Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Sir Richard Branson were among those remembering Allen as a tech titan and a generous philanthropist.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on October 16, 2018

Allen passed away after the non-Hodgkins lymphoma he had previously battled recurred. He was 65 years old.

While best known as one of the Co-founders of Microsoft, Allen was a curious, adventurous figure with a wide variety of interests.

He was the Founder and Chair of Vulcan Inc and founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Institute for Cell Science, among others.

He also had an extensive investment portfolio and owned two sporting teams, NBA franchise Portland Trail Blazers and NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

Paul Allen had been a pioneer, philanthropist and renaissance man

At the time of his passing, he was the 43rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of US$20.3 billion.

A noted philanthropist, Allen had given away more than US$2 billion to charitable causes reflecting his broad interests across education, health, wildlife conservation and the arts.

Some of his notable donations included a US$100 million injection to combat the Ebola virus and a US$30 million donation to build housing for homeless people in Seattle.

He even found time for a musical career, leading Jimi Hendrix-inspired blues rockers Paul Allen and the Underthinkers.

His sister, Jody Allen, said he had been a “remarkable individual”.

“He was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend,” she said in a statement on behalf of his family.

Satya Nadella on Paul Allen: “He created magical products”

Bill Gates said he was “heartbroken” to hear Allen, who he described as one of his oldest and closest friends, had passed.

While many entrepreneurs would rest on the laurels of creating Microsoft, Allen had other ideas, Gates wrote. “He channelled his intellect and compassion into a second act focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world.

“Paul was a true partner and dear friend. Personal computing would not have existed without him,” he said in a statement.

The pair met back in 1968 and quickly bonded over their shared love of computing, then a nascent field. “In those days we were just goofing around, or so we thought,” Gates wrote in his 1985 memoir The Road Ahead.

Early days at Microsoft

Their startup took off in 1980 when IBM contracted them to provide the operating system for its personal computers. By 1991, their operating systems were completely dominant, being used by 93% of the world’s personal computers.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Allen’s work in the field has been “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,” Nadella added.

Allen was very much a visionary in his field. He wrote an article for Personal Computing predicting computers would “become the kind of thing that people carry with them, a companion that takes notes, does accounting, gives reminders, handles a thousand personal tasks.” This was written in 1977, years before his ideas became reality.

He also forecast personal computers becoming “connected to a centralised network by phone lines, fibre optics or some other communication system,” in a kind of prototype internet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was another industry titan to offer condolences. “Our industry has lost a pioneer and our world has lost a force for good,” he wrote on Twitter.

Spaceflight, Hollywood and Shipwrecks

Allen had also invested in SpaceShipOne, a suborbital commercial spacecraft. It became the first privately funded aircraft to launch a civilian into suborbital space.

Building on this success, he created Stratolaunch Systems, which proposed to construct a dual-bodied six-engine jet aircraft which would constitute the first privately funded space transport vessel.

Richard Branson, another heavy hitter in the spaceflight race, saw Allen as a kindred spirit. “We shared a belief that by exploring space in new ways we can improve life on Earth,” the Virgin Group Founder reflected.

Yet another of his business interests was Vulcan Productions, a television and film production company he owned with sister Jody. It produced films including the Oscar-nominated Far from Heaven and We The Economy, an innovative anthology film which featured more than 20 directors and ended up winning 12 awards.

Earlier in 2018, he funded a team of explorers on a successful mission to locate the USS Juneau, a cruiser sunk by the Japanese navy in 1942.