Bill Gates may be world’s richest person with an estimated wealth of $77.2 billion (AUD$103.3 billion), but he is likely us, ordinary mortals, in many ways. In his 4th AMA (As Me Anything) with Redditors on Monday, he shares that he got a C+ for one subject at Harvard.
Another glimpse to Gates’ childhood is offered in the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2016 letter in which the couple recalls being asked by Kentucky high school students what superpowers do they each want. The two actually gave three answers – To fly, to be invisible, to travel through time.
However, while acknowledging that the three are good options, they gave two responses which Bill and Melinda believe are what other parents could identify with. These are “more time and more energy.”
The energy they were referring to was not about having the strength to go on with one’s day-to-day task, but about power or electricity that lights up homes, communities, factories and nations. In their AMA, the couple were more specific in pointing to lowering the price of electricity and getting rid of greenhouse gases as the three things they want to see human society accomplish in the next two decades.
They point out that superpowers go and it may not be as exciting compared to Superman’s ability to defy gravity, however, by placing more time and energy into the hands of the poorest, “it will allow millions of dreams to take flight.”
But in a handwritten marginal note after that line, Bill shares that his father, William H. Gates Sr., had a mint collection of early Superman comics. “And I read them all,” he writes.
It is not just superhero comics that Gates had fond memories of. Asked by a redditor of his fondest memory at Harvard, where Bill and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped out (from different school years), he shares that it had something to do with his Combinatronics class.
“I decided that I would be different and never attend any class I was signed up for but always attend a class I wasn’t signed up for,” he wrote. He signed up for Combinatronics but did not show up, and attended Brain studies class instead.
Fortunately for Bill, the same table discussed at Brain studies, where he was the most vocal student, was also discussed at Combinatronics, and when he took the exams for the latter, he passed it. Besides having the same topic for the two subjects, Bill says he studied “super hard” during reading period which guaranteed him getting A’s.
The exception to that was Organic Chemistry where he got a C+ because the video tapes of the lectures for that class sometimes had no sound or no video. Gates also clarifies that his being a drop out of Harvard was not because he flunked out. He says the classes he attended were not super hard courses, but he left because he had better things to do with his time.
That was to start, together with Paul Allen, their own computer software company, following the release in 1975 of the MITS Altair 8800, based on the Intel 8080 CPU, which the two saw as an opportunity waiting to be grabbed. And the rest is Microsoft history.