More About the Author
Richard Brodie dropped out of Harvard to join Bill Gates in the personal-computer revolution at Microsoft. There he wrote the first version of Microsoft Word before becoming Gates's technical assistant. His books Getting Past OK and Virus of the Mind are international bestsellers, published in many languages across the globe.
A lover of technological progress, he made a deal with marketing manager Jeff Raikes in 1983. Jeff wanted to save time and ship the first version of Microsoft Word without support for a new device called a "mouse." Jeff's research showed that none of their users had demand for such a device. Richard thought hard and promised to put in mouse support in one week, working night and day. Jeff agreed on Friday afternoon. The version with mouse support was on his desk Thursday morning. Jeff went on to become the president of Microsoft's business division.
Before leaving Microsoft, Richard led the design for the Windows version of Word, code-named "Cashmere." Bill Gates always thought the name referred to the fact that Bill liked to wear cashmere sweaters, but in reality it came from passing through the Washington town of Cashmere during a river-rafting trip with some Microsoft colleagues.
During the Cashmere design, Richard came up with the idea of the Combo Box (a combination text box and drop-down menu widely used today), the Ribbon (a strip of buttons at the top of the screen used to display and change formatting), and his favorite, the squiggly red underline that checked and flagged spelling errors automatically.
Not being a nine-to-five kind of guy, Richard retired when Microsoft went public, before Cashmere shipped. When it did, he was distressed to see the squiggly red underline hadn't been included. Nor was it included in the next version. Finally, he cornered development manager Chris Mason in the Microsoft Cafeteria and asked why they hadn't done what he thought was the coolest feature.
"Oh, it's too hard," said Chris. "No it's not!" said Richard. "You just do this and this and this..." Chris thought for two seconds and said, "Oh, you're right, that's easy. We'll put it in." And it was in the next version. "Why didn't they pick up the phone and ask me how to do it?" Richard wondered. It's not like I moved to the moon. It was in the next version.
In retirement, Richard sampled many personal-growth groups (as he put it, "I joined cults as a hobby) and boiled down what he thought were the best ideas into his book Getting Past OK. As part of that research he saw the importance of the idea of "memes" -- contagious ideas that evolve in our culture -- and realized there wasn't a book about them, so he wrote one: Virus of the Mind.
Richard has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows, including Oprah, and maintains an eclectic blog at www.liontales.com where he shares his thoughts and stories. His current hobby is poker, and he has appeared on television a few times playing big tournaments. ("With somewhat limited success," he says. "So far.") He lives in Kirkland, Washington.