Billion-dollar man back in his element

Charles Arthur joins a celebrity audience to see Bill Gates, head of Microsoft, demonstrate his new on-line network

Bill Gates, the richest person in the world, rolled into London yesterday and almost immediately ran into a sticky question.

"Would you want to see Bill Gates, The Movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing you?" asked Jonathan Ross, the television personality.

Mr Gates thought not.

No one could fault him on his casting ability. He is not, to be truthful, the muscular type. But the man who has made a $13bn fortune (pounds 8.4bn) as chairman of Microsoft, the world's largest computer software company, still wears big glasses and ties that could be called unfashionably wide.

However, his presence packs an intellectual muscle that means people are keen to meet him, or be seen with him.

Officially, Mr Gates, 38, was in London to launch Microsoft Network, the on-line service by which users of Windows 95, the company's new operating system, can get home banking via Barclays Bank, financial information from Dun & Bradstreet, or order clothes and other goods electronically from retailers such as Great Universal Stores.

To show off these capabilities, Mr Gates first demonstrated the system to an invited audience of celebrities, including Mr Ross, Carol Vorderman, the former Tomorrow's World presenter, David Gower, the former English cricket captain, Angela Rippon, the former BBC newscaster, and David Emanuel, the designer of the wedding dress worn by (the then) Lady Diana Spencer when she married the Prince of Wales.

Given he was formerly a full-time software programmer, Mr Gates was back in his element. He gave them his vision of the future. "The opportunity from these technologies, such as personal computers, is pretty incredible," he said. "It's going to lead to a pretty fundamental change in education and revolutionise business."

Mr Gates still sees great possibilities for the education of the world's children.

"I do believe that the computer can be used to improve education, but there have been promises made in the past that haven't been lived up to. There are ways of using computers in education where it is just a quizzing device, asking questions that have to be answered. That isn't so useful.

"But computers can be used in schools so that the curriculum fits around what's available through the computer. I really envy kids who grow up today with PCs with multimedia and CD-roms and all the educational tools available today."

Mr Ross thought that his own time had been well spent. "I'm quite interested in computers. I've used Apple Macs for 10 years. But today is something to tell my friends about - 'I saw Bill, yeah that Bill, the other day, told him a few things he's got fundamentally wrong, you know'..."

But overall, he declared himself impressed. "He's not nearly as nerdy as I expected, you know," he said.

By which time Mr Gates was safely out of earshot.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

Recruitment Genius: Events / Conference Operations Manager

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Administrator

£14400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a multi-d...

Recruitment Genius: Service, Maintenance & Installation Engineers - London

£34000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of Energy Consult...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot