Thursday, April 06, 2006

Books: Hard Drive

After finishing Fool's Fate, I moved on to the rather timely book Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. Hard Drive is a biography of Bill Gates written by two investigative reporters from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The book covers the childhood of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and basically the entire history of Microsoft up through 1991/1992 (the book was published in 1993). It follows the two as they wrangle their way into providing a BASIC interpreter for the MITS Altair, to being the top language provider for nearly all the initial personal computer manufacturers, to the DOS deal with IBM, to the birth of all the Microsoft applications, and the rise of Windows.

I thought the book was pretty interesting. I only knew vaguely about the very early days of Microsoft, so it was interesting to see how Gates and Allen managed to break into the industry and then stay on top of all the changes going on. It was also interesting to read about how Allen and Gates complemented each other (with Gates for the most part providing the business leadership and Allen handling a lot of the technological details). And of course about the infamous 64-36 split based on rather suspect logic (the details of which vary depending on who you ask).

The book seemed to bog down a bit in the second half of the book. I'll call it the IBM half, because it dealt mostly with the DOS deal and with the long sordid history of OS/2. The DOS portions were certainly interesting, but seemed a little more slow moving (perhaps because there was most detail). By the time we got to all of the machinations around the OS/2 deal I was a bit bored, and by the time they spent a whole chapter describing Microsoft's various 'aggressive business practices' (as opposed to their later blatantly anti-competitive practices) I was just reading to finish the thing.

Still I thought it was an interesting book, and I was glad I picked it up on the cheap from Half-Priced Books.


Bill Roehl said...

I read this *way* back in the day (and I mean so long ago that I don't even remember when!)

640K is enough for anyone! "Untrue" rumors rule!

Steve Eck said...

I had never heard of the book, but noticed it in the bargain book section at Half-Priced Books. I couldn't really pass it up for a couple dollars.

Bill Roehl said...

I can't go in there anymore :( My addiction to the $1 section in the back has to stop somewhere!