But at 56, William Gates III has definitely mellowed. He has learnt the art of spin, he now knows how to avoid putting both feet into his mouth, and while his focus is still on money, he has learned to guise that in a myriad ways.
Gates was on the Charlie Rose show a few nights back, speaking about many things - India, where he had just been, China, technology and the "good" deeds he is doing in a number of poor countries through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of which he is co-chair.
Unlike in 2011, a large part of the interview was devoted to Microsoft and the current state of technology where devices from other companies are all the rage and the PC is a dying species.
And he was greatly animated when he spoke and often went on what could be described as a rant.
In a year much has changed, This time, he has on a white shirt and a dark suit, like a nondescript businessman. And he chooses his words with much more care. His discourse is so much more measured.
Gates visits India once or twice a year - the country was always the main source of recruits for Microsoft and some say a third of those who have done the hard yards at Redmond come from this impoverished land which now wields power on the international stage. Hence it has some resonance for this strange man, who once was known only for his chicanery in the field of business.
The co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had a starting fund of $US34 billion, the biggest by far of all philanthropic bodies, when he began his work in 2008. Focusing on public education, agricultural development and global health, the Foundation has given billions to the fight against HIV and is now targetting polio, to try and eradicate it worldwide. In India, it has been a success; the last recorded case was in January 2011.
The affliction still persists in a few countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, and having given something like $US2 billion so far, Gates is looking for others to join in.
But when it comes to discussing the changing nature of personal computing, Gates appears to be in denial. For him, the development of the Microsoft Surface, a tablet device which he refuses to call a tablet, is a means whereby one can continue the dominance that the company once enjoyed on the desktop.
That customers may not exactly want the two devices, PCs and tablets, to look alike and work the same way is a thought he refuses to countenance. But that one can understand - he still holds stock in the company and the share price is of concern to him.
Rose is a skillful interviewer who knows how to thrust and parry, all the while keeping a smile on his face. He only lands glancing blows, never a fatal wound. And Gates clearly feels comfortable, to the extent that he swallows the occasional embarrassment and talks aound it.