A review of “Gates” by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews, a biography of Bill Gates.
We read books for a number of reasons but usually because we want to or we have to. When you pick up a book it falls into one of three types, dependent on whether it is a want to or a have to type of book. First there’s the kind of book you pick up and like the look of but then the first chapter is so bad that you have to put it down because you are either too confused by the plot or you discover it has been written in some obscure untranslatable language. The second type is where the first chapter is slightly disappointing but it is worth pursuing so you read on. These books are often the type you recommend to friends although you have only the basic sketch as to what they are about (such as any pulp fiction novel – you’ve read the story somewhere before but you are on holiday so it is either this or the guide book). The third type of book is a rare breed indeed. This is the book you read and then read and then read some more. It is the type of book that you miss things for. If you like computers and want to know more about them, about the history, and about the most important figure in this industry, then this is definitely “the third type of book.” The book that I was able to read was Gates by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews. It was about how man named Bill Gates became the foundation of computing industry and how he reinvented an industry- and made himself the richest man in America. William (Bill) Gates is the computer industry’s youngest billionaire. As president and CEO of Microsoft, he has made several important contributions to the world of technology. Most people would probably picture him as being a computer programmer but not with holding the position of chair and chief executive officer (CEO) of a corporation. Actually, Bill Gates is both a programmer and CEO. To talk about Bill Gates one has to talk about the history of Microsoft. Gates’ family was financially well off. His father, William H. Gates II, is a prominent attorney. His mother, Mary, is the director of First Interstate Bank. Early on in life, Gates’ parents placed him into Lakeside, an academically challenging private school. While at Lakeside, Gates met his close friend and future business partner Paul Allen. Together they entered the world of programming at Lakeside. It all started on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington, where one of the brains behind Microsoft Corporation was born, William Henry Gates III. At thirteen he started going to Lakeside School. A year later, the Mothers’ Club invested in a computer terminal for the students. Gates teamed up with three other students to form The Lakeside Programmers Group. Their first real business deal was a payroll program they wrote for Information Sciences Inc., in 1971. At the young age of 15, Gates was able to crash the DEC operating system and the CDC, which were two of the most advanced computer systems at that time. Although his ability to crash these two systems brought him some major trouble, it also led him to his first business adventure. Gates and Allen started the company Traf-O-Data, which earned them $20,000. Gates and Allen developed a machine was able to generate summary statistics on traffic flow from a rubber tube strung across a highway. Unfortunately, Traf-O-Data was not a big success. However, after their Traf-O-Data adventure the Gates and Allen received a job offer with TRW, a corporation that produced software producta. They were able to earn $30,000 a year working with a software development group, which proved to be a very valuable experience for both Allen and Gates. Then in 1973 Gates started at Harvard University, in Massachusetts. In December 1974, Paul Allen, the other brain behind Microsoft, saw an article in Popular Electronics describing the Mango Information Technology Systems (MITS) Altair 8800, a home computer kit costing four hundred dollars. This “magazine article…would charge their lives and, ultimately, just about everybody else’s”. At that time, Gates and Allen contacted MITS to let them know they had a form of the computer language, called Basic, for the Altair 8800. A few months later, the Basic language for the Altair was finished, and they signed a deal with MITS. MITS offered Allen a job and office space for the two of them to work in its headquarters. Gates and Allen referred to themselves as Micro-Soft at that time. Before long, they would set up Microsoft in its own building in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1977, Gates dropped out of Harvard University. Microsoft was released from their contract with MITS and owned its Basic language program outright. Microsoft also made an agreement with Kuzuhiko Nishi for future software developments in Japan. Two years later Microsoft moved to Seattle, due to the growth of the company. Microsoft made a deal with International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1980, regarding a computer language and disk operating system for IBM’s new range of personal computers. So, Microsoft signed a deal to have the rights to Q-DOS, an operating system from Seattle Computer Products. They adapted Q-DOS to work with IBM’s new personal computer. A year later, Microsoft came out with MS-DOS. In 1981, Gates decided that Microsoft should be in the market for application software for personal computers users. Two years later, Microsoft launched their first application program, WORD 1. Gates then announced that Microsoft was going to be launching a new way to use a computer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) know as Windows. They also introduced a hand-held pointing tool, the mouse, which changed the way one interfaces with the computer. Even though Allen had to leave Microsoft for health reasons in 1983, he remains a director of Microsoft. On March 13, 1986, Gates and Allen become instant millionaires when Microsoft was launched onto the stock exchange. Also that year Microsoft moved to Redmond, Washington, to accommodate its twelve hundred employees. With the launch of Windows 3.0 in May 1990, Microsoft become the first personal computer software company to exceed over $1 billion in sales in a single year. In June 1992, Gates accepted the National Medal of Technology from President George Bush. Six months later, Microsoft became the world’s largest computer-industry company, based on the total value of its stock. After this book was published, I would like to mention that Bill Gates is now married whose name is Melinda Gates and now has a daughter named Jennifer Katharine Gates. Furthermore, he is now worth more then 17 billion dollars. Of course, I am underestimating Bill Gates’s wealth because it only counts his current holdings of Microsoft stock. The cars, houses, aircraft, helicopters, aircraft carriers, islands, and small European countries that he owns are not figured in. I think that the authors wrote this book as part history, part biography, and part computing. This book is overflowing with detail of computer industry the reason being that the authors are computer experts. Stephen Manes has covered the computer industry for more than ten years as a columnist and contributing editor for PC Magazine and PC Computing. Paul Andrews is a high tech reporter for the Seattle Times. The information in this book is amazing from starting of industry to where it’s headed. And from reading this book, I feel that Bill Gates and Microsoft are one in the same one does not exist without the other. “Gates, they say, understands that his company’s image is closely linked to his own.” No matter what people say about him, there is no telling where personal computing would be without him. What he has done will affect the computer world for a long time.