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Idea Man

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,533 ratings  ·  235 reviews
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, curiosi
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Portfolio (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mutasim Billah
“In my experience, each failure contains the seeds of your next success—if you are willing to learn from it.”

It is very difficult to discuss the contents of this book. What's most amazing is how a man can visualize ideas that would shape the world years later. What Gates and Allen achieved with Microsoft is a household story now. To spend hours at a computer terminal, coding for 20 hours straight and praying that the program doesn't screw up. In an interview, Allen said Gates and Allen used
Otis Chandler
Great story about the founding of Microsoft from it's cofounder Paul Allen. I've read a few books about Microsofts history before (such as Gates), but it was fascinating to hear it from the horses mouth.

What stuck out for me was that Paul and Bill were on the cutting edge of software ever since they first saw a computer as teenagers. Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers mentioned the fact that having access to a computer at that time was a huge advantage, and Paul's story confirms that. The world only
Richard Guion
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Paul Allen's memoir made me nostalgic for the early days of the computer industry. Finding the love of programming with mainframes like DEC's PDP series, using punched cards with assembly language, long nights in the computer lab. In high school Allen started learning about computers and programming along with his freckle faced buddy, Bill Gates. The story of how they went from programming on timeshared mainframes in Seattle to working on BASIC for the Altair Computer is fascinating. While Gates ...more
Christopher Lewis Kozoriz
"In my experience, each failure contains the seeds of your next success-if you are willing to learn from it." (Paul Allen, Idea Man, Page 68)

As most of you know, Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft died recently at the age of 65. Therefore, I decided to pull his autobiography from my bookshelf and study this man. Of course, everyone knows the success of Microsoft and this caused Paul Allen to become a mutlibillionaire and one of the richest men in the world.

Paul Allen, was born into a middl
Vincent O'Neil
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you have very little or no experience with how computers run, you might be in a purple haze reading the autobiography of Paul Allen - IDEA MAN.

Fortunately, our family is blessed with more than our share of computer whiz-kids. It all started in the middle 80s when our oldest son received a Commodore 64 as a Christmas present. He had that thing maxed out by lunch.

When I introduced a full-blown PC into the house in the 90s, it developed a problem. I took the machine back to the dealer, and the
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is not the history of the Microsoft company but the memoir of Paul Allen one of the founders. The narration is first person and freestyle; he tells it like he saw it.

Apparently Allen had been fighting cancer when he left Microsoft. He continued on the Board of Directors and retained 28% share in the Company. Allen goes over the BASIC programming language that he and Bill Gates developed for the Altair computer. Allen’s major contribution was in developing the tools for building their progra
Apr 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This book on paper seems like the perfect match for me:

-My Industry
-My Town
-My High School
-My Sports teams

But the story just didn't satisfy. The backstory of Microsoft is mildly interesting but not detailed enough to really stand on its own. Plus Allen's open contempt for Gates seems a bit overdone; even if he is just being completely honest I'm not sure why he pays Bill so many back-handed complements and outright jabs. What's in it for Paul except a desperate attempt to claim his rightful plac
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stem, biography
I thought this memoir was tragic. I'm very glad that Paul Allen had the courage to write this and will try to not screw up in the same way with my tech career.

It is a Shakespearean tragedy in three acts. Let's analyze this with George Valliant's model of adult development (an extension of Erikson's model) which is more flexible. He calls them tasks rather than stages; they're not sequential and happen asynchronously but it's pretty important that they get done eventually.
1) Identity vs Identity
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tiffany by: Otis Chandler
Shelves: bio_autobio
When I first heard about this book, I think I thought, "Oh, that's nice. The quiet one from Microsoft wrote a book. There are also probably some good thoughts on leadership in it. I'll read it someday." I might have also thought, "And he started EMP... I should know more about him other than Microsoft/EMP/Seahawks. I should read the book." Then I got a job working for a company related to one of Paul Allen's companies and I thought, "Hmmm... I should move that up my to-read list," then felt guil ...more
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most enjoyable books I have read in a while, I admire Paul Allen a lot after reading this book
Kate Morton
The man was a generous genius. Not the quickest read but a good insight to a man we all wished we knew better.
Apr 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed parts of this book, other parts I found to be lacking in direction and structure, but, perhaps that was Allen's goal (a free-flowing of his consciousness) it is, after all, partly auto-biographical.

I have to confess I enjoyed the sections with Bill Gates the most. This seems to be an honest, objective approach of Gates (Paul pointed out his talents as well as his flaws).

Paul grew up in a middle-class setting. He was precocious and his parents noticed his innate ability in science and
Jim Razinha
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. I want to adopt him as my eccentric rich uncle and hope he sends a little my way. What does a very wealthy person do when he's no longer driving the technical side of Microsoft? Well, pretty much anything. He lived for himself - Portland Trailblazers and Seattle Seahawks, plus a 414 foot yacht that has a minisub and two helos - and others. Unlike the Koch brothers who only know how to destroy with their wealth, Allen helped so many people, including villages in Africa. Mapping the bra ...more
Apr 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting memoir from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The chapters in which he discusses the company that made him billions are, predictably, the most interesting, but Allen has been involved in a variety of projects since he left Microsoft in the '80s. His adventures as a pro sports owner (Trailblazers, Seahawks), involvement in private space exploration and funding of genetic brain research, among others, are enjoyable reads, even if they do have a glossed over gee-whiz element to them. All ...more
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was a fascinating read into the world of technology, how it came about, and one some of the instrumental players behind bringing it to life, as we know it.

Paul comes across as a candid, fair, and the next door person. His vision has been ahead of time. His company with Bill Gates helped immensely in execution of the vision. Bill comes across as a shrewd businessman, who is also a good friend who somehow manages to maintain this split personality of being cut throat on the business tab
Yixing J
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Sorry, I could not finish.

I respect Paul a lot but his way of writing is just so tedious, unstructured, and undirected. He needs to be a better writer!! I felt it time consuming and wasting to read his writings.

This book would probably make me prefer biography much over autobiography in the future...
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Allen passed away about a week ago and I was a bit surprised at the outpouring of messages and anecdotes in the technical circles I run in, because all I knew of Paul Allen is that he was the cofounder of Microsoft and that he was frequently compared to Steve Wozniak. I didn't even know how long he was or wasn't with Microsoft; just that he had been there in the beginning and that that's where his money came from.

So I decided to read this book to learn more about the man.

"Idea Man" is the p
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographyhistory
So I particularly liked this book for a couple of reasons:

(1) I learned to program in BASIC on an IBM PC in the mid 80s and I grew up obsessed with computers.

The first 12 chapters (of 22) are a FASCINATING first-person account of the founding of Microsoft and the early days of the personal computer revolution.

(2) I am a pretty big sports fan so the chapters dealing with the Portland Trailblazers and the Seattle Seahawks are pretty interesting, especially the basketball chapter. Sad they never wo
Alex Devero
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This was a fascinating read. This book provides a deep inside view into the life a great businessman, innovator and futurist, is his own honest words. What's more, it also takes explores the history of the technology, we use and know today, and the people responsible for bringing it to life. As I mentioned, Paul is sharing the story of his life in a very honest and open way. He shares a lot of memories about interesting adventures in sport, entertainment, space, search, brain research and educat ...more
Jinal Shah (If I Were Marketing)
I read the book thinking it will probably contain ideas for technology or businesses. It partly does but not ideas for the future but what ideas he had given in the past and what was the response to them.

It is sort of a resume of Paul Allen- Key Responsibility Areas handled, results achieved, qualities displayed etc. Half the book narrates the story of his life till his resignation from Microsoft. I was interested only in that part because it spoke about how Bill Gates and he started Microsoft
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Having been a Windows user for most of my life, I've always wondered about the geniuses who where behind the software. This book tells the life story of Paul Allen, one of Microsoft's co-founders. Starting from his childhood until contemporary times, Allen reminisces about various important times in his life.

Going through the book I was hoping Allen would talk more about the inner workings of Microsoft. And that's a good half of the book. The second half deals with his exploits after becoming a
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's no doubt that Paul Allen led an interesting life, and as a new employee of his organization (Vulcan Inc.), I really enjoyed reading this book and learning more about his motivations in both business and philanthropy.

The early chapters detailing his time at the fledging Microsoft are fascinating, especially since the author does not shy away from documenting his many disappointments with long-time friend and co-conspirator Bill Gates. Somewhat surprisingly, these chapters almost have the
Kursad Albayraktaroglu
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
If there ever is such a person as the luckiest guy in the history of the planet, Paul Allen would be my candidate for the title. As "the other cofounder" of Microsoft; he only spent 8 years at the company and became one of the richest people in the country; only to go on to beat Hodgkin's disease and spend most of his life pursing his personal interests. It is hard to imagine a more fortunate life.

I really liked the chapters outlining Allen's early life and the years leading up to the beginning
San To
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
What I got out of the book:

-The factors during his childhood that led to his intelligence, curiosity, and passion.

-The fascinating history of the development of Microsoft, and the best firsthand account possible of Bill Gates. Paul Allen is a pretty relatable guy, so it's very interesting to read about Gates from his point of view.

-His projects and investments after Microsoft. He goes into detail about the setup and execution of several projects, many of which have resulted in some of the most
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is the first place where I understood Paul Allen as a person, technologist and all other roles he had donned over his life-time. Hence, 5 stars are to his life than the book. Its just fantastic to know that the work of person over a period of decade would be stepping stone to many things that would change how generations will lead their lives. This book gives a close personal account of how things spanned out in that process. Everyone knows Microsoft is a successful business, but this ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
First half is a suspenseful story of Microsoft's founding from the perspective of cofounder Paul Allen. Bill Gates ruthless business savvy with Paul's futuristic ideas made a magic combination. I loved listening to the programming constraints for the time and risky business moves like claiming to have a compiler ready for hardware they didn't even have access to.

The second half is about Paul's other diverse life pursuits after Microsoft. The jarring change starts with sports and I couldn't stop
Prakhar Chandna
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft - Idea Man tells you how Microsoft was instrumental in establishing what we today refer to as the “wired world”. It talks about the serious hard work that Bill and Paul had to put in, which led to the inception of the tech giant that Microsoft is today. It also has some chilling details of why Paul Allen thinks Bill Gates was unfair to him and I think it’s only unfortunate that a legend like Paul Allen had to quit Microsoft. A salute to his perseverance and a ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a rabid Blazer fan, Paul had a bigger impact on my life than any other celebrity. Yet somehow I never even heard the man speak. Now that he's gone, I've felt strangely empty. I didn't realize how much he meant until he was gone. I'm grateful for this book, which finally allows me to hear from the man I never heard from in life.

Despite staying out of the spotlight, most of the things I assumed about Paul ring true after reading his memoir. He was a gentle man, a brilliant man, and a selfless m
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Paul Allen led a very interesting life, from being a co-founder of Microsoft to being the man who found a way to make any hobby become the most expensive thing in the world. He liked to play basketball so he bought the Trailblazers. He liked to scuba dive so he built the largest private yacht in the world. He liked Jimi Hendrix so he bought all of his memorabilia and built a gigantic museum dedicated to him and rock and roll in Seattle. He thought the Wired World would be the next big thing so h ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
What I'd seek most from a biography is how it felt to be that person throughout his life. While we do get glimpses on the early years of Microsoft and how it felt to work with Bill Gates, there is something about autobiographies, that they strive hard to create sympathies to the subject due to first person narrative, and they often fail. This one too fails in that regard, especially after the Microsoft part ends.

While I did enjoy and relate to much of early days young hacker programming experien
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Paul Allen was an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He co-founded Microsoft alongside Bill Gates in 1975. He was the company's chief technologist until he left in 1983.

Librarian's note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.


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The Microsoft cofounder turned billionaire reveals his early years with Bill Gates and shares the trailblazing projects that are now his life's...
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“In my experience, each failure contains the seeds of your next success—if you are willing to learn from it.” 4 likes
“For the most part, the best opportunities now lie where your competitors have yet to establish themselves, not where they're already entrenched. Microsoft is struggling to adapt to that new reality.” 4 likes
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