June 29, 2001

Web review: Eight steps to Gates-like wealth

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Erstwhile Ars Digita CEO Philip Greenspun says he is interested in discussing what computer programs can do for human beings, and I guess that's the truth, because he's laid out quite a spread explaining what Bill Gates' software has done for him and how we can emulate the richest man in the world.
Greenspun's eloquent missive is all about the path to riches, a la the post-modern Napolean and world dominator whom everyone loves to hate, Bill Gates. Phil used a goodly share of bytes instructing the little people in this most useful of lessons entitled, "How To Become as Rich as Bill Gates." The strange thing is, seems that Mr. Greenspun harbors a mite of resentment against Gates for having the audacity to become so filthily rich, almost as though it were a sin to have so much money. Last time we checked (and trust us, we checked), having copious amounts of money isn't an automatic bar to entrance through the pearly "gates," if you will. Oh, we know what you'll say. You'll say that it's not the amount of money he's managed to rake in, it's the way that he's done it that makes him so awful.

That's precisely what Greenspun is not so subtly hinting at. He makes mention of Gates' purported tendency to insinuate lesser intelligence on the part of the issuing party when he hears an idea he doesn't agree with. Hell, that personality quirk describes 90% of the programmers we know -- that's one thing Billy G. definitely doesn't have a monopoly on. Many geeks are brusque, impolite and lack social skills. Big deal. He also implicitly criticizes Gates for having sprung from wealthy lineage, which is so silly it's ridiculous. Greenspun also leaves us little doubt about his views on Microsoft's business practices:

"Conventional (loser) economic wisdom holds that monopolies should spend heavily on research because they are in a
position to capture the fruits of the research. But if you want to become as rich as Bill Gates, you have to remember that it
is cheaper to wait for a small company to come up with something good and then buy them. In the old days, antitrust laws
kept monopolies from buying potential competitors."

Greenspun's rant is not vitriolic; rather one can imagine him presiding over the paragraphs with an impish grin that says, "hey, look at this -- kinda funny, ain't it?" One eerily prophetic statement reminds us all, "Let the venture capitalists schmooze Wall Street ... but don't let them run your company." A sage bit of advice that causes one to wonder how and or why Greenspun allowed them have free reign to ruin his company (or couldn't stop them from having it).

As is the case on most of Greenspun's pages, this one is illustrated with some of his photographs, which are not only a nice display of a more than adequate talent in composition, but also add an underlying tacit wit to the proceedings.

Greenspun adds reader comments to "How To Become as Rich as Bill Gates." Responses span the expected spectrum but add a little bit of entertainment value to the read. The "Bill Gates Personal Wealth Clock" is an interesting side note, also put together by Greenspun.

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