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Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America

 

Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America

by Stephen Manes, Paul Andrews
The Washington Post called this book “impressive” and “meticulously researched,” with “much of the drama and suspense of a novel.” The New York Times and USA Today¬†found it “definitive.” The Seattle Times said Gates “should be required reading for any new hire in the personal computer industry.” Since its publication, Gates has been cited by dozens of other books. Now it’s finally available for Kindle in this 20th Anniversary Edition with a provocative new afterword by the authors.Bill Gates is an American icon, the ultimate revenge of the nerd. The youngest self-made billionaire in history was for many years the most powerful person in the computer industry. His tantrums, his odd rocking tic, and his lavish philanthropy have become the stuff of legend. Gates is the one book that truly illuminates the early years of the man and his company.

In high school he organized computer enterprises for profit. At Harvard he co-wrote Microsoft BASIC, the first commercial personal computer software, then dropped out and made it a global standard. At 25, he offered IBM a program he did not yet own–a program called DOS that would become the essential operating system for more than 100 million personal computers and the foundation of the Gates empire. As Microsoft’s dominance extended around the globe, Bill Gates became idolized, hated, and feared.

In this riveting independent biography, veteran computer journalists Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews draw on a dozen sessions with Gates himself and nearly a thousand hours of interviews with his friends, family, employees, and competitors to debunk the myths and paint the definitive picture of the real Bill Gates, “bugs” and all.

Here is the shy but fearless competitor with the guts and brass to try anything once–on a computer, at a negotiation, or on water skis. Here is the cocky 23-year-old who calmly spurned an enormous buyout offer from Ross Perot. Here is the supersalesman who motivated his Smart Guys, fought bitter battles with giant IBM, and locked horns with Apple’s Steve Jobs–and usually won.

Here, too, is the workaholic pessimist who presided over Microsoft’s meteoric rise while most other personal computer pioneers fell by the wayside. Gates extended his vision of software to art, entertainment, education, and even biotechnology, and made good on much of his promise to put his software “on every desk and in every home.”

Gates is a bracing, comprehensive portrait of the microcomputer industry, one of its leading companies, and the man who helped create a world where software is everything.

 

“Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture” by David Kushner (Kindle)

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One of the first PC games I ever remember playing was Wolfenstein 3-D. My dad had just bought a brand new Intel 486 computer from Dell (I think) which came preloaded with DOS 6 and Windows 3.1. This was the first computer I wrote some of my short stories and crappy junior high novels on; written in the glorious Microsoft Works package. But it also introduced us to games such as Sim City, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, a game where you flew an F-16 Fighter Jet who’s name I can’t recall, and the game that would throw me into my all-time favorite video game genre Wolfenstein 3-D from a company that I would follow with increased vigor id Software.

David Kushner’s “Masters of Doom” book came out in the middle of 2003 and I remember buying it from my favorite store Amazon.com in hardback and reading it during the Northeast Blackout of 2003. At the time I was more engrossed in the fact of the blackout than I was in the book as my penchant for technology history wasn’t as strong back then. I had dabbled a few times in books on Apple — which to this day is my favorite company to read about — but this was my first foray into Video Game history.

So fast forward to about a few weeks ago. I found myself interested again in the history of id Software after buying the id Software pack on Steam during their holiday sale. In the package I had all the games I knew and loved. Even the earlier Commander Keen titles, which came in the same package as Wolfenstein 3-D on my old 486 and I remembered playing them as well.

Kushner’s history of the company certainly doesn’t hold back but as sometimes happens with company profiles finds a way to spend a lot of time talking about how awesome of a programmer John Carmack is. Now, don’t get me wrong, John Carmack is a fucking genius and is on my top 5 list of genius computer programmers and people I only wish I could be one iota as smart as, but it felt like the book lived and breathed Carmack and didn’t follow the other founders of id Software as much. In fact, near the end, he seemed to vilify John Romero, one of the other founders, and since the book ended near the end of Doom 3 development, didn’t cover Adrian Carmack’s leaving the company nor Romero and Tom Hall’s futures thereafter.

For a book almost 10 years old now, it does hold its own rather well. And seeing as there isn’t too many books out there profiling video game companies I guess what we get is certainly a good read.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars because while it had its flaws, it covered the history of one of my favorite game companies very well.

Definitely a buy, and its available from Amazon.com in hardback and Kindle versions.

One Click by Richard Brandt

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One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard Brandt is a recent book released to document the meteoric rise of Amazon.com and its founder, Jeff Bezos. With my fascination of all things technology history, and with Amazon being one of my top 5 favorite companies, I figured this book was a no brainer and I would automatically like it. While the book has a good bit of detail about the history of Amazon, I feel it spent way too much time blowing up the stigma of Jeff Bezos. While I don’t deny that Bezos was the minds behind Amazon’s rise to fame, I think the book would have been more interesting had they focused on Amazon as the company rather than Bezos as the man. I felt it was more of a smallish biography on Bezos and less about Bezos and Amazon.com.

In fact, the Kindle, which I think is Amazon’s most interesting product, was given a single chapter and it was very abridged. This was a real let down to me. I wanted to hear the background on the Kindle and how it came to be and how nobody thought Amazon had anything big on their hands.

But, with all these pitfalls, the book wasn’t a total wash. I found the bits it did cover fascinating, especially about how consistently it reminded you that it took many years for Amazon.com to make a profit. I’m surprised they survived the dot com boom without making a profit for so long.

My rating for this book would be 3 out of 5 stars. I would definitely recommend getting it from your public library or finding someone you know who has it for the Kindle who will loan it to you.