History of Bill Gates for Kids

Imagine it’s 1980 and you find yourself among a group of businessmen arriving at a small company named Microsoft. You are here to meet the company’s president, a man by the name of Bill Gates.

Dressed in your suit, crisp white shirt, and neatly knotted tie, you look very important. And indeed, you are a significant player in the world of business. These men are no ordinary executives; they’re from IBM, which, during this time, is the largest computer maker in the world.

As you wait, a young fellow appears before you. He seems hardly older than a teenager, but there’s an air of confidence about him. You ask him for directions to Bill Gates’s office, and without hesitation, he leads you there. Much to your surprise, he takes a seat behind the desk. It’s then that you realize he is Bill Gates himself, the head of Microsoft!

Bill Gates is just twenty-four years old at this time, although he appears even younger with his tangled hair, much too-large glasses, a sprinkling of freckles, and his cozy pullover sweater. However, as soon as he begins to speak, it becomes evident that he possesses a deep knowledge of computers which would lead him to become the richest man in the world.


William Henry Gates III was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington. Due to being the third Gates with the name William Henry, his family called him “Trey,” which is another way to say the word three. However, to everyone else, he was simply Bill.

As a child, Bill was very active, spending hours rocking back and forth on his rocking horse. This habit of rocking back and forth would become something you’d often see during his important business meetings. He found it to help him think better.

On school nights, there was a strict no-TV rule in the Gates household. Instead, the family would have conversations, play games, and immerse themselves in books. Young Bill loved to read, even deciding at age seven to read the entire encyclopedia and World Book! That is a full shelf of books! 

His intelligence was obvious to all who knew him. There’s a memorable incident where the whole family was ready for a short trip in the car and suddenly realized Bill was missing. His mother found him inside the house, deep in thought. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m thinking, Mother!”

Challenges always intrigued him, and he was known for looking for ways to test his abilities. He was naturally left-handed but would switch to his right hand if he found himself bored in school.

At the age of eleven, he participated in a contest at his church. The challenge was to memorize the Sermon on the Mount, a long list of Bible scriptures. He not only memorized the whole thing but also did it without making a single mistake, impressing the minister. When asked about his accomplishments, he replied, “I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Winning was also extremely important to Bill Gates, and he didn’t like losing. During summers, his family spent two weeks at a cabin named Cheerio near Puget Sound. There, young Bill’s competitive spirit shone as he excelled in many different sports, such as water skiing, ice-skating, swimming, and downhill skiing.

However, in the sixth grade his interest in school seemed to drop. This caused his parents, Bill Sr. and Mary, to make an important decision. They enrolled him in the private school Lakeside at the start of seventh grade, setting the course for a new chapter in his life.


Bill was the smallest kid in his seventh-grade class at Lakeside School, but the teachers at Lakeside helped kids find what they loved. Bill Gates was good at math and science, but he hadn’t found his special interest yet.

Then, one spring day in 1968, a teacher took Bill and some of his friends to a place called “the computer room.” But guess what? There wasn’t a computer in there! You see, at that time, there were no small personal computers like we have today. Computers were huge devices as big as rooms that cost millions of dollars and were only used by the government, military, and universities. Even Lakeside, a fancy private school, couldn’t afford one. So, they got the next best thing – a Teletype machine. It looked like a large electric typewriter, and there was a telephone that connected it to a computer in downtown Seattle.

The teacher showed the boys how to type a special command, which made the teletype start making a lot of noise and punching holes in a long roll of paper tape. 

Then, that message went through the phone lines to the computer miles away, and it sent back an answer.

Bill Gates was amazed by what the computer could do! After that, he spent all his free time in the computer room. He read every computer manual he could find and learned computer languages. 

Some other kids at Lakeside got just as excited about computers, and they all learned from each other. It was funny because the teachers had planned to teach the kids about computers, but it turned out that Bill and his friends became the experts. They even taught the teachers!

At Lakeside, he discovered his true passion – computers! His genius brain now had a focus, and it was all about computers! 

A group of kids got together and created a computer club called the Lakeside Programmers. They loved writing their own computer programs. A Computer program is a set of instructions for the computer to follow. Think of a computer program as a set of commands that you give to a computer to make it do certain things. Like typing out words, playing a game, or doing math. When Bill was just thirteen, he wrote his very first program, and it was for playing tic-tac-toe!

For someone like Bill who loved a challenge, the computer was the perfect playground. Every program was like a puzzle. If he made one tiny mistake in the instructions, the computer would get all confused and make mistakes too.

Now, Bill was younger than most of the other kids in the club, and they thought he was using up too much time on the computer. So, they actually kicked him out of the club for a little while. But the other kids soon realized that Bill was smart and knew things that they didn’t. So eventually they asked him to come back to the club. 

Using the computer wasn’t free; it cost a lot of money. His parents paid for his school, but they told him he had to pay for computer time himself. So, Bill did what any smart kid would do – he got a job! There was a company in Seattle called Computer Center Corporation, and they had a computer. The boys at Lakeside made a deal with them: they could use the computer for free if they found mistakes in its programs. It was a dream job for Bill and his friends because they had control over this massive, million-dollar computer.

They had to work at odd times, like at night and on weekends when the company’s staff didn’t need the computer. Sometimes he and his buddies stayed up until midnight. If he missed the bus home, he had to walk three miles!

When he was fifteen, he teamed up with another Lakeside Programmer named Paul Allen. They created a program called Traf-O-Data, which measured traffic flow in Seattle. And guess what? They made $20,000 from it!

He and Paul were pretty different. Paul was quiet and shy, while Bill was more outgoing and liked to argue to make a point. But they both loved computers and respected each other’s ideas.

They believed that computers had the power to change people’s lives, and they talked for hours about all the amazing things computers could do.

In his junior year, Lakeside School asked him to create a computer program for their schedules because they had just merged with an all-girls school, and it was too complicated to do by hand. Bill did it, and in return, he got about $5,000 worth of free computer time. 

Finally, in 1973, Bill graduated from Lakeside School, and he was all set to go to Harvard University. Lakeside had been an incredible journey for him. He discovered his love for computers, started his first business, met Paul Allen, and they were about to do something no one had ever done before.

College life at Harvard University was already keeping Bill Gates on his toes with classes and campus adventures. But little did he know he was about to change the world forever.

Fast forward to the middle of his sophomore year, a time when Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen stumbled upon a magazine called Popular Electronics with the headline: “WORLD’S FIRST MINICOMPUTER KIT.” 

This was the birth of the Altair 8800. The Altair was unique because it was a small computer able to perform tasks that previously required large expensive mainframe computers. Do you remember the huge computers we mentioned in a previous episode that required large rooms of equipment? With an Altair 8800 at an affordable price, someone could own a computer small enough to have in their own home.

The Altair 8800 didn’t look like today’s sleek computers. It looked more like a black microwave with switches and lights. It didn’t even have a keyboard or screens. 

Bill and Paul quickly realized that the Altair 8800 had the hardware but lacked something very important: software. It was like having a car with no fuel – a machine ready to go but unable to move! 

The physical part of the computer like the hard drive and the motherboard is called hardware – but everything you use the computer for, what you see on the screen like games and pictures is called software. Many people call these apps today. The Altair 8800 was a computer with nothing to do with it. This is where Bill Gates and Paul Allen saw an opportunity! 

Bill Gates was not your typical college student. He and Paul Allen were brilliant programmers bursting with energy and vision. They knew what they had to do – create the missing software that would bring the Altair 8800 minicomputer to life. 

Bill called the company that made the computer. The company was called MITS and was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

He told the head of MITS, Ed Roberts, that he and his partner were writing language software for the Altair 8800. He asked if MITS was interested in seeing it.

Roberts said SURE! He agreed to meet with the boys in a little over a month. They had boldly declared that their program was almost completed … yet they actually hadn’t even begun!

For the next eight weeks, they started on a whirlwind of late-night coding sessions and intense problem-solving. With time running out and their dreams on the line, Bill and Paul had to pull off something extraordinary. A friend from Harvard joined their mission, and just in the nick of time, their program was ready.

Paul Allen journeyed to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to present their creation to Ed Roberts, the head of the company behind the minicomputer. Their software had never been tested on a real Altair 8800 before!

In a room filled with anticipation, Paul entered the command: “PRINT 2 + 2.” Then, the magic happened – the computer responded with a triumphant “4”! Success!

That moment changed everything. Ed Roberts, head of MITS decided to purchase their program, marking the birth of the very first programming language for a microcomputer. And Bill Gates was just a 19-year-old college student at the time!

After Bill and Paul made their deal with MITS, they needed an interesting name for their business. They picked “Micro-Soft” because they were making software for tiny computers (“micro” means tiny). In less than a year, they decided to drop the hyphen. Bill became the president of Microsoft, and Paul was the vice president.

They worked day and night and hired more people as Microsoft grew. As Bill Gates hired new people he expected everyone at Microsoft to work as hard as he did, even late at night and on weekends. Luckily most of the people there didn’t mind because they were young, smart, and excited about computers.

In 1980, Bill was about to sign a major deal with a giant company called IBM. IBM was the biggest computer maker in the world, known for those massive computers that took up entire rooms. But now, they wanted to make smaller computers, and they turned to Microsoft for help. It was a big deal!

At that time, Bill was just twenty-four years old, and Microsoft had about thirty-two employees. In contrast, IBM had well over three hundred thousand people working for them. At first, people at IBM might’ve thought Bill was too young, but they soon realized how much he knew about computers. So, they hired little Microsoft to create the software for their new small computers.

The software they needed was called an operating system, which is like the commander of the computer. It tells everything how to work – the keyboard, the screen, and all the other software. Without an operating system the computer wouldn’t be able to do much, especially not use software!

For nearly a year, Microsoft worked hard to create the software operating system, and in 1981, IBM released its first personal computer, called a PC for short and these PC’s used Microsoft’s operating system called MS-DOS. 

Soon, other companies started making copies of IBM’s small computers, called clones. Microsoft could sell versions of MS-DOS to these companies as well. MS-DOS quickly became the standard operating system for computers all around the world. 

With this success, Microsoft grew like crazy. By the end of 1981, they had 130 employees, and by 1983, nearly 500! Bill was no longer able to know everyone by name, but he was still very involved in everything.

At meetings, Bill expected everyone to work hard and he respected those who stood up for their ideas and defended them. What mattered most to him was finding the best solutions to problems.

Microsoft unveiled its latest software update in 1985 called Windows. What set it apart was a small, tool on the computer screen known as a “mouse.” This tiny device had been around for a while, but for most computer users, it was their first time seeing it. The mouse brought a big change in how people used their computers. 

Before Windows, PC users had to memorize complex commands and type them on a keyboard. But with Windows, things became much easier. They could simply point at pictures on the computer screen. By clicking the mouse on an icon, an entire program would pop up. 

The reason they named their software “Windows” was because it allowed you to have more than one “screen” open at the same time, just like having multiple windows in your room.

In 1986, Bill Gates made an important move by taking Microsoft public. Going public meant that anyone could buy small portions of the company, called “shares” of stock. These shares were bought and sold on what’s called the stock market.

Shares in Microsoft sold very quickly and suddenly overnight Bill Gates became a millionaire. By the following year, the value of Microsoft’s stock had skyrocketed so much that he became a billionaire! 

Eight years after becoming a billionaire, he earned the title of the world’s richest person! He held onto that title for many years, from 1995 to 2007, and once again in 2009. His fortune was worth well over $50 billion. 

When he was thirty-eight, he married Melinda French in Hawaii, and it became famous all around the world. In order to keep it private and avoid people coming to take pictures and watch, they rented out all the hotel rooms on the entire island and even hired all the helicopters so that photographers couldn’t fly over and take pictures.

Later on, they became parents to three kids: Jennifer Katharine, Rory John, and Phoebe Adele.

In 1997, he built a fifty-five thousand square foot home near Seattle Washington that sat on top of a hill with an amazing view of Lake Washington.

To be eco-friendly and save trees, they built the house mainly using old, reclaimed lumber. 

When guests entered the house they could wear a badge with a tiny microchip that contained information about their favorite things.” When a guest entered a room, their favorite music played. The lighting and room temperature are automatically adjusted to suit the person’s tastes. Even their favorite art was displayed on the walls! 

The house had everything you could ever dream of: a game room, a movie theater, and a fully equipped gym. The indoor pool, stretching sixty feet long, had music underwater, and you could dive beneath a glass wall to go outside. There was also a boathouse, a dock, and a guesthouse!

But his absolute favorite part of the house was the giant library. Inside that library, hidden behind a secret wall, was a notebook written by the genius Leonardo da Vinci over five hundred years ago. He paid $30 million to own it!

In the English language, there’s a special word for someone who donates a lot of money to help others: philanthropist. After making a ton of money for many years, Bill started giving away huge amounts of it.

He and his wife started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where they donated billions of dollars from their fortune. Their main question was, “How can we use our resources to help the most people in the best way?”

Back in the early days, every office desk had a typewriter on it. But now, thanks to the computer revolution that Bill Gates led, almost every office desk in the United States has a computer on it … and there’s a computer in almost every home. 

So what do you think about the story of Bill Gates? Pretty fascinating, right? Now when you see a computer and the software (or apps) that run on it you’ll remember one of the geniuses who helped bring it into the world. The world is waiting for new ideas to be born. What are some of your big ideas? Or even little ideas? Big ideas have to start somewhere!