Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire Summary

My Personal Summary

Bill Gates was a workaholic and insanely smart. He was fortunate to attend a school with one of the first public computers and he grew up in an affluent household.

Gates attended Harvard where he would meet several guys who would eventually become future employees at Microsoft.

By working insanely long hours, hiring insanely intelligent employees, and focusing his effort in a field (computing) that was on the cutting edge of technology, Gates was able to eventually take Microsoft public and become a billionaire at just age 31.

Book Notes

  • This book is about Bill Gates and the making of the Microsoft empire.
  • Gates was born in Seattle in 1955.
  • As a child, Gates had an obsessive personality and a compulsive need to be the best.
  • At age 11, Gates’ parents sent him to Lakeside, an all boys private school that was known for its competitive educational environment where “even the dumb kids were smart.” Lakeside also happened to be one of the first schools in the country to get a computer, which is where Gates was first exposed to programming. At the time, computers were so new that the faculty didn’t know much about them either so Gates just became obsessed with them and learned everything about them by himself through reading and tinkering.
  • Gates was gifted at math and scored the highest score in all of Lakeside on the math achievement test.
  • Gates became friends with an upper classman named Paul Allen who was also into computers and math and would later help start Microsoft with Gates. Allen was a prolific reader whose dad was the library director at University of Washington.
  • In high school, Gates began to dabble in making money with computers. He programmed a system that tracked traffic data and sold it to city officials. He then wrote a class scheduling program for his school and earned some money from it. He then worked for TRW, a government defense contractor, and got paid $165 per week while still a junior in high school.
  • In 1973, Gates attended Harvard. He considered pursuing mathematics but soon realized that there were some people who were simply better than him at math. Since he knew he would never be the best, he chose not to pursue it. This is important: He only wanted to pursue something he could be world-class in. This turned out to be computer science.
  • While at Harvard, Gates and Paul Allen wrote a program using the language BASIC that could be used on the first ever personal computers. They licensed this software to a company called MITS that sold the software on their Altair personal computers.
  • In 1975, Gates and Allen formed Microsoft, short for “Microcomputer Software”, with Gates getting 64% share and Allen getting 36% share.
  • In 1977, Gates dropped out of Harvard. He would devote all of his time to Microsoft, only taking two small vacations in the coming five years.
  • Gates had a rare combination of being an excellent programmer and an excellent businessman. He also had a freaky work ethic, often working 80+ hours per week and sleeping under his desk in the office.
  • In 1978, Microsoft moved headquarters from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Seattle.
  • In 1981, Microsoft bought ownership of an operating system called DOS for $50k from Seattle Computer that would be used in the first personal computers produced by IBM. Sales of MS-DOS would eventually reach hundreds of millions per year.
  • In 1981, Microsoft converted from a partnership to a private corporation, allowing employees to buy stock in the company for $1 per share. This would eventually make many employees millionaires when Microsoft went public in 1986.
  • Gates had a serious competitive drive and wanted to crush competitors. He kept close tabs on competitors along with the general landscape of the personal computer industry. This is similar to Rockefeller with Standard Oil, who just destroyed competitors and knew his industry inside and out.
  • Microsoft would go public in 1986 for $21 per share, when Gates owned 49% of the company, Allen owned 28%, and Steve Ballmer owned 8%. By 1987, prices hit $90 per share and Gates became a billionaire at just age 31.

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