The highly anticipated, eyebrow-raising memoir of the other founding partner of the Microsoft Corporation.
Even at 58 and one of the wealthiest people in the world, Allen admits that writing his life story was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” The result is surprisingly profound and refreshingly frank. Inspired by an oral-history project he’d initiated in 2000 to commemorate his early years with Microsoft, the author begins and ends his chronicle with nods to his friendship with “partner in crime” Bill Gates—from their beginnings driven by an all-consuming enthusiasm for computers to Gates’ regular appearances at Allen’s bedside as he defeated aggressive cancer. Yet it’s the often-turbulent years sandwiched in between that form the indulgent crux of this heavily jargonized narrative. Allen amiably retraces his Seattle roots raised by staunch booklovers as he dabbled in circuitry and mechanics. He honed rudimentary computer-programming skills while enrolled at a private school where he met Gates, who, at 13, was already competitive and scheming of wild successes. Lofty ambitions cut Allen’s collegiate career short, and, following many years of hard work, Microsoft was born in 1975, helmed by himself and increasingly tyrannical “taskmaster” Gates. Allen writes extensively of locking horns with his partner soon after the company became profitable, and, with the same heft used to praise the successes of a company that made him rich, he skewers his co-founder for his “mercenary opportunism” when conspired to dilute Allen’s Microsoft equity after he developed cancer. His disillusionment with the company, he writes, was “like a failed romance.” Allen spends the closing chapters elucidating his critically scrutinized interests in commercial space travel, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, neuroscience and, more recently, artificial intelligence.
A diligently crafted scrapbook of gratitude, accusation and excess, guaranteed to entertain and even ruffle a few feathers.