14 Ways the World Would Be Different Without Bill Gates
A look at some of the billionaire businessman and philanthropist’s contributions, from technology to education to global health.
The founder of Microsoft turned humanitarian/philanthropist celebrates his birthday on October 28. Here are all of the things we owe him credit for.
We’d be using a different word processing system
Microsoft Word has been around since 1983, and six years later, the first official version of Microsoft Office—which included Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—was released in 1989. Since then, these have been our main tools for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
“Life without Bill Gates would be fundamentally different: we’d be living life without these programs,” Jennifer R. Bowen, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics at the College of Wooster, tells Reader’s Digest. “What would professional and school life look like without these mainstays? ” These are the women you should thank every time you use a computer.
Technology-enabled in-home healthcare would look different
Without Bill Gates, we would not be where we are today when it comes to technology that enables greater healthcare access for those who need it most, Eric Rock, founder and CEO of Vivify Health, a mobile digital health platform, tells Reader’s Digest. Rock previously served as an advisor for Microsoft’s touchscreen and healthcare teams.
“Gates’ groundbreaking work and the development of the personal computer served as a jumping-off point for today’s mobile technologies that bring healthcare to more people than ever before—even in their own homes,” he explains. “Bill Gates’ work with Microsoft enabled health data to live in the cloud which made it easier for hospitals and health systems to mobilize, ultimately leading to web applications and telemedicine. These are leveraged not only by major corporations like Walgreens but also within my own organization. Gates’ contributions with advanced operating systems and database platforms have even helped unlock the full potential of analytics and machine learning.”
India would not be five years polio-free
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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s commitment to the causes of vaccine delivery and global immunization has yielded significant impacts. “Thanks in large part to the Foundation’s polio eradication campaigns, India is now marking five years polio-free—which bodes promise for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well,” Henna Hundal, a nationally syndicated radio host of The Henna Hundal Show who has interviewed Gates on her program, tells Reader’s Digest. “Without Bill Gates, we would be considerably further behind in the global efforts to eradicate polio.” Discover the 13 world-changing ideas that literally came from dreams.
There would be fewer health innovations for refugee populations
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The issues faced by displaced communities are deep-rooted, complex, and multifaceted. And according to Hundal, who is also the co-founder of the Azal Trust, an international 501(c)(3) nonprofit working on digital and clinical solutions to streamline healthcare access for refugees, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s work in conjunction with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the area of health innovations that support refugee populations “is an outstanding example of fruitful collaborations grounded in bridge-building with community stakeholders,” she says.
There wouldn’t be detailed maps of parts of Nigeria
When Gates and his team started planning how they would deliver polio vaccines to underserved parts of Nigeria, they realized that detailed maps of certain areas had not yet been made. So using geographic information systems (GIS)—which combines satellites, mobile device, and mapping software capabilities to capture, analyze, and present data as legible and informative maps—they were able to create new, more accurate maps of some of the more remote, rural parts of the country. Here’s how you can use GPS to track just about everything.
The computer software market as we know it would look different
According to J. Scott Christianson, assistant teaching professor at the University of Missouri, Bill Gates single-handedly created the computer software market. “First by providing basic and other computer language compilers for the Altair, and then an operating system and application software for the IBM PC, Microsoft defined the modern software company,” he tells Reader’s Digest. “Before Bill Gates, third party software developers had to also be hardware developers (Wang, etc.). Microsoft defined most of what we take for granted in a software company—licensing, upgrades, support, etc.—that is independent of the hardware manufacturer. And along the way, had to work through all the distribution, licensing, and regulatory frameworks.”
The automation industry would operate differently
In 1998, Microsoft introduced Windows NT—a game-changer for the automation industry, according to Maryanne Steidinger, head of marketing for Webalo, and a 30 year veteran of the industrial automation manufacturing industry. She explains that it was the first time that it was commercially viable to bring different technology into the market for visualization and process control.
It was easier to code compared to Unix (the only other option at the time) and so the market opened up and hundreds of thousands of developers, and end-users were able to use the technology. “Windows NT was the defining moment that changed automation forever—and it was thanks to Bill Gates and Microsoft. The proliferation now of low-cost solutions, simplicity of coding, and automation at most companies (even the small ones) can be attributed to Bill Gates and his amazing contributions to industry. Without him, I doubt if you would have seen the scale, the adoption, and the proliferation of solutions.” Like Gates, these 22 businesses are also changing the world.
The development of smartphones and apps may have taken longer
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When Gates developed a unified system in the 1980s—which allowed software to be created and distributed at a much faster rate—he unknowingly helped pave the way for smartphones, according to Steven Fruchter, CEO of GrowthMed, Inc. “Most people know how when the iPhone and Android came out, how fast everything happened and how many applications were made for them because it was easy for developers to create an application and then have it run on hundreds of different devices,” Fruchter tells Reader’s Digest.
The Khan Academy may not exist
Without Gates, high school and college students everywhere would likely be living without Khan Academy which offers free practice exercises, instructional videos, and other learning materials to allow people to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. “Students in the United States and abroad wouldn’t benefit from academic support and problem solving that Salman Khan offers,” Bowen explains.