Paul Allen was an American business magnate, computer programmer, researcher, investor, and philanthropist. He co-founded Microsoft Corporation with childhood friend Bill Gates in 1975, which helped spark the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. Microsoft became the world's largest personal computer software company. Allen was ranked as the 44th-wealthiest person in the world by Forbes in 2018, with an estimated net worth of $20.3 billion at the time of his death.
Allen left regular work at Microsoft in early 1983 after a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, remaining on its board as vice-chairman. He and his sister, Jody Allen, founded Vulcan Inc. in 1986, a privately held company that managed his business and philanthropic efforts. He had a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio, including technology and media companies, scientific research, real estate holdings, private space flight ventures, and stakes in other sectors. He owned the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League and the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association, and was part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer. In 2000 he resigned from his position on Microsoft's board and assumed the post of senior strategy advisor to the company's management team.
Allen founded the Allen Institutes for Brain Science, Artificial Intelligence and Cell Science, as well as companies like Stratolaunch Systems and Apex Learning. He gave more than $2 billion to causes such as education, wildlife and environmental conservation, the arts, healthcare, and community services. In 2004, he funded the first crewed private spaceplane with SpaceShipOne. He received numerous awards and honors, and was listed among the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007 and 2008.
Allen was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2009. He died of septic shock related to cancer on October 15, 2018, at the age of 65.
Allen was born on January 21, 1953, in Seattle, Washington, to Kenneth Sam Allen and Edna Faye (née Gardner) Allen. From 1965 to 1971 he attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle where he befriended Bill Gates, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for computers. They used Lakeside's Teletype terminals to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems. They also used the laboratory of the Computer Science Department of the University of Washington for personal research and computer programming until they were banned in 1971 for abusing their privileges.
Gates and Allen joined with Ric Weiland and Gates' childhood best friend and first collaborator, Kent Evans, to form the Lakeside Programming Club and find bugs in Computer Center Corporation's software, in exchange for extra computer time. In 1972, after Evans' sudden death due to a mountain climbing accident, Gates turned to Allen for help finishing an automated class scheduling system for Lakeside. They then formed Traf-O-Data to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. According to Allen, he and Gates would go dumpster diving during their teenage years for computer program code.
Allen achieved a perfect SAT score of 1600 and went to Washington State University, where he joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity. He dropped out of college after two years to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston near Harvard University where Gates was enrolled. Allen convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard in order to found Microsoft.
Allen and Gates formed Microsoft in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and began marketing a BASIC programming language interpreter, with their first employee being high school friend and collaborator Ric Weiland. Allen came up with the name of "Micro-Soft", a combination of "microcomputer" and "software".
Microsoft committed to delivering a disk operating system (DOS) to IBM for the original IBM PC in 1980, although they had not yet developed one, and Allen spearheaded a deal for Microsoft to purchase QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) written by Tim Paterson who was employed at Seattle Computer Products. As a result of this transaction, Microsoft secured a contract to supply the DOS that ran on IBM's PC line, which opened the door to Allen's and Gates' wealth and success.
The relationship between Allen and Gates became strained as they argued even over small things. Allen effectively left Microsoft in 1982 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, though he remained on the board of directors as vice chairman. Gates reportedly asked Allen to give him some of his shares to compensate for the higher amount of work that Gates was doing. According to Allen, Gates said that he "did almost everything on BASIC" and the company should be split 60–40 in his favor. Allen agreed to this arrangement, which Gates later renegotiated to 64–36. In 1983, Gates tried to buy Allen out at $5 per share, but Allen refused and left the company with his shares intact; this made him a billionaire when Microsoft went public. Gates later repaired his relationship with Allen, and the two men donated $2.2 million to their childhood school Lakeside in 1986. They remained friends for the rest of Allen's life.
Allen resigned from his position on the Microsoft board of directors on November 9, 2000, but he remained as a senior strategy advisor to the company's executives. In January 2014, he still held 100 million shares of Microsoft.