It’s not even out yet and Paul Allen’s book has a mistake

Last Updated on April 10, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

If I were Paul Allen, I wouldn’t be very happy right now. Here’s why.

paul allen memoir mistakeTake a close look at the book cover, which I ran obnoxiously large for a reason. See the error?

Take a look above his left shoulder. The computer.

Looks like an IBM PC/XT to me. It’s a later model than what Paul Allen would have helped IBM design when he was working at Microsoft, and it was released after Allen had left Microsoft. The keyboard is the giveaway. Not too many people will notice that. Probably the only reason I do is because I used both types of keyboards, and I loved the later one and hated the early one, which had a amazingly nice tactile action but its outrageously tiny shift and enter keys made it hard to type on.

But there’s something else wrong with it. It’s a mirror image. Reversed.

I think it’s an error because nothing else in the background is reversed.

The PC/XT’s Wikipedia page has a picture of a PC/XT at a similar angle so you can see the difference.

Speaking of IBM, I don’t know if the intention of the cover is to say that Paul Allen heavily influenced the design of the IBM PC. I know Bill Gates had some pretty outspoken ideas about what he wanted the IBM PC to be. If he’d had his way, it would have been powered by a Motorola 68000 and running Xenix, Microsoft’s implementation of Unix that later gave rise to the infamous SCO Unix. Basically it would have been a Unix workstation for the masses. According to Wikipedia, IBM had already considered (and presumably ruled out) using its own IBM 801 CPU and its own Unix.

Ultimately, IBM took a much more conservative approach, opting for something that was a little faster and a little more modern than the CP/M computers of the day, but similar enough to make it easy to move CP/M software over to it. Which makes sense–if IBM was just going to do Unix, they could have done it without Microsoft’s help.

It will be interesting to see how much Paul Allen says about the design of the IBM PC, and what, if anything, he adds to what’s already known.

As for whether IBM should have gone it alone, who knows. The machine would have been more profitable and much more difficult to clone, but existing microcomputer software would have been much harder to port to it. Some people argue that the clones helped IBM as much as they hurt it, early on. But that’s another story altogether.

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