Hard Drive

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Probably no other business has created so many young millionaires as the personal computer industry, for it was pioneered in the late 1970’s by adolescent hobbyists and hackers who quickly became entrepreneurs. Although the youthful Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak have become legendary for making a fortune on the creation of desktop hardware, the most famous Wunderkind in the initial development of software for the new machine is Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft Corporation.

Readers are often drawn to biographies of rich and powerful people because they want to know what it takes to reach such a pinnacle. What it takes, this book suggests, is an obsessive, workaholic personality, a ruthless willingness to crush all competition, an intelligence that borders on genius, and that old standby, “being in the right place at the right time.” Even those who know nothing about computers will find this an illuminating study of the rise of the “computer age” and a fascinating look at one of the most powerful figures in America.

Wallace and Erickson recount Gates’s self-educated mastery of computer programming while still a high school student, his consequent readiness when giant IBM wanted someone to write an operating system for a new personal computer, his struggles to get his graphic user interface accepted as an industry standard, and the lawsuit that Apple Inc. lodged against him for copying the “look and feel” of the Macintosh system. His ruthless managerial tactics, his obnoxious personality, and his sloppy personal style are described by friends, coworkers, and enemies. Like many people interviewed for this book, you may not find Bill Gates likable, but you are a hard sell indeed if you don’t find him fascinating.