Bill Gates has been the richest man in the world since 1998. As a result, he’s made scores of enemies and detractors over the years. And he’s been subject to an assortment of lies, hoaxes, and pranks. Some have been harmless; others not. Some have been hilarious. Others were just plain weird.
The Infamous Bill Gates Email Offer
The most famous has been the “Bill Gates is offering big buck to track your email” hoax. In fact, this has been the most forwarded hoax in Internet history. It’s been around since 1997 and still picks up its share of suckers to this day. Wired Magazine writer Jonathon Keats is one of them. In 2004, he received an email from a close friend, a respected psychotherapist. The message also had a CC: list that included the email addresses of many other highly respected individuals of Keats’ acquaintance. The message supposedly originated from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and was an invitation to participate “in a Microsoft/AOL/Intel email beta test” for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. It promised that forwarding this “invitation” to others would then earn you $245 each time a person that you invited, in turn, forwarded the invitation to yet another person. Of course, to Keats, this sounded like a typical multi-level marketing scam, but he was thrown by the prestigious names attached to it.
When he finally determined, as others had before him, that the email was just a harmless geek prank, he decided to track down the original perpetrator. After considerable research and phone calls, Keats located the culprit, Bryan Mack, a former computer science student at Iowa State. Mack told Keats, “I wasn’t trying to trick people. It was just a joke between a couple friends” that got out of hand.
Bill Has Been Shot!
Another Bill Gates hoax was not so harmless. In 2003, a website appeared that was a fairly accurate spoof of the CNN website. On its main page, it reported that Bill Gates had been shot by a lone gunman. Intended as a gag, this “story” was picked up by several Korean news agencies and broadcast on local Seoul television stations. This “news” triggered a Korean stock market loss of more than $3 billion.
Bill Gates, TV Star
In 2006, technology news site, CNET, fell for an April Fool’s Day prank and ran a news story that Gates would be appearing as himself in an upcoming episode of British cult science fiction television series, “Dr. Who.”
CNET printed a retraction, but gave as precedent Gates’ cameo appearance on the sitcom “Frasier.”
Bill Meets the Prime Minister
In 2002, a Canadian shock jock, posing as Prime Minister Jean Cretien, called Microsoft and got through to Bill Gates. He asked Gates to schedule a meeting during an upcoming visit to Canada. Gates accepted. While pretending to be using his computer to set up the date, the “Prime Minister” said, “Damn computer! Who’s the idiot that invented that sh*t?”
Gates went along with the entire conversation until the deejay revealed the gag.
Microsoft and the Catholic Church
The very first acknowledged Bill Gates hoax happened in 1994. It was an Internet “press release” that Microsoft had engineered a hostile takeover of the Catholic Church. This “press release” included a Bill Gates “quote” as follows: “The combined resources of Microsoft and the Catholic Church will allow us to make religion easier and more fun for a broader range of people.”
And part of the so-called “deal” included exclusive electronic rights to the Bible.
“Copy this article and win quick cash”, Jonathon Keats, Wired, URL: (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.07/hoax.html)
“Bill Gates faints at baseball game”, Elizabeth Montalbano, Infoword, URL: (http://www.infoworld.com/article/06/03/31/77030_HNmssearchspoofapril1_1.html)
“Taken in by ‘Doctor Who’ prank”, Jonathan Skillings, CNET, URL: (http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-6057208-7.html)
“Gates duped by Canadian radio hosts”, Tiffany Kary, CNET, URL: (http://news.com.com/2100-1001-874686.html)