Bill Gates has published his personal reflections on the life of Paul Allen, who died on October 15th of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 65. Gates describes Allen as “one of my oldest friends and the first business partner I ever had.” The two co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and forever changed the world of technology. Allen was also widely praised as a giant of business, sports, and philanthropy in the Pacific Northwest in the decades after departing Microsoft in 1983.
“I met Paul when I was in 7th grade, and it changed my life,” Gates wrote. “I looked up to him right away. He was two years ahead of me in school, really tall, and proved to be a genius with computers. (Later, he also had a very cool beard, which I could never pull off.)”
According to Gates, the pair “spent just about all our free time messing around with any computer we could get our hands on.” He credits Allen with foreseeing the incredible significance of computers and the industry that would rise around them.
In fact, Microsoft would never have happened without Paul. In December 1974, he and I were both living in the Boston area—he was working, and I was going to college. One day he came and got me, insisting that I rush over to a nearby newsstand with him. When we arrived, he showed me the cover of the January issue of Popular Electronics. It featured a new computer called the Altair 8800, which ran on a powerful new chip. Paul looked at me and said: “This is happening without us!” That moment marked the end of my college career and the beginning of our new company, Microsoft. It happened because of Paul.
Gates says that Allen “had a wide-ranging mind and a special talent for explaining complicated subjects in a simple way. Since I was lucky enough to know him from such a young age, I saw that before the rest of the world did.” Allen made a habit of sharing his favorite music with Gates — “I remember him playing Are You Experienced? for me. I wasn’t experienced at much of anything back then” — and in his years as the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, Allen did his best to make Gates a sports fan.
He would take me to see his beloved Portland Trail Blazers and patiently helped me understand everything that was happening on the court.
To close, Gates expresses admiration for all the ways that Allen helped improve the world and lives around him, saying, “Paul deserved more time in life. He would have made the most of it. I will miss him tremendously.”