Paul G. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist, technology investor and owner of several professional sports teams, has died. He was 65.
He died Monday in Seattle, according to his company Vulcan Inc. Earlier this month Allen announced that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he was treated for in 2009 had returned and he planned to fight it aggressively.
Gates said he was heartbroken about the loss of one of his “oldest and dearest friends.”
“Personal computing would not have existed without him,” Gates said in a statement, adding that Allen’s “second act” as a philanthropist was “focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world.”
Allen and Gates met while attending a private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in every home.
Gates so strongly believed in their dream that he left Harvard University in his junior year to devote himself full-time to his and Allen’s startup, which Allen dubbed Micro-Soft, short for microprocessors and software. Allen spent two years at Washington State University before dropping out as well.
They founded the company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to program and operate the machine.
After Gates and Allen found some success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives moved their business in 1979 to Bellevue, Washington, not far from its eventual home in Redmond.
Microsoft’s big break came in 1980, when IBM Corp. decided to move into personal computers and asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.
Gates and company didn’t invent the operating system. To meet IBM’s needs, they spent $50,000 to buy one known as QDOS from another programmer, Tim Paterson. Eventually the product refined by Microsoft — and renamed DOS, for Disk Operating System — became the core of IBM PCs and their clones, catapulting Microsoft into its dominant position in the PC industry.