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A Gates time line

A look at the pivotal moments in the life of Microsoft's Bill Gates, one of the world's richest and most famous/infamous men.

As Bill Gates prepares to step away from the company he co-founded and helped make a titanic force in the tech industry and the world at large, CNET News.com takes a brief look at some of the pivotal moments in the life of Gates.

Oct. 28, 1955--William Henry Gates III is born in Seattle. In elementary school, Gates' parents recognize his unique brainpower--according to some, at age 11 he could flawlessly recite Gospel chapters--and enroll him in Lakeside, a prestigious private school. That's where he's first introduced to computers and future partner Paul Allen.

Special coverage: The end of the Gates era

1973--He leaves his home in Washington to attend Harvard University, where he enrolls in prelaw. Harvard is where Gates meets Steve Ballmer, another future business partner.

1975--Gates, Allen and Monte Davidoff help usher in the home-computer era with release of the Altair BASIC programming language. Gates and Allen sell their first software program. Microsoft is born.

1976--Gates drops out of Harvard.

1977--Jailed briefly for racing his Porsche 911 in desert near Albuquerque, N.M.

1980--IBM hires Gates to provide operating system, MS-DOS, for personal computer. IBM allows Microsoft to license the system to other computer makers. Deal eventually makes Microsoft the world's premier software maker.

1986--Microsoft raises $61 million in a public offering.

1990--Company releases Windows 3, a desktop operating system, and sells 10 million copies within two years.

1994--Marries Melinda French, a Microsoft employee. The couple eventually have three children.

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Bill Gates has set a timetable to end his day-to-day work at Microsoft. Do you agree with his plans?

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1996--In a letter to the Justice Department, Netscape Communications accuses Microsoft of anticompetitive behavior in regard to its promotion of the Internet Explorer browser. Eventually, many will accuse Gates of killing Netscape.

1998--Judge presiding over antitrust case brought against Microsoft by Justice Department accuses Gates of not being responsive during his deposition. Gates repeatedly answers questions during the deposition with "I don't know" and "I don't recall."

2000--Steps down as Microsoft's chief executive to focus on the company's software development as chief technology officer. He's replaced as CEO by Steve Ballmer. During the same year, he launches Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and funds college scholarships, AIDS prevention and research into diseases prevalent in third-world countries.

2001--Forbes names Gates as America's richest man and estimates his worth to be $54 billion.

2002--A federal judge accepts settlement agreement that ends five-year antitrust battle between Microsoft and U.S. Justice Department.

2005--Gates receives the insignia of an honorary knighthood at Buckingham Palace. ABC News reports that Gates has given away more than $6 billion. He and his wife, along with musician Bono, are named Time Magazine's Persons of the Year, and a survey of 2.5 million U.S. television viewers ranks Gates among the top 25 greatest Americans.

2006--Gates announces that he has resigned as Microsoft's chief software architect and will work part time for the company starting in 2008.