Paul G. Allen died on Monday at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Most of the obituaries of Allen emphasize that he was the cofounder of Microsoft and the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trailblazers, but some gloss over the fact that he was also a developer. He dropped out of college to work as a programmer long before Bill Gates famously dropped out of Harvard, and in fact, it was Allen who convinced Gates to leave school and move to Albuquerque where the pair created Microsoft Basic. He also helped create MS-DOS, and it was his idea to create the two-button mouse.
Allen stepped away from Microsoft’s daily operations in the 1980s but remained on the board. When the company’s success made him a billionaire, he did the sorts of things we would all like to think we would do if we became suddenly wealthy. He gave a lot of his money away. He bought his sports franchises, and he built a museum that houses, among other things, Jimi Hendrix’s guitars and Captain Kirk’s chair.
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella eloquently stated, “Paul Allen’s contributions to our company, our industry and to our community are indispensable. As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world. I have learned so much from him – his inquisitiveness, curiosity and push for high standards are something that will continue to inspire me and all of us at Microsoft. Our hearts are with Paul’s family and loved ones. Rest in peace.”