7. Mr. Gates Builds His Dream House (1988 to 1995)
What do you do when you have more money than God? Build a house fit for a deity, of course. Gates's mansion on the shores of Lake Washington in Seattle took seven years to complete and cost somewhere between $40 million and $100 million, depending on which source you accept. According to Fortune Magazine, "It was a bachelor's dream and a bride's nightmare: 40,000 square feet with several garages, a trampoline room, an indoor pool, a theater with a popcorn machine, and enough software and high-tech displays to make a newlywed feel as though she were living inside a video game."
After their wedding, Melinda apparently toned down some of the house's boy-toyishness. Still, as PBS's Robert X. Cringely reported, visitors to the home were asked to wear electronic badges that allowed the house "to adjust climate, music, lighting--even the electronic artwork on the walls--to match their preferences as they move from room to room. And what happens when more than one person is in a room? The reality of active badges is that Bill Gates is still king. When Bill is in the room, his taste rules."
Second Career: Home builder? I think we'd rather just rent.
8. Bill Gets Hitched (January 1, 1994)
When you're the world's richest man you have to work double-time to hide from the public eye. So when Gates decided to marry former Microsoft product manager Melinda French, he organized the wedding on the tiny Hawaiian island of Lanai, booked every hotel room on the island, and rented every helicopter in the state to frustrate potential paparazzi.
The $1 million ceremony took place on the 12th tee of the Manele Bay Hotel golf course. On the guest list: best man Steve Ballmer, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, Warren Buffet, and Washington Post doyenne Katherine Graham. The band? Singer Willie Nelson.
Second Career: Wedding planner? We like Bill's style, but it's too rich for our blood. We'll stick with J-Lo.
9. Microsoft Remains Intact (June 28, 2001)
Bill & Co. dodged a major bullet when a federal appeals court overruled U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision in United States v. Microsoft, rescinding his order to split the company in two. The appellate court found that Microsoft had indeed acted as a monopoly in bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, but it ruled Jackson's remedy too harsh. By then, Gates had already stepped down as Microsoft CEO, having handed the reins to Steve Ballmer in January 2000. Who knows? If Microsoft had been split, Gates might have found himself competing with his old college buddy Ballmer--and Yahoo might be trying to buy them instead.
Second Career: Yahoo employee? That's something we'd like to see.
10. Bill Gets His Sheepskin (June 7, 2007)
More than 30 years after dropping out of Harvard, Bill finally got to flip his tassels. As a student, Gates was known to prefer poker and programming over attending classes, but in June 2007 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree after delivering the commencement address at his alma mater. Also receiving an honorary law degree that day: former Celtics star Bill Russell. So it was a good day for Bills all around.
Remember kids, stay in school. And if you can't manage that, starting your own software empire and dominating the world for 30 years isn't a bad fallback plan.
Second Career: Career counselor? One thing is certain: Nobody knows more about second careers than Bill. He's a natural.
PC World (US) Contributing Editor Dan Tynan is going to miss having Bill Gates to kick around. When not waxing snarky about Microsoft, he tends the Tynan on Technology blog.