Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies of cancer at age 65

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OCTOBER 15, 2018

Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, in 2015.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who helped usher in the personal computing revolution and then channeled his enormous fortune into transforming Seattle into a cultural destination, died on Monday in Seattle. He was 65.

The cause was complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his family said in a statement.

The disease recurred recently, after having been in remission for years. He left Microsoft in 1982, after the cancer first appeared.

But Mr. Allen was a force at the company during its first seven years, along with his co-founder, Bill Gates, as the personal computer was moving from a hobbyist curiosity to a mainstream technology, used by both businesses and consumers.

When the company was founded in 1975, the machines were known as microcomputers, to contrast the desktop computers with the hulking room-size machines of the day. Mr. Allen came up with the name Micro-Soft, a company that made software for small computers. The term personal computer would become commonplace later.

The company’s first product was a much-compressed version of the Basic programming language, designed to work on the underpowered machines. Yet the company’s big move came when it promised IBM that it would deliver the operating system software for the computer giant’s entry into the personal computer business. Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen committed to supplying that software in 1980, and at the time it was a promise without a product.

Mr. Allen was instrumental in putting together a deal to buy an early operating system from a programmer in Seattle. The Microsoft founders tweaked and massaged the code, and it became the operating system that guided the operations of the IBM personal computer, which was introduced in 1981.

That product, called Microsoft Disk Operating System, or MS-DOS, was a watershed for the company. Later would come Microsoft’s immensely popular Windows operating system, designed to be used with a computer mouse and onscreen icons — point-and-click computing rather than typed commands. It would also produce the Office productivity programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Mr. Allen, left, and Bill Gates on Oct. 19, 1981, after signing a contract with IBM to supply its line of personal computers with Microsoft software. It was a watershed moment for both IBM and Microsoft. – Microsoft, via Bloomberg News

“In his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s current chief executive, said in a statement.

When Mr. Allen and Mr. Gates founded Microsoft, their bold ambition was to both develop technology and make personal computing widely affordable — a personal computer on every desktop. Along the way, Microsoft became the dominant personal computer software company, which made Mr. Allen, as well as Mr. Gates, who was the face of the company, immensely wealthy. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he had a net worth of $26.1 billion.

Mr. Allen used his wealth to acquire a professional basketball team, the Portland Trail Blazers, in 1988 and a pro football team, the Seattle Seahawks, in 1996.

He was also an investor and a generous philanthropist.

Mr. Allen donated more than $2 billion toward nonprofit groups dedicated to the advancement of science, technology, education, the environment and the arts. Among the scientific research organizations he funded were the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2003 and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2014.

And while he had some philanthropy that was global, like a passion for ending elephant poaching, much of his post-Microsoft work centered on Seattle, where he has been the transformative force behind many of the city’s leading cultural institutions.

He restored the old Cinerama movie theater to modern standards seemingly ideal for watching science-fiction films, and he hired Frank Gehry to design the Museum of Pop Culture, which Mr. Allen founded in 2000 under the original name of the Experience Music Project. The wild, undulating building displayed items revealing Mr. Allen’s cultural obsessions, including guitars owned by Jimi Hendrix and Captain Kirk’s command chair from “Star Trek.”

In the 1990s, Mr. Allen bought a swatch of land in the South Lake Union neighborhood to help build a Seattle version of Central Park, but the public ultimately voted down the plans. Mr. Allen took those real estate holdings and through his company, Vulcan, developed South Lake Union into the home of Amazon. Google and other tech companies have been opening offices in the revitalized neighborhood.

“He has a definitive role of what we understand as today’s Seattle, which is about technology, about real estate and about a distinctive local culture with international visibility,” said Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington.


Courtesy/Source: NY Times

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