Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019): Season 1, Episode 2 - Part 2 - full transcript

The connections that shaped Bill's life come into focus, including a childhood friendship and his unique bond with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

[racingelectronic instrumentals]

[director] Bill is on a mission.

He needs to unlock the mysteries
of the PDP-10 computer.

But the adults won't share the source code

with 13-year-old Bill.

[dumpster lid creaks]

So he enlists his older friend Paul Allen.

Together they boldly go
where no one has gone before.

If they find the source code,

Bill and Paul will finally be able

- to master the computer.
- [cans rattle against concrete]

[racing electronic music continues]

The two friends are in business.

- [crescendo to silence]
- [paper rustles]

[click, hard drive whirring]

- [computer beeps]
- Hello, I'm Bill Gates.

- [mouse clicks]
- [tapping on keyboard]

In this video,
you're going to see the future.

- [announcer] Mr. Bill Gates.
- [applause]

[news anchor] Forbes Magazine calls Gates
America's richest person.

[anchor 2]
Six point three billion dollars.

- [anchor 3] Worth 40 billion dollars.
- [anchor 4] One hundred billion dollars.

[man 1] Bill Gates is one of the most
remarkable people...

- [woman 1] Arrogant, greedy.
- ...I've ever met.

- [man 1] Predatory, capitalistic brainiac.
- [woman 1] A devil.

Impatient optimist.

- [man 2] Your brain is a CPU?
- Yes.

[woman 2] He thrives on complexity.

[woman 3] The smartest person
I’ve ever met.

[man 3] He did drop out of college.

You guys never understood
the first thing about this.

[anchor 5] Greatest American businessman
of his generation.

[woman 4] He was changing the world
with software.

[anchor 6] Is Bill Gates stifling
technological innovation?

They’re supposed to be jealous,
supposed to be agitated.

[man 4] Bill wants people to think that
he's Edison

- and he's really Rockefeller.
- I'm done.

[error trill]

[man 4] If he were Edison,
he'd be less dangerous.

[woman 5] Can I just ask you
one more question?

[man 6] Will the real Bill Gates...

- [cartoon] Damn, Bill.
- ...please stand up?

- [mellow instrumentals]
- [typing]

[mouse clicks]

[director] So the series is called
Inside Bill's Brain.

- Yes. [laughs]
- And I'm asking...

- Why is that funny?
- It just is!

I don't think of it being that interesting
to be in my husband's brain, right?

- [laughs]
- That's very...

- Sorry.
- [laughing]

How would you describe his brain?


I'm sorry, I'm just not gonna be able
to not laugh through this part.

- Okay, look...
- [stammers] Why are you laughing?

'Cause it's chaos!

There's so much complexity in there!

It's chaos!

All right, here's why I laugh.

I wouldn't wanna be in that brain, right?


There is so much going on all the time.

It's moving, moving, moving, moving?

Yeah. Yeah, it's unbelievable.
It's unbelievable.

[Melinda] Bill can deal
with a lot of complexity.

And he likes complexity,

and he thrives on complexity.

So when Bill stills and quiets himself,

all these incredibly complex thoughts
that he's had,

and these ways he can see the world

and he can pull ideas together
that other people can't see,

he thinks his best.

Why did he go on Think Week?

He stilled himself

and he had time to distill and slow down,

and then write

and lead in the way he wanted to lead.

[director] Bill started to take
Think Weeks back in the 90s,

when he was still running Microsoft.

He would travel the Hood Canal
and spend one week there alone,

reading and thinking.

He'd absorb stacks of books
and technical papers,

anything that could help him
understand the future.

[Bill] That's CPU time.

It's time that you get
to think about things.

A CPU is a central processing unit,

which carries out the instructions
of a computer program.

Without one, a computer
can't make calculations

or decide how to function.

[technical beeping]

[Bill] When you write down these things
to think about,

that's like the code,

you know,
when will low interest rates end?

Why isn't the clinic working better?

Okay, the private sector is good at this,

do they have capacity?

How many cities is this going to get into?

How do we do the safety tests?

Have we really underestimated this?

What is in human sewage? [chuckles]

Then you think, okay, do I need to read
some books about that?

Who do I need to talk to about that?

And some things, I say to myself,

"Hey, I just need to think."

[director] Your brain is a CPU?


[tranquil instrumentals]

[director] As I've gotten to know Bill
in this new phase of his life,

it seems like he's turned his whole life

into one long, continuous Think Week.

Only, today, he's focused on other things.

[tense instrumentals]

For more than a decade,
Bill and his partner Melinda

have been pouring billions of dollars
into eradicating polio.

[ethereal instrumentals]

But they underestimated

just how hard it would be.

[no audible dialogue]

[mellow instrumentals]

For the Western world,

polio is now a distant memory.

[mechanical pumping and hissing]

We forget the terror.

And the suffering.

In 1955,

when the Salk vaccine was introduced,

we were able to stop polio
in the developed world.

But kids in poor countries
are still getting the disease,

which is very contagious,

and spreads as a result
of poor sanitation.

[Sue] It's terrible to have polio.

It's terrible to be paralyzed.

It is especially terrible
if you're in a poor country.

You may not have crutches.

If you do, they're homemade,

and so the degree to which you cannot

participate in society

if you've had serious polio

and you're paralyzed in a poor country,

it's a really terrible disease.

[Bill] I see a life that is going to be
super, super limited.

You know, it's an incredible tragedy

for the whole family.

[director] You grew up
in a comfortable world.

[Bill] Very.

- You didn't need anything.
- No, my parents were well off.

My dad did well as a lawyer.

Took us on great trips.

We had a really nice house.

[Bill] And I've had so much luck

in terms of all of these opportunities.

[director] So where are we?

[Bill] Uh, this is Lakeside.

This is where I spent, uh,
most of 7th grade

through 12th grade.

I was in public school through 6th grade,

and my parents decided

I should go to a private school.

And I remember thinking,
did I want to go to this school?

It was a boys school,

and I'd been kind of a class clown

and I didn't know if that niche existed
in this school I was going to,

because it looked very disciplinarian.

I remember thinking when I took the exam,
should I pass this exam or not?

And I just couldn't help myself,
but try and do the best I could... [laughs]

But it crossed your mind to sandbag?

Right, to not do well on the test, uh...

but I didn't. I...

- You couldn't help yourself.
- I couldn't help myself. [laughs]

[uplifting acoustic string music playing]

[director] Bill is often seen
as a singular figure,

but his life, in fact, has been defined
by a series of partnerships.

At Lakeside, Bill's first true friendships
were forged in the computer lab.

[childhood classroom chatter]

[man] There was a little room

just off the entrance to the building
and that was the computer room.

- [typing]
- [dings]

[director] The Lakeside Programmers Group
was founded by two sophomores:

Paul Allen and Ric Weiland.

- So, this is Paul Allen here.
- Yeah.

There I am looking very,
very mature. [laughs]

He looks 20 years older than you.

Absolutely. He's two grades ahead of me.

[director] Bill and his friend Kent Evans

joined the club

when they were only 8th graders.

[Bill] Paul actually sought me out

because I’d done super well
on this nationwide math test.

I thought that was really cool.

Paul was certainly cooler than I was.

[Marc] He had a corduroy kinda jacket

and then a black leather jacket,
that was the cool jacket.

[director] Paul captivated
the middle schoolers

with computers and coding.

[Bill] He was the one who came to me
and explained to me about chips

and the magic of putting more and more
capability on chips.

[director] The boys were so good at coding

that a local company hired them
to program its payroll.

But the older kids

didn't know what to do
with the younger Bill and Kent.

You know, I'm sure their friends
thought it was weird

that we were coming around at all.

- And...
- So they were getting shit

- for working with the middle schoolers?
- Yeah.

And then they decide

they just wanna do it.

- Paul and Ric?
- Paul and Ric.

[chirpy instrumentals]

And so, they kicked both Kent and I
off the project.

And I said, "I think you're
underestimating how hard this is.

If you ask me to come back,

I am going to be totally in charge of this
and anything you ever ask me to do again."

[director] After weeks of work,
Paul realized Bill was right.

So he asked for his help,

and Bill took over.

[Bill] It was just more natural for me

to be in charge.

But wait, at this point, Kent, not Paul,

- was your best friend, right?
- [Bill] Yes. Yeah.

[director] And you're hanging out
at each other's houses?

[Bill] Uh, and talking on the phone
ridiculous amounts.

Now, I still know Kent's phone number.

- What's his phone number?
- 525-7851.

Kent always had the big briefcase,
you know,

more like a lawyer's briefcase
with tons of stuff in it...

magazines and different things.

He was the best student in our class.

He was clever, he read different things.

We're always scheming about, okay,
what we'd be doing

five, six years from then,
and everybody else was like,

"Why aren't you just hanging out
at the dance?"


[wavering electronic instrumentals]

[Bill] Kent had an interest in business

and so he got me reading Fortune Magazine.

And thinking about,
if you went into the civil service,

what did you make?
Should we go be CEOs?

What kind of impact could you have?

Should we go be generals?

Should we go be ambassadors?

- [wavering instrumentals continue]
- [faint military calls over intercom]

[pages flipping]

And this idea that some people
were super successful,

that was interesting.

I mean, what did they know?
What did they do?

What drove those kinds of successes?

And why did some industries
have few big companies

and other industries
have lots of small companies?

[director] The two best friends
believed that someday

they would do extraordinary things


Okay, Bill and I have not discussed
what system.

- Well, we'll play your system, Warren.
- [laughs] Okay, well...

[director] Tell me about bridge,

- and why you and him love it.
- [Warren] I consider it the ultimate game.

[light, plucky instrumentals]

[Warren] It's a partnership game,
which is unlike a great many games,

so you have to work with another person.

For one reason or another,
if you don't connect well with him or her,

you know, it isn't gonna work.
You can't do it by yourself.

- One spade.
- [Bill] Pass.

[director] Bridge partners must
communicate without even speaking.

The only way to win
is to mind-meld with your partner.

[director] Are you and Bill partners?

[Warren] Oh yeah, we’re partners.
Well, we’re partners in a big way,

in philanthropy and we’re actually,
in a certain sense, partners in business

because the fate of Berkshire
is an important part of the resources

of the Gates Foundation over time.

If Berkshire does well,
the Foundation does well?

Gonna do better, yeah! [laughs]

[director] In 1991, when Bill’s mother
said he should meet Warren Buffet,

the world’s most successful stock trader,

Bill told her he was too busy.

His mother insisted.

So I said, "Okay, I'll take a helicopter,
come out there,

but after like 90 minutes,
I have to go work on software."

[director] When the two men
eventually did sit down,

they talked for hours.

[Bill] He was asking me questions about

why couldn't IBM beat Microsoft?

What were the economics of Microsoft?

How did we find smart people
in the things we did?

How did we price our stuff?

I always expected to run into people
who would ask me those questions,

but he was the first one.

[director] Bill has only met
a handful of people in his life

with minds that operate like his own.

[Warren] It's enormously important
that you do have the right friends.

If they make you a better person
than you otherwise would be,

that's the ultimate gift.

[director] After decades amassing
one of the largest fortunes ever,

Warren pledged more than half of it,

31 billion dollars,

to Bill and Melinda's Foundation.

[director] Warren, how'd you come
to the decision

to give all this money
to Bill and Melinda?

Well, once you have the premise
that every human life is of equal value...

[stammers] I mean that directs

lot of what you,

both your money and your efforts,
and the people you attract,

and all sorts of things involved in that.

Bill, do you feel pressure to do right
by Warren's gift?

[Bill] Oh, absolutely.

In some ways,

messing up with my own money,

uh... I'd feel less guilty about

than if I mess up with Warren's money.

[mellow instrumentals]

[children playing in the distance]

[Bill] A few years ago,

I showed my daughter a polio video

'cause I wanted her to understand,

you know, this was this big risky thing
we were doing

to help lead polio eradication.

And the video ends with a girl

who's got the paralysis

limping down the road with the, you know,
crummy wood crutch.

And so my daughter said to me,

"Well, what did you do?"

And I said,
"Well, we're gonna eradicate it."

She says, "No, what did you do for her?"

[children laughing, screaming]

Melinda and I often,

you know, just find it very tough

when you're seeing a few kids dying.

[child chattering]

But then there's millions like that.

It should be a million times
more emotional,

but, you know,
nobody can be a million times more sad

than when you're sitting there
seeing that one case.

But the emotional connection
is always retail.

Even though, if you really wanna
make a dent in this thing,

you better think wholesale in, you know,

ten to the sixth, ten to the seventh
type magnitudes.

[director] Hearing you say you're
getting into this because

there's more bang for your buck...
is not inspiring, Bill.

Well, that's too bad.

I'm the... You know, it's not my goal
to be inspiring.

- [director laughs]
- The world has limited resources.

So if you're not doing things
to be inspiring,

what are you doing things for?


[Bill] With, uh, disease eradication,

if you get to zero, that's magic.

Because then,
for all the years after that,

you don't have
any of the prevention costs.

You don't have any of the treatment.
You don't have the tragedy at all.

But if you try to eradicate and fail,

that's very bad because you tarnish

the entire reputation and credibility

of the whole global health effort.

[director] Smallpox is the only disease
that has ever been eradicated.

After it was wiped off
the face of the planet in 1980,

a group of organizations
decided polio would be next.

When Bill and Melinda's foundation
joined the fight,

hundreds of millions of dollars

have been spent
to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

But progress flatlined, and in Nigeria,

the number of polio cases
had nearly tripled in just one year.

So there was a fork in the road of...

do we just say this isn't gonna succeed?

At the foundation's next budget meeting,

the polio team asked Bill
to double his spending.

And I said, "I think you just asked for
the most you thought you could ask for,

you didn't ask for

what it's really going to take
to have a high probability of success."

[director] They asked for 200 million.

Bill raised it to 400,

but said he wanted to see the program
for himself.

[low droning instrumentals]

[man] Religious leaders had been
stirring up rumors

that vaccines were a plot

by Western nations to sterilize kids,

calling the people supporting polio
modern-day Hitlers.

And the campaigns were halted.

[director] When Bill arrived
at the Sultan of Sokoto's palace,

he sat with leaders
from across the region.

He listened and answered questions.

[low droning continues]

Hours later, they agreed to help.

- [children crying in distance]
- But there was another problem.

Even in areas where vaccinators
were allowed to go,

kids were still getting polio.

Bill wanted to find out why.

Some settlements, he learned,

had been completely missed by vaccinators

for years.

And that was definitely shocking to me.

The campaign was very much off track.

[director] When Bill and Kent
were juniors,

Lakeside's principal called them
with a problem no one could solve.

- Lakeside had just merged...
- [students laughing]

...with a local all-girls school.

With a bigger student body spread out
across two different campuses,

no one could figure out
how to make the class schedules work.

I've been in schools in my early career
where it was done by hand.

It would take a couple of guys
the entire summer just working through it.

[director] So they asked Bill and Kent,

two teenagers,

to sort the schedules
of more than 400 students.

The number ofconstraints
was unbelievable.

[plucky acoustic instrumentals]

You've got whatever number of courses

that the school offers
in both middle and upper school.

[indistinct chatter echoing
through hallway]

[Bill] You couldn't have drum upstairs
when you had choir downstairs

because the soundproofing
wasn't good enough.

[Bernie] Everyone wants
their first choice.

The kids are taking between
five and seven classes.

[Bill] They'll tell you:
don't put this kid

in the same section with this kid

Or a teacher never teaching
four classes in a row.

[Bernie] There has to be lunch in there.

- [bell rings]
- They have to be done at 3:15.

[rushing footsteps]

[Bill] They would put 48 people
into a three-section class

and guarantee the parents
that there were never more than 16.

Kent and I were worried
we'd be going back to them

and instead of telling them,

"Hey, this guy can't take drums,"

I'd be saying,
"This guy can't take physics,

'cause I can't figure out how to get him
into a physics class,

and the graduation requirements
require he take physics."

And I thought about it for a few weeks,
and I said, "No,

uh, that's a really hard problem."

So, how come you and Kent
didn't keep working together?

Well, we would've kept working together.

Uh, you know, I'm sure we would have gone
to college together.

You know, Kent was, even, you know,

less oriented towards athletics,
more geeky.

And then he took
a mountain climbing course.

It was kind of this classic Kent thing,

where he’d... he'd broaden his world view

and decided that, you know,

being a little bit physical

was something that, you know,
was valuable.

So he goes and he signs up for, uh,
a mountain climbing course.

And as part of that
when they were practicing,

he... he fell down the hill and was killed.

[mellow instrumentals]

That must've just been shattering.

It was, it was so...

unexpected, so, you know, unusual.

[church bell rings]

People didn't know what to say...

to me or to Kent's parents.

I remember crying at the chapel,

and the art teacher at the school,

guy named Bob Fulghum,

was incredibly eloquent.

And so I remember being...
[clears throat]

...consoled by him in front of the chapel.

[director] But you and Kent had big plans.

You had... You had dreams.

Did it make you wanna throw up your hands
and just quit?

No, I...

I sorta thought, hey, okay,
now I'm gonna do these things

Kent and I talked about but...

I'll do it without Kent. [exhales]

[mellow instrumentals continue]

[Marc] It was this big hole,
I think, for him.

But, uh, Bill could be very, um...

So I suppose in that way he could hide it.

[woman] I've heard him talk about

his thinking sometimes,

and moving things around in his mind

and pulling things out of different

[Melinda] He's curious about lots
of topics, but then what he does is,

he makes a framework in his mind

and then he starts

slotting in the information.

[man] In Nigeria,

you would find polio in one place,
respond aggressively there.

It would appear to get rid of it
in that location,

but then polio would appear
several districts over.

There was almost a whack-a-mole problem.

[frantic scratching]

[Bill] For any pair of classes,
is there a common student?

It's all about conflicts.

[man 2] In many places,

the most recent map you could find
of Northern Nigeria

was something made by the British
back in 1945.

[Bill] What's the optimal algorithm?
Or the schedule?

[man 2] These vaccinators,
they've gotta get to every house

where there are children,

and the only maps they had
were hand-drawn.

[Bill] I could build the conflict matrix
one time.

You can see, "Is there a common student?"

[man 2] There's only so many vaccinators,
so you have to make sure that

we get them at exactly
to where they're needed the most.

[Bill] It's a resource constraint problem.

[papers rustling]

[Melinda] It's like Bill has a giant Excel
spreadsheet in his head,

and everything has a spot.

[tense instrumentals]

[man 2] He tends to look at problems
with some very unusual angles.

[director] Bill thought he'd found a way
to crack the class schedule problem.

But he knew he couldn't do it alone.

[Bill] And so I called Paul

and say, "Hey, I need your help."

[racing plucky instrumentals]

[director] He and Paul
didn't have much time.

School's starting in just two weeks.

It turned out to be a little harder
than I expected.

[director] They moved cots
into the computer lab

and started working around the clock.

[racing plucky instrumentals continue]

[man 3] He's an amazing programmer.

There were times
where he would fall asleep,

literally put his head on the keyboard
and fall asleep.

And then he'd kind of groggily wake up
and look at the screen

and then he'd start typing
right where he left off.

[man 4] Paul would be
changing Bill's code.

Bill would be changing Paul's code.

They had
a very collaborative relationship.

[director] With just hours to spare,
they got their program running.

- [machine whirring]
- The schedules were finished.

[papers rustle]

["Three Tough Guys" theme song playing]

[director] Soon other schools wanted help
with their schedules.

[technical beeping]

We had a lot of fun. I'd never gotten...

drunk and Paul got me drunk,
and all sorts of, uh...

- And it was...
- Wait, let's talk about that.

- Why does he wanna get you drunk?
- Well, Paul was into Jimi Hendrix,

and so, you know, there was the song
"Are You Experienced?"

Paul always sorta wanted to see,

okay, here's Bill drunk,
here's Bill on pot.

[director] They wrote software
to analyze traffic patterns.

[Bill] The night that he got me
drunk on scotch,

I didn't want to go home,

so I just slept in the chapel
at Lakeside School.

[director] When a hydroelectric company
couldn't computerize its system...

Somebody said,
"Well, there's Gates and Allen."

We’d come in to interview
and they’re like,

"Wait! These are children!"

[director] Bill left school for a semester

and moved with Paul
to Vancouver, Washington

to program the computer
for the water and power company.

There was a black neighborhood, Alameda,

where we’d go to the theater there.

And we’d often be the only white guys
in the theater,

and watch films like Super Fly.

I can't imagine two whiter guys
watching Super...

Oh, we were the whitest guys ever.
We went to see Taxi Driver together.

- "Who? You talking to me?"
- [laughs]

"Who the... you think you're talking to?"

- [rustling]
- [pistol cocks]

Is he like the corrupting older brother?

Oh yeah,
there's definitely an element of that.

I was good friends with Paul.

Before that, you know,
I'd been to his house,

gone to movies with him,

but the real intensification
of our relationship

was through this summer,

Paul became my best friend.

[director] Bill knew polio eradication
would fail

without additional volunteers,
but they needed accurate maps.

[enigmatic instrumental music]

Using high-resolution satellite imagery,

algorithms, and increased computing power,

Bills team helps create detailed maps
of Nigeria.


Finally, they could see
what the country looked like.

[Bill] We realized that the people
who lived on the boundaries

of these districts were being missed

because this district thought
the other guy was doing that place

and this guy thought they were doing it.

We actually saw your chance
of getting paralyzed was high

if you lived on one of these
political borders.

[director] On the ground,

vaccinators were now armed
with precise micro plans.

Bill kept pushing for more efficiencies.

Targeting high-risk areas first
would save lives.

[enigmatic instrumentals continue]

[man] One of the big questions was,
how can we use quantitative analysis

to understand how to get from...

low polio to zero polio?

[director] Bill asked the team if they
could predict future outbreaks.

So they crunched
massive amounts of data...

- [technical beeping]
- ...vaccination rates

and shifts in population.

to pinpoint areas
where healthcare workers should go first.

And it was very accurate.

[news anchor] Still to come
on Eyewitness News,

Benjamin Franklin never dreamed
a typewriter keyboard would do this.

[young Bill] There's a lot of people
who are, uh, forecasting

that there'll be software stores
just like there are record stores today,

and that there'll be thousands
and thousands of those,

and I think I'd have to agree with that.

[bass strumming]

It was Bill's sophomore year at Harvard

when Paul handed him a copy

of Popular Electronics magazine.

On the cover, it featured
a now legendary computer.

It looks like the revolution
is starting without us.

Bill and Paul set out to write software
for the new machine.


[Bill] And so, we work day and night,
and then a few months later,

we punch it out on a paper tape.

[director] When Paul flew to Albuquerque
to demo the new software

to the makers of the Altair,

he realized there was a problem.

They had forgotten to write
a bootstrap loader.

Without one, he couldn't upload
the software to the new computer.

[Bill] So he writes that on the plane.

Paul sits down,

keys in all these instructions.

If we'd made any mistake,
it wouldn't have worked.

[mechanical whirring]

[director] Everyone watched as Paul
loaded the code into the Altair.

He then typed "two plus two,"

a simple command to test the software.

[mechanical whirring]

The printer wrote four.

Worked perfectly.

It worked perfectly the very first time.

[director] No one had ever
successfully run

commercial software

on a personal computer.

Microsoft was born.

Bill dropped out of Harvard,
and he and Paul moved to Albuquerque.

We get an apartment,
which is a crummy apartment.

Then, you know, we squeeze
a couple more people in there.

That was not a good idea.

[mellow guitar riffing]

[Marc] It was pretty much a flophouse,

Well, I don't remember
doing any laundry. [laughs]

I don't think anybody did any laundry.

[man] Bill had a bedroom.
Paul had a bedroom.

And guess what? I got the couch.

Paul had his little electric guitar.

Bill would kinda get sick
of all the Jimi Hendrix music... [laughs]

...and want anything but Hendrix.

[mellow guitar riffing continues]

We were bursting with excitement.

We barely slept.

We would take breaks off for fast food

and go back to work
until 3:00 in the morning.

[Bill] We were hardcore about,

hey, if you're working on a piece of code,
just get it done.

Don't... Don't worry about sleep.

[upbeat electronic instrumentals]

Back then,
some amount of adrenaline or something...

I would buy a bottle of Tang,

which is a orange sugary drink

that they took to the moon

that you know, instead of going to meals,

I would just pour orange Tang in my hand

and lick it off my hand
as I was working on things.

And so my face would be covered
in this orange stuff, and...

You’re supposed to put it in
a cup with water and stir it around

and drink it.

But you can just skip the water
‘cause your body already has water in it,

and just lick it off your hands.

And these keys didn't get all orange?

Uh, that's a problem. Yeah.

[Bill] I love going into work and,
you know, that work is my whole life.

[director] But Paul had other interests.

[man] Paul loved all these things
that fell so far outside of,

you know, where the company was focused.

I mean, he was deep into science fiction.

He read obsessively.

Very into Shakespeare.

And he was an accomplished guitarist.
I mean, he played at all hours.

[Bill] A key advantage I had
was being fanatical,

that is, taking all my capabilities,

day and night,

and just focusing on,
okay, how do you write good software?

I loved being fanatic.

Eventually I reveled in it.

I didn't believe in weekends.
I didn't believe in vacation.

Bill had more intensity and drive
than anybody I know.

[Bill] For a lot of people
it wasn't an ideal place to work.

We were pretty frantic and demanding.

If you said it would take
a week to do something,

"I can do that in a day.
Why aren't you working as much as I am?"

No, no, no, no, somebody's confused.
Somebody's just not thinking.

[Bill] I was famous for saying,

"That's the stupidest idea

- I've ever heard."
- [laughing]

And, you know, of course,
people were like, but how could it be?

It was only two hours ago,
he heard this other one.

Is this one really stupider than
all those other ideas he heard before?

That ridiculous. I'm not using this thing.

Bill used to say, you know,
the best thing about Microsoft is,

is everyone can work part time.

And you get to choose
which 12 hours you’re in the office.

- No, you don’t understand. You didn’t...
- [overlapping chatter]

- You guys never understood.
- [groaning]

You never understood
the first thing about this.

[Bill] I could just be so,
so extreme. [laughs]

You know, it was like,
I knew everybody’s license plate,

so I could walk through the parking lot

and say,
okay, who’s here and who’s not here?

[director] In April 1981,

as America awaited the launch
of the very first space shuttle,

Bill and Paul were writing software
for IBM,

the world's largest computer company.

Things were definitely getting big.

But when it was time to deliver,

they missed their first deadline.

I'd been pushing Paul to work harder.

[director] But Paul kept going on and on
about the shuttle launch.

I knew guys were talking about,
"Oh, that would be very fun to watch."


Paul did not come and ask me
whether he could disappear for three days

and go and watch it.

'Cause I would have said no.

But Paul went off
and watched the shuttle launch.

[technical beeping]

[director] After long nights coding,

Bill delivered to IBM.

[man over intercom] ...two... one...

[director] The launch was a success.

MS-DOS became a blockbuster
for Microsoft,

reaching millions and millions of people.

Vaccinators were reaching critical areas
across Nigeria.

The work of Bill and his team
was making a real difference.

[Bill] It’s amazing how willing and brave

the local people, which is mostly women,
had been to join these teams.

[director] In 2010,
eradication was so close.

[racing electronic beats]

Soon, India,
a country with more than a billion people,

a region everyone said
was impossible to tackle,

would be polio free.

- [racing electronic beats continue]
- [technical beeping]

And in Nigeria, the number of kids
getting the disease was plummeting.

[technical beeping quickening]

[distant rapid gunfire]

[director] That September,

fifty armed militants raided Bauchi Prison
in Northern Nigeria.

- [distant gunfire]
- [droning instrumentals]

They freed nearly 150 members
of the terrorist organization, Boko Haram.

A new wave of terrorism
swept through Nigeria.

[Nicholas] In Northern Nigeria,

there can be Boko Haram guys
at a checkpoint who will kill you.

[ethereal instrumentals]

[director] Boko Haram had seized control
of villages and roads,

restricting access,

and more importantly, information.

So then one of the things
we would estimate is,

well, what was the size
of the total population

that was effectively in this bubble?

And the answer is it could have been
as many as two million people.

[director] Despite all the systems
Bill put into place,

outbreaks of polio were still happening.

They just didn't see it.

[insects trilling]

We should have predicted
it's these terrorist controlled,

unstable places would be
the last places on earth

that you'd have polio.

[director] And it wasn't just Nigeria.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan,

the resurgent Taliban
threatened the effort.

In much of the world,
people view outsiders

through this prism of suspicion.

The polio vaccination
is just so much more difficult,

unless one can get full buy-in
from these communities.

It was conflict that enabled

polio to persist.

[director] Bill watched as
the unimaginable began to unfold.

[droning instrumentals]

A roadside bombing killed vaccinators.

A policeman guarding polio workers
was gunned down.

Two men used a four-year-old as a decoy
to track down and kill volunteers.

A mother of eight was killed
while going door-to-door

to administer the vaccine.

People were telling Bill
it wasn't worth it,

that polio would never be eradicated.

[mellow instrumentals]

[Bernie] Bill takes chances.

He dislocated his shoulder

surfing down a volcano in Ecuador.

When riding bikes with him,

he will go full-on

down some incredible hill,

no fear whatsoever.

Same with skiing.

He is fearless.

He will do the most extreme thing.

[director] In 2013,

just when people were warning Bill

that polio was a lost cause,

he flew to Abu Dhabi
to make a big announcement.

We decided that, you know, we’d step up

uh, to an even new level

in terms of our commitment.

[director] It was called
“the endgame strategic plan."

Bill and a partnership of organizations

planned to eradicate polio

in just six years.

To do that,

they would spend nearly
six billion dollars.

With all the different demands
of the foundation's spending,

Bill would have to reach out
to his friends.

Wow, great.

[Warren] Thank you. Perfect.

- [server] Napkins.
- Okay.

Now I really found what I like to eat
when I was...

- by the time I was six.
- [Bill laughs]

I’ve saved a lot of experimenting
since then. [laughs]

Continuing to put a lot of salt
on hamburgers and go to it.

But does your doctor give you a hard time
about salt?

They've learned to give up.

- My daughter keeps taking pictures of me.
- [laughs]

She took a picture of me the other day
with a ton of mayonnaise on some thing

and she emails it to all my doctors,
there are about four of 'em,

and they all immediately respond.


She’s always taking pictures of potatoes
with a lot of gravy all over ‘em. [laughs]

I like to... I like to size things.

I started out as a horse handicapper,
so what are the odds with polio,

getting the job done?

You know, I sort of, in a sense,

put the foundation reputation on the line,

that we’re gonna get smart
and do whatever it takes.

So... [stammers] I’m very optimistic.

If something’s the thing to do,
you do it, you know?

[Bill] It's a position of gigantic

I mean, just think about it in terms
of Warren Buffett.

He has taken

a huge percentage

of his wealth and said,

"I'm counting on you, Bill,

to make sure this money

has a phenomenal impact."

[director] If it fails, someone might say,

"Bill just held on.

He put this big bet down

and didn't want to fold."

- Well...
- "Because he's relentlessly optimistic."

And you let down your friends
who've given you money.

- You've put a lot...
- If we fail.

No, but only if we fail.

Bill was 110% committed to Microsoft,
365 days a year.

Paul may have initially been that way,

but was becoming much less so.

Bill felt that Paul was no longer

carrying his weight.

[Bill] As the company got larger

the job became broader
than just turning out the code.

[tranquil instrumentals]

And I was having to, you know,
work with customers and figuring out

how to work in Japan and Europe.

[Chris] Bill took on
this awesome responsibility

of this little company.

He's always worried.

"I'm employing these people.

I am paying their salary.

Are we going to be able to make payroll
next month?"

[Bill] I wanted to have enough money
in the bank


even if nobody paid us for a year,

I could pay all the salaries.

The other people in the company
would see me

scribbling on the back of an envelope,

doing that calculation of how much cash
do we have in the bank.

[Chris] Paul didn't have a desire

to run a big company,

and Microsoft was clearly

becoming a big company.

Bill and I were yin and yang.

There was a stylistic difference

in terms of intensity.

[tranquil instrumentals continue]

Paul got tired of working all night
all the time.

[Bill] There were times I was tough
on Paul.

There’s many years there...

I’m his boss

and I’m calling him up saying,

"Hey, work hard."

[Marc] There would be some arguments,

you could hear it through the walls.

It was just...

Bill had his point, Paul had his point,

bang, bang, bang, bang.

It’s this dichotomy with small startups

like Microsoft, where, you know,
we knew each other in high school.

It starts out as kind of a family.

And then you find some people
are more equal than others.

[Chris] Bill decide he wanted to hire

a president of Microsoft.

Well, the president takes over
Paul's office.

That kind of built a little separation

from Bill and Paul.

Where Paul was kind of going off
and doing his thing,

while Bill was busy running the company.

[director] In the fall of 1982,

Paul was diagnosed

with early-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The next year, he left Microsoft.

[tranquil instrumentals continuing]

There were periods of time
in which Bill and Paul were closer,

and which they were less close.

That tension

ebbed and flowed over the years.

[Melinda] Paul would be distant.

You couldn’t figure out why
and then Paul would tell him.

But then he wouldn’t let Bill near
to repair,

and it would just take time.

And eventually they would figure out
their way to repair.

You know, we had times with Paul
where we would sit for hours.

They were like two little boys
laughing together over these old stories.

And then when Bill's mom Mary passed away,

one of the first people to show up
at Bill's dad's house was Paul.

[Larry] The last couple years were rough
for the both of them.

This book

is the reason why Paul got angry.

Bill had said some things that I think
Paul felt were inaccurate and mean.

And Paul said some things
that Bill felt was inaccurate and mean.

And both of them let too much time...

go by.

[tranquil instrumentals continuing]


[director] You have any regrets with Paul?

[director] In 2018,
Paul's cancer returned.

[Larry] Before Bill knew Paul was sick,

there were attempts to reach out
to one another,

but... it never happened.

And then when Paul announced
that he was ill again,

Bill reached out and finally let

all of the emotion out.

Bill was very honest

about how he felt about Paul,

and how he loved Paul,

and how the friendship is more important

than any of the things

that may have caused

either one of them to be angry.

Love lasts.

[stammers] And anger tends to fade.

And that was sort of a breakthrough

and they were on a path

to, you know, be together...

again, but...

- Did Bill get to see him before he died?
- No.


- [somber instrumentals]
- [rapid typing]

[director] In 2018,

there were 33 new cases of polio
reported throughout the world...

but Bill has no intention of quitting.

No matter the cost.

[cheery electronic instrumentals]