In short, the man who co-founded Microsoft
with Bill Gates
. Paul Allen is currently a billionaire
and the second-largest Microsoft shareholder, but is no longer active within the company. He is often described as shy by those who have met him and keeps somewhat of a lower profile, but this in no way diminishes his tremendous accomplishments.
Paul Allen was born January 21, 1953 in Seattle, Washington. From an early age he showed a strong interest in science and mathematics. In 1965 his parents enrolled him at Lakeside Prep School for the seventh grade and it was at Lakeside that he met Bill Gates and received his first exposure to computing through the school's teletype terminal.
After graduating high school in 1971, Allen attended Washington State University, but dropped out two years later. In 1973 he went on to accept a programming position with Honeywell in Boston, which conveniently placed him near Harvard University where his good friend Bill Gates was enrolled.
Having maintained their joint interest in computing, in 1975 Allen and Gates became very interested upon reading of the Altair 8800, the world's first commercial personal computer, created by a failing calculator company called MITS of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Without even having an actual Altair to work with, they immediately set out to write a complete version of the BASIC programming language for the machine, a task that the Altair's creator, Ed Roberts, thought to be impossible at the time. Borrowing heavily from public domain versions of BASIC and testing their implementation with a self-written Altair emulator (which ran on top of a Harvard DEC minicomputer), they accomplished their task and flew to Albuquerque to try their creation on a real Altair. It worked on the first try. Soon after, Allen quit is job at Honeywell; Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and both moved to Albuquerque to work at MITS as Altair programmers. In a very smart business move (though frustrating to the hacker community even at that time) they retained strict intellectual property rights to all of their software, and building upon this they were able to start their own software company called "Micro Soft" soon after.
A fledgling Microsoft took to licensing its applications to other PC manufactures with increasing success. Sales topped $1 Million in 1978 and the two founders moved the company back to their home town of Seattle. In 1980, Microsoft inked its famous deal with IBM to license BASIC and DOS for use on the IBM PC. This event marked the beginning of Microsoft's serious dominance of the PC platform and thereafter paid very lucratively for Allen and everyone else involved.
Paul Allen enjoyed many good years with Microsoft. He worked in the company's highest technological position: head of research and new product development and over-saw development of MS-DOS, Word, and the beginnings of Windows. Unfortunately a lifetime career with the company was not to be. Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1983 and decided to leave Microsoft to focus on the more pressing needs in his life.
After a tough battle, he was able to beat his illness, and after taking some time off he re-emerged to take on the world from a different perspective. Even though Allen had previously left Microsoft, he still maintained his large stake in the company. With Microsoft's wild success in the marketplace, the value of his shares grew right along with those of Bill Gates. In this manner, Allen achieved multi-multi-billionaire status and in his post-Microsoft capacity has put his extreme wealth to work. He has established multiple philanthropic organizations bearing his name including: the Paul G. Allen Foundation for the Arts, the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Foundation for Medical Research, and the Paul G. Allen Forest Protection Foundation.
The man has also become a huge player in industry. In 1986, he established Vulcan Ventures to manage his investments. Amongst other things, he currently owns the Portland Trailblazers and Seattle Seahawks. He owns a majority stake in Ticketmaster and a $500 Million stake in DreamWorks SKG. In 1998 he bought majority stakes in both Marcus Cable and Charter Communications and merged the two (under Charter Communications) to form one of the largest cable companies in the United States. He has since bought strings of smaller cable providers and high-speed Internet access companies that join Charter Communications in a vision that he calls the "Wired World." An electric guitar player himself, he has even built an expensive shrine to his idol Jimi Hendrix in the form of Seattle's Experience Music Project.
Paul Allen currently resides in Seattle. He is still single and lives with his mother in a 40,000 square-foot home.