Bill Gates, Class of 1977, who withdrew from the College in his junior year and never looked back, addressed a full house in Lowell Lecture Hall last night. He touted the advantages of careers in computing and teased his audience with prototypes of Microsoft’s nascent technology.
“The holy grail of computer science is artificial intelligence,” Gates told the crowd of mostly engineering and applied science students.
In an interview with reporters yesterday morning, Gates said Microsoft and its competitors still need Harvard graduates.
“The world as a whole has a shortage of elite, computer science people,” he said.
Gates himself abandoned a Harvard degree for the computing world but said yesterday he held fond memories of his days in Cambridge.
“I had this terrible habit of not ever attending classes,” he recalled.
But Gates encouraged one audience member last night to complete his education at Harvard and enter the field of computer science in the traditional fashion.
In his introductory remarks, Dean of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences Venkatesh Narayanamurti gave tacit approval to Gates’ path in higher education.
“He spent precisely as much time here as he needed to,” Narayanamurti said.
In his hour-long address, Gates stressed the value of speech recognition software and translation technology.
“User simplicity is the way forward for this business,” he said.
Gates’ goody bag of technology included a portable media player, similar to an iPod, which can display a user’s text, music and video.
The tech baron also sported Microsoft’s new multi-function “smart watch” on his left wrist, although Gates, who scratched his wrist repeatedly last night, was clearly not a regular wearer of the device.
Gates praised the effects of globalization in the computing world but said advanced positions at Microsoft are not in danger of heading overseas.
“The lion’s share of our work is done here—and will always be done here,” he said.