Never underestimate the PTA’s power to change the world. If you need proof, look no further than Bill Gates. The Microsoft co-founder, billionaire philanthropist, and 1973 Lakeside Prep School alum got his start in technology when the Lakeside Mothers Club used its garage sale proceeds to give students computer access. The club purchased a teletype machine that connected over phone lines to a GE time sharing computer. At the time, computers were so expensive that many people — including the Lakeside Mothers Club — purchased computer time rather than actual computers.

High school hijinks

Gates and his buddy/future Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen were quickly enchanted by the possibility of computers. As members of the Lakeside Programmers Group, Gates and Allen collaborated on various ventures. When school administrators asked them to develop a computerized scheduling system, Gates maneuvered course schedules so he had the same classes as the girls he was interested in, which he admitted in a 2005 commencement address at his alma mater. In exchange for free computer time, the friends worked together to create a payroll program for a company called Information Sciences Inc. They also collaborated on Traf-o-Data, a start-up in which they automated the analysis of Washington state traffic data. They were even banned from the Computer Center Corporation’s mainframe after manipulating bugs in code to access free computer time.

Gates famously did not graduate from Harvard. Given his formative teenage years at Lakeside, it’s no wonder he and wife Melinda have devoted millions of dollars to reshaping the state of K-12 education in the United States.

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Photo: Tadas Sar/Unsplash.

Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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