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Archive for the ‘Harvard’ Category

On October 28, 1955, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates was born.  We know him best as an entrepreneur of the personal computer revolution.  During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8 percent of the common stock.  Today, he spends most of his time as a philanthropist.

He was born in Seattle…

Bill Gates was born in Seattle, WA into an upper middle class family.  Because his dad was a lawyer, Gates’ parents had a law career in mind for him, but as we all know, his career took a different turn.   At 13, he took an interest in BASIC programming on an a GE system at his prep school.  His first computer program was a game of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play the game against the computer.   The next computer he programmed was a DEC PDP-10.  At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Paul Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor.

The Most Famous Harvard Dropout?

In 1973, Bill Gates enrolled at Harvard College.  While there, he met his future business partner, Steve Ballmer, who is now the CEO of Microsoft.  He did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard and spent a lot of time using the school’s computers. He remained in contact with Paul Allen, joining him at Honeywell for his summer job.    In 1975, the MITS Altair 8800 was released and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company.

Whole books have been written about the the history of Microsoft which includes the motley crew shown in the photo below and there will be plenty of High Tech History pieces written about that in the future.  For today, let’s just say “Happy Birthday, Bill Gates.”

 

— Carole Gunst

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plimpton_iNot directly (or perhaps even indirectly) related to High Tech History; but I just joined a fan group about Malcolm Gladwell on Facebook – and was thinking about the intricacies and vagaries of social networks. Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. edited the recently released “George, Being George: George Plimpton’s Life as Told, Admired, Deplored, and Envied by 200 Friends, Relatives, Lovers, Acquaintances, Rivals– and a Few Unappreciative Observers” and I was fascinated by the number and varieties of relationships he had with people – both famous and not so famous. Here’s my review, which I hope will prove interesting:

A Social Network all his Own

George, Being George: George Plimpton’s Life as Told, Admired, Deplored, and Envied by 200 Friends, Relatives, Lovers, Acquaintances, Rivals–and a Few Unappreciative Observers. Edited by Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr. 438 pp. N.Y., Random House, $30.00

Facebook and MySpace had nothing on George Plimpton. He was a unique and compelling social force who during his lifetime accumulated a richly diverse tapestry of “friends” – such as writers Norman Mailer, Terry Southern and William Styron; athletes Archie Moore and Alex Karras; socialites Nan Kempner and Edie Sedgwick, and numerous other intellectual, creative, and likewise intriguing personalities.

So it’s very fitting that the “Prologue” to Nelson Aldrich’s George, Being George offers accounts of how much George Plimpton enjoyed parades and fireworks. In fact, he once smuggled a suitcase of firecrackers out to his friend John Marquand’s home on Martha’s Vineyard and celebrated the 40th anniversary of his eminent literary periodical, the Paris Review with a grand pyrotechnic display. This is the perfect metaphor for Plimpton and his lifetime of exultation, as told by a pageant of more than two-hundred people who knew him – both intimately and casually.

Aldrich, a freelance writer and former Paris editor of the Paris Review, organizes the nearly four-hundred pages of passages – they each average around ten lines of text – so that the reader becomes an intimate at what resembles a salon setting featuring Plimpton’s family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. In many ways, the passages tend to say more about those who knew Plimpton than about Plimpton himself – he was the ever-courtly conduit through which others sought to realize their own talents, passions, and social ambitions. A recurring theme in George, Being George was that Plimpton was an attentive and sympathetic listener who genuinely cared about the lives of his friends and associates.

Plimpton’s New England patrician pedigree, together with an accent he himself described as “east coast cosmopolitan”, is discussed early and often; but Plimpton always seems to easily escape the burdens of such stuffy, synthetic and often superficial caricatures. From his schooling at Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard and Cambridge; his days in Paris co-founding and editing the Review, and throughout his participatory journalism for Sports Illustrated magazine, Plimpton’s life is recalled as one that was energetically engaged in the search for authenticity – whether in the literary, athletic, or social arenas. 

Plimpton was willing to immerse himself in the worlds of others he sought to understand and appreciate.  In his book Shadow Box, his nose was bloodied in a boxing match with champion boxer Archie Moore, and in the course of his book Paper Lion, played quarterback for the Detroit Lions in a pre-season scrimmage – prior to which he stoically endures the traditional hazing rituals of an NFL rookie. In this sense, he became accessible to a wide spectrum of Americans; in fact, Plimpton would often tell the story of meeting a man with a ten-gallon hat at an airport who said the only book he ever read was Paper Lion. Some have called Plimpton’s variety of journalism “Mittyesque” after James Thurber’s daydreaming protagonist Walter Mitty; but this is too simplistic. Plimpton was an enthusiastic participant in whatever challenges he faced. 

Plimpton greatly enjoyed bringing together people from different worlds – and often did so at parties he hosted. His apartments became olios of people from all worlds – society figures, mafiosos, writers, and even the occasional First Lady. When he wanted to raise money for the Paris Review, he threw a series of “Revels”, which followed the same template and were generally very successful in attracting donors to keep the magazine going; which, from a financial standpoint, was a constant challenge.

Throughout this very entertaining account, Plimpton is shown as a man who defied categorization; he had innumerable interests, including a deep passion for literature and the arts, as well as sports; but his almost accidental fame was the result of what seemed to many to be a guileless and non ego-driven approach to his profession and to his life. On occasion, he may have inspired in others a certain envy or criticism in addition to respect and admiration; but overall, Plimpton accomplished much while remaining eminently likeable, and this, when added to his many achievements, is what will cause his legacy to endure.

— Christopher Hartman

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