9 Interesting Facts You (Probably) Don't Know about Bill Gates

Article by George Norman (Cybersecurity Editor)

on 19 Jun 2017

Don’t worry. I’m not going to rehash all those facts that everyone already knows about Bill Gates, like how he got arrested for driving without a license, that he is a college dropout, and that he plans to give most of his fortune to charity, leaving very "little" to his children – I guess inheriting $10 million is little for someone who has tens of billions and is the richest person in the world.

I’m going to go over some Bill Gates facts that I hope will genuinely take you by surprise. Here goes!

1. His name isn’t actually Bill

Don’t ask me to explain why, but Bill is a nickname for William in the English language. That being said, Gates' actual name isn’t Bill, it’s William. William Henry Gates III to be more precise.

He is the son of William H. Gates Senior, a retired attorney, and Mary Maxwell Gates, the first woman to chair the national United Way’s executive committee and the first woman on the First Interstate Bank of Washington's board of directors.

Gates is a middle child. He has an older sister named Kristy and a younger sister named Libby.

2. His wife used to work for Microsoft

Who says that you shouldn’t mix business and pleasure or marry one of your employees? Before becoming Ms. Gates, Melinda French was a Microsoft employee who worked as a project manager for Microsoft Bob, Encarta and Expedia.

Bill Gates married Melinda in 1994 and they have three children together: Jennifer Katharine (born 1996), Rory John (born 1999), and Phoebe Adele (born 2002).

The two founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the aim of enhancing healthcare and reducing extreme poverty. Since its launch in 2000, the foundation has raised and donated billions of dollars to charity.

3. He’s got no mercy for mosquitoes

A mosquito’s buzzing is annoying and its bite itches like hell. But what’s worse is that mosquito bites spread a variety of diseases, like dengue, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, and malaria. Since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is fighting to end malaria, it’s understandable to see why Bill Gates has no love for mosquitoes. As a matter of fact, he’s even gone as far as saying that he’d rather "cuddle with a shark than a kissing bug."

Sharks cause about 6 deaths per year. Tigers, around 50. Lions, around 100. Snakes, around 60,000. And mosquitoes, around 830,000.

"The mosquito has the equivalent of a hypodermic needle, and by going directly into your blood, they bypass the normal disease defense mechanisms," Gates says in the above video. "So any viruses that evolve to attack humans get in there very, very quickly."

4. Zuckerberg got him to drop a bucket of ice water on his head

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, 2014’s social media phenomenon where celebrities would pour buckets of ice water on their heads in an attempt to raise awareness about Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)? After a celebrity did the challenge, they would often challenge other celebrities to do the same. And while Microsoft’s current CEO Satya Nadella was challenged by former pro football player Steve Gleason, Bill Gates was challenged by none other than Mark Zuckerberg.

Bill Gates didn’t like Facebook when he tried it back in 2009. Gates soon found himself looking at requests from “10,000 people wanting to be my friends.” He went through the requests and tried to see which people he actually knew, but found that the whole process “was just way too much trouble” so he decided to give it up. Seems that Gates eventually changed his mind, because he is currently on Facebook.

Back in 2007, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer asked Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg “why don't we just buy you for $15 billion?”

5. He’s got enough pull to change the law

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld have at least one thing in common and no, I’m not talking about those god-awful Windows Vista commercials. I’m talking about their immense love for Porches. But while Jerry Seinfeld has enough money to buy any Porsche he can dream off, Bill Gates has enough money to change the law to fit his love for Porsches.

The Porsche 959 is one of the rarest and most sought-after cars in the world, and when Bill Gates bought one, it was impounded at customs because it did not meet crash-testing requirements and didn’t pass EPA standards.

Gates got his people to lobby the government and pass the so-called "Show and Display Law" which allows privately imported vehicles to be exempt from the Federal Motor Safety Standards (FMVSS) if the car meets a standard of "historical or technological significance" and if the model in question had less than 500 models produced. Since the Porsche 959 ticks both requirements, Gates was allowed to finally drive the car in the US – as long as he didn’t go over the annual mileage limitation of 2,500 on-road miles.

Steve Jobs didn’t change the law, but he exploited it in a quirky manger. There was a law in California that gave new car owners a six-month grace period before they needed to get a license plate. So Jobs would get a new car every 6 months and drive around with no license plates.

6. He had a soft spot for Apple, according to Steve Jobs

With Apple having more than $215 billion in reserve, you’d never think that the company was once on the verge of bankruptcy, but that’s exactly what happened back in 1997. To avoid this disaster, Apple allowed Steve Jobs to return (he had been out of the company for the past 12 years) and Jobs asked an old friend for help: none other than Bill Gates.

It all boiled down to this: Apple would drop the patent infringement suits against Microsoft and in return Microsoft would invest $150 million into Apple.

Here’s the late Steve Jobs acknowledging Microsoft’s help at MacWorld 1997.

And here’s a passage from Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" biography about how Steve Jobs got Bill Gates to save Apple:

"I called up Bill and said, 'I'm going to turn this thing around.' Bill always had a soft spot for Apple. We got him into the application software business. The first Microsoft apps were Excel and Word for the Mac. So I called him and said, 'I need help.' Microsoft was walking over Apple's patents. I said, 'If we kept up our lawsuits, a few years from now we could win a billion-dollar patent suit. You know it, and I know it. But Apple's not going to survive that long if we're at war. I know that. So let's figure out how to settle this right away. All I need is a commitment that Microsoft will keep developing for the Mac and an investment by Microsoft in Apple so it has a stake in our success."

7. He did these silly motivational videos with Steve Ballmer

Bill Gates and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates did these silly and sometimes weird motivational videos in the 2000s.

There’s one where Bill impersonates Austin Powers and Steve impersonates Dr. Evil.

One where Bill and Steve spoof A Night at the Roxbury.

And even one where Bill and Steve go on a playdate.

Just be glad that Steve Ballmer isn’t sticking his tongue out, like he’s known to do. Or dancing!

8. He really likes to read

Bill Gates really likes to read and reviews books on his personal blog, GatesNotes.com. Since 2012, he’s been compiling his reviews into Summer and Winter Reading Lists.

Gates’ Summer Reading List for 2017 features the 5 books presented in the video below..

And these are the books that made Gates’ 2016 Winter Reading List.

9. Here’s how he compares to the average American

The Infographic Show came up with a cool video that compares Bill Gates to the average American. Check it out below.

In related news…

Here are some things you probably don’t know about Microsoft’s current CEO, Satya Nadella.

And here are 10 things you should know about Microsoft.

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