Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

by James Wallace


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The true story behind the rise of a tyrannical genius, how he
transformed an industry, and why everyone is out to get him.

In this fascinating exposé, two investigative reporters trace the hugely successful career of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Part entrepreneur, part enfant terrible, Gates has become the most powerful — and feared — player in the computer industry, and arguably the richest man in America. In Hard Drive, investigative reporters Wallace and Erickson follow Gates from his days as an unkempt thirteen-year-old computer hacker to his present-day status as a ruthless billionaire CEO. More than simply a "revenge of the nerds" story though, this is a balanced analysis of a business triumph, and a stunningly driven personality. The authors have spoken to everyone who knows anything about Bill Gates and Microsoft — from childhood friends to employees and business rivals who reveal the heights, and limits, of his wizardry. From Gates's singular accomplishments to his equally extraordinary brattiness, arrogance, and hostility (the atmosphere is so intense at Microsoft that stressed-out programmers have been known to ease the tension of their eighty-hour workweeks by exploding homemade bombs), this is a uniquely revealing glimpse of the person who has emerged as the undisputed king of a notoriously brutal industry.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780887306297
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/01/1993
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Early Years

The earth fell away, and the city spread out beneath the sandy-haired, 11-year-old boy, as the elevator hurried higher and higher into the last light of a beautiful fall day. Glass windows on the tallest downtown buildings caught what was left of the sunlight and tossed back hues of crimson and gold. Far below to the west a ferry boat glided across Elliott Bay, with the rugged Olympic Mountains in, the distance beyond.

Though there was a strong breeze blowing across the Sound, from this height the cold, dark waters looked like smoked glass, and the only sign that the ferry was moving was the lightercolored green water left behind in its wake.

The thin, gawky boy squeezed past the elbows and legs of the adults and other kids around him until he could stand unobstructed against the glass side of the elevator for a better view.

"Welcome to the Space Needle," the elevator operator intoned. "You are in the west elevator travelling at ten miles per hour, or 800 feet per minute. The Space Needle was built as part of the 1962 World's Fair, known as the Century 21 Exposition...

But Bill Gates heard none of this. His thoughts were 3,000 miles away, blasting off from Cape Canaveral in a rocket ship of his imagination, fueled by the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov and a dozen other science fiction writers who had carried him on so many voyages of fantasy and discovery.

Forty seconds after liftoff, the view and the daydream were over as the elevator slipped into its berth at the Space NeedleRestaurant 600 feet above Seattle. The dinner at the Space Needle was part of the Reverend Dale Turner's annual treat for all those who had accepted and met his yearly challenge. And in 1966, none had done it better than Trey, as Bill Gates was called.

The evening marked a tradition going back to Reverend Turner's teaching days at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. At the beginning of each school year, he would challenge his students to memorize, chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Book of Matthew, which are better known as the Sermon on the Mount. Turner had left Lawrence in 1958 and was now pastor of the University Congregational Church in Seattle's University District, across the street from the University of Washington. Founded nine years before the turn of the century, the church is one of the oldest in the city.

The Gates family were regulars in the congregation, and Bill Gates was enrolled in Turner's confirmation class. One Sunday morning, Turner threw down his yearly challenge to the class — he would buy dinner at the Space Needle Restaurant for anyone who memorized the Sermon on the Mount. It was the same challenge he made to the full congregation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a difficult passage to put to memory. The words do not rhyme, the sentence structure is disjointed, and it is very long — the equivalent of nearly four standard newspaper columns of type.

Twenty-five years later Turner can still remember the afternoon he sat down with Gates in the living room of the Gates' home, to hear him recite the passage.

"And seeing the multitudes, the young boy began, "He went up onto a mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him, and He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor ...

"Blessed are the meek ...

"Blessed are the merciful

Listening to Gates, Turner was astounded. No one, in all his years in the ministry, had been able to make it through the entire passage without stumbling over at least a few words or lines. But Gates had recited the passage nonstop from the beginning, never missing a line.

"I needed only to go to his home that day to know that he was something special," Turner later recalled. "I couldn't imagine how an 11-year-old boy could have a mind like that. And my subsequent questioning of him revealed a deep understanding of the passage."

Thirty-one others from the University Congregational Church that year stuttered and stammered their way through the passage, and in the fall Reverend Turner took his 32 disciples to the plush, revolving restaurant on top of the Space Needle.

At dinner that night, "Trey" Gates feasted his eyes on the region where he would later make his mark. To the northeast was the University of Washington and the nearby residential district of Laurelhurst, where the Gates family lived, along the shores of Lake Washington. To the south, the Seattle waterfront jutted into the Sound, with its ships, piers, seafood restaurants, and curiosity shops. To the southeast rose the skyscrapers of the city, with 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier looming like a sentinel in the distance. To the east, against the backdrop of the Cascade Mountain range on the horizon, were the suburbs of Bellevue and Redmond, where 13 years later Gates would build his computer software empire.

That evening, as Gates looked out on the city, the suburbs, the mountains, and the waters of the Sound, he was oblivious to his destiny slowly revolving around him. Although he had memorized the Sermon on the Mount and received his free Space Needle dinner, the boy would never become a regular in the church. He would soon find himself spending most of his free time immersed in the exciting new world of computers. He and Turner, however, would remain friends in the coming years.

He loved challenges," Turner said, remembering his bright charge. "Even though a Space Needle meal was enticing back then, a lot of kids, on hearing my challenge, weren't ready to pay the price. Trey was."

As Gates had told the pastor that day in his house, "I can do anything I put my mind to."

Table of Contents

The Early Years.
``It's Going to Happen''.
The Microkids.
Hitching a Ride with Big Blue.
Growing Pains.
King of the Hill.

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