back to article Microsoft cofounder Allen unloads on Gates

St. Bill Gates, latter-day savior of philanthropy, has been recast as an alpha geek in a memoir penned by fellow Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Gates was always reputed to be a tough and driven boss, demanding of his employees and unforgiving of bad code. According to Allen's forthcoming book, though, Gates played hardball …


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  1. Chad H.


    Both Apple and Microsoft have something in common. A founder who's known to all, and a founder who got screwed.

    1. Sean O'Connor 1

      Here's a letter 'a' and here's a digit '1'

      I wish someone would screw me for $13.5bn

    2. Flugal

      True but

      Wouldn't you be prepared to be screwed by Bill Gates for $13.5 billion?

      Figuratively speaking...

      1. Piro Silver badge


        You would, I would, most people would.

  2. dssf

    He is a Ferengi through and through...

    He is a Ferengi through and through:

    202 The justification for profit is profit.

    261 A wealthy man can afford anything except a conscience.

    1 Once you have their money, you never give it back.

    16 A deal is a deal (until a better one comes along).

    181 Not even dishonesty can tarnish the shine of profit.

    1. Marky W
      Gates Halo

      To be fair to Bill...

      You don't create one of the largest and most pervasive companies in the world (and keep it that way for decades) by being a big softy.

      Icon 'cos love him or hate him, the Billionaires Pledge - which he lead by example - redeems any sins he may have committed a hundred times over.

  3. VeganVegan

    April 1st?

    ".. unforgiving of bad code ..."


  4. James Green

    "unforgiving of bad code"

    So where did it all go wrong then? Sorry couldn't resist.....

    1. Chemist

      unforgiving of bad code ?!

      I had one of the original 8K BASICS ; it had a dreadful garbage collection bug that made string manipulations almost impossible..

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What would you expect from the son of paid liars?

    Does anyone with a clue not think Dollar Bill is the absolute lowest life form on the planet? After the many Microsucks convictions why would anyone thing differently of the top dirtbag? If there is any means to exploit consumers by violation of law, Microsucks will be all over it like white on rice.

    1. GatesFanbois
      Gates Halo

      Oh dear

      What Bill gates is the lowest form of life on the planet? Really? Get a grip. Has he killed anyone?, enslaved anyone?, tortured anyone?. If you really think exploiting a monopoly is the worst thing someone can do then you sir are an idiot.

      Anyway his recent work with the Gates Foundation means he has had more positive effect on the world than probably any commentard on here.

      While you may not like microsoft compares to a company like Trafigura they are saint, get some perspective please.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's not like they're Nestle, giving free baby formula to African mums that runs out just as the natural supplies do, forcing them to pay through the nose for formula that they don't even need. Heck, they even used to have their sales people dress up as nurses.

      That's a better perspective on the lowest of the low in my book.

    3. The Dark Lord

      Lowest life form?

      Err, once you've discounted all the genocidal maniacs running around the entire globe, all the despots and bandits in Africa, the drug barons in South America, and the rapists, murderers and paedophiles, I assume?

      "Microsucks". Ha ha ha.

      For heaven's sake, actually think about what you're writing before vomiting your patheic bile over all our screens. Troll.

  6. jubtastic1

    Someone was always ggoung to end up rich

    Not a fan of MS, but rather the cash ended up with Bill, whose giving it away to good causes than Allen, who'd just buy a bigger boat.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    How many degrees of separation...

    ...from the Winklevosses?

    See also South Park/Fishsticks.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    I think ...

    This tells us everything we need to know about Microsoft, the minds behind it (including Allen's) and its business practices over the past 30+ years.

    As if we didn't already know.

  9. L1feless

    Business is Business

    Suck it up! people who have money want more money. People who do more work also want more compensation. The off-the-cuff comment about the dilution of share value seems nothing more than paranoia. If Gates wanted more of the pie he'd have approached Allen and tried to buy him out before he left.

    Gates, as much as people love to hate the guy had a very classy response.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gates, as much as people love to hate the guy had a very classy response.

      Gates doesn't need fancy responses, he's too rich for that.

      When something goes wrong at a big public demo, notice how he just sits there grinning like a goon and going "yep this shit happens sometimes". He doesn't care and why would he.

  10. AdamWill


    "Gates was always reputed to be a tough and driven boss, demanding of his employees and unforgiving of bad code"

    Surely you jest!

  11. asdf

    so hard to believe?

    Considering that Gates got a DUI in Albuquerque in the 1970s says more about the man than any book. You would have to be a complete prat to the officers to get a DUI back then as New Mexico's DUI laws were notoriously lax until the mid 1990s. Also says a lot about Albuquerque that they were unwilling to give the man a small loan so you went to Seattle instead. The city wouldnt be what it is today without terrible leadership and the overall 3rd world poverty vibe.

  12. andy39

    Good code?

    If only M$ was still just as unforgiving of bad code.

  13. Wpgwill


    reminds me of the Yes Minister quote:

    "Any statement in a politician's memoirs can represent one of six different levels of reality:

    a. What happened.

    b. What he believed happened.

    c. What he would have liked to have happened.

    d. What he wants to believe happened.

    e. What he wants other people to believe happened.

    f. What he wants other people to believe he believed happened."

  14. Giles Jones Gold badge

    False memories can exist

    The human brain is pretty amazing, but our memory is not as reliable as we think it is. It's worth remembering this when either reading or writing a memoir.

    An interesting read about how our memory can be tricked:

  15. Patrick O'Reilly

    What Gates meant to say...

    Thanks Paul for suing the internet so QR don't have to.

  16. unitron
    Gates Halo

    I have two comments, this is the first

    "Allen also recalls that the night before he and Gates were scheduled to present their first commercial product – BASIC for the Altair 8080 – Gates had stayed up double-checking Allen's code to make sure there were no mistakes."

    Okay, now that's something where I can't find fault with him, although he should have had Allen double-checking his (Gates's) code at the same time.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      re: double-checking his code

      ... or they could have open-sourced it and both had a good night's sleep. :-)

  17. unitron
    Gates Horns

    I have two comments, this is the second

    "Allen also recalls that the night before he and Gates were scheduled to present their first commercial product – BASIC for the Altair 8080 – Gates had stayed up double-checking Allen's code to make sure there were no mistakes."

    Judging by later products that's a habit he managed to break.

  18. A J Stiles

    If I had a time machine

    I'd nip back to February, 1976, just after the publication of *that* letter; pick up the young RMS; and at the very next meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club, we would drag Bill into the Gents for a Damn Good Kicking.

    1. Yag

      If I had a time machine

      I would buy back Paul's shares for $10/share.

  19. -tim

    Would Gates know bad code?

    I know someone who tells the story of finding a mnemonic that was left out of a Microsoft assembler so he called and got Bill on the phone who said he would fix it. He added code to look for the missing mnemonic and emit the proper op code into the binary stream . The proper way would have been add it to the table of op codes. The result is that mnemonic had to be in all caps since Billy's code didn't understand the lower case version of it where adding it to the op code table would have.

  20. Mage Silver badge


    "Allen also recalls that the night before he and Gates were scheduled to present their first commercial product – BASIC for the Altair 8080 – Gates had stayed up double-checking Allen's code to make sure there were no mistakes."

    It was a port of Dartmouth BASIC.

    Did Dartmouth ever get royalties?

    Story repeated with CP/M -> 3rd party x86 clone purchased by MS and repackaged as MSDOS & PCDOS.

    Microsoft didn't create their BASIC or their DOS. Ferengis indeed.

    It shows that's it's not good ideas or orginal product that makes a success, but marketing, management and being in the right place at right time.

    The MS and Apple founders not from poor families, but from much richer families than any "middle class" Englishman.

    1. Peter Simpson 1

      Every BASIC

      was a port of Dartmouth BASIC.

    2. dssf

      In that case, with "Ferengis indeed", add these, maybe in this order:

      52 Never ask when you can take.

      99 Trust is the biggest liability of all.

      177 Know your enemies... but do business with them always.

      52 Never ask when you can take.

      239 Never be afraid to mislabel a product

      299 After you've exploited someone, it never hurts to thank them. That way, it's easier to exploit them next time.

  21. cupperty

    From the horse's mouth ...

    "the important contributions he made to the world of technology *and* at Microsoft"

  22. deadlockvictim
    Gates Halo

    Informal comment on Bill Gates' code from 1981

    From by Andy Hertzfeld

  23. Anonymous Coward

    The story here is?

    Boss of multi-million dollar company is a bastard and a slave driver, just like Ellison, Jobs, et al. Well blow me down! Call out the police and tell them that real life is not very nice! Bear's in wood, Pope's involved in religion! Shocking!

    You don't get get billions in the bank by being Mr Nice, there's a time to be Mr Nice and time to be Mr Nasty, and if you want to conquer the world you get your copy of The Art of War out and you start pushing people about to get your pile built up! Not very nice but some people need to do this to get on in life.

    So did Paul Allen complain when MS went stratospheric and his stock options meant he never had to work again in his life is he so wished?

    1. Jolyon

      You do wonder

      How much richer Allen became as a result of those very traits of Gates' that seem to have made him angry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: You do wonder

        I don't think he got mad, I think he got cancer, and a fresh perspective, and a bit sad about what twats people can be.

  24. Toastan Buttar
    Gates Halo

    Andrew Carnegie

    Andrew Carnegie was a hard, ruthless businessman whilst generating his vast wealth (2nd only to Rockefeller). Once he'd done that business thing though, he spent the rest of his life using that wealth to improve the lives of people throughout the world.

  25. DJV Silver badge

    Early Microsoft Coding

    If you want to see how "good" some of the early Microsoft coding was, then go and read "Barbarians Led by Bill Gates" by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller - especially pages 27/8 about the "Brain dead bit of code" that just happened to have been written by a certain Mr Gates!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Children of Wealth and Privilege

    Children of wealth and privilege rarely demonstrate the ideals of fairness (goes for both of them)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How true

      A company for which I used to work was built up from the ground by a man who started out with nothing, and was actually quite a pleasant chap. A bit careful with the old pennies, perhaps, but you don't get to be a millionaire by spending money unnecessarily. His sons, who were raised in riches and ended up taking over the business, were thoroughly unpleasant characters.

      Still, I did actually manage to bring home a six-figure amount while I worked there -- if you included the pence .....

  27. John F***ing Stepp

    Ok, Bill Gates is fast I will give you that but. . .

    One Umpa Lumpa kicking him in the ass and he is toast.

    (another BB88 mangled quote if you were wondering.)

  28. Tim 8

    Not the worst person in the world, but a self aggrandizing prick

    So he cheats to amass a giant fortune, then gives it away through his foundation named after himself.

    I'm not impressed with giving away money you didn't fairly earn.

  29. Dave Mundt

    Crappy code? Of course!

    greetings and Salutations.

    It has been my experience that everyone writes really crappy code at times in their life. The question is this: Has the quality of code improved? If not...that says a lot. As for Mr. Gates...He never struck me as an "uber programmer" in the least. He could, like many folks, knock out code that works pretty well but, may fail when it hits boundry conditions... For example, I recall a story (I THINK in the book "MicroSerfs" where the author was re-writing a graphics fill routine because it would fail to fill the crevasses of a complex polygon. He was bitching about the crappy program, and did not realize that Gates was standing behind him. Of course it turned out that Gates had written that code himself.

    Now...before I wander too far away from the topic...As I said, I never believed Gates was a great programmer. However, one thing he is excellent at is sales. He has that amazing ability to talk with someone and convince them that their lives will be dark and dreary places if they do not have whatever it is that he is selling! He IS one of those guys that can sell snow to an Eskimo. It is those skills that have helped him build Microsoft into the hulking giant it is today.

    As for the quality of coding that comes out of Microsoft...I, like most folks, have not seen the source code, but, i will say that, as an independent IT Consultant, the multiple examples of security holes and flaky behavior have made me a bunch of money over the years, so, I appreciate his company's efforts in my behalf. From a user's standpoint, though, it can be REALLY irritating when things do not work the way they are supposed to work, or hours of effort are lost because of unexpected software failure.

    Pleasant Dreams

    dave mundt

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The scum leading the dumb

    Gates could best be described as the scum leading the dumb. The only folks who like Gates are the ones who profit from Microsucks vile exploitation of society. Anyone with a clue knows Gates is a manipulative scumball willing to do whatever it takes to reap windfall profits from crime. The court convictions prove this. Gates belongs in prison like every other criminal.

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