2 Cool 4 Skool: Computer Geeks Who Never Graduated College
College is the key to a successful future! High school students around the world are consistently bombarded with this concept, stressing and working towards gaining acceptance to a school so that they can be on the right path to the ideal career. Once in a college, those same students find themselves again stressing and working to find their passions, while the highly coveted “ideal career” continues to elude them. However, for many successful and renown businesspeople, especially those in the technology industry are college dropouts, or didn’t bother with postsecondary education at all. For these rare and select few, college wasn’t an important ingredient of their success, but rather, a pointless garnish.
So the next time you get thrown a speech about the importance of a college education, use these examples to defend yourself.*
*Although, these are very rare cases, and you really should consider going to school, just in case.
Any list of successful college dropouts really needs to begin with one of the richest, most recognizable figures in the tech world, William Henry “Bill” Gates. In his junior year at Harvard University, Gates left school to devote his attention to the company he had founded with his friend, Paul Allen, a little company you may have heard of, called Microsoft.
Gates and Microsoft went on to develop the Windows operating system, used around the world. Prior to point and click interfaces such as Windows, computers ran on DOS (Disk Operating System), which required lengthy, cryptic entries to perform tasks. Windows revolutionized the computer industry, making home computers much more user friendly.
Microsoft soon completely dominated the computer operating system market, resulting in college dropout Bill Gates becoming the richest man in the world.
Theodore “Ted” Waitt dropped out of Iowa University, where he was majoring in marketing, to found the company that would become Gateway Computers. Ironically enough, while in high school, Waitt failed his computer science class.
Waitt operated Gateway on a very fiscally stringent budget. Computers were made to order, which was not only a bonus to customers, but it allowed Waitt to keep overhead low by not having a lot of stock on hand. Waitt was able to sell his computers for substantially less than anyone else on the market at the time. The black and white cow skin design that became synonymous with Gateway was borne of the fact that Waitt’s family had their roots in the cattle ranches of Iowa.
After a single semester, Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College to found Apple Computers with partner Steve Wozniak. The pair was considered the Wright Brothers of personal home computing. Building early prototypes in a garage, Apple went on to become one of America’s most successful companies.
Apple computers have pioneered many huge technical advances during Jobs’ tenure at the helm. Known for brilliant colors and innovative entertainment programs, Apple provided the inspiration for Jobs to acquire Pixar Animation Studios. Utilizing his graphics technology, Jobs turned Pixar into the most successful animation studio in the world.
After only two years of study, John Carmack dropped out of the University of Missouri to work as a freelance programmer. Carmack went on to co-found id Software, where he created such classic games as Quake, Doom, and Wolfenstein.
Carmack is a supporter of open source software, and is opposed to the concept of software patents. Towards this end, he regularly makes the source code to his wildly popular games available for free. Carmack is noted for his donations to his former high school, video game enthusiasts, and those who support open source software.
Josh James left Brigham Young University in his final semester. Along with John Pestana, he founded mycomputer.com, which would later become web analytics giant, Omniture. James’ company was the first to deliver detailed statistics to customers about their web sites, including who exactly is visiting them. In 2009, James sold Omniture to Adobe for 1.8 billion dollars.
Michael Saul Dell
While taking pre-med courses, Michael Dell dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin and began a journey that would lead him to founding Dell Computer Corporation. The company went on to become the world leader in computer sales. It was at the University of Texas that Dell began upgrading computers for a fee, which opened his eyes to the possibilities for a computer company that sold their units directly to consumers.
Michael and his wife, Susan, established the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in 1999. The foundation concentrates on children’s issues and has provided over 530 million dollars in grants for child-related causes.
Mihalis “Mike” Lazaridis
Upon being awarded a $500,000 contract by GM to develop a network computer control display system, Mike Lazaridis dropped out of the University of Waterloo. Lazaridis, along with several partners, launched Research In Motion (RIM), a company that would go on to create the Blackberry wireless mobile device.
Lazaridis is known for philanthropic works, generally dealing with physics. He also gives back to the university he attended, and he has received an honorary degree from the university as well.