Photo: Gates Archive

Photo: Gates Archive

“I spent hours in my room playing games and learning to code.”

This Apple III was a gift from my father, who was an engineer working with NASA. I was about 16, and we were all supposed to share it, but I took it over almost immediately and persuaded my parents to let it live in my bedroom. I spent hours on it playing games and learning to code, and my dad more or less had to ask permission to use it. But he didn’t seem to mind; he was always incredibly supportive of my interests in science and computers.

After I took a job at Microsoft, I had the Apple III sent to Seattle because it reminded me of how a computer changed my life. Our dream was to revolutionize the way billions of men and women lived and worked, and it was nice, as my career went along—I eventually oversaw Expedia and Encarta—to have a memento of my own journey.

There were a lot more women getting computer science degrees when the Apple III was released in 1980 than there are today. When I talk about the urgent need to help more girls see a future in technology, it’s not just because I think it would be good for those girls—though I do. It’s also because I think it would be better for society. Even now, as we run our foundation, the Apple III is a symbol of our conviction that innovation makes the future better for everyone—and we all benefit when there are more voices at the table making decisions.

It turns out that one of the single best predictors of whether a woman goes into a STEM field is whether or not her father believed in her when she was growing up. Well, my father did, in spades.

Melinda Gates
Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, WA

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