When Microsoft started up in a garage in California, its co-founders and first two employees were best friends – Bill Gates and Paul Allen. The two had been close friends throughout high school and shared the same passion for computers and programming (and thoroughly abusing the networks at nearby Washington State University). They grew apart after graduating and went to university in different states, but circumstances prompted Allen to drop out of university to work as a programmer at Honeywell. It was Allen who convinced Gates that they could run their own company selling software, and it was Allen who contributed the company name “Micro-Soft”.
Paul Allen passed away today, aged 65 years.
Most of the computer industry owes their jobs to the work that Allen and Gates did in the early years of their company’s existence. The duo went on to create the Basic programming language from scratch, basically wrote the book on programming with high-level abstract languages for the Intel 8080 processor, and pioneered software licensing and sales tactics which drove DOS to dominate the early computing era.
Allen resigned from Microsoft in 1983 after helping Gates to set up the company and secure contracts, but would remain involved in the company as a board member, and eventually vice chairman of the board. Just three years later, Allen’s shares in the company made him a billionaire overnight, as Microsoft’s strong opening in their IPO secured their position as a contender in the software industry.
Although Allen left Microsoft completely in the year 2000, he remained a busy man. Much of his wealth went into personal projects in and around Seattle, his birthplace, and he bought several sports teams and helped finance the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. His personal interests were in science and technology advancements, and he helped fund many causes ranging from wildlife conservation, to AIDS and cancer research, and space travel through SpaceShipOne. His contribution of $100 million towards combating the spread of the 2014 ebola outbreak helped contain the disease and secure aid for thousands of Africans who desperately needed treatment, and the Paul G. Allen Foundation set up an ebola research fund in 2015 to prevent the spread of the disease in the future.
Allen spent considerable personal time helping to overhaul the Seattle education system, channeling more than $50 million into initiatives to teach children computer skills, in addition to more than $30 million in funding and donations to Washington State University to set up research centers and open new wings and classrooms for students. As the owner of the world’s largest yacht, Octopus, Allen allowed dozens of research crews to use the vessel for their respective and undersea studies.
In 2009, Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which successfully went into remission in 2010. He had already battled with Stage 1-A Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1982. In a blog post published recently, Allen had revealed that the cancer had returned, but that his doctors and oncologist were confident of his ability to recover. He died earlier this morning from complications caused by the returning lymphoma.