Bill Gates' Speech to Tsinghua University
12 December, 1997 By Bill Gates
It's great to be here and have a chance to share some of my excitement with you.
I was 19 when I realized that if I wanted to be the first to do a software company for these new cheap computers, I needed to get my friends together and start right away, so Microsoft became the first company doing software for these new machines. Our vision was a computer on every desk and in every home. In the last 20 years, that vision is certainly becoming a reality. If we had to change it today, we would simply add that now we also want to have a computer in every pocket, every car - many other places that we had not thought about when we first started doing development. I believe software is the key element that really unlocks the power of all this technology, and the idea of making it easy to find information, easy to create information, easy to communicate with other people. Software is at the center of that, and so software will be the fastest growing industry in the world and one that will create lots and lots of great jobs. Certainly here in China the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of great jobs should be very exciting because there is a global shortage in terms of computer skills.
The personal computer revolution got started in 1975, that's when I left college and started Microsoft. These last 22 years have really been amazing, every prediction we've made about improvements have all come true. As we look ahead, that pace of innovation is not slowing down, in fact if anything it's speeding up. Very high speed processors like 300 MHz Pentiums, or new 64-bit processors that we're already developing Windows NT for; incredible storage capacity, which will let us store, not just data, but also digital video as well, treat screen technology to create a tablet-like device that would be good enough for reading and writing; advanced graphics and now the ability to connect computers together at very high speed.
The Internet is the way that all these machines can be connected together. And those standards, and the improvement of those standards, is very very important. Some people like to think about how the computer industry compares to other industries. I've shown before what the cost of the typical car was in 1980 in the US, and that rose up to be about from 8,000 to 19,000 today, and likewise cereal has increased in price. How does that compare to PCs? If the same model was followed for PCs, you can buy car for 27 cents and cereal for less than one cent, so there's no other area of the economy
that has this rapid improvement, and people just aren't used to it. You almost have to tell people, "What would you do if Internet computing power was free," because that's what we'll be able to deliver with all these improvements.
Microsoft's vision of computing is global computing. We see PCs connected to the Internet making the world a smaller place, and that's positive in so many ways: to build understanding between people, to share research in key science areas, including medicine, to allow world commerce to work very well. Ant! the Internet is driving this already. Microsoft has set up operations around the world, and we are very pleased with the success we're having here in China. We are doing significant software development on products here, and that will continue to increase, and key for us is having very very high quality software people, and we've been lucky to hire a great number of people from this university. Really I'd say that the core of the teams we've put together have come from here, and I've listed some of those employees here, and we certainly hope that in the future this list will increase dramatically, and the quality of our work continues to rise.
Microsoft believes in doing a lot of research because the software of today is not adequate for tomorrow. It's come a long way, such as the graphics interface, the application, and the way we deal with linguistics; it's much better than it was a year ago. Building the Internet into the software has come a long way. Some of the more ambitious things, like teaching the computer to speak or listen or see, still require a lot of software work that's not yet done, and so we've been investing in research, and building the number of research locations, which will be increasing in the years ahead. One advance is teaching the computer to pick up sentences and understand them, and not just think of them as a series of characters.
That just gives you a glimpse of one area that is expected to make the personal computer really disappear into the environment and connect up in a rich way. Tomorrow's PC will be quite different from what we have today, tomorrow's Internet will be much better than what we have today, but it will all evolve out of this technology that we have right now.
It's clear that the reason we refer to this as the information age is that the capabilities available in the information age will let people reach out and get what they need, whether it's business, learning, or for entertainment. Microsoft feels in a very lucky position to be helping to drive these things, and the key for us is working with other software companies so that they can build other applications on top of the system. Every industry needs a lot of software work there, and so I talk about the software industry creating so many great jobs in the years ahead. I think you picked a great field to be in, and we look forward to working with you. Thank you.