Los Angeles (CA) - By now you know that Bill Gates is taking a retirement of sorts and will relinquish his daily duties at Microsoft. We’ve written a few articles about his accomplishments, but I think it’s interesting to take a look at his best and worst public moments to get a sense of how he’s evolved personally. Sure, throughout the years, he looks a bit older and has a bit more grey hair, but there’s definitely a positive change in public personality. In mid to late 1990s, Gates was thought of as this cold, calculating, Darkseid and Brainiac all rolled into one body, but in the past few years he’s improved his image and morphed into the likeable mega philanthropist. Thanks to the magic of the Internet and YouTube, you can see this evolution in our list of the best and worst public moments of Bill Gates.
Back in August 1998, Microsoft was in the middle of a huge anti-trust suit brought on by its inclusion of Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system. The US Justice Department headed up by lead prosecutor David Boies were able to depose Gates on video and then place it into public record for everyone to see. This was important because up until that time Gates tried his best to stay out of the public eye.
The tactic here was to show Gates as a meek and evasive defendant and in most cases it worked, but if you watch the video carefully you’ll see that Gates is actually toying with the prosecutors during the questioning. In fact, he actually trips up the opposing attorney several times in the video. You’ll have to decide whether this was because of his superior intellect (I mean the guy just thinks differently than the average Joe) or if it was the result of some excellent coaching by some very expensive lawyers.
Earlier in that year, while visiting Brussels to give a speech on education, Mr. Gates was smacked in the face with a cream pie by a self-proclaimed anarchist who was well known for assaulting famous people with pastries. You may cringe a bit when watching the video because poor Bill gets hit fairly hard - that actually looks it would hurt! At the time, Gates did what he was known for and didn’t say a word. He didn’t even press charges against the assailant and it was reported that the pie chucker was disappointed that Gates wasn’t riled up.
Bill Gates hit with a pie video on YouTube
If you want another example of Mr. Gates’ trademark stunned silence look, then the infamous ’Control Alt Delete’ discussion is a prime example. Here Dave Bradley, formerly of IBM, talks about creating the Control-Alt-Delete combination for troubleshooting. Also on stage was Mr. Microsoft himself Bill Gates. Bradley joked that Windows made his key combination famous by saying, "I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous." In the video you can just see the love that is oozing from Gates after that statement.
Control Alt Delete video on YouTube
Macworld is probably the last place you would expect Bill Gates, but in 1997 he appeared via satellite to talk about the new relationship between Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft had just invested $150 million into the almost bankrupt Apple and the companies agreed to a broad cross-license patent agreement and other cooperative developments on browser and applications.
The initial reception was mixed as the applause was met with equally loud boos from the crowd. Given the audience demographics, that’s probably not surprising, but Gates graciously proceeded with his speech and was greeted with unanimous applause when he finished. Not a bad turn around.
Perhaps the most famous blue screen of death in history happened at the 1998 Spring COMDEX (RIP) while Gates was demonstrating Windows 98. An assistant - with Bill Gates looking over his shoulder - was plugging in a scanner to show off the operating system’s plug-and-play feature, but Windows crashed a few seconds later. After a few seconds of very awkward silence from the silence, no doubt thinking about upcoming unemployment benefits, Gates joked with a smile, "That must be why we’re not shipping Windows 98 yet."
Gates handled another famous crash gracefully at the 2005 CES where he tried demoing Windows Media Center with comedian Conan O’Brian. While trying to pull up the slideshow feature with a remote control, the operating system just froze. O’Brian quipped, "Right now nine people are being fired." Gates laughed and continued trying to press the remote button. You gotta feel sorry for the guy sometimes, live demos are tough and they’re even tougher when being broadcasted live around the world.
Conan O’Brian and Bill Gates - Media Center crash video on YouTube
Want to see a very casual Bill Gates? In 2006, Channel 9 interviewed him and Gates came off as a very relaxed and likable guy. Heck, he’s basically just slouching in the chair. In the interview, Gates admitted that he has very little time to watch TV, but added that he was addicted to watching the ’24’ series on DVD while running on the treadmill. While the interviewer was a bit shaky, this appearance really shows Bill Gates in his best light.
Very casual interview with Channel 9 on YouTube
In recent years, Gates has poked fun at himself in public appearances. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Gates played a funny video of his last days at Microsoft. He starts off by leaving his briefcase on top of his car and then plays with toy soldiers while spouting, "Listen to Chewbacca .... It’s all about the software." He also had a little fun while speaking at last year’s graduation ceremony at Harvard University. "I’m a bad influence ... If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today," said Gates.
Throughout the years much has been said about the supposed rivalry between Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs, but in reality the two get along very well. At the 2007 D: All Things Digital Conference, Gates and Jobs held a joint question and answer session that really showed off their friendship. Approximately 18 minutes into the event, Jobs says the goal of his PC Guy versus Mac commercials isn’t to be mean, something to which gates responded by almost laughing out of his chair. The entire video gives great inside to their relationship and the contrasts between the Microsoft and Apple way of thinking.
2007 All Things Digital Steve Jobs and Gates