By Ray Fleming
IF he had been British he would surely by now be Lord Gates or, better still, a Member of the Order of Merit, and if he had been born in Japan he would unquestionably have been declared a Living Treasure. But Bill Gates bade farewell to the computing industry in Las Vegas yesterday at the age of 51 without any recognition beyond that of the respect of users of his Microsoft computer technology. Later this year Mr Gates will leave the company he founded with Paul Allen in 1975 after he dropped out from Harvard Law School. Ten years later Microsoft's graphical operating system Windows made its initial impact and was followed five years later by Microsoft Office which is estima ted to be in use in 90 per cent of the world's computers today. His contribution has been unique and earned him the gratitude of countless millions. His prediction some years ago that by 2010 threee-quarters of America homes would have home computers has already been fulfilled. In his early retirement Mr Gates, with his wife Melinda, plans to become a full-time philanthrophist. Might he not also, though, turn his inventive mind to how the computer and internet could become a more familiar feature of homes in developing countries where its relative absence provides striking evidence of the still-wide gap between rich and poor nations? Information poverty is still as prevalent and diminishing as its financial counterpart.

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