Welcome indeed to the billionaire toyshop
Expensive toys for very rich boys
So you've finally done it. You had an idea, or successfully nicked one; you wrote some code, or had it written. The customers flocked to buy licences, or perhaps the unpaid Web-2.0 peon hordes spewed content in an endless stream while you booked ads on the eyeballs and waxed fat. Maybe that last bit never actually happened, but you managed to convince people it would and walked away after the IPO/buyout laughing and laughing and laughing.
Alternatively, you were born into the ruling family of an oil kingdom, or the property-owning oligarchy of a developing nation. Maybe you didn't inherit anything and never got involved with any kind of new idea; you just bought and sold humdrum stuff – real estate, comedic pieces of stockmarket paper, whatever – and did really well.
But all that is either unlikely or intensely dull or both, which is why almost all of us aren't billionaires. So let's skip rapidly over that and get to the good bit. You're a billionaire, however you got there. You've got all the basic trappings – cars, palatial homes worldwide, maybe a business jet or a helicopter or a few old propellor fighters. You know, the sort of things that smallfry have; Hollywood stars, mega-selling novelists, politicians and trailer trash of that type. Poor people.
But you're a billionaire, in the I-was-in-Microsoft-early league, along with the Third-World oligarchs and oil princes. You're so rich that buying consumer goods is a real problem for you – you simply can't find expensive enough stuff to really properly show off your wealth. Ordinary middle-class scum can have fun buying a mobile, a computer, a barbecue or maybe a car, better in some way than that possessed by their envious friends; but it's difficult for you.
In the old days, before proper personal technology, it was easier to display one's prosperity. Legend tells of a long-ago episode involving noted Oz tycoon Kerry Packer, in which he got into an argument over drinks at home regarding the details of a cricket match which had taken place some years previously.
Nowadays, any ordinary sports obsessive could slot in his treasured VHS tape or DVD, fire up his PVR file or call down some VoD goodness and so settle matters. But back then there was none of that. Packer, however, had the answer: he simply phoned a TV channel which he controlled and told them to interrupt what they were showing and re-run the relevant match.
rE: Billionaire software makers
A little unfair linking Gates with Ellison and Allen.
Apart from a large house, which as a fraction of his wealth is like my living in a cardboard box, he does not appear to have all the other luxury toys and dedicates most of his time AND MONEY to charity. It appears to me that Ballmer lives even more modestly and they put the Google guys -with their fights over company planes, Ellison et al to shame.
Not that I am against spending anyone spending their hard and rightfully earned money in any way they like. It's just considering the bashing he often gets here, I'd just like to see Gates noted for his (undeniably) good side.
The Richard Branson quote
The Branson quote is wrong. It is not "buy an airline", it is "launch an airline".
At least get it right when you quote the man. Jeez.
If you have to ask how much
then you're not really rich. In fact if you even know how much one of your toys cost your not really rich.