It’s really not news that Bill Gates is stepping down from his role at Microsoft. I recall him saying pretty clearly five or six years ago that he planned on removing himself from his position within the company before he was 55, and spending an increasing amount of time in his philanthropist role within the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
That said, it is something of an end of an era. Bill and I sort of “grew up” together in a philosophical sense. One of the first computers I played with was an Altair 8800- Bill and Paul Allen both worked briefly for MITS, the company that made the Altair, and formed “Micro-Soft” at that time. I bought my first computer in 1980, when Microsoft was still had fewer than 30 people on staff and was generating less than $3 million a year in revenues. I remember reading about Bill Gates at around that time- he was still in his early 20’s, and not yet a “superstar”, and I figured he was doing exactly what I wanted to do: write code and get rich 🙂
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think of Bill Gates as some sort of technology god. He possesses any number of flaws, from his storied arrogance and overwhelming (some would say crushing) drive to his dandruff. But Bill has been my stand-in in a world of former football-jock CEOs possessing Yale and Harvard MBAs and about as much technical know-how as an ice cube. He proved that someone who really knew things, a technologist not a jock or cocktail sipping blueblood, could “win”. That brains could win out over smooth charm, fine manicures, and tailored suits. My personal “revenge of the Nerds” icon.
So, here we are, 26 years later. Bill is 50, so him stepping down is right on track for his plans. Ray Ozzie is another one of my technology “idols”, and he is taking on much of Bill’s technical leadership roll within Microsoft. But for me, Bill Gates will always signify my “youth” and growth in the technology field. Thanks, Bill- and best of luck to you in your increasing role within the Foundation.