, Clippy, win32 API, functionally useless APIs, forced backwards compatibility, intrusive and dangerous default system services, Internet Explorer, MSHTML, and on and on goes the list of half-baked, broken, and abusive technologies which we've had to work around for the past two decades. Policy at MS has always been "we're doing what we want, and don't care about you" with regard to their products; they're brazen, like an undisciplined IT worker is in making system changes.

      • by johneee (626549)

        Exactly. Look at what happened with Apple when Steve wasn't there. (who apparently is even more of a tyrant than Bill)

        As someone who worked at Rogers told me once, "never underestimate the power of a megalomaniac billionaire for getting things done".

      • by metamatic (202216)

        Steve Jobs is known for exactly the same kinds of tantrums. Ballmer too. Maybe that's just the kind of person you have to be to dominate an industry?

    • by maz2331 (1104901) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @02:51AM (#27719235)

      It sounds like the perfect qualities and personality for conquering an industry. Maybe we should be glad that he stayed out of law, or we could have ended up with a real control-freak president here.

      • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @03:13AM (#27719295) Homepage

        I'm not sure whether to mod you insightful or funny, so I'll just post... I really think this is quite a valid opinion.

        I'm probably the first to despise Bill for his tactics with regards to computers, but I can only imagine what it'd be like if he was a politician. Makes me kind of thankful that he stayed with stealing other people's software...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RichM (754883)
        It sounds like the perfect qualities and personality for conquering an industry. Maybe we should be glad that he stayed out of law, or we could have ended up with a real control-freak president here.

        Please, don't go giving him ideas.
        • we could have ended up with a real control-freak president here.

          Please, don't go giving him ideas.

          You do know that Bill has been cosying-up to Tony Blair, getting himself knighted, and been popularising his image with youth by getting on stage at charity music events etc., just like politians attempt to do now and then, right?

      • by jellomizer (103300) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @07:51AM (#27720237)

        If a control freak was president he would be very unhappy. Being president there is way to much entropy and with the checks and balances you do not have full control. So you need to get congress to go along with your ideas, the same with the judical system, and many of them do not like the fact that you are in power and will fight you every step of the way. Then you have a general population who will determine if you get an other term or not. Or to replace the people in congress with the guys who hate you. A controll freak would not be happy there as they have little control of what they do.

        • by hitmark (640295)

          thats why they are not presidents, but the powers behind the throne, so to speak...

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          The concern should not be that someone like Bill - a power hungry control freak - become President. For someone like Bill, every step up to the Presidency would be a stepping stone to the Presidency.

          And, in all likelihood, the Presidency would be a stepping stone to more power, in and of itself. The office of President wouldn't be important to him; sure, it's more prestige than whatever it was he did before, but it's not the true power he's looking for (not on its own, at least).

          Back-room deals with industr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I can't believe now we're resorting to personal attacks on /.

      Even if it's Bill... it's...

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by ameyer17 (935373)

        Even if it's Bill... it's...

        Still not "news for nerds" or "stuff that matters"?
        How is this relevant?
        Especially since Bill Gates is semi-retired.

        • by jamesh (87723) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:05AM (#27719659)

          Like him or not, Bill Gates is pretty high up in the list of people who had a large effect on the whole computing industry.As a nerd, and a parent, I'm interested in what makes him tick, so I don't make the same mistakes with my kids :)

          His parents must do all right at christmas/birthdays/mothers day/fathers day/etc though... maybe there's something in that.

          I wonder if, deep down, Microsoft Windows was just a way to rebel against his parents? eg "Fine then! I'm going to go and start a computing empire and make my products suckier and suckier and by the time people notice it will be too late for them to use anything else. And it be all your fault! :p :p :p"

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Like him or not, Bill Gates is pretty high up in the list of people who had a large effect on the whole computing industry.

            I have to agree. The issue I have is how much warping and damage did he cause the computing industry by his desire to win and maintain his monopoly at all costs. I've heard the arguments before that if Mr. Gates hadn't been around that Steve Jobs would have been running the show. That is not an unreasonable argument. My belief is that had CP/M been chosen for the first IBM PC, we would have had a more inclusive community, and more competition based on merits of the software and not on back room deals with c

      • I can't believe now we're resorting to personal attacks on /.

        You must be new here...

  • My take on it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @02:17AM (#27719103) Journal
    He grew up in a family with a moderately oppressive mother and a caring yet distant father, who valued intelligence. He talked like a lawyer (he was one), and while he cared about his son, if you wanted his respect you needed to be able to verbalize a coherent and logical argument. These combined to be a powerful motivation for Mr Bill to try to learn everything about the world, since that's what it took to get respect.

    He was a smart guy. He scored a near perfect on his SAT, and went into Harvard.
    • Those last two sentences... one can often have nothing to do with the other.

      • Indeed. Intelligence is nothing more than the skill of comprehending quickly.
        • Re:My take on it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by palegray.net (1195047) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @02:37AM (#27719181) Homepage Journal
          I disagree. While quick comprehension is important in life, the ability to synthesize new data from seemingly disparate sources (regardless of the time taken, many brilliant people "think slowly") has had a far greater impact on history.
          • Really? What brilliant people think slowly? If they are slow in coming to a conclusion, it's because they are considering a lot of things. Also, comprehension helps drastically with being able to synthesize new data from seemingly disparate sources.

            Either way, these are just skills that can be developed. Intelligence is nothing mysterious.
            • Reaction time is a pretty effective way to figure out how fast people can generally respond to or avoid some external stimulus, and no surprise that we all do this at roughly the same speed. Is this the speed of thought? Even the Michael Schumachers and fighter pilots of the world have pretty much identical reaction times to you or I. They are entirely average in that sense. None of us are super human, we are all just human. (I guess this is your point though?)

              A particular skill set can be developed for sur

            • You seem confused. First you ask for a list of brilliant people who think slowly. Einstein comes to mind, although he's an overused example. You then make the very valid point that this can be due to taking a large number of factors into consideration. This is followed up with an obvious statement regarding comprehension (it's difficult to use something in any context that you don't fully comprehend). Things get more difficult here:

              Either way, these are just skills that can be developed. Intelligence is nothing mysterious.

              This is largely false. People have a "hard limit" to the level of insight th

              • by timmarhy (659436)
                i agree. i have only ever achieved average scores in sit down tests with time limits at uni. but on assignments i've rarely gotten less than 90%, i attribute this to the difference time i have to think about a problem (also to the retarded incomplete questions on many tests and the lack of anyone to quiz about it, but i digress). even the most difficult programming subject which was known to have an 80% fail rate on the firt try i scored 100% on assignment 1 and 120% on assignment 2 (bonus questions).

                i man

              • This is largely false. People have a "hard limit" to the level of insight they are able to attain, particularly with respect to connections between multiple disciplines. This may be overcome to some extent through conditioning, but some people are simply capable of deeper thought than others.

                No, it is actually true. Do the research, I have. When it comes to the brain, there is no such thing as 'natural' talent that makes it possible for one person to achieve things other people can't. You are probably basing your statement on your perception of the world around you, and what others around you tend to believe, which means it is based on anecdotal evidence and hearsay.

                I can go farther than that. If you want to expand your brain power, or accomplish something with your brain, I can tell you

                • by tzanger (1575)

                  I can go farther than that. If you want to expand your brain power, or accomplish something with your brain, I can tell you how to achieve it.

                  Do tell. I've been interested in this very thing (natural limits of intelligence) for a while. I personally believe that everyone more or less has the same potential for learning and comprehension, but that personality and upbringing tend to either curb or enhance the individual's ability. Essentially if you're told you can't do something often enough as a young'un

                  • Yes, I agree with you completely. People limit themselves: once they believe something is possible, they start seeing ways to achieve it.

                    The first thing is to define your goal. Saying, "I want to achieve my intelligence" is kind of an empty goal, what do you really want to do? Increase your ability to notice things? Increase your score on the IQ test? Impress your friends with how intelligent you are? These are all different goals and you will go about achieving each one differently.

                    So since you d
    • Re:My take on it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Foofoobar (318279) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @11:49AM (#27721365)

      He was a smart guy. He scored a near perfect on his SAT, and went into Harvard.

      ... and while at Harvard, he realized that EVERYONE there was smart and scored a near perfect score on their SAT's. Making him average. So he dropped out. Giving further insight into his psyche; if he has ACTUAL competition, he will quit the game.

      This further lends itself to Microsoft' philosphy as a whole. They bought up or destroyed all competition with their monopoly wherever they could so there was no competition. Now that open source and Apple and Google are in town and ganging up on them, they are not having such a good time of it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        ... and while at Harvard, he realized that EVERYONE there was smart and scored a near perfect score on their SAT's. Making him average. So he dropped out.

        Given that not everyone from Harvard ends up earning a dew dozen billion dollars eventually, I'd say that he did prove his point by dropping out, no?

        • by Foofoobar (318279)

          Given that not everyone from Harvard ends up earning a dew dozen billion dollars eventually, I'd say that he did prove his point by dropping out, no?

          Making money is not proof of intelligence. Berny Maddof made billions. Is he as smart as Bill Gates? Or are they both thieves?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flydpnkrtn (114575)

        ... and while at Harvard, he realized that EVERYONE there was smart and scored a near perfect score on their SAT's. Making him average. So he dropped out. Giving further insight into his psyche; if he has ACTUAL competition, he will quit the game.

        Dude he dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft.... him and Paul Allen saw the Altair as "it's go time." It wasn't some three year old pouting because he was suddenly in the presence of people who were also smart (although being smart isn't necessarily the key to getting into an Ivy league school...)

      • by dave420 (699308)

        I'm sorry - I didn't know you were in Bill Gates's head. It's incredible that you know that for sure. Obviously you do, otherwise you wouldn't phrase it as fact.

        Ass.

  • PR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by csk_1975 (721546)
    Ah, the old human interest story. So which particular PR company is being paid to humanise the face of Gates? And why?
    • by Bushcat (615449)
      Dunno why the parent is marked as a troll. They're not being paid to humanise the face of Gates, they're being paid to remind the world that Gates Sr exists, because Gates Sr has a book published next week.
    • Do you really think they need a PR Company to humanise BillG face? When you have THIS replacing you at the company, you will look good compared to him no matter what you have done.

      http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/exec/steve/ [microsoft.com]

      Similar thing happened to SJobs, when he got fired from the company he founded. Ask the people who were around him in 1980s, he wasn't _that_ loved. Hugely respected, admired but not liked. Of course, BillG wasn't fired, that is one difference. IMHO, if he tried to make a NeXT like rev

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Would I have been better off growing up the son of a wealthy parents? I feel like most of my life thus far has been spent catching up to where the wealthy are right out of college. Sure, it's not exactly comparable -- time has given me more experience and perspective than almost any 22 year old -- but were all those years of figuring out how to afford to do what I wanted to do really beneficial to me? I've been reasonably wise in hedging my bets and am now able to afford trying to create and sell software o
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bottlemaster (449635)

      I'd say it's easiest for people to remain in the same class as their parents. Maybe you got shafted, but if you're 22 years old and doing what you want to be doing, you're ahead of the game.

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:04AM (#27719459) Homepage
    I guess ultimately Bill Gates, is just this guy, you know?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      I guess ultimately Bill Gates, is just this guy, you know?

      Good to hear it from his brain care specialist.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @04:57AM (#27719635) Homepage Journal
    I always think its funny when I hear or read interest pieces on a Celebrity's life. Bill Gates, according to the article synopsis, was a fiercely independent child, possibly even a brat, that was at odds with his parents. How many people in the world are there like this? And yet, its Bill that we write and read and care about because Celebrity drives and organizes social patterns....In the words of Robert M. Pirsig:

    "Celebrity is the Dynamic Quality that primitive social patterns once used to organize themselves. That gives celebrity a new importance.

    None of this celebrity has any meaning in a subject-object universe. But in a value-structured universe, celebrity comes roaring to the front of reality as a huge fundamental parameter. It becomes an organizing force of the whole social level of evolution. Without this celebrity force, advanced complex human societies might be impossible. Even simple ones.

    ...

    It was crazy. People going over Niagara Falls in a barrel and killing themselves just for the celebrity of it. Assassins murdering for it. Maybe the real reason nations declared war was to increase their celebrity status. You could organize an anthropology around it.

    ...

    Even a policeman's uniform is a kind of celebrity device so that you will do what he says without questioning him. Without celebrity nobody would take orders from anybody and there would be no way you could get society to work.

    ...

    Money and celebrity are fame and fortune, traditionally paired as twin forces in the Dynamic generation of social value. Both fame and fortune are huge Dynamic parameters that give society its shape and meaning. We have whole departments of universities, in fact, whole colleges, devoted to the study of economics, that is fortune, but what do we have that is similarly devoted to the study of fame? What exactly is the mechanism by which the cultures controls the shapes of the mirrors that produce all these different images of celebrity? Would analysis of that mirror-changing force enable the resolution of ethnic conflicts? Phaedrus didn't know..."
    - Lila, Chapter 20, Robert M. Pirsig.

    ... And so Bill Gates is a big enough celebrity to have his personal life dug into by the media. His social patterns and examples will be passed on from generation to generation. Funny, I would rather have Larry Wall be in a role that big instead....
    • Congratulations on citing a pretentious anthropology text, but you really could have made your point without it.

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:57AM (#27719837)

    Some of us remember when M$ was just producing crappy CP/M-80 compilers and assemblers. How crappy? It took me years to get out of the habit of writing "&array_name[0]", instead of "array_name", since C80 didn't use the latter correctly. (I understand that about version 6 of the M$-Windows "C" compiler they finally got it working; 5 didn't handle "if ((do_input) && inb())" correctly, since it would do the inb() first, at least in some circumstances).

    After IBM was stupidly (as it turned out) snubbed by Digital Research, Mary Gates happened to meet an IBM exec at the club, and when he mentioned that they were looking for an operating system for little computers, she made the connection between him and Bill.

    We all have her to "thank", first for bearing him, then for putting him into position to bully us.

    • The IBM people saw that business people using the Apple II normally had a Z80 Softcard from Microsoft with CP/M and several Microsoft tools and applications. They decided that their machine should have this as well.

      In their meeting with Bill, they were shocked to find out that CP/M belonged to a different company. Bill Gates immediately called Gary Kindall and told him he was sending some very important people to talk to him. The IBM people went to California and when things didn't work out they came back t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Some of us remember when M$ was just producing crappy CP/M-80 compilers and assemblers. How crappy? It took me years to...

      ALL early PC products had problems. The early adopters were fairly forgiving of such because they knew they were trading time for money (cheaper machine). Early Apple II's leaked so much radiation that they couldn't legally call them "comsumer products". The first TRS-80's crashed quite often. Etc.

      After IBM was stupidly (as it turned out) snubbed by Digital Research, Mary Gates happened

  • Why Bill Gates stays so calm [youtube.com] on stage whenever Microsoft's product demos run into trouble: He had plenty of experience with such things, starting at an early age [techflash.com]. Young 'Trey' managed to persuade employees of the City of Seattle to come to his parents' house for a demo of his and Paul Allen's Traf-O-Data [wikipedia.org] software, but the first live demo of his system failed. So how did Bill react? He ran into the kitchen, shouting on the way, 'Mom! Mom! Come and tell them that it worked!'

  • Of course the slideshow [wsj.com] isn't viewable in Firefox.

    It's a debatable point as to whether Gates ever actually grew up. He is famious for yelling "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard [technology-digital.com]" at his underlings. It would expalin his total lack of a moral compass in his business dealings.
    • by IvyKing (732111)
      Slideshow works on Mozilla running on Solaris/Sparc - betcha that you don't have Flash installed.

      I also wonder if Bill ever grew up.

      • by rs232 (849320)
        "Slideshow works on Mozilla running on Solaris/Sparc - betcha that you don't have Flash installed"

        Or a combination of noscript and a customized userContent.css file.
  • In addition to the freaking picture of MS founder(s) laying on the table next to amiga now I have the freaking picture of not well-aged father of the MS founder and the other MS founder.. now what? is this news for nerds site? sorry, no

    • by ZosX (517789)

      What picture of him laying next to an amiga? If you are talking about the teen beat spread, there were no amigas around then as the picture was from like 1983 or something.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:01PM (#27721453)
    Trying to put a soft human side to the person who stole innovation and profits from the PC industry, who used illegal leveraging of a monopoly to build his wealth.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Yep.

      It's like saying (though to a lesser degree) that Hitler was a nice guy: he enjoyed art, architecture, and beauty. He was a bit of a nerd, and looked down on - just your average nerd, not the high-functioning type. And he just wanted to be accepted; truly, he was just misunderstood!

      (Duly note the sarcasm.)

  • Gladwell's latest book "Outliers" has a chapter about Bill Gates. Overall the book is about how a certain very few people are able to have outrageous success. The standard American story of this is that through hard work and determination that anything is possible. Gladwell points out that in most cases it requires a lot more than grit and determination it also requires being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time with exactly the right skills. (I know... duh. Right? But it is a good boo

  • Outliers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrekkieTechie (1265532) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @01:09PM (#27721895)
    For another perspective on Bill's success, and a deeply interesting look at success in general, check out Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers [gladwell.com] .
  • and guess what? He's an asshole now.

    This reminds me of the scene in the current "Crank 2 - High Voltage" movie where the action stops at one point and we're treated to a replay of a video of Chev Chelios as a young boy being brought on a TV show because he's such a rotter even at that age.

    • by Arimus (198136)

      and guess what? He's an asshole now.

      He's a rich asshole now. Subtle but important difference, and off the top of my head can't think of many rich business people who aren't.

If bankers can count, how come they have eight windows and only four tellers?

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