Synopses & Reviews
“The entire conversation took five minutes. When it was over, Bill and I looked at each other. It was one thing to talk about writing a language for a microprocessor and another to get the job done….If we’d been older or known better, Bill and I might have been put off by the task in front of us. But we were young and green enough to believe that we just might pull it off.”
Paul Allen, best known as the cofounder of Microsoft, has left his mark on numerous fields, from aviation and science to rock ‘n’ roll, professional sports, and philanthropy. His passions and curiosity have transformed the way we live. In 2007 and again in 2008, Time named him one of the hundred most influential people in the world.
It all started on a snowy day in December 1974, when he was twenty-one years old. After buying the new issue of Popular Electronics in Harvard Square, Allen ran to show it to his best friend from Seattle, Bill Gates, then a Harvard undergrad. The magazine’s cover story featured the Altair 8800, the first true personal computer; Allen knew that he and Gates had the skills to code a programming language for it. When Gates agreed to collaborate on BASIC for the Altair, one of the most influential partnerships in the digital era was up and running.
While much has been written about Microsoft’s early years, Allen has never before told the story from his point of view. Nor has he previously talked about the details of his complex relationship with Gates or his behind-closed-doors perspective on how a struggling start-up became the most powerful technology company in the world. Idea Man is the candid and long-awaited memoir of an intensely private person, a tale of triumphant highs and terrifying lows.
After becoming seriously ill with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1982, Allen began scaling back his involvement with Microsoft. He recovered and started using his fortune — and his ideas — for a life of adventure and discovery, from the first privately funded spacecraft (SpaceShipOne) to a landmark breakthrough in neuroscience (the Allen Brain Atlas). His eclectic ventures all begin with the same simple question: What should exist? As Allen has written:
To me, that’s the most exciting question imaginable….From technology to science to music to art, I’m inspired by those who’ve blurred the boundaries, who’ve looked at the possibilities, and said, “What if…?” In my own work, I’ve tried to anticipate what’s coming over the horizon, to hasten its arrival, and to apply it to people’s lives in a meaningful way…The varied possibilities of the universe have dazzled me since I was a child, and they continue to drive my work, my investments, and my philanthropy.
Idea Man is an astonishing true story of ideas made real.
"The virtual world he imagined is now as real as concrete...the very fabric of a twenty-first century that he and a tiny club of others literally invented. Shy, humble, brilliant...Paul Allen's intellect and generosity of spirit are there on every page."
"Here is the tale of one of the most restlessly curious and broadly imaginative people of our times, which in simple and eloquent language tells how he changed those times forever."
-Jann S. Wenner, edtior and publisher, Rolling Stone
"Paul's natural curiosity will always guide him into uncharted waters. Whether it's a newfangled device called the personal computer; exploring the bottom of the sea or deep space; music, movies, and museums; or perhaps his most significant adventure so far-the human brain-two things are certain: It won't be the same afterward, and it will be an extraordinary journey."
"Whenever you are given the opportunity to get behind the scenes with one of the greatest creative minds in the world of technology and innovation, you have to jump on it. Paul Allen has shown a unique ability and desire to contribute to and powerfully influence a broad spectrum of interests, including technology, science, medicine, the arts, and philanthropic endeavors."
-Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks and author of Win Forever
"A rare glimpse into the mind of a great innovator; a chance to see Paul as only his friends have. The fascinating tale of an ordinary American boy's rise to being one of the richest men in history."
"Paul is a true adventurer in every sense of the word and, as a friend, he is both loyal and generous of spirit. His ideas have helped shaped the world we live in, and witnessing the way his mind works is like watching a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo: you have no idea how he does it, but it blows your mind."
"This son of Oklahoma, by way of Seattle, electrocuted a classmate, soldered his skin, gassed the family pet, purposely crashed systems, dove in dumpsters for coffee-stained printouts, and went on to create the engine that changed the world."
"Here is the tale of one of the most restlessly curious and broadly imaginative people of our times, which in simple and eloquent language tells how he changed those times forever." Jann S. Wenner, editor and publisher, Rolling Stone
By his early thirties, Paul Allen was a world-famous billionaire — and that was just the beginning.
In 2007 and 2008, Time named Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, one of the hundred most influential people in the world. Since he made his fortune, his impact has been felt in science, technology, business, medicine, sports, music, and philanthropy. His passion, curiosity, and intellectual rigor-combined with the resources to launch and support new initiatives — have literally changed the world.
In 2009 Allen discovered that he had lymphoma, lending urgency to his desire to share his story for the first time. In this long-awaited memoir, Allen explains how he has solved problems, what he's learned from his many endeavors-both the triumphs and the failures — and his compelling vision for the future. He reflects candidly on an extraordinary life.
The book also features previously untold stories about everything from the true origins of Microsoft to Allen's role in the dawn of private space travel (with SpaceShipOne) and in discoveries at the frontiers of brain science. With honesty, humor, and insight, Allen tells the story of a life of ideas made real.
About the Author
Paul Allen is the billionaire technologist and philanthropist who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He is the chairman of Vulcan Inc. and founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, and is co-owner of the Seattle Sounders pro soccer team. He lives on Mercer Island, Washington.