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Remembering my father (gatesnotes.com)
678 points by janvdberg 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 183 comments





Personal anecdote. I ran into Bill Gates and his dad at the Taj Mahal once when I was there visiting with family. I remember being struck with how tall he was, and their stark height difference! I was 22 at the time and being a huge fan, I walked up to them - except Bill jr thought I was trying to sell him something and preemptively said no thanks and started to walk away. Bill sr, however, took a minute and engaged with me with a smile and the two of them talked to me for a couple of minutes about the Taj and what got me into tech. I remembered this friendliness today on reading this. And that last line about overusing the word incredible really resonates. RIP.

For anyone curious, Bill Gates is 5'10", his father was 6'7". That's an inch taller than magician Penn Jillette.

5'10" = 1.78m, 6'7" = 2.01m

Thank you sir.

wow hard to believe he didn't get the tall genes, but got the smart ones. :D

5'10 is above the median nonetheless.

Only by 1"

The Starbucks story involving his father is incredible. Schultz had actually left Starbucks and started his own coffee chain (Il Giornale) when the founders of Starbucks didn't want to expand the number of stores. They mostly just wanted to roast coffee. When the chance to buy Peet's came up, they decided to buy that instead and put Starbucks up for sale. Schultz was actually super passionate about Starbucks and jumped at the opportunity to buy it. Then one of his investors from Il Giornale tried to undercut him by putting in a higher bid for Starbucks. Bill Gates' dad was apparently a highly respected lawyer in the Seattle area and Schultz went to him for help. Bill Gates Sr. called the investor and gave him some tough talks and the investor withdrew his bid. It's incredible that senior Gates did that out of a sense of fairness and righteousness.

Source: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/wondery/business-wars/e/677... (This is the start of the series. The story itself is a few episodes into the series)


I guess I need to dig a little deeper into that Starbucks thing.

But if I was an owner of Starbucks and Bill Gates Sr called the high bidder and scared him off so someone else could buy my business for less, I don’t know if I’d ever forgive that.

It doesn’t strike me as fair or righteous.


I see what you're saying. Here's the CNBC version of it:

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/04/bill-gates-sr-helped-howard-...

It sounds like the Starbucks owners already offered it to Schultz and gave him 90 days to buy it and it was an exclusive offer. Part way through fundraising, an Il Giornale investor caught wind of it and approached Starbucks with a higher bid. I think the fact that Starbucks had offered it to Schultz first and then his own investor tried to undermine him and Il Giornale is sort of rotten and underhanded. I think the fact that Starbucks had offered it to Schultz first and agreed on a price and Il Giornale's own investor tried to undermine the deal is where things get a little shady.

Apologies for telling the story poorly and missing some important details.


Fast forward to today and Howard Schultz is despised in the Seattle area.

His presidential bid was DOA.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/29/howard-schul...


> Fast forward to today and Howard Schultz is despised in the Seattle area.

Did you even read the story? The founders wanted to make more coffee, Schultz wanted to make more stores. Seattle used to have an amazing coffee culture, and starbucks largely killed that. Schultz rightly gets the lion's share of the blame for that


Starbucks didn't kill it. Consumers did. Startbucks came to Australia and mostly failed (had to close lots of stores) as the local coffee culture is very strong. Starbucks was mostly ignored.

> Starbucks didn't kill it. Consumers did.

Starbucks seems to act as if it has a habit of making quarterly plans and mostly executing according to that intent.

But when I look at Consumers as a single entity it seems remarkably undisciplined. It can't seem to hold any plan in mind, coordinate its actions with any moment-to-moment follow-through on, or even _agree_ on a single intended plan. -- Consumers acts like it has no Chief Executive Function!


The stores that remain in Australia don't even belong to Starbucks popper. https://insideretail.com.au/news/7-eleven-buys-starbucks-201...

Does Starbucks corporation actually own Starbucks-branded coffeeshops in most countries other than the US? I thought usually it’s some local whale (like Maxim’s in HK/Macau) that buys the rights to the trademark and opens shops.

popper? or proper?

I'm not sure Starbucks would erode a places coffee culture, even in Seattle. If anything it would expand the pool of potential customers. I love and drink a lot of gourmet coffee/beans. I also visit Starbucks on occasion. I never go to Starbucks specifically for their coffee though, unless there is no good local cafe in the area. Starbucks is a lightweight coworking space / 3rd space at this stage.

Their predatory business practice killed a lot of local cafes. Places that were funky, cool, focused on their product and had a loyal base of locals but were kept afloat by tourists and other passersby who wouldn't cross a street, or just fell for brand recognition. They'd set up shop across the street or around the corner, and operate at a loss until they drove the locals off.

I'm loathe to admit that starbucks quality has gone up a bit lately, but even today their standard pull is burnt to hell in the name of homogeneity. So yeah, they dealt a huge blow to Seattle's (and many other cities) local cafes, and replaced them with a sanitized lack of culture.


For sure what you said happened however I’d argue it’s not a problem in places with legit coffee culture. Australia, Berlin, London to name a few places I’m intimately familiar with. Singapore on the other hand it most definitely is but that is a good reflection of the city tbh.

I'm from Singapore, and would fight you on your claim that Starbucks killed the local coffee culture. We have our own coffee culture, historically in the hawker centres, and it's most definitely still striving. Beyond that, there are tons of third wave coffee cafes that arrived in the past decade, mainly because of Australian influence. They're just not located at the shopping malls due to rental, where Starbucks and its ilk dominate.

Yes sorry I was comparing like for like and not kopi. I do love Singaporean hawker coffee culture. I’m going by experience from living in the heartland for a few years where the only 2 western cafes are coffee bean and Starbucks. They leave no space for a local alternative.

Definitely really good western café’s in Singapore too. Ronin is prob my favourite..... looks like they had to close :(


> in places with legit coffee culture

What about places with a newly-growing coffee culture?

What about places with a coffee culture whose strength is starting to temporarily weaken?

What about places which occasionally undergo change?


Yes there definitely is a case to be made. It’s more a criticism of capitalism imo

I agree, and I suspect Starbucks had other problems even in cities without much of a specialty or creative coffee culture (so, excluding London, Berlin, Melbourne, and I would add SF and a few others here).

For instance, many cities in southern and perhaps central Europe seem to have local cafes that don't do anything "special" with their coffee (what's a Chemex?) besides just existing as a local institution for decades with a consistent experience in quality and pricing, and that's something that I expect is very difficult for Starbucks or any foreign player to break into regardless of the quality or international popularity of the brand.


since when is the seattle coffee culture largely dead? o_O

Totally agree. Claiming Starbucks killed Seattle coffee culture is a total joke. There are plenty of funky, independent coffee houses to support if you're willing to look for them. The price is generally higher than Starbucks, but so is the quality of the coffee.

"If you're willing to look for them" is kinda the issue. In the mid-late 90s, the independent shops were a significant majority. Now, even Vivace feels like a chain and the quality of their pull has tanked.

Yeah - i'm confused by that statement. You would think it's only starbucks in town, when it's not.

Nah fam. He sold the Sonics.

He sucks.


>interrupted by hecklers, with one shouting: “Don’t help elect Trump...

Sounds more like people were not keen on Trump


Tough call.

If you and I handshake on buying my house, you’re rightfully upset when I sell to someone else for more.

On the other hand, all we had is a handshake, so I’m rightfully upset when you chase off a higher bid.

I guess how shady depends on the agreement that Schultz had. The fact that Sr was able to chase them off suggests the agreement was at least of some substance.


In SV fundraising deals, going back on a handshake is considered pretty bad behavior. Investors stand to lose many future deals if they break one without a darn good reason. Discovering a serious misrepresentation is such a reason, but seeing a better deal elsewhere is not.

The point of handshake deals is to give everyone time to get the details right, without the pressure of having the deal stolen. Forcing parties to rush through the details damages the whole ecosystem, so everyone is motivated to encourage everyone else to respect handshake deals.


That happened to us and on this VC firm's maiden round. They offered no reason except that they reconsidered. Wasted months of our time.

Our attorney (from Fenwick & West) told us the same, that it would damage the VCs reputation and that this was pretty much unheard of for them.

But I never heard another thing about it and that VC firm seems to not be having too much trouble filling out their rounds.


I did not know this raising my last round, but it was legit. The money was as good as wired.

A handshake deal is a contract. Breaking that contract (and the law) just because it's hard to prove in court is at the depth of depravity.

Just FYI, handshake deals can be valid contracts if certain requirements are met. For one thing, there needs to be enough specificity around the material deal points. Even if you have a written contract but you haven't agreed on the material deal points (for fundraising, this would be things like valuation, type of shares, number of shares/percent of company) then you don't have a valid contract.

There are some things that are on the fence in terms of materiality. For example, is the valuation pre- or post-money? Is there an option pool set aside?

Lastly, there are some types of agreements that cannot be done just on a handshake — there has to be a written agreement in order to be enforceable. IIRC from my law school days, this includes the sale of real estate and a contract that, by its terms, cannot be completed in a year. The latter excludes things that are known to take more than a year, like building a skyscraper. It would include "pet-sit my dog for 13 months while I'm vacationing", for example.


> Breaking that contract (and the law)

Breaking a contract is typically not breaking the law.


That's a bid mind boggling for me. Let's say we have a contract. You break it. So I'm not happy, I suppose I take you to the court.

And there, something is enforced that is not the law but where you are lawfully obliged to a sanction afterwards ?

I don't really understand why you'd say that ? Isn't the law kind of saying "you shall not break contracts" ? And if it's not, what's the point of a contract ?


My comment was typed quickly and was pretty non-specific, so I'm sorry about that and I probably deserved the downvotes. However, I maintain that under most people's understanding of the terms "breaking a contract" and "illegal", breaking a contract is not illegal.

Regarding "breaking a contract": Contracts often stipulate penalties for non-performance of terms within them. For example, you contract with me to rent my house for 5 years. The contract stipulates that if you leave early, I am entitled to keep the deposit. In common language, people will refer to leaving early as "breaking the contract", but there is nothing illegal about doing so.

Regarding "illegal": If the contract does not specify some penalty for non-performance of a clause, or it does specify one but you somehow avoid the penalty, then it would become a matter for the courts, but importantly, it would be a civil court, not a criminal court. You have not broken a law, you have broken a contract, and the civil courts will determine how this situation will be made right.


Well, I thank you for replying, it makes things clearer !

A handshake agreement could very well be a valid, binding contract if certain conditions are met. I would be very cautious about backing out of such an agreement without talking to a lawyer. (And it's a pretty bad look to go back on your word, even when you're legally in the clear.)

I am not a lawyer, but from the legal point of view, a handshake agreement is not a legal binding contract. An exchange is needed to make it binding, even if it's a small amount like a dollar.

At least, that's what I (mis-)remembered from a Contract Law 101 course taken long ago during my undergrad days.


That's not really correct - you just have to promise to exchange something. If you and I shake on a deal to buy your car for $100, that can certainly be legally binding if we intended it to be so.

Usually, though, handshake deals mean "these are the commercial terms, let's go draw up the contract", which isn't legally binding. In many places, though, they're respected by convention and protected by reputation.


This is wrong.

A valid contract requires consideration. That's one of the conditions I was referring to. A handshake and a deposit, for instance, could result in losing a lot more than just the deposit. However, not all consideration is monetary, which is why it helps to consult an expert.

I am not a lawyer, either. Just an engineer with the minimum legal training required for licensure, which is basically, "know when you should ask for help."


This is right, but misleading. Consideration isn't the big question in this thread. It's whether or not a verbal agreement can be binding.

In some cases it can be, but a mere agreement to agree is not binding.

The biggest takehome is 'consult with legal before making promises or representations to counterparties".

Edited this a few times to keep it as short as possible without being misleading.


As someone who buys and sells a lot of equipment and machine tools having someone sell to someone else after you have a deal is far more infuriating than getting "oh but I would have paid 20% more" after you sealed a deal.

Bear in mind that the Starbucks you're probably thinking of, when you think "Starbucks", was created largely by Schulz after that acquisition happened. This story took place in 1987.

Yeah this was six stores. The offers were 3.8M and 4M.

What’s the importance of bearing that in mind?


That it's easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that the rival bidders for Starbucks would have been cheated out of a fortune, but unclear that the fortune was theirs to be had even if they'd won the bid.

What's more likely is that Schulz would simply have started a different chain, and we'd be talking about that company the way we do about Starbucks now.


I don't think that's the point that nuclearnice1 is making.

The focus is not on the other bidder (who may or may not have gone on to make a fortune).

The point is the seller could have gotten more than what Schulz paid for the chain. If this was a corporate m&a situation and a second bidder arose at a higher price, the board has a fiduciary duty to consider that offer.


Probably not, if BG sr was able to scare of the other bidder with a short conversation there was probably legal grounds that made the other bid problematic in some way.

Timeline of Bill Gates: https://legacy.npr.org/news/graphics/2008/june/bill_gates/ga...

So he was a billionaire or a soon-to-be billionaire.


I think tptacek's point wasn't about Gates's wealth, it was that Starbucks at the time was pretty tiny. It (Starbucks) has a kind of interesting history, tangled up with Peet's Coffee & Tea in its very early years.

(Starbucks also used to be a lot more, well, serious about coffee, selling fresh-roasted coffee in bins in the store rather than bags shipped out from central roasters, as well as selling a small but well-curated selection of brewing equipment that wasn't just Starbucks-branded stuff. Peet's still has some of that vibe, although they're less eclectic now than they were even 15 years ago.)


Thanks for the link. It is incredible to think that one man was substantially, if indirectly and in very different ways, involved in creating both Starbucks and Microsoft. It's a nice story and a reminder of the place for ethics and personal reputation in business.

Also told in Schultz book's Pour Your Hear Into It which is quick interesting read.

Moral of the story is to cultivate and understand the value of your Network. It takes a village to compensate for things you cant do by your self.

If you are not a networking type, latch on to/be useful to/connect with a couple networking types. Every hard problem you hit, that your skill and experience cant solve, talk to them about it.


Is that meant to show how Bill Gates Sr is a good guy? Reading between the lines, it sounds like he put the screws on the 'other' guy with the higher bid, as his 'man' had to win.

Probably I was triggered by you saying "highly respected lawyer". lol. And, he also ran planned parenthood.


Such wholesome words from a man that has everything. As a Serbian proverb says: “Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.”... applies perfectly to Gates.

I have never read/heard that saying but reading it this evening made me smile. Thank you for sharing. Reminds me of my own favorite: "you are a ghost driving a meat covered skeleton made of stardust travelling on a rock through outer space.

Fear nothing."


Is it an old proverb? Never heard of any culture that considered human beings to be made of stars. It is fascinating because now we know that we literally are made of stars.

I asked my mom (native Serbian speaker) and she said she's not heard of it as a proverb, and some Googling reveals that native Serbians are confused why foreigners seem to attribute it to us[1]. I also weirdly found a lot of questions on Quora and Yahoo answers asking for people to translate it to Serbian -- which explains why the proverb sounds slightly strange when read in Serbian. My guess is that this is actually some recent English proverb which someone decided to attribute to us (though it is neat that "zemlje" and "zvezda" do have a certain kind of rhyme).

[1]: https://www.svetnauke.org/95-srpska-poslovica


Serbian here... Also never heard of it. But I suspect that it has something to do with another, similar one: U dobru se ne ponesi, u zlu ne ponizi/У добру се не понеси, у злу не понизи. Which roughly (because it is archaic) translates to: Be humble when all is good (in good fortune), do not submit to evil (bad, unfortunate, hard) times.

What's the Serbian version of the proverb if you don't mind sharing?

Based on some searches it appears to be "Budi skroman jer si stvoren od zemlje. Budi plemenit jer si stvoren od zvezda." / "Буди скроман јер си створен од земље. Буди племенит јер си створен од звезда."

But note that "noble" isn't really the right translation for "plemenit" (despite what Google translate might tell you) -- it's closer in meaning to "selfless" or "generous" (which you could argue are noble attributes, but "noble" has certain connotations in English that "plemenit" doesn't).

But to me it still doesn't sound right. I asked my mom (native Serbian speaker) and she said she's not heard of it as a proverb, and some Googling reveals that native Serbians are confused why foreigners seem to attribute it to us[1]. I also weirdly found a lot of questions on Quora and Yahoo answers asking for people to translate it to Serbian -- which explains why the proverb sounds slightly strange when read in Serbian. My guess is that this is actually some recent English proverb which someone decided to attribute to us (though it is neat that "zemlje" and "zvezda" do have a certain kind of rhyme).

[1]: https://www.svetnauke.org/95-srpska-poslovica


Perhaps its an English proverb which caught on amidst a community of Serbian expats/immigrants.

Based on what cyphar is saying in this thread, my (somewhat cynical) take is that someone made it up recently and tried to give it an air of 'old wisdom' by falsely attributing it as a Serbian proverb.

(I also think this supposed saying is quite hokey and dumb. The earth is as much 'made of stars' as we are.)


Every now and then somebody I know will post a photo with a proverb mistakenly attributed to some historical figure. It's not uncommon for the proverb to be very simple, not very deep, such that I immediately discard it as made-up and not really written by the famous figure. There's actually quite a lot of this. Many bad lines attributed to great poets float around the net.

Maybe, but it doesn't sound right when written in Serbian. For comparison, here is an actual Serbian proverb literally translated to English:

"Bolje vrabac u ruci, nego golub na grani" means "better to have a sparrow in your hand than a pidgeon in a tree." Far less poetic than the native English bird-holding proverb "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" (which sounds strange when translated to Serbian as well -- "ptica u ruci vredi dve ptice u šumi", despite the fact it happens to rhyme).

Proverbs and sayings have a specific kind of poetry in their native language which doesn't survive translation. It seems much more likely to me that it was simply misattributed.


Love that proverb. Thanks for sharing.

We Hindus believe in the law of Karma.

Gates Jr. would have had some real good karma in his bank to have had a father like Gates Sr.

It's only in later years, upon reflection, we can understand how much we become is the influence of our parents and especially of our father.

I feel really pained to see so many places in the world where children grow up without fathers.

No one in the world can replace the roles played by parents in a kids life.


Right !

My father died just over 7 years ago. I think about and miss him every day. I am supremely grateful that I had a father that demanded well of me and was honorable.

My sincerest condolences and prayers to Mr. Gates’s family and friends. What a gift to have had such a long life and a good relationship with those he loved.


People who grew up with good fathers, have no idea how fortunate they are. Even after they think they do. Having a bad father puts wounds in your psyche that most people can never heal.

Couldn't agree more.

All the money in the world can't bring your dad back. I still think about mine and miss him every day.

Incredible tribute to his Dad. I really appreciate how he gives credit to them as a safety net when he left Harvard.

> The truth is, he was everything I try to be.

I can only hope that my children will talk like this about me some day.


What a moving tribute. It is a great reminder to cherish the time we have with those we love now. Do great things together and inspire each other.

I'm glad that Mr Gates got the chance to enjoy and develop his relationship with his dad into adulthood.


yeah, I've watched the Netflix show about Bill Gates, he said that in the show: that his father is the real Bill Gates. really cool. I don't think he reads HN comments, but if he does, my condolences. I'm very attached to my father either and I can't imagine life without him. All the best

I wonder if Gates might support longevity research now. He wants to save lives and improve the human condition. Ending Malaria is great, ending aging would be the greatest thing ever.

I am personally against research for ending aging.

I do wish that everyone live long, healthy happy lives, but as a species, longer living human beings will eventually destroy earth, and eventually themselves.


No, it wouldn't. Either it would be only for rich and create extreme resentment or it would lead to extreme overpopulation, that would lead to things like one-child policies, reproduction lotteries, eugenics etc. all of which would create resentment again.

Ending aging would only serve to make the rich immortal while the poor still suffer. I think it would create the biggest distance between the common folk and the elite that history has ever known.

Even if such technology would be available to the entire world, it would still not solve the issue of overpopulation and the pollution associated with it.

Why invest into making a few thousand immortal when you can help billions with much simpler anti-malaria programs?


I agree with you that abolishing malaria is probably a better place to put our resources, but I disagree that ending ageing would only make a few thousand rich people immortal. There's nothing to say that the treatments would be that expensive. It's possible we find cheap therapeutics, or expensive ones that we can make cheap and accessible. Ageing related deaths are higher than malaria deaths, and ageing places a huge burden on all our systems.

Can you imagine the demand curve for an anti-aging treatment? You're right that it's possible the therapeutics will be cheap to produce, but the price that the wealthy would bear for such a treatment would lead to dramatically more revenue than you could make from setting it at a price that more than half of the world could bear. No fiscally responsible entity would make something like that affordable to the entire world in the modern era.

Couldn't a lot of the countries that have single-payer systems negotiate better prices that more people could afford? Isn't this what happens with other life-saving therapies at the moment? The economics of health care costs confuse me because yeah, demand for staying alive is somewhat infinite, but at some point governments seem like they should be able to tell pharma companies they can either take what's offered or get nothing at all and have the governments ignore their patents.

All of the articles on gatesnotes are so well written- I wonder if Bill Gates writes these completely by himself or if he gets help?

What a very touching tribute to his father.

Was a member of the eugenics society of America and was on the board of planned parenthood. Used his power and connections to pull strings for Microsoft and help it become a behemoth that threatens the fair market of desktop operating systems and open source software. The Gates family is a criminal organization hell bent on control.

Every time Bill Gates comes up in the news I'm reminded by how insane the conspiracy theories surrounding him have become on social media, more so now than ever.

I think for some people it's just really hard imagining that Gates pivoted his ruthless passion for business (emphasis on ruthless) into a genuine mission to make the world - especially the impoverished - a better place.

Feeney, Buffett, and Gates need to be celebrated and revered way more than sports and movie idols IMHO.


I always assumed that Bill was not a good person at his core or at least was steered into shady shit by Ballmer but it was Melinda that brought out the best in him and hence his metamorphosis later in his career. Who knows though. The fact is however, that during much of the nineties Microsoft was engaged in some really awful stuff and Bill was incredibly glib about it.

In retrospect, was it really "terrible person" level?

I mean, I recall a lot of stories about throwing their weight around that were playing kind of dirty/hardball. But from the vantage point of 2020, with Theranos, Uber, Fyre, Dieselgate, Wirecard, the NSA and so on, I start to think, while they were ruthless competitors, were they particularly evil?


I’m not sure if you’re too young or just don’t remember anymore but in the late nineties Microsoft literally tried to coopt the entire web. The embrace, extend and extinguish strategy wasn’t going to end with their domination of operating systems or office suites. The unholy combo of Internet Explorer and ActiveX were designed to ensure that the web would only properly function on a Microsoft platform. We literally squeaked through by the skin of our teeth thanks to the fiasco of ActiveX due to its myriad of security holes and a meteoric rise of Google who were strongly opposed to the shit Microsoft was trying to pull off. That said, in the 1997-2000 time frame things were looking incredibly bleak for the future of open web protocols. So much so that most companies were abandoning official support for any browser that wasn’t IE. We really got within a millimeter of a global, proprietary MSInternet. Count your lucky stars they failed in their most ambitious embrace and extend project.

I was there, writing software, and... it wasn't like that?

This is much easier to say in retrospect, of course, but it's truth nevertheless: ActiveX was never going to "win" the web because it was fundamentally tied to one CPU architecture. It wasn't close at all, for all the same reasons that MS never made a successful mobile device. Or that Flash failed. Some technologies are just dead ends, even if they seem popular for a while.


You’re exhibiting a serious hindsight bias. The monopoly of Wintel (remember how they were often viewed as inseparable) was full and complete. The only thing that made a dent was a rise in mobile that made the desktop less relevant and the incredible success of Google. All through the nineties though Microsoft’s monopoly on consumer level computing was complete and unshakable. A couple of major slip ups with the ActiveX rollout and their fumbling with mobile is a happy accident of history as we were very close to having a Standard Oil of computing which the feds would very likely do nothing about as the twenty first century robber barons got much wiser about playing the feds to their advantage. Microsoft’s Antitrust trial being the prime example.

We still see the echos of it to this day as PC based gaming is confined to the closed platform of Microsoft DirectX as they managed to squeeze out and nearly kill off OpenGL. To this day no alternative has threatened this monopoly as Linux and OSX gaming has been utterly subdued by Windows and never took a foothold.


I agree it "felt" like wintel was unstoppable in the 90s. But (as we know from hindsight) it was in fact an illusion. In retrospect it's totally obvious why. It wasn't an accident of history that virutal machines (especially Javascript) won.

There was no "slipup with ActiveX rollout" - it worked fine on a single CPU architecture and did what it was supposed to do. But it was never going to have adequate security to be widely used on the low-trust web, and i86 was never going to take over mobile. It was a technology dead end.

So you'd be fair to talk about how things felt in the 90s, but the current state of the world is not an "accident of history".


>We still see the echos of it to this day as PC based gaming is confined to the closed platform of Microsoft DirectX as they managed to squeeze out and nearly kill off OpenGL. To this day no alternative has threatened this monopoly as Linux and OSX gaming has been utterly subdued by Windows and never took a foothold.

There's lots of 3D graphics in the majority of my Steam library that I can play on my MacBook.


This is no way gives a pass but...

I’m a founder of a business. We’re of a reasonable size now and growing. The memory of fighting for every $1 early on really feels like yesterday. I doubt I’ll ever lose that feeling.

I’m not surprised at times when founder-led businesses go too far when they become extreme outliers (like Microsoft or Amazon). Even when I was in my teens and reading about Microsoft, the message was consistent: the fundamental problem was this guy didn’t appreciate he’d won. But now had the extreme resources to fight with the biggest “army” available. He ran Microsoft like he was going to fail and it was a scrappy startup just ripe to be crushed. The numbers get bigger and change, the fundamental drive, personality and (frankly) fear of failing, do not.

As I mentioned, I’m not condoning things, just sharing an observation.


I think your observation is a good one. But yes, it doesn't give him a pass and personally, I'll never forgive Gates & Microsoft for their strangulation of the computing world (and its creativity) through the 80s & 90s. I find Bill Gates a particularly uninspiring & unimaginative individual who has only made the world greyer, not brighter.

I would argue that if he had stepped down from MS in the early 90's, that some other company with a ruthless CEO would take its place. I mean, remember Apple's superbowl ad? Look at what is is today. Remember "Don't be evil"? Ruthless search for power is the history of humankind, and I agree that the actors shouldn't be given a pass. However, what Gates is doing with his foundation is to be admired, as I don't see much of that done, not at this scale. His foundation has never done any good to the world? (sorry, but that's what you mean when you say he has /never/ made the world brighter.) I never worked in tech, so to me I couldn't care much about the state of software in the 90's. I used whatever word processor was available, and whatever browser, and it didn't make a difference to me. I'm sorry, but this is how /most/ people who weren't in tech felt about it. Ask a mother of a hungry child with no access to clean water if she prefers Netscape or IE. (I know this is harsh and completely ignores the repercussions of Microsoft's actions and stances in the 90's, and that an opinion like mine will irritate a lot of people who were in tech in that era, but I doubt without MS it would have been too much different. Maybe it would have been old IBM, maybe DELL, who knows. If not, why are we complaining so much about Facebook's practices, about data privacy, etc. Isn't Microsoft gone from that role? Shouldn't it have been solved then?

Early nineties and the Microsoft of eighties was no better. Lots of highly problematic actions with respect to DOS and DOS clones, it’s part in blindsiding IBM on OS/2, etc.

The web has pretty much been coopted anyway. Just by a company with better PR.

I don't remember things being so grim in the 90s. It's true that MS was pushing its proprietary technologies and (ab)used the popularity of Windows and IE, but the web was a wild west back then and everyone was pushing in their own direction.

Thankfully open standards like ECMAScript were adopted, but I never saw what MS was doing as being so sinister.

I would also argue that today we're much closer to a "GoogleInternet" than we ever were to a "MSInternet" in the 90s, yet we don't hear near as much uproar about that. (And we definitely should...)


Yeah, I know, and I'm certainly happy for the open-ish web.

It just strikes me as pretty low on the "evil" scale compared to everything else that's been going on.

Do you remember the kids-for-cash scandal?


The only things more evil than destroying a nascent open worldwide communication platform that I can think of are some of the shit pulled by big tobacco or big oil. The examples you listed don’t come close IMO. Never heard of kids-for-cash though.

Ask the Netscape people how evil they think it was...

Yeah, I got the same impression.

Maybe I was too young at the time or not so much involved in Tech to really pay attention, but I think what happens today is worse.

I never saw that as Bill Gates being evil and more a very competitive and ruthless person, which is an important distinction to make.


He still has some questionable values. Most notably, he seems to oppose E2EE being legal. It demonstrates a certain ruthlessness in achieving his social agenda, in that it disregards other people's rights.

The story I heard was that Buffet convinced him to get into philantropy. Its kind of interesting as well to think had he never gone that route what Microsoft would look like today.

Could you give a summary of how Bill Gates is viewed by "the average American"?

As a Brit, I think he's just viewed as "the rich computer guy". It's hard to fathom that people think he's involved with political topics.


Much less so than any owner of Twitter, Google or Facebook is anyway. Microsoft is just selling unopinionated software to all businesses in the world. Out of all FAANG they’re the least politically aligned.

> Microsoft is just selling unopinionated software to all businesses in the world

You have to be satirical right? Microsoft is notorious for lobbying everything to this day. Browser monopolies, OS monopolies, they pretty much invented EEE, made whole cities switch to their OS and the whole xbox platform is very political regarding software, gambling and IP politics.


He asked about how the average American views Bill Gates, not how the average person who read /. in the 90s views Bill Gates.

Hell, they're so not FAANG, they're not even in the acronym.

But I get it. If I were slotting tech companies into eras, they'd be before Facebook/Google, but after the real old school guys like IBM, AT&T, and Xerox.


I was thinking about this yesterday, and if FAANG means “big tech companies with continued big growth”, M is more deserving of the title than, for instance, G. FAAN all have over 300% return over past 5 years, as does M. G however is at like 130%, roughly the same as the Nasdaq. Which to me roughly means they aren’t growing faster than the average tech company (NASDAQ being roughly an index of tech)

(Work at M, may be biased :) )


I also felt that the N was out of place as its market cap is about 1/3 the next smallest (FB at $0.77B vs. $0.22B). The rest (and MSFT) are all > $1B. NFLX has a lower cap than NVDA, ADBE, and PYPL (and TSLA and BABA).

I have mixed feelings about Bill Gates. He is doing good things with his fortune now, but Microsoft are/were not the good guys.

Microsoft always stole from the rich. Now Gates is giving to the poor. It could be worse :)

My sense is that in America, people outside the tech world don't even think of him as the founder of Microsoft anymore. He's just Bill Gates the incredibly rich philanthropist.

Check out the work of the Gates foundation, working to eliminate Polio, etc.

Are you not familiar with the very prevalent conspiracy theories about him wanting to microchip people, how the coronavirus vaccine is his attempt to do, etc? It's been all over the internet.

Here's a bbc article: https://www.bbc.com/news/52847648


On the internet, things can be "very prevalent" to one person (figuratively speaking) and "never heard of" to most other people.

> It's hard to fathom that people think he's involved with political topics.

Maybe hard to fathom, but just have a closer look and you'll see he has a lot of irons in the fire


In conspiracy theories he is the inventory of COVID, in order to sell his vaccine, which is used to inject microchips into the population in order to control everybody.

For people who take a serious look he is a respected philanthropist doing lots of funding of polio research and other related topics.

The average won't know much about him, he is the Windows guy, rich ... that's about it.


Isn't one using his extreme wealth for (what he sees as) the good of the people just the baseline amount of "not being selfish" required for not being a terrible person?

I think that one person is much worse at charity than a public organisation dedicated to it would be.

So, these people are (1) simply not being evil or extremely stupid (2) there are much better ways of having charity done. Therefore, I don't see why these people should be revered.


If spending billions of dollars on the betterment of hunanity, for no personal gain, isn't worth of praise, what is?

It is indeed a praiseworthy endeavor.

That being said, society should not be at the mercy of the whims of billionaires. Their very existence is a grave error.


Sure, I agree that a person who spends his time trying to do good things for society is generally praiseworthy.

I praise people who do good things all the time.

But there's a massive difference between (a) praising someone and (b) having society revere per.

If we should revere anyone, it's certainly not the person whose great achievement was to spend lots more money than the next person.


Extremely rich people who are more or less retired from whatever it is that made them extremely rich in the first place often spend their twilight years focused on "philanthropy." So in general, I don't think Bill Gates should get some sort of special recognition for that.

However, what I think he does deserve some level special recognition for is what he is devoting his philanthropic efforts toward, which is making a tangible difference for the worlds poorest and worst off people. It can be credibly argued that the efforts of the Gates foundations have saved many millions of lives and alleviated a huge amount of suffering.

I also disagree with the argument that a public organization would be more effective. If by "public" you mean government-run then such an organization would almost certainly be focused on helping relatively wealthy (by global standards) middle and working class Americans. It seems unlikely that they would focus their efforts on something like eradicating polio in the developing world.

Public institutions are good and American should have more of a social safety net but I think it's probably a good thing that individual American billionaires are focusing their philanthropy on things that would be politically awkward because the people who benefit directly don't get to vote in US elections.


With great respect to Bill Gates and his accomplishments, a bit of skepticism toward anyone whose expressed intent is to “change the world” (and who has the means to do) is not unreasonable. That certainly doesn’t justify insane conspiracy theories and I’ve no interest in aligning myself with any of them, but it is possible to find such ambition disconcerting without assigning malice.

Every time Bill Gates comes up in the news, you should realize it is PR. Just like his website is something his PR team created. The thing about PR is that it works. Look at all the comments fawning over and idolizing Gates in this thread. Something you'd never have imagined in the 90s or 00s.

For all the talk here about how PR and ads don't work and ad spending is a waste of time, it sure seems like it works wonders on the HN crowd.


What is Bill Gates selling?

People often tell pretty stories, to themselves and to others, about who they are, and what they do. Rich people often have skilled artists print and paint those stories. Completeness, fairness, correctness... are not much selected for. Reflecting well on themselves, and supporting what they do, are.

So for example, there was a PR/press story of Gates "turning his attention to opportunities for innovation in VR", not one of "he's helping his colleague Myhrvold patent troll VR, because the opportunities there are too rich to pass up". Or here, Gates's dad "pushed him to excel", not as an old biography suggested IIRC, "taught him the most important thing was to win, leaving him ethically impaired".

As a rule of thumb, if you hear a self-serving story that lacks nuance, it's likely... incomplete. Maybe someday, hagiography will work less well, and we'll get self-serving stories with nuance, but for now, that doesn't seem the common case.


His place in history?

That Funke is some kind of something. Boy, this Funke is all anybody's ever talking about.

The most stupid fact about those conspiracy theories is that people carry a smartphone with GPS, microphone and camera that is unlocked with fingerprints, and take pictures of their faces every day to social networks, yet, they're absolutely terrified of "being tracked by microchips injected via vaccines".

If someone wanted to put something into your bloodstream they could simply put it in your food, your medicines, your eyedrops or your deodorant or whatever. Or sell you clothes with the stupid microchip in it, all of which is unnecessary since they have your phone.

Even if you turn GPS off, it is possible to locate you by triangulating your phone using cellular network antennas, or via Wifi, since the WiFi networks you can see have an associated location assigned to them by wardriving cars (e.g.: Google Street View cars).


the relationship between Gates and Jeffrey Epstein that was cultivated after Epstein's conviction on sex crimes is not a conspiracy theory.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/12/business/jeffrey-epstein-...


Epstein was a powerful man, was it a friendship or just business?

That, my friend, depends on which party you support.

I think that’s what the extreme elements of various groups want you to believe. Creating Shibboleths out of so many things is yet another way to drive people apart. Fact is that many people have no idea what Gates does, nor do they care - regardless of which US political party they support.

I'm not so sure. While Epstein committed heinous crimes, he certainly must have had other legitimate interests when he wasn't doing them. People aren't one dimensional.

The implication the above person is making is that one's beliefs around epstein depends on their political leaning.

But, people are complicated. I remember reading somewhere that he was a generous donor to a number of schools & STEM programs, that he was a patron of the sciences, and an abhorrent sex offender. They aren't exactly mutually exclusive, but just goes to show how people are complex and multifaceted


He was really good at obtaining compromising information of the most wealthy individuals around the world.

That Bill Gates is using the Coronavirus vaccine to implant microchips into civilization for population control and that he's harvesting the blood of children so that he can extract adrenochrome -- Definitely some pretty unhinged conspiracy theories. Of which apparently nearly half of American Republicans believe them?

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/inline...


I'd refrain from saying half of American Republicans believe something so fringe without real data.

That's only 25% of people in general.. round up to 27% and you've got the Alan Keyes Crazification Factor.

http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2005/10/lunch-discussions-145-c...


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> since it is perceived as being closer to libertarian views because they pay some lip service to the idea of small government

I've always found that "libertarian is closer to Republican than Democrat" take from libertarians mildly exasperating. There's a case for it economically, but in terms of social policy Republicans have long been pretty damn supportive of the state restricting individual liberty, whether on a federal level (abortion, LGBT rights, etc.) or a state level (the myriad ways "states' rights" has been used as a cover for blatant discrimination). It's depressing that so many libertarians have decided, when push comes to shove, that higher taxes are worse than calculated bigotry -- and, as you note, increasingly conspiratorial nonsense.


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I mean yes, libertarianism at its core is a terribly flawed ideology because it fails to account for the phenomenon of the tragedy of the commons. The market forces they believe in do not react quickly enough to avert environmental or health disasters. That said, I have a level of sympathy for the ideal of everyone having a full agency of their body and their actions. It’s just that it’s a utopian ideal that fails to work in practice if adopted to its conclusion.

The Founding Fathers knew that the voters are simply not qualified to self-govern. People who thought they knew better, over the centuries, threw away most of the barriers they placed between the voter and the government.

I'll agree that the conspiracies you mention are unhinged. However, cursory research will reveal that Gates and Gates Sr. have both been involved with the eugenics movement.

It is unfortunate how unhinged criticisms are used to dismiss what is hiding in plain sight.

>"So Melinda and I wondered if providing new medicines and keeping children alive, would that create more of a population problem?"


Weird you don’t share this research, only insinuate it’s there.

These are all public comments. Here's a page citing sources.

https://www.corbettreport.com/gates/#part3

GATES: Here we can see a chart that looks at the total world population over the last several hundred years, and at first glance this is a bit scary. We go from less than a billion in 1800, and then 3, 4, 5, 6—and 7.4 billion, where we are today, is happening even faster. So, Melinda and I wondered whether providing new medicines and keeping children alive, would that create more of a population problem?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obRG-2jurz0

SCOTT PELLEY: . . . and what the developing world does not need is more children.

MELINDA GATES: And I think that was the biggest “ah-ha” to Bill and me when we got into this work. Because we asked ourselves, of course, the same hard-nosed question you’d ask, which is: “If you get into this work and you start to save these children, will women just keep overpopulating the world?” And thank goodness, the converse is absolutely true.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_xEn5mudP8

https://archive.org/details/AMERICANEUGENICSSOCIETYMEMBERS/p...


This conspiracy theory really angers me, like almost on a personal level. I've actually cut all ties to a friend who started spreading it on FB. I first tried to show them how insane it is and thought I'd succeeded, but they seemed to continue to feed off of antivaxxer propaganda and soon began sharing that crap again. After a second attempt I just gave up.

That has several reasons. I will explain why your approach didn't work.

1: (source) Social media is doing reinforcement learning on their "lab rats". This is true for all the social media platforms. It's not like you read one fake news article, you see them non-stop: your world becomes fake news. Just like how YouTube keeps playing the same type of content. Facebook and Twitter do the same thing. Good for engagement ($), not good for society.

2: (psychology) The way the human belief system works, is to try to find evidence in favor of your own beliefs (not against). Social media reinforces your existing belief system: your political, religious but also conspiracy beliefs. Our ego doesn't like to be wrong, we like to be right (see heated debated about adults discussing religion for example). Humans aren't particular open-minded by nature, this sometimes includes scientists. This is human psychology at work.

3: (state sponsored, large budget) There are large botnets spreading fake news: including deep fakes, bogus scientific articles, using famous figures etc. It's very sophisticated psychological warfare: a day-time job for many. For instance, the son of President Kennedy made a speech about mass surveillance (facts), but in doing so he supported the whole conspiracy scene. But AI botnets spreading fake news is something many governments do. Like all mass media news, it plays on the sub-conscious level (fear), not the logical level. The entire goal of media (news) is to manipulate, not inform. Social media is just better at manipulation.

4: (propaganda effect) Like any propaganda, it's mixed with reality: stories of Epstein, Bill Clinton, Climate Change etc. This makes it more difficult to disprove a story.

4: (the effect) For any system (including the human brain): garbage in, garbage out. Watch this junk to long, and you start to become crazy yourself. Yes, even you yourself can be manipulated by social media + AI botnets. In fact, entire countries are manipulated using social media (cambridge analytica didn't stop it, see: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24474343 ).

5: (why) From Zen Tsu quote "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

Think about it: Who benefits from "defund the police", "overthrow the government", riots in the street, "bill gates wants to kill the world" etc ?

The technique is called subversion and was designed in the Soviet Union. You can watch the historic presentations by Yuri Bezmenov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yErKTVdETpw

Subversion didn't stop, it just evolved into the digital sphere. Now combined with AI and reinforcement machines (social networks).

Probably this answer could have been shorter, but I'm to tired to write fewer words.


There are a lot of Republicans on HN, and it is reflected in the downvoting of posts like yours.

Once in a while, you find posts that advocate for basic common sense or human decency, and they will be greyed out because they touched a nerve that make Republicans uncomfortable.

It is funny that the people that claim to be against political correctness and are constantly glorifying toughness are also the most sensitive and sometimes even coward (e.g.: downvoting instead of replying).


You may find that you are getting downvoted by people of all ideological persuasions because your post invites partisan bickering rather than furthering a dialog of curious discussion.

I can't downvote you but I would if I could. The reason republicans/conservatives believe more in conspiracy theories is because part of their group ideology has become being mistrustful of authority (established media, tech and science). This can lead a higher percentage of their population into some pretty hopeless beliefs but sometimes I can't blame them, seeing the utter foolery of many elites in science and technology (and the media) thinking that by erasing tried and true institutions they can magically make society function better than the most successful set of ideologies ever to have happened to humankind (innocent until proven guilty, freedom of speech, free market, etc). Generalizations like the one you made above merit downvotes. There are more reasons to be conservative than those conspiracy theories.

I am slowly coming to believe established media is the worst culprit of all. If everything I see on the major networks (Times, CNN, etc) that a generation ago provided clear journalism and now simply proclaim that tearing down institutions is the only way forward - where am I to go if I don't buy the propaganda? There is a truth power vacuum at play here because no one is willing to give up their ridiculous partisan hackery.


Thanks for replying, I appreciate you took the time to write this, even if we are in disagreement with respect to our views.

Just like I have taken the time to read your comment, I have taken the time to read many other comments, thousands of them, and talked to different people of different backgrounds from all over the US.

Like you, I also keep certain level of skepticism towards the press, although I understand that there are still valuable journalists with integrity out there. Freedom of the press is important, and the few ethical journalists devoted to service our society need our support and attention.

Freedom of religion is another freedom enshrined in the constitution, yet, I do not hear Conservatives acknowledging that very often. This administration tried to implement a islamophobic travel ban that affected lawful American citizens and permanent residents. That is unacceptable.

Then, the president is asking people to vote twice, and talking about "negotiating a 3rd term". He has also talked of postponing the election, and there are pictures of USPS mail sorting machines disassembled, with their cables cut, just before the election. Does all of that sound democratic or patriotic to you?

As a person with hispanic relatives, seeing hispanic kids being bullied in schools with "build the wall" chants, and seeing newborns and infants detained under torturous conditions... And after weeks of scandals, they get a visit from the first lady wearing an "I don't really care" jacket. Be a real man and tell me: are you OK with all this? Are you going to blame a newborn or months old infant for their inhuman treatment in American detainment centers?

And there's science. Science does understand the behavior of gases. The physical and chemical processes related to gases are well understood and many experiments with gases can be accurately reproduced and simulated. We have satelites monitoring the atmosphere and scientists analyzing the earth geological record and the seas... We are usually not skeptical of science when we see a steam engine or internal combustion engine at work. But this week, we saw the president saying "I don't think science knows, actually", when being asked to acknowledge climate change, in the context of massive fires in California, Washington and Oregon.

And finally: the catastrophic response to the COVID pandemic... Prior to the pandemic, the pandemic response team was disbanded. Then, the president repeteadly claims that the virus is contained, and that there's nothing to worry about. And then, when the virus cannot be covered up anymore, Trump suggests Americans to ingest bleach, and his supporters oppose CDC guidelines. As a result of all that, now there is a massive GDP contraction, unemployment and yet unknown long-term economic consequences.

So, tl;dr: I don't really think there are a lot of good reasons to vote Republican, or to have restraint and respect in the face of what's going on right now. Enough is enough.


I don't think we actually disagree on _any_ of your points. I was merely explaining an alternative perspective that I can respect and acknowledge. I will note too that I got plenty of downvotes as well (without any response but yours I might add). You certainly can see that people will behave as such from both sides of the spectrum. There is no way in hell I am going to vote for Trump. I can just understand why people would. I might also add as a pro-life person it rings a bit hollow talking about newborn mistreatment (terrible though it might be) when our society can literally kill unborn babies on a whim. One can be pro-life (conservative) and pro-environment (liberal somehow?) in the same breath!

Forcing women to terminate a pregnancy that is the product of rape inevitably results in encouraging rape. I think in those cases abortion is justified.

In the other hand, I do not support second trimester abortions with no strong justification behind them.


errata: forcing women to complete a pregnancy, rather than terminate. wrong verb

We all should be worried about these conspiracies. They're growing in intensity and are corrosive.

Do you mean we should worry about conspiracies, or about conspiracy theories? Your answer could be read either way.

Did he really abandon his car at the curb of the airport departures terminal?

George Soros says: "I am proud of the enemies I have". While I understand why people hate Soros, since he makes no secret he wants to influence the politics for humanistic goals, it's harder to understand for Bill Gates. The main ideea seems to be that he supports vaccines, and that he was pretty vocal during the pandemic and predicted it some years in advance.

Bill Gates has come a long way since the days of absolutely ruthless Microsoft. It's not surprising that there are still many people whose lives were made worse by its business practices who really do not like Bill Gates, and are inclined to believe bad things about him.

I'm one of those people whose livelihoods was negatively impacted by all that, and for a long time I really didn't like him. He is doing amazing work now, but it is pretty hard to get past that.


> Bill Gates has come a long way since the days of absolutely ruthless Microsoft. It's not surprising that there are still many people whose lives were made worse by its business practices who really do not like Bill Gates, and are inclined to believe bad things about him.

I don't think there's much of an intersection between some pissed off techies who worked in the industry in the late 90s, and the millions of batshit insane people who think that he is part of the Zionist deep state conducting mass sterilization through COVID vaccine microchips.


Now imagine Zuckerberg, leaving Facebook and telling you to get vaccine in your own interest.

Think twice about that.


One of those two people has a two-decade track record of poverty, education, and health philanthropy.

The other's political involvement is, quite frankly, something else entirely.


I've thought twice about it, and your indignation remains unfathomable. I have no great love for either Zuck or Gates, but an untethered Zuck, what with his intense liberal conditioning that Gates never endured, would weep very publicly for increased vaccinations (or whatever costs-be-darned public health initiative du jour).

> I'm one of those people whose livelihoods was negatively impacted by all that, and for a long time I really didn't like him. He is doing amazing work now, but it is pretty hard to get past that.

I'm totally with you there but over the years I've come to make peace with that. My pain and those of my colleagues really pale in comparison to the good he's done for the needy of the world. He's neither the most ruthless business leader the world has seem and certainly not the worse and mean spirited person in computing. Over the years, he has proven himself to be among the most generous. Maybe not having used Windows in a decade and seeing Microsoft having real competition has helped with the "forgiving".


May you rest in peace Mr. Gates. At the moment your son is doing great things for humanity.

> The experience of being the son of Bill Gates was incredible.

I think that is a typo, but a very telling one.


I never got he reason or the origin, but people named William are called Bill, and those named Robert are called Bob.

Does anyone know why?


It isn't, his father has the same name.

It says William H. Gates in the article.

Bill is often used as shorthand for William.

TIL, thanks.

Deleted. Didn't intend to offend anyone.

This is super non sequitur on a post about Mr. Gates’s father passing. It’s even slightly callous.

This should be flagged and removed for breaking the HN rule of “don’t be an a*e”



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