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Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-founder of Microsoft [Kindle Edition]

Paul Allen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

By his early thirties, Paul Allen was a world-famous billionaire-and that was just the beginning.



In 2007 and 2008, Time named Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, one of the hundred most influential people in the world. Since he made his fortune, his impact has been felt in science, technology, business, medicine, sports, music, and philanthropy. His passion, curiosity, and intellectual rigor-combined with the resources to launch and support new initiatives-have literally changed the world.



In 2009 Allen discovered that he had lymphoma, lending urgency to his desire to share his story for the first time. In this long-awaited memoir, Allen explains how he has solved problems, what he's learned from his many endeavors-both the triumphs and the failures-and his compelling vision for the future. He reflects candidly on an extraordinary life.



The book also features previously untold stories about everything from the true origins of Microsoft to Allen's role in the dawn of private space travel (with SpaceShipOne) and in discoveries at the frontiers of brain science. With honesty, humor, and insight, Allen tells the story of a life of ideas made real.


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Review

The virtual world he imagined is now as real as concrete . . . the very fabric of a twenty-first century that he and a tiny club of others literally invented. Shy, humble, brilliant . . . Paul Allen's intellect and generosity of spirit are there on every page. (Bono)

Paul's natural curiosity will always guide him into uncharted waters. Whether it's a newfangled device called the personal computer; exploring the bottom of the sea or deep space; music, movies, and museums; or perhaps his most significant adventure so far-the human brain-two things are certain: It won't be the same afterward, and it will be an extraordinary journey. (Peter Gabriel)

Paul is a true adventurer in every sense of the word and, as a friend, he is both loyal and generous of spirit. His ideas have helped shape the world we live in, and witnessing the way his mind works is like watching a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo: you have no idea how he does it, but it blows your mind. (Dave Stewart)

This son of Oklahoma, by way of Seattle, electrocuted a classmate, soldered his skin, gassed the family pet, purposely crashed systems, dove in Dumpsters for coffee-stained printouts, and went on to create the engine that changed the world. (Dan Ackroyd)

Review

The virtual world he imagined is now as real as concrete ... the very fabric of a twenty-first century that he and a tiny club of others literally invented. Shy, humble, brilliant ... Paul Allen's intellect and generosity of spirit are there on every page. Bono Paul's natural curiosity will always guide him into uncharted waters. Whether it's a newfangled device called the personal computer; exploring the bottom of the sea or deep space; music, movies, and museums; or perhaps his most significant adventure so far-the human brain-two things are certain: It won't be the same afterward, and it will be an extraordinary journey. Peter Gabriel Paul is a true adventurer in every sense of the word and, as a friend, he is both loyal and generous of spirit. His ideas have helped shape the world we live in, and witnessing the way his mind works is like watching a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo: you have no idea how he does it, but it blows your mind. Dave Stewart This son of Oklahoma, by way of Seattle, electrocuted a classmate, soldered his skin, gassed the family pet, purposely crashed systems, dove in Dumpsters for coffee-stained printouts, and went on to create the engine that changed the world. Dan Ackroyd

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Paul
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are a number of fascinating stories that Paul Allen could have told. He could write a whole book on the acquisition, development and delivery of MS/DOS to IBM and then to other PC makers. Paul Allen devotes only a couple of pages to this topic - indeed just enough to support his claim that it was his idea to use Tom Patterson's 86-DOS after Jack Sams, an IBM employee suggested to Microsoft that they supply an OS. It seems that at the beginning, neither Sams, Gates nor Allen really appreciated the value of owning and controlling the operating system.

Allen also claims to be the idea man behind MS Windows having seen the original Xerox Star computer with its GUI bitmapped display at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The development of MS Windows, the rivalry with Apple, the development of the MAC and then the MS Windows versions of Word and Excel would be another fascinating story. All we are told is that Allen was instrumental in the hiring of Charles Simonyi from Xerox - their expert in WYSIWYG word processor.

There is a great deal of detail about the £8 billion invested in Cable networks that Allen wrote off, but the reader is still left wondering how and why this all happened. Even for Allen $8B is quite a big chunk of cash.

I was originally going to give this book 3 stars, because it could, indeed should, have been an absolutely compelling read and it isn't. Nevertheless, Allen does relate snippets of the history of the Personal Computer Industry that are interesting enough to justify 5 stars at a pinch.

Note to Publisher: The table of contents in my edition says the index appears on page 347. There is no page 347 and there is no index which is a pity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fails to stick the course 17 May 2011
By Dr Bob
Format:Hardcover
It starts really well for two reasons, gripping background to the early history of Microsoft and written by an excellent ghost writer who can really make you turn pages. Sadly after Microsoft (approximately half the book) it turns down hill and all the things about ghost writing come to the surface, for example, on page 305 discussing his funding of Neuroscience:

"In March 2002, I invited 21 scientists, including 4 Nobel laureates, to join me at a 3 day brainstorming session, or charrette. The scientists assembled at the dock in Nassau in the Bahamas and ferried over to our conference center for the weekend, my yacht, Tatoosh, a serene setting for an intensive discussion."

An interesting early insight to his work at Microsoft, but definitely one to read the first half in the bookshop and leave on the shelf.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lend me Ten Pounds and I'll Buy You a Drink 18 Aug. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Paul Allen. Nice bloke, really. Maybe a bit of an accidental billionaire, but it's hard to grudge him the cash. He pretty much changed the world, after all, even if he was, as he admits, merely standing and building on the shoulders of giants. Money isn't everything though, and this is another of those life stories where the music of Neil Sedaka plays in the background as a soundtrack: "I miss the hungry years, we never had a dime...."
I think you'll have to be a bit of a geek to be really gripped by the first half of this book as Allen and Gates struggle to code Microsoft to the top. The key watersheds in the history of the company are written about slightly dispassionately and you are given a flavour of the necessary ruthlessness that permeated the computer industry and obviously still does. Stuck for a good idea? Then go and steal one of your competitors'. (The current patent wars in technology are an indicator that copying is not a form of flattery.) Allen writes almost reluctantly, I felt, about his partner in crime, Bill Gates, and the picture painted isn't one that adds much warmth to one of the world's richest men. Allen, being the nice guy he seems to be, holds back about how he felt Gates stiffed him, dissed him and finally ignored him as Microsoft steamed towards world domination. The final assessment of Microsoft losing out to Apple, Google and the rest seem tinged with an element of glee. But it was Allen's baby too, so the affection is still there.
Halfway through the book and Allen is through with Microsoft, which somewhat surprised me. Was that it? Now as rich as Croesus, what should Allen do with his burgeoning cash pile? He likes basketball, so why not buy a team? And a football team. Build them a half billion dollar stadium on top, to play in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mix of the fascinating and indulgent 26 Aug. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Most people will probably read this book because they are interested in the early years of Microsoft, and that is certainly well covered in the book. It's a warts-and-all account which is not entirely flattering for Bill Gates. This section of the book was fascinating, and if you're involved in the IT industry you should probably buy and read the book just for this.

However, the book also documents Allen's time after Microsoft, when he has lived the billionaire's lifestyle - travelling to far-away places, buying a super-yacht and sports teams (pity he hasn't yet bought Man United off the Glaziers...), setting up a museum and playing guitar with the rock stars. But he's also also recovered twice from cancer, and he's contributed strongly to the human genome project. I nearly didn't bother with this section of the book, and I glad that I did because some of it is worthwhile and fascinating, though other parts are a little more than nauseating - or maybe I'm just jealous of such opulent wealth.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read. Paul Allen is clearly a unique breed ...
Excellent read. Paul Allen is clearly a unique breed of person who has not let wealth obscure his drive to improve himself and his chosen areas. A real 'what if' thinker.
Published 1 month ago by Paul Darlow
3.0 out of 5 stars spending money is not nearly as interesting to read about as making it
As others have commented, the first half of the book (how the author made his billions) is gripping though also frustrating because of the detail which is left out. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Barry Gale
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I've been in software almost as long as Microsoft has.

The book is in two parts, the early years, Microsoft history leading up to the break with Microsoft, and his... Read more
Published 13 months ago by philipcj
4.0 out of 5 stars Good start, boring middle, ok end
I got this book after reading Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography. This doesn't live up to that, but it's still good to read. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Te4t0n
3.0 out of 5 stars Good on early years
Excellent history of early Microsoft years, especially MITS era. The rest is 'meh', mildly interesting but not too much substance...
Published on 25 Mar. 2013 by T. RING
5.0 out of 5 stars Important view on IT history
I knew Microsoft was an important foundation of the tech industry. This book helps complete the picture and highlights Allen's significant contribution. Well worth a read
Published on 20 Mar. 2013 by Olaf Ransome
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit short on his time at Microsoft
I looked forward to this book since it was announced. Microsoft is a company that has had a tremendous impact on almost everybody's life, so I was fascinated about finding out some... Read more
Published on 18 Nov. 2012 by Hoku Ojin
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I read this book last year and thought it was a really interesting account of his life.
Would defiantly recommend it as not only does it talk about his time at Microsoft it... Read more
Published on 12 Jun. 2012 by T. Marsh
4.0 out of 5 stars Pathfinders in the early Computer Wilderness
Those were the Days! A very interesting (and True) Piece of History. I have seen those Guys, heard them and worked and wrestled with their Products. Read more
Published on 21 Sept. 2011 by Hans Berg
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously unsatisfying
This book is worth reading but not as compelling is it could have been.

Probably the most interesting thing is the insight it gives into Bill Gates and his management... Read more
Published on 15 May 2011 by Mr. Paul R. Stearne
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