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Author Note (at end of book)

When I told people in Silicon Valley I was writing a novel about their industry, so many of them asked me, "Is it about Bill Gates?" that for a while I considered titling this novel, "Not Gates."

I guess if you were going to let some air out of the business, he would be the biggest doughboy. A lot of people wanted me to bring him down, but I was more interested in writing about today's entrepreneurs than today's moguls.

There is an important double-entendre to "Not Gates," though. The basis of the computer is the silicon transistor, three layers of silicon that can hold a small electrical charge. Transistors are connected into three types of simple logic gates: the AND gate, the OR gate, and the NOT gate. The function of a NOT gate is to turn a 1 into a 0. When electrical power comes into a NOT gate, the charge is cancelled.

While investigating the power dynamics of Silicon Valley on assignment for Wired magazine, I kept hearing stories that represented, in effect, NOT gates: entrepreneurs who had been impeded, cheated, or cancelled by the gatekeepers of power. Unfortunately, their experiences were also NOT stories, certainly not magazine stories, which are more about the powerful than the powerless, more about those companies who went public than all those who went belly up. So in order to expose the NOT gates, I turned to fiction.

Maybe this book is about Bill Gates implicitly. By having masterminded a near monopoly on desktop computer operating systems, he is the ultimate gatekeeper of power in Silicon Valley. More than any other person, he decides which gates are AND, which are OR, and which are NOT. What was going on in Silicon Valley in 1995 was that thousands of enterprising minds were busily negotiating his gates, attempting to pass through. By 1996, though, things were different. Quite suddenly, so many of those entreprising minds were attempting to bypass Gates' gates entirely, inventing a new paradigm of technology that ignored operating systems. If they couldn't go through, they would go around. It was an inspiring surge of can-do ingenuity.

As of this writing, those efforts may or may not succeed. This book is for all those who are making the attempt—to all those who remind us that the human creative spirit is irrepressible.

1995