Bill Gates at age six with his father, Bill Gates Sr. (photo courtesy of the Gates family)

What was the  Microsoft founder and philanthropist like when his own operating system was still in development? His father, Bill Gates Sr., reminisces.

What sort of child was Bill?

Just about every kind of book interested him–encyclopedias, science fiction, you name it. I was thrilled that my child was such an avid reader, but he read so much that Bill’s mother and I had to institute a rule: no books at the dinner table.

Did Bill ever talk about what he wanted to do or be when he grew up?

As part of a homework assignment in fifth grade, Bill had to fill out a form about what he wanted to be when he grew up.  The form included a list of occupations – things like doctor, fireman and cowboy – with check boxes next to each. The expectation was that the student would pick one from the existing list. Although Bill did check the box for “astronaut,” he also drew in an additional box, checked it and wrote “scientist.” Growing up, he was very curious to know how the world worked, and he had his own thoughtful ideas about business, life, international affairs, and what the future might hold. At the time, it would have been hard for me to believe that the frequently argumentative boy across the dinner table would one day be my boss, but here we are.

When did he first get interested in computers?

Very early on. An opportunity came at his school when the mothers raised money to pay for a device that connected to a computer over the phone line. The intention was that the teachers would use it, but they made a few mistakes and got scared of it. Bill was part of a group of math students who were invited to use the system and learn how it worked. By about 13 years old he was hooked.

Did he have jobs before college?

When he was a senior in high school, Bill took a break from classes to do programming at a power plant in North Bonneville, Wash. Bill’s mother and I spoke to his high school headmaster, and we were all in agreement that the job would be a practical way to apply his skills and interests. I recall Bill telling me that he and Paul Allen, who worked there with him, would stay up working on code for the electrical grid management system.

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