“Without it, we would not have personal computers”: the story of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen

He came up with the name Microsoft and became an investor in more than 150 various cultural, technological and charitable projects.

Paul Allen and Bill Gates. 
Source: The New York Times

Microsoft is associated with the name of Bill Gates, but, like Steve Jobs, Gates had “his Wozniak” – Paul Allen, with whom they came to success. They created Microsoft, and even the name “Micro-Soft” was Allen’s idea. October 16, 2018 Allen died of cancer, which he fought all his life and was able to defeat him twice. For the first time – at the cost of working at Microsoft.

Meet Bill Gates

Paul Allen was born on January 21, 1953 in Seattle, Washington, to a family of librarians. He had many interests, but Allen’s main love is science.

Allen attended Lakeside private school in Seattle, where he met Bill Gates. Bill was 12, and Paul was 14 years old, both addicted to computers and learned to program in the Teletype terminal. If Allen understood more about the technical features of computers, then Gates was interested in developing programs – this made them a good team in which friends learned from each other. Soon, Gates and Allen became best friends.

They spent a lot of time in the computer lab, studying programming and working on their projects. Access to computers was limited – you had to pay for machine time. Friends found a software error that allowed them to bypass time limits, but they were discovered by school staff and began to drive out.

Gates and Allen earned their time on the machine in all possible ways. For example, they played poker, but sometimes they lost and borrowed money. Because of this, during the end of one school year, Allen could not get a certificate until his mother, who was present at the ceremony, paid $ 200.

Allen and Gates tried to use their skills whenever they could. For example, Gates wrote a program that automates the school schedule. And then Lakeside appreciated the abilities of the students and entered into an agreement with Computer Center Corporation, which paid for computer time by finding and correcting errors in its software.

But in 1970, the CCC went bankrupt, and I had to find another place to continue working with computers. Allen’s father, Gates and Allen, accessed computers at the University of Washington.

First try – Traf-O-Data

In 1971, Allen graduated from Lakeside and continued his studies at Washington University, without stopping communication with Gates. Gates entered Harvard.

Photo: Guruprasad

At university, Allen read an article about the world’s first microprocessor – the Intel 4004. According to Allen, this was the first step towards a friend’s dream — a personal computer that everyone could have. He told Gates that processors would constantly evolve and become the basis of computers.

In 1972, friends bought the Intel 8008 for $ 300 and assembled a computer to develop programmed road meters and traffic lights at intersections. For the release of software opened a joint venture – Traf-O-Data. The company released a traffic management program for the City of Seattle and earned $ 20,000.

The business was unsuccessful, as Washington began to offer free traffic processing services, the need for contractors was no longer necessary. Gates and Allen had to close the plant.

Microsoft Creation

In the winter of 1974, Gates and Allen learned about the release of the Altair 8800 computer, one of the most popular and marketable computers of the time. They realized that such a popular platform would require a convenient programming language, without which Altair would be useless for enthusiasts.

The friends sent a letter to Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the manufacturer of Altair. The letter said that Gates created a special programming language for the Altair 8800.

They did not expect MITS to be interested, but the developers noticed and suggested that the boys create a demo version of the system in order to evaluate whether it is worth paying for it.

For the next four weeks, Gates and Allen abandoned their studies and worked on a Basic Interpreter for Altair. This is an interactive computer language that could execute the original program, reading it on one line and immediately performing operations. In January 1975, Allen was taken to work at MITS. He took the post of vice president and director of software.

Photo: BBC

Gates left Harvard in November 1975 to create his own company with Allen, who left MITS in 1976. Gates said that this is the first software development company in the world.

They chose the name for a long time – the options “Outcorporated Inc.” or “Unlimited Ltd.” were too faceless, and “Allen & Gates” looked like a lawyer’s office. Then Allen proposed to combine the essence of their company – the development of software (Software) for microcomputers (Microcomputer). This is how “Micro-Soft” appeared.

In the source code of the interpreter, the friends mentioned themselves: “Micro-Soft BASIC: Bill Gates wrote a lot of stuff; Paul Allen wrote some other stuff ”. Later the dash disappeared from the title.

The first Microsoft logo. 
There is also a division into two words. 
Source: Wikipedia

Paul Allen did technical engineering, and Gates did business negotiation and contracting. The main tasks were discussed together, because of which sometimes they argued for six to eight hours.

In 1976, Microsoft developed the Basic Commodore interpreter, and in 1977 sold and licensed the code to Apple, starting to develop business-oriented applications.

In 1980, IBM turned to Microsoft with a proposal to adapt several programming languages ​​for their IBM PC personal computer. In addition, IBM was looking for operating system developers, and Gates and Allen agreed to become performers.

They bought for almost $ 50,000 a practically ready Q-DOS operating system from Tim Paterson, who worked on 16-bit Intel processors. The company had to rework it to support the eight-bit processor, which stood in the IBM PC. The system is called MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operation System).

Gates entered into an agreement so that all Intel products were released only on the Microsoft operating system, and the company itself could license its OS to other manufacturers of personal computers.

Bill Gates about Paul Allen: “In our joint work there was no serious disagreement. The only thing that caused some tension was that I occasionally had to call Paul in the mornings and remind me that it would be nice to get up and go to work. ” Allen could well have said that “life was a success,” because he did not retreat from his father’s parting words only to do what he really liked.

Lymphoma detection

In 1982, Paul Allen was in Europe, advertising Microsoft products in Paris. He found a lump on his neck and felt bad. Strange feelings and feeling sick, according to Allen, was before, but he blamed it on fatigue. Allen returned to Seattle, where he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of cancer.

Allen tried to combine radiotherapy, and later bone marrow transplantation with work at Microsoft. But in 1983, he had to leave the company, retaining a stake and a seat on the board of directors. The course of radiotherapy lasted 22 months. The treatment was successful, but according to Allen, he has changed .

At the age of 30, confronted with death, you realize that it would be nice to do things that you never had time for before.

Paul allen

However, in the autobiographical book, “The Idea Man,” Paul Allen would otherwise explain his departure from Microsoft. It says that Allen overheard Gates and Steve Balmer talk about the quality of Allen’s work. Gates and Ballmer considered reducing Allen’s stake in the company and depriving him of his leadership responsibilities.

Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. 
Source: RetroGeeker

Gates also tried to buy shares from Allen for $ 5 apiece. Allen, in response, offered to sell his stake for $ 10 per share, but Gates refused. As a result, Allen won – retaining a stake in Microsoft, he became one of the richest people in the United States.

After the publication, Gates and Allen did not speak for more than a year, but later reconciled.

In 2000, Allen resigned from the board of directors, retaining the post of chief strategic consultant Bill Gates. It was believed that Gates would not take seriously anyone else at Allen’s place.

Life after Microsoft

Allen decided not to go back to Microsoft and start a new business. He was constantly looking for new ways for investment and technology development, and for fun. The main one is Vulcan Ventures.

In the nineties, Allen had the idea of ​​a “world wired by networks” (Wired World), so he paid attention to telecommunications and the development of communications. Allen has become a shareholder of more than 140 multimedia, telecommunications and entertainment companies, sports organizations and technology startups. Some of them:


  • In 1985, Allen founded the company Asymetrix, which, according to his idea, was to create the most simple software development tools. This would allow anyone unfamiliar with programming to develop applications. The idea has not gained popularity.
  • Skypix. The company was engaged in data compression and transmission technologies. It was supposed to be used in satellite broadcasting. I went bankrupt in 1992, because the level of technology lagged behind the ambitions of developers.
  • Investments in research organization SETI. Allen built a telescope to help ufologists in the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. Telescope Allen Telescope Array was launched in 2005, was closed in 2011.
  • Interval Research Group. The “ideal lab” project that Allen sponsored from 1992 to 2000. Scientists were engaged exclusively in science, not thinking about the cost of research. As a result, IRG patented about 150 inventions that were transferred to another Allen company – Vulcan Ventures.
  • In 2004, the SpaceShipOne spacecraft, built with the participation of Allen, became the first privately-owned ship to successfully launch a man into a suborbital space.
  • In 2011, Allen founded the company Stratolaunch Systems, which is working on a carrier aircraft to deliver astronauts and cargo to orbit. In May 2018, the company first showed the aircraft.
  • Vulcan Energy Corp is a division of Vulcan Capital, which invested $ 200 million in Plains All American Pipeline. Profit was $ 2.25 billion
  • In 2013, Allen founded the Institute of Artificial Intelligence.

Entertainment and Sports

  • In the 1990s, Allen invested about $ 700 million in DreamWorks, becoming the largest shareholder.
  • Allen, along with his sister Joe, is co-owner and executive producer of Vulcan Productions. The company’s goal is to finance innovative and depth-oriented independent film projects. In 2011, Vulcan Productions funded the documentary Emotional Life, which deals with the psychology of human desires and the desire to be happy.
  • In 1988, Allen bought the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team for $ 65 million. In 2013, it cost $ 457 million.
  • In 1997, Allen acquired the Seattle Seahawks football team for $ 194 million. In 2013, it was valued at $ 1 billion.
  • Allen also acquired a stake in the Seattle Sounders football team.


  • In 1993, Vulcan acquired 25% of AOL, which Allen tried to put on the Internet. He was refused and was not allowed to acquire a controlling stake. After that, Allen sold the shares for $ 140 million. In 2013, they would have cost about $ 33 billion.
  • Marcus Cable is an Internet provider and cable TV provider bought for $ 3.2 billion.
  • Charter Communications is the fourth largest cable television provider.
  • ZDTV is a television news channel for the computer industry with interactive services.

Culture, Health and Charity

  • In 1986, Allen founded the Paul J. Allen Family Foundation, which provides $ 30 million annually as a grant for various humanitarian and scientific projects.
  • In 2003, the Fay G. Allen Visual Arts Center was created at the University of Washington – it was named after Allen’s mother. He also donated $ 14 million to the creation of the Paul J. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, which was developed by LMN Architects from Seattle. For many years, Allen donated a large amount of money to the University of Washington Medical School.
  • For the University of Washington, Allen donated $ 14 million to open the Kenneth Allen Library in memory of his father.
  • In 2003, Allen, together with his sister Joe Lynn, founded the non-profit Allen Brain Research Institute, donating $ 500 million. The Institute develops a complete atlas of the human brain. The data created in the organization is free and available to the public through the Allen Brain Atlas app.
  • In 2008, Allen invested $ 41 million in creating the Alen Spinal Cord Atlas mouse gene map. The project is studying the effects of diseases and herbs on the spinal cord, creating new diagnoses for existing nervous disorders.
  • In 2014, he invested $ 100 million to fight Ebola in West Africa. In the same year, he founded the Cell Research Institute, which studies cells and their behavior in the fight against diseases.
  • Allen loved the music of Jimi Hendrix, who inspired the opening of the Museum of Pop and Rock Music in Seattle. The cost of the museum is $ 250 million.
  • Allen has six charities on his account – the Charitable Foundation, the Foundation for Medical Research, the Foundation for Arts, the Foundation for Music, the Forest Protection Foundation and the Virtual Education Foundation.
  • In 2006, Allen joined the Gates and Buffett initiative to transfer half of the money to charity through The Giving Pledge.
  • In the early 2000s, Allen donated more than $ 1 billion to charity.


  • Allen participated in deep-sea research and conducted expeditions to locate sunken ships during World War II.
  • In 2015, the expedition found the Japanese military ship Musai off the coast of the Philippines. Experts compared the discovery with the discovery of the Titanic, and in March 2018, Allen helped find the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in Australia.
  • Each discovery Allen dedicates to dead people and their heirs, with whom he is associated.


In addition to entrepreneurial activity, Allen was very fond of music, since Jimi Hendrix heard it in 1969. Allen played rhythm guitar in the group Grown Men – the group released the first disc in 2000. In 2013, Allen released another album with the reorganized band Underthinkers.

Paul allen plays guitar

Personal life

Allen tried to date girls, but remained a bachelor. He never married and had no children. Even at parties, which are organized Allen, he is forced to sign an agreement on non-disclosure.

Second cancer

In the fall of 2009, Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was able to recover from chemotherapy. After that, Allen ordered to give all the fortune to charity after death.

On October 1, 2018, Allen tweeted that the disease had returned, but “doctors are optimistic and see positive results after the first sessions of therapy, like me.” October 16, 2018 Paul Allen died at 66 years of age.

He became a billionaire in 1990 at the age of 37. As of October 16, 2018, Forbes estimated his fortune at $ 20.3 billion. Allen was one of the pioneers of the IT industry and was known as a billionaire who loved to share his wealth with the needy.

Source: Pureinfotech

“My heart is broken because of the loss of one of my oldest and dearest friends. Without it, we would not have personal computers, ”said Bill Gates. Despite the tense relations after the publication of Allen’s autobiography, friends made up and in 2013 recreated a classic photograph from 1981.


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