Who Is Bill Gates? – Patricia Brennan Demuth

Who Is Bill Gates

I was looking for a good biography about Bill Gates, the Founder of Microsoft for a long time. But I could not get hold of one except what I read about him on Wikipedia and other sources. But luckily, I had the pleasure of reading Patricia Brennan Demuth’s “Who Is Bill Gates?” last week. Though the book is very short – I think this book is meant mostly for children and young adults – it summarizes a good deal of Gates’ life in to shorter chapters. This was enough information for me till I find a comprehensive biography or an autobiography of Gates someday.

Though some people dislike Bill Gates for being a copycat and an unsympathetic businessman, I admire the man for initiating such a big revolution in the computer industry in a relatively short time. Without him, we would not have had access to computers and the internet within this short period of time. When I was a schoolboy in the 1980’s, the message given to us by our teachers and the media was that there would be a robot at every house by the then much awaited year 2000. But it was not to be. As of today, the robots are used in places like research laboratories and factories but it is not a domestic item as yet. Perhaps it will take a much longer time than anticipated by the science fiction writers in the past. Instead, most of us had a PC on our desks by the year 2000. To my knowledge, no science fiction writer could predict the big revolution of the PC’s would do in the world. But thanks to Gates, affordable PCs with sophisticated software came to our tables at offices and houses making our lives more comfortable.

Patricia Brennan Demuth’s biography “Who Is Bill Gates?” takes us a journey through Gates’ childhood, youth, adulthood till the time he formed Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation.

Computers were a luxury item that was hard to come by when Gates was a young person. Thanks to his school, the Lakeside School, he had access to a teletype machine which was more like a typewriter than a computer. He was greatly inspired and spent many hours as he could in the school ‘computer lab’ that was devoid of computers. Only big corporations and government institutions could afford to have huge mainframe computers which cost millions of dollars. But Gates had access to computer manuals in the school computer room which he read enthusiastically. He wrote his first computer program at the young age of thirteen!

The book informs the reader as to how Gates was inspired by the teletype machine, then how he found access to the computers at General Electric and how he met Paul Allen who eventually became the cofounder of Microsoft. According to the author, ‘the geek’ in Bill Gates changed after his marriage to Belinda French and he became a family man to his wife and the three children.

Life was not easy for Bill Gates, though he was born into a well-to-do family.  He had to work hard tirelessly to learn computers at a time when it was not easy to access computers or related knowledge. So, luck did not come to him but he worked hard and went in search of luck.

The book says how Bill Gates decided to step down as the CEO of Microsoft at his prime age as a business magnate and diverted his full attention to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which was set up to help the world with the money he amassed through his business. He did this at a relatively younger age of 52. This is the best age for most of the other businessmen to thrive at business, but Gates thought otherwise. So, all those people who criticized Gates as a mercenary tycoon who was interested in only making money can now look back in shame,  as to  how Gates  utilized the same money he accumulated for  social  welfare  & betterment of the people  of the world.

Windows, Apple, Linux and Me

I have been using Microsoft OS’s since 1999. First I worked with Microsoft Windows 95. Later I found a laptop with Microsoft Windows 3.1 and kind of enjoyed it. Next was Windows 98 which I used for quite some time even after the advent of Microsoft Millennium Edition. Then came the XP I revere most even today. My relationship with Microsoft Vista was too short and now I am using Windows 7 but don’t see much innovations there compared to Windows XP. Now I am waiting for Windows 8 to come. Hope at least that will bring some features that would take the world by storm.

I have used Apple Mac with Mr. Donald Gaminitillake in 2000. I learnt Photoshop and my first web designing lessons from Mr. Gaminitillake with his computer. He had a Japanese OS of Mac and I had to fight a hard battle to learn with it as I didn’t know any Japanese. But I was able to design the first version of Horizon website with a Mac with his support.

My love affair with Linux is with a lot of disturbances. I went to Ubuntu website and ordered free CDs and they reached me but I was scared to install it as I thought Windows would be affected. 3 CDs went into waste.

Next Revantha Udugampola gave me a used PC and a CD with Ubuntu OS while I was in Badulla in mid-2006. I ran it as a live CD and worked a little but not convinced to install it as the default OS. I was scared to install it with dual boot option as I thought Windows would be affected.

Anuruddha Rathnaweera and the company of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) visited Horizon Lanka on October 21, 22, 2006 and did several lessons on Linux and related software but I was not convinced to go up to an extent of installing Linux at Horizon’s computers. But some students mastered the game and use FOSS even today.

Danishka Navin of Sinhala Firefox fame wanted to send me a Hanthana Linux version when I was in Anuradhapura but the CD never reached me as something happened when it went to a friend’s friend and got lost on the way. He again brought me a DVD after I came to Colombo and I tried to install it in a laptop with Windows Vista but it never permitted me to install it. I tried several times and gave it up.

I brought the laptop to Colombo and again tried to install it with a friend of mine who is a Linux user for some time but the DVD was missing this time and there was only the DVD case with me. I can’t remember where I left the DVD.

Yesterday, since there was a Refresh Colombo event in Colombo and I decided to attend, I left few messages in Twitter asking any attendee to bring me a Linux or Ubuntu DVD as that laptop was giving some problems. It would take a long time to boot up and will give funny responses to my commands. I wanted to reinstall the shift to another OS.

Gaveen Prabhasara ‏@gaveen had seen my tweet and promised to send me a copy of Linux with Jude Fernando @judesfernando. I collected the set of CDs from Jude at the Refresh Colombo event. Gaveen had sent me Linux Mint, Ubuntu and Fedora OS’s and I tried to install Mint but it stuck on the way. Then I tried Ubuntu and it worked perfectly well. But Alas! The keys in QWERTY line of the keyboard didn’t work this time. The problem persisted even before I installed Ubuntu but I though it will be solved with the new OS. Now I have to wait till the keyboard is repaired to use Ubuntu. I feel that though I like Linux, Linux doesn’t like me.