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Bill Gates does Reddit, talks cheap cheeseburgers, his new Surface Pro and eradicating polio

Reddit's Ask Me Anything finds Bill Gates, who says Microsoft had a cloud product he wishes had launched earlier and he likes to play tennis and bridge

By , Network World
February 11, 2013 04:35 PM ET
Bill Gates
To prove he was really doing the Q&A, Gates posted this photo.

Network World - During a question-and-answer session on the popular Internet site Reddit, Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates reveals the answer to the burning question: What do you get a man that can buy just about anything for his birthday?

"Free software. Just kidding. Books actually," Gates answered during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on the site, which calls itself the front page of the Internet. Gates' AMA has attracted quite the virtual crowd too, garnering more than 18,000 comments shortly after it ended.

As a comparison, U.S. President Barack Obama's AMA yielded more than 24,000 comments.

Gates answered a variety of questions on a diverse set of topics, with a focus on his personal life, emerging technologies, Microsoft and his philanthropic efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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On the personal side

Many questioners wondered about personal anecdotes. "Since becoming wealthy, what's the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?" Gates was asked. "Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses," Gates replied. Before the text-based Q&A, Gates also answered some warm-up questions before the online chat started via a video. "How much money is in your wallet?" "I don't always carry a wallet," Gates admitted. "But I've got one with me and it looks like I've got $100." In his spare time Gates said he likes to play tennis and bridge (the card game), and tour power plants, garbage dumps and missile silos with his children, in addition to reading and watching courses. He doesn't believe leaving a massive fortune to his children is in their best interest, reflecting a view held by fellow billionaire Warren Buffett.

One of the richest men in the world realizes that money can't buy everything, though: When asked about something that needs to be changed that money will not help with, Gates went political. "It would be nice if all governments were as rational as the Nordic governments -- reaching compromise and providing services broadly," he wrote, adding that African governments have been weak, which is difficult to change with money as well.

Does Gates still code? "Not as much as I would like to," he said, adding that he's surprised new languages have not made coding simpler.

For a more off-the-wall question, one user asked Gates if he would rather fight 100 duck-size horses or one horse-size duck. "I'm not sure about the specifics, but in general I like taking on big problems, things like vaccines, so I guess you could call that a horse-sized duck."

On philanthropy

He discussed his philanthropic work, with one questioner asking if his goal of eradicating the polio disease is realistic given anti-vaccination movements in some areas of the world. Gates says it will require raising funds and great execution, but "we should be able to finish by 2018."

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