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

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4357 KB
  • Print Length: 350 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591843820
  • Publisher: Penguin (28 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Y4YU6I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #192,068 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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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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