Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Tech Industry Giant Paul Allen, Microsoft Co-Founder, Dies at 65 

Paul Allen, left, and Steve Wozniak, 2017 (credit: By Cromemco [CC BY-SA 4.0])

A giant of the tech world, Paul Allen, has died of cancer at 65. Co-founder of Microsoft Corp. with Bill Gates in 1975, Allen left the company in 1983 to pursue a prominent career in philanthropy that emphasized scientific discovery and ownership of major professional sports teams in Seattle.

His death was announced by his investment holding company, Vulcan Inc. Allen was informed by doctors in 1983 that he had Hodgkin's lymphoma, from which he recovered. The experience convinced Allen to leave Microsoft and pursue philanthropic activities, including funding of projects ranging from brain research to understanding homelessness.

Allen met Gates at a private Seattle high school, where they shared an enthusiasm for computers, before attending Washington State University. He dropped out after two years to become a programmer for Honeywell in Massachusetts. An article in Popular Electronics about the MITS Altair 8800, an early personal computer built for hobbyists, prompted Allen to suggest to Gates that he drop out of Harvard and to form with Allen a PC software company, which became Microsoft.

“I am heartbroken by the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends,” said Gates in a statement. “Paul was a true partner and dear friend… Personal computing would not have existed without him.”

CTO of Microsoft until 1983, Allen’s fortune grew as Microsoft shares rose, and he eventually becoming a billionaire. He later founded Vulcan and invested in various start-ups, along with Charter Communications and DreamWorks SKG in Hollywood. He also founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Allen Institute for Cell Science biomedical research organization. In the world of sports, he purchased the Portland Trailblazers of the National Basketball Association and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League.

In total, it is estimated Allen donated $2 billion of his $20 billion personal fortune to various philanthropic and charitable organizations.