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|November 27th 1995|
|David Letterman Interviewing Bill Gates
LETTERMAN: As the co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, our next guest is responsible for pioneering the personal computer industry. He's also written this book right here. It's called "The Road Ahead." Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the very wealthy Bill Gates. Oh, Bill.
(Bill Gates comes out and sits down)
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much. What did you think of that Quiz Machine? Very impressive piece of equipment until it
exploded, wasn't it?
GATES: I've seen better.
LETTERMAN: Now, at Microsoft I have a feeling that you guys must have a vast research and development department. New ideas come across your desk every minute of every day, don't they, pretty much?
LETTERMAN: So now if something like the Quiz Machine failed, what would you do? What course of action would you take?
GATES: I'd recall it.
LETTERMAN: Recall it, but wouldn't you fire a lot of people first?
LETTERMAN: No? (Dave cracks up) I have like a million things to ask you. First of all, if you can, describe for us succinctly what it is that you did better and first that put you where you are today. What was the core of this? What was the seed? What is the essence of Microsoft? When and how did that happen?
GATES: Okay. I think there's a lot of elements that go into it, a vision of what software could do.
LETTERMAN: What was the vision? What was your vision?
GATES: Well, a computer on every desk and in every home.
LETTERMAN: Right. I don't have one on my home or in my desk, or vice versa.
GATES: We're working on that.
LETTERMAN: But there was more to it than just that vision. You must have known -- how early did you realize you knew something that could be exploited to this extreme?
GATES: Well, there were a small group of people who saw what this chip could do as it became more powerful, and we sort of felt like a special group, because we were all working on it, and we thought some day these big computer companies are
going to have a huge problem, and this thing is going to reach out to the entire world. But every year we just kept hiring more people, working on it. It's been 20 years since we started it, and we are not really to the full realization of that vision even today.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, but this came to you more or less when you were in high school. You were so far ahead of people in
your high school class with knowledge of computers that the school hired you, didn't they?
GATES: That's right. I did the school scheduling. It was a very nice position to be in.
LETTERMAN: And how did you make that work to your advantage?
GATES: Well, we had 80 percent boys and 20 percent girls, but in my classes there were all girls.
LETTERMAN: Because you worked the schedule into the -- there you go.
(Audience laughs and applauds)
LETTERMAN: Why don't I have a computer?
GATES: We need to find an application for you. Part of your problem is you have too many assistants.
(Audience laughs and applauds)
LETTERMAN: Well, I like having assistants.
GATES: Well, they're like human computers. They're doing everything for you.
GATES: Maybe you should let them have computers.
LETTERMAN: I think some of them do. I certainly haven't met all of them, but I think some of them do.
But, you know, I think about this -- what about this Internet thing? Do you know anything about that?
LETTERMAN: What the hell is that exactly?
GATES: Well, it's become a place where people are publishing information.
GATES: So everybody can have their own home page. Companies are there, the latest information. It's wild what's going on. You can send electronic mail to people. It is the big new thing.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, but, you know, it's easy to criticize something you don't fully understand, which is my position here --
GATES: Go ahead.
LETTERMAN: -- but I can remember a couple of months ago there was like a big break-through announcement that on the
Internet or on some computer deal they were going to broadcast a baseball game, you could listen to a baseball game on your
computer, and I just thought to myself, does radio ring a bell? You know what I mean?
(Audience applauds and cheers wildly)
GATES: There is a difference.
LETTERMAN: There is a difference?
GATES: It's not a huge difference.
LETTERMAN: What is the difference?
GATES: You can listen to the baseball game whenever you want to.
LETTERMAN: Right. Oh, I see. So it is stored in one of your memory deals?
LETTERMAN: And then you can come back a year later and --
GATES: That's the ram thing you talked about earlier.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, yeah. Do tape recorders ring a bell?
(Audience cheers and applauds)
LETTERMAN: Yeah, I just don't know. What can you -- just knowing me the little you know me now, what am I missing
here? What do I need?
GATES: Well, if you want to learn about the latest cigars or auto racing statistics or --
LETTERMAN: Well, you know, I've got that covered. I subscribe to two British magazines devoted entirely to motor
sports, and I call the Quaker State Speed Line about two times a half hour. So now, would the computer give me more than I'm getting that way?
GATES: You could find other people who have the same unusual interests you do.
(Dave makes a face and the audience applauds)
LETTERMAN: You mean the troubled loner chat room on the Internet?
LETTERMAN: I think one day I'll get one of these deals, but, you know, I've played with them, and then, you know, you type it in, and they've got that thing, that little arrow. Is that the arrow?
GATES: You bet, you bet.
LETTERMAN: And it's like, oh, I get it. It's an eye test. What are we --
Tell me about your house. Are you in your new house yet?
GATES: No. I'm still building that. I'm hoping to move in by the end of '96.
LETTERMAN: Is this just like the coolest house of all time?
GATES: For me it's the coolest house of all time.
LETTERMAN: What are the things that you have designed for the house that really you are very excited about?
GATES: Well, I've got a trampoline room that I can go and use.
(Dave cracks up)
LETTERMAN: A trampoline room?
GATES: That's right.
LETTERMAN: This is like an actual trampoline or like a computer trampoline?
GATES: Non virtual. This is --
LETTERMAN: This is the real deal?
LETTERMAN: And you have art work that can be changed?
GATES: Right. I have very high quality screens throughout the house, and so I can call up -- I can take a topic like scientists or Russia or Renaissance paintings, and so different ones, images related to that topic will come up, and wherever I go, you get those high quality displays.
LETTERMAN: Man, how many square feet is this?
GATES: Well, it's fairly big.
LETTERMAN: What are we talking about?
GATES: More than 50,000 square feet.
LETTERMAN: 50,000 square feet?
LETTERMAN: This theater is not that big, Bill.
GATES: It's got different parts. It's got a place where I can entertain.
LETTERMAN: Well, that's good. You don't want to cheat yourself on that.
(Audience cheers and applauds)
LETTERMAN: Is there something now beyond what we understand about computers that like 20 years ago we didn't fully understand computers? Is there now another level of something? Maybe we haven't even thought of it? Maybe it's not even possible, maybe, you know, a whole different mechanism, a whole different software and hardware, or is this going to be it now through the end of time?
GATES: Mostly what we are working on now is the computer being a tool, a tool to help us learn or find other people with the same interests. Eventually we may figure out how to make the computer think, but that turns out to be a very tough problem. In fact, there's been almost no progress made on it. So nobody knows when that will happen. Some people think it will never happen.
LETTERMAN: We don't want them to think, do we? Not really, I wouldn't think.
GATES: Well, it's a scary thought.
LETTERMAN: Yeah. It's too bad there's no money in this too, isn't it? It's a shame.
LETTERMAN: The book is called, "The Road Ahead," and Bill, thank you very much. I can't thank you enough for your help here.
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