Is Bill Gates a good programmer when writing code?

Updated on : December 6, 2021 by Ayleen Golden



Is Bill Gates a good programmer when writing code?

He no longer writes code.

Gates is primarily involved in his charitable activities now, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is still a member of Microsoft's board of directors, but he has nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the company.

When he programmed, I'm sure he was at least proficient. I'm not sure that some of your code still exists. Certainly none of the code he wrote is found in any modern Microsoft product. He was not known for being a great programmer. He was known for starting the software giant Microsoft.

I doubt I am writing code right now. But back in 1975 he managed to write a BASIC interpreter for Altair 8800 in less than 2 months without having anything but an emulator of this computer written by Paul Allen at the same time. And it worked perfectly on a real computer.
This is how Microsoft started.

Based on what little I know, Bill Gates was a successful programmer. When I was coding, style was not that important and programmers were programming instead of producing beautiful programs. Since he is said to have produced successful shows, I'd say he was a good programmer, by the standards of the 1970s.

If it has kept up with current programming standards, I cannot say.

There's no answer. You must put each of them in a different time context.

One could argue, for example, that Facebook is more complex than BASIC. But programming in PHP is much easier than programming in Assembler. Believe me, I know!

It could be argued that Linus Torvals built a full operating system kernel for the X86 platform. But BASIC ran on 4K of RAM, on a computer that has less power than any modern toaster.

Larry Ellison was described as an "average programmer". What exactly is an average programmer? I do not know yet. I know programmers who are amazing: their code is clean, efficient, they know a lot

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There's no answer. You must put each of them in a different time context.

One could argue, for example, that Facebook is more complex than BASIC. But programming in PHP is much easier than programming in Assembler. Believe me, I know!

It could be argued that Linus Torvals built a full operating system kernel for the X86 platform. But BASIC ran on 4K of RAM, on a computer that has less power than any modern toaster.

Larry Ellison was described as an "average programmer". What exactly is an average programmer? I do not know yet. I know programmers who are amazing: their code is clean, efficient, they know a lot of standards, etc. But they cannot produce a single successful product. Other encoders aren't that ... sophisticated, but they do produce amazing things.

For example, programming in PHP is quite simple. And PHP is not a language that demands a lot of "clean programming", to call it somehow. But Mark Zuckerberg took the programming language most hated by professional developers and built a badass product. And if you are a developer, you know that there is nothing so special about Facebook programming (at least, in the first versions). It is not programming. It is the IDEA, the PRODUCT, the RESULT of programming that counts.

I'd say, if an average programmer gave us the first working (OK, semi-functional) version of a relational database (Oracle v.1 really didn't work, in fact it was a terribly bad product until version 5), well, congratulations for average programmers! Having said that, it's true, Larry Ellison wasn't really the man who built the first version. The recognition goes to the late Bob Miner and his team. Read "The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison." It's a great read.

The question again is, what makes a programmer a good programmer?

When it comes to skills, Linus Torvalds is perhaps the biggest contender.

When it comes to building something with next to nothing, Bill Gates beats everyone.

If it's about being a pioneer, without knowing much about anything, the award goes to Larry Ellison.

If it's about seizing an opportunity for something simple and making it big, then Mark Zuckerberg is the champion.

Jeff Bezzos never wrote a single line of code, as far as I know. I could be wrong.

EDIT AFTER POST: If you really know the history of programming, you need to mention a lot of people BETTER than Torvals, Gates, Zuck or Ellison.

Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, or Gary Kildall were far more skilled than any of those mentioned.

While Linus T. created the Linux kernel (and it is a great achievement), let's remember that Linux was a "clone" of Unix (well, not exactly a clone, but an operating system built to be 100% compatible). Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson designed and built Unix from SCRATCH! Sure, it had corporate backing, but money doesn't make talent. They built the most robust operating system for really underpowered machines (by today's standards) and their operating system, and its derivatives still rule the most important services in the world. If that's not rude, I don't know what is.

Gary Kildall built CP / M (among other amazing software). Remember that DOS was a CP / M clone. Microsoft bought it from another company. Gary Kildall developed one of the first optical storage systems (before CD-ROM). He was one of the first people to exploit the 386 processor multitasking levels, allowing multiple DOS applications to run at the same time when Microsoft or IBM had such a note, he built a better DOS than Microsoft (DR-DOS), and even Bill Gates recognized him as an influencer after his death.

And there is more.

Therefore, the "best" rating might not be for one of the well-known poster children. Many people, behind the scenes, were much bigger, and without them, things would not be the same.

Let's remember: technology is a matter of iterations. Today's developers stand on the shoulders of a giant. We thrive on the incredible work of previous generations. Whenever everyone calls us "geniuses", we must remember that we are not. We are nothing more than the continuity of the great work of thousands of unknown programmers who gave us better tools to build better things. There is no better, there is no worse. There are only tools and everything we can do with them. Developers are not geniuses. We are artisans. We are closer to a carpenter than an alchemist. We do not work with arcane powers unworthy of ordinary mortals. We just take a few tools and try, every day, to master them to do a great job.

Could it be said that the work of a man striking stone against stone, 100,000 years ago, without any other type of tool, is less than the work of a man today, with electric or pneumatic tools? Pretty unfair comparison, right?

Their differences in personality and character would lead them to opposite sides of what would become the fundamental rift in the digital age. We will only try to see their differences and opinions with each other instead of limiting ourselves to "who is good at coding".

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, despite their similar ambitions at the confluence of technology and business, had very different personalities and backgrounds. Gates's father was a prominent Seattle attorney, his mother a civic leader on a variety of prestigious boards. He became a tech savvy at the best private school in the area,

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Their differences in personality and character would lead them to opposite sides of what would become the fundamental rift in the digital age. We will only try to see their differences and opinions with each other instead of limiting ourselves to "who is good at coding".

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, despite their similar ambitions at the confluence of technology and business, had very different personalities and backgrounds. Gates's father was a prominent Seattle attorney, his mother a civic leader on a variety of prestigious boards. He became a techie at the area's best private school, Lakeside High, but was never a rebel, hippie, spiritual seeker, or member of the counterculture. Instead of a Blue Box to scam the phone company, Gates created a class-scheduling program for his school, helping him get into classes with the right girls, and a car-counting program for local traffic engineers. He went to Harvard and when he decided to drop out it was not to enlighten himself with an Indian guru,

Gates was good at computer coding, unlike Jobs, and his mind was more practical, disciplined, and abundant in analytical processing power. Jobs was
more intuitive and romantic and had a greater instinct for making technology usable, design nice, and user-friendly interfaces. He had a passion for perfection, which made him extremely demanding, and he handled himself with scattered intensity and charisma. Gates was more methodical; held highly scheduled product review meetings where he would get to the heart of problems with lapidary skill. Both could be rude, but with Gates, who earlier in his career seemed to have the typical geek flirtation with the margins of the Asperger scale, cutting behavior tended to be less personal, based more on intellectual incisiveness than on emotional numbness. Jobs looked at people with a burning and hurtful intensity; Gates sometimes had trouble making
eye contact, but it was fundamentally human.

"Each thought he was smarter than the other, but Steve generally treated Bill as slightly inferior, especially when it came to
taste and style," said a Steve Jobs associate. "Bill despised Steve because he couldn't really program." From the beginning of their relationship, Gates was fascinated by Jobs and a bit envious of his hypnotic effect on people. But he also found him "fundamentally strange" and "strangely flawed as a
human being," and Jobs's rudeness and tendency to be "in the way of saying you're shit or trying to seduce you" put him off. For his
part, Jobs found Gates eerily narrow. "
Jobs declared once.

Jobs was a perfectionist who craved control and indulged in the uncompromising temperament of an artist; he and Apple became the epitome of a digital strategy that tightly integrated hardware, software, and content into one perfect package. Gates was a smart, calculating, and pragmatic business and technology analyst; He was willing to license the Microsoft operating system and software to a variety of manufacturers.

After thirty years, Gates would develop a grudging respect for Jobs. "He never really knew much about technology, but he had an amazing instinct for
what works," he said. But Jobs never reciprocated by fully appreciating Gates' true strengths. "Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented
anything, so I think he is now more comfortable in philanthropy than in technology," Jobs said unfairly. "He just blatantly ripped
off other people's ideas."

Reference: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

God no.

Sorry to say, but Microsoft's software offerings, whether purchased or developed in-house, were programs of abysmal design, certainly from a user interface perspective, and almost certainly under the hood as well.

Microsoft's early and mid-year programming libraries for application developers were a dog's breakfast with no self-respect or simplicity or principles in their design.

DOS was terribly arbitrary, too complicated and limited compared to its competitors Unix and CPM and the Amiga operating system and the Atari operating system, etc.

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God no.

Sorry to say, but Microsoft's software offerings, whether purchased or developed in-house, were programs of abysmal design, certainly from a user interface perspective, and almost certainly under the hood as well.

Microsoft's early and mid-year programming libraries for application developers were a dog's breakfast with no self-respect or simplicity or principles in their design.

DOS was terribly arbitrary, too complicated and limited compared to its competitors Unix and CPM and the Amiga operating system and the Atari operating system, etc. a shame compared to the Motorola 68000 from the same era. Only someone who doesn't care about elegance at the core would possibly select or continue to work with the Intel architecture as it was for the first 10 years, and with DOS.

MS Word was distributing its text across the page in this way and without logic, while its competitor Framemaker was doing well, proving that a good word processor design was possible, but not popular. The diagramming tools of the native MS applications were and are very inferior and have horribly contradictory guides and "sproing".

Apparently, Bill Gates did not "get" the Internet until 1995, two years after its revelation. A great programmer would have understood its momentous importance a minute after first seeing a demo of the Mosaic browser in 1993.

Gates was a great businessman because he knew that most people would not know the difference between good and bad software, applications, or architecture if it came to mind. So I just had to make Microsoft offer the bare minimum. People would soon be trapped by the network effect and everyone would have to collectively suffer from the ugliness of Microsoft Word and the peril of Internet Explorer and Windows prior to 2008 or so.

Turns out he's also a good humanitarian. But software guru. No way.

Well, one can admit that there has been considerable improvement in MS software, operating system, and application quality in recent years, but Gates (and his soccer coach successor "developer developers") had nothing to do with it. do with that.

Bill Gates learned to program as many of us did at the time, from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. He used computer manuals that came with the systems and immersed himself in writing, debugging, testing, improving, and experimenting with his own code. He also learned from some of his peers (for example, Paul Allen, later co-founder of Microsoft), who shared his interest in programming. And he learned by reading the code that other people had written. It took him a lot of time, effort, and perseverance, which was fueled by his passion for programming.

Note that there were no microprocessors and no personnel

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Bill Gates learned to program as many of us did at the time, from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. He used computer manuals that came with the systems and immersed himself in writing, debugging, testing, improving, and experimenting with his own code. He also learned from some of his peers (for example, Paul Allen, later co-founder of Microsoft), who shared his interest in programming. And he learned by reading the code that other people had written. It took him a lot of time, effort, and perseverance, which was fueled by his passion for programming.

Note that there were no microprocessors or personal computers at the time you started learning to program. Computers were big and expensive. And there were frustrations back then that we rarely encounter today: lost phone / modem connections to the remote mainframe or minicomputer, mechanical failures in the ticker terminal keyboard, printer, and perforated tape reader mechanisms, etc. Everything was done with command lines and simple text editors - no IDE or GUI was available.

When Gates was 13 years old (c. 1968), his school's Mothers Club donated funds to purchase a teletype terminal (see photo below) and rent a block of computer time on a General Electric timeshare computer system. Gates was fascinated with the system and with its programming using the BASIC programming language. Instead of having lunch, I'd be programming. He was excused from some of his math classes, which he excelled at, so he could spend even more time programming. His first significant program was an implementation of the tic-tac-toe game, which allowed the user to play against the computer.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen v. 1970, using teletype terminals - public domain photo

When funds for computer time ran out, Gates and other students turned to computer time on other systems. At one point, they were banned from a system, a DEC PDP-10 minicomputer, after they were caught exploiting a bug in the operating system in an effort to get free time on the computer. But the same company that later banned them allowed them to access their software source code (in Fortran, LISP, and assembly language), to find bugs in the software for them. In exchange, the student-consultants earned free computer time. Gates learned a lot by reading the source code and finding and correcting errors in it.

Later, Gates and fellow student Kent Evans were recruited to develop software to automate the school's class scheduling system, receiving free computer time and royalties in exchange for the work. After Evans was killed in an accident, Paul Allen stepped in to help Gates complete the project. At age 17, Gates formed Traf-O-Data with Allen, and they taught themselves the Intel 8008 microprocessor assembly language, using the 8008 data sheet / manual.

Of course, there is more to the story. But this should give you an idea of ​​how Bill Gates learned to program, in an era with no personal computers, no Internet, no YouTube, no Stack Overflow, no library shelves full of books on programming, no heaps of open source code, etc. He learned programming and programming languages ​​by reading / deciphering the system manual and immersing himself in programming, experimenting, improving, etc. When you had the opportunity to read other people's code, you learned from it (sometimes by learning how not to do things), and you shared experiences and ideas with other passionate programmers, who were also in various stages of learning.

To this day, you really can't learn to code without doing it yourself. Just reading about it, hearing someone talk about it, watching someone else do it, etc., will not make you a programmer. It takes immersion, time, effort, persistence, and perseverance for concepts and skills to become part of you. And like almost anything else, the more you do it and the more you push the limits of your knowledge and skills, the better you will get at it. Also, if you want to be successful in the long run, you never stop learning; there is always more to learn and always ways to improve your skill and hone your craft.

I'm not convinced that I was ever a rock star developer, as people like to call them.

The main thing he wrote was Microsoft BASIC, a precursor to Quick Basic, a basic interpreter / compiler. I would have written this in assembly language and possibly assembled it by hand. It's a perfectly respectable and well-executed endeavor, and it was done when most people hadn't even heard of a computer, so you have to respect it as an early adopter and capable of dealing with systems at that level. With that said, a couple of years later, 10-year-olds were doing the same thing (I messed around myself).

He was one of many

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I'm not convinced that I was ever a rock star developer, as people like to call them.

The main thing he wrote was Microsoft BASIC, a precursor to Quick Basic, a basic interpreter / compiler. I would have written this in assembly language and possibly assembled it by hand. It's a perfectly respectable and well-executed endeavor, and it was done when most people hadn't even heard of a computer, so you have to respect it as an early adopter and capable of dealing with systems at that level. With that said, a couple of years later, 10-year-olds were doing the same thing (I messed around myself).

He was one of several hobbyists who started small-scale software companies based on Microsoft BASIC and other language tools he had developed for various microcomputers, opening up microcomputers to a few more of us and fueling the revolution that was to follow. Because these early microcomputers and their high-level languages ​​made them accessible, 10-year-olds were writing machine code a couple of years later. For that, as an 8 year old boy obsessed with programming a few years later, I thank him.

However, you were very lucky and brave or reckless enough to close the deal with IBM, and then you bought a clone of the CP / M operating system, written by another programmer at a company around the corner, in your own time. , in a while. the same way Linux was written. Bill Gates certainly did not write it, but he grew his company thanks to its enormous success. (This was largely driven by the rise of IBM's PC clones, all of which needed the same operating system, supplied by Microsoft, to run the same software.)

I may be wrong, but I doubt he was responsible for much of the code on OS / 2 or Windows, and I am not aware of any other major contributions to programming on his part.

He's a great businessman for the most part, rather than a great programmer, but he was certainly a pioneer on a new frontier and a competent self-taught programmer when such people were relatively rare.

I worked at MSFT from '87 to '98. I had multiple meetings with Bill, from the days you would meet with him like you would with anyone else to the days when meeting his schedule was like meeting with POTUS.

In the past, MSFT was full of really smart people. For example, Nathan Myhrvold was an astrophysicist who had done a few things with Stephen Hawking. And that kind of background was not so uncommon among the people there. Many PhDs in many fields (not just CS). (I once commented to a really smart friend that I always felt like the fool in the room; it seemed

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I worked at MSFT from '87 to '98. I had multiple meetings with Bill, from the days you would meet with him like you would with anyone else to the days when meeting his schedule was like meeting with POTUS.

In the past, MSFT was full of really smart people. For example, Nathan Myhrvold was an astrophysicist who had done a few things with Stephen Hawking. And that kind of background was not so uncommon among the people there. Many PhDs in many fields (not just CS). (I once commented to a really smart friend that I always felt like the dumb guy in the room - he looked surprised and told me that's how he always felt.)

And yet, with all these smart, recall people specializing in some little aspect of Microsoft, when they met with Bill, he almost always very quickly identified the things that had been missed in his product plans and strategies. HE was invariably the smartest guy in a bright room.

Let me give you a specific example from the last time I saw it. I was in the marketing department of a product team that was launching our first e-commerce product (Microsoft Commerce Server). It was a very small team on a product that was not expected to make a lot of money, but was strategically necessary. My point is, it wasn't exactly on Bill's radar. We got the product through an acquisition, we ported it to NT (remember NT?), And we were ready to go.

We somehow got Bill to line up for the launch event, which was very difficult to do because all the product teams wanted Bill at their events - an appearance from Bill would ensure a lot of participation, both from the press and from the customers. , as well as press coverage. . So that was an important score. We had a very short planning meeting with Bill several months in advance, and when the prime minister started talking to him about the product, he cut him off saying, "I don't want to fill my head with a lot of things that I want." I'll have to learn again later. "

A couple of weeks before the launch at the San José Convention Center, we had a briefing with Bill about the product and the launch, where we went over the features, the messages, the competition, etc. I think we had an hour. Two weeks later, Bill is shoved into the back room, surrounded by his (now ever-present) "bubble": PR agents, assistants, security people. Bill took the stage and gave a full in-depth presentation on the product, space, future, etc., all from memory, no notes. Then he ran to their next meeting.

I started with Microsoft in 1986. At the time, Microsoft's president and chief operating officer (COO) was a very competent man named Jon Shirley, who had reached a high level at Tandy Corporation. His background there was in sales, marketing, and manufacturing, although, as an MIT graduate, he also had some technical knowledge. But the important point is that, once Microsoft became more than a handful of people, Bill cleverly hired Jon Shirley to help Microsoft mature from a very small company to a reasonably large one.

Even before that, it is well known that Bill brought a friend

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I started with Microsoft in 1986. At the time, Microsoft's president and chief operating officer (COO) was a very competent man named Jon Shirley, who had reached a high level at Tandy Corporation. His background there was in sales, marketing, and manufacturing, although, as an MIT graduate, he also had some technical knowledge. But the important point is that, once Microsoft became more than a handful of people, Bill cleverly hired Jon Shirley to help Microsoft mature from a very small company to a reasonably large one.

Even before that, it is well known that Bill brought a friend, Steve Balmer, who had studied Business at Harvard. At the time I joined Microsoft, Balmer was vice president of systems, but he was well known for having worked on the organizational and sales aspects of Microsoft. Tech-savvy SDEs (software development engineers) tended to think of Balmer as a salesman, even though he ran one of the largest product divisions.

Throughout this time, Bill was the president, chief executive officer (CEO), and chief technology officer of Microsoft. His role shifted from writing the code himself to evaluating the technical and marketing issues for every product that walked out the door.

In this position, his deep familiarity with the technical aspect of development was of great help to him; he knew when someone hadn't thought of his proposals. He had a very good sense of what it took to build this or that feature. At the same time, he was generalist enough to think beyond the details of writing code to understand something of the market.

So Bill had some innate business skills, especially when it came to understanding why people would or would not buy software. However, he was smart enough not to attempt to master all the details of day-to-day organization and accounting on his own. He hired experts for that.

His primary role as CEO, as opposed to COO or CFO (CFO, who was Frank Gaudette), was to green-light products and direct the direction of the company. His in-depth knowledge of what it took to develop those products really served him well.

Bill Gates didn't do much programming after he founded Microsoft; He moved onto the management track very soon after they started and seems to have stopped writing code as part of his job about 5 years later. We know you wrote a large part of the original Microsoft BASIC interpreter, but that was written in machine code, and none of that code will still be inside Windows.

We know that in the first 5 years of Microsoft's existence (until maybe 1982 or so), Gates went through every line of code written and rewrote parts as he saw fit. Then it is very likely

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Bill Gates didn't do much programming after he founded Microsoft; He moved onto the management track very soon after they started and seems to have stopped writing code as part of his job about 5 years later. We know you wrote a large part of the original Microsoft BASIC interpreter, but that was written in machine code, and none of that code will still be inside Windows.

We know that in the first 5 years of Microsoft's existence (until maybe 1982 or so), Gates went through every line of code written and rewrote parts as he saw fit. So it's very likely that you stopped doing that because managing the company was taking too long, so you probably didn't write much code (if you wrote any) after that. Windows 1.0 didn't appear for another three years, and with Microsoft's meteoric growth, I doubt Gates had more time or energy to spare.

So I wouldn't be surprised if some of your code is still in MS-DOS ... but for Windows, I highly doubt that any of your code will remain ... although I wouldn't completely rule it out.

His deep understanding of consumer behavior, business opportunities, and ability to close OEM deals.

The reason you've heard of Bill Gates is that he created a large, high-turnover company by creating a product and then a deal whereby that product was sold with every PC.

That is all.

Mr. Gates can safely program. And well. He remained Chief Software Architect at Microsoft until he left, more or less. In the late 1970s, he programmed a BASIC language interpreter with his colleague Paul Allen.

If that was his only achievement, it would still be unheard of. Just another programmer.

This is how he took the show.

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His deep understanding of consumer behavior, business opportunities, and ability to close OEM deals.

The reason you've heard of Bill Gates is that he created a large, high-turnover company by creating a product and then a deal whereby that product was sold with every PC.

That is all.

Mr. Gates can safely program. And well. He remained Chief Software Architect at Microsoft until he left, more or less. In the late 1970s, he programmed a BASIC language interpreter with his colleague Paul Allen.

If that was his only achievement, it would still be unheard of. Just another programmer.

It's the way he took programming, turned it into a product, and then turned it into paying customers, which makes Bill Gates the household name he is today.

Most of our "programming heroes" follow the same pattern. We believe that they owe their success to the ability to code, when in fact, their greatest achievements lie in starting a business.

For real programmers known for their skills, look to Edsger Dijkstra or Donald Knuth.

Who?

Exactly my point!

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