The other half: Paul Allen’s autobiography

From my Observer review.

They say you can never be too thin, or too rich. After reading Paul Allen’s memoir, I’m not so sure – especially about the rich bit. After founding Microsoft in 1975 with his friend and schoolmate Bill Gates, Allen spent eight frenzied years building it into the corporate colossus that it is today. But then two things happened: he became ill with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; and he decided that life was too short to endure the perpetual conflict that comes with working with Bill Gates. And so he quit in 1983 (having rebuffed Gates’s offer to buy his Microsoft stock at a knockdown price), held on to his shares and has spent the rest of his life with his money (his net worth was $1bn in 1990 and was 13 times that in 1996).

His memoir, like his life, divides neatly into two parts, of which the first is by far the most engaging. Allen and Gates were schoolmates at the exclusive private Lakeside school in Seattle. Because of the school’s eccentric decision to install a terminal that was linked to a General Electric mainframe computer in a distant office, the two boys had a unique opportunity to teach themselves programming, and in relatively short order acquired more experience and expertise than most undergraduates at the time (the mid-1960s)…