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Biography of Paul Allen

Everyone has heard a lot about Bill Gates, his achievements, and the fortunes he's made. However, he is not the sole founder of Microsoft. You may have heard the name Paul Allen, but chances are you don't know much about him. Nevertheless, it was when Allen teamed up with Gates that Microsoft was created.

Allen was born on January 21, 1953 in Seattle and met Gates at Lakeside prep school when they were both students there. Lakeside prep had recently decided to acquaint its students with the world of computers. Since computers were extremely expensive, they had a fundraiser to purchase computer time on a DEC PDP-10 owned by General Electric. It was on this computer that Gates, Allen, and a few other Lakeside students discovered computing, and, soon thereafter, programming. The young boys used up all the computing time the school had purchased and began falling behind in their classes.

Luckily for the boys, Computer Center Corporation opened and struck a deal with Lakeside prep so that the school could use their computer at discounted prices. Gates and Allen quickly became hackers: causing the system to crash, breaking the computer's security system, and even altering files that recorded the amount of computer time they were using. Once discovered, the boys were banned from the Computer Center Corporation for several weeks. This, however, turned out to be a blessing for both the Computer Center and the boys, as the company was very impressed with their abilities. When the Center began having problems with their computers and business was beginning to suffer, the company decided to hire the boys to find bugs and expose weaknesses in the system. In turn the boys would receive unlimited computer time use.

After a few years and a handful of small business ventures, Gates and Allen decided to start their own company: Traf-O-Data. They built a small computer that was used to help measure traffic flow; they grossed about $20,000 from this project. Allen enrolled in Washington State University, and Traf-O-Data lasted until Gates moved back east to attend Harvard. The two young men stayed in close contact and, eventually, Allen moved closer to Gates in order to act on some of their ideas. Allen encouraged Gates to open a software company with him, but Gates remained unsure until Allen came to him with an issue of Popular Electronics. On the cover of the magazine was a picture of the Altair 8080 with a headline the read, "World's First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models."

Gates and Allen recognized this as their opportunity because they knew that the home computer market would soon explode. Within a few days Gates contacted the makers of the Altair, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), and convinced the company that he and Allen had developed a BASIC that could be used on the Altair. Although they had done nothing of the sort, MITS believed them, and the young men set to work on producing what they had promised. Neither Allen nor Gates had ever even seen an Altair, but, nevertheless, in eight weeks, the men took their program to MITS. The first time that they tested their BASIC would be during their presentation to the company; if something in the code was faulty, now would be the time they discovered it. Luckily, the program worked and MITS immediately purchased the rights to their BASIC. Allen and Gates knew that the software market had been born, and within a year, Gates had dropped out of Harvard, and he and Allen had founded Microsoft.

Allen contributed to the company from the beginning and was still around to discuss graphical user interfaces, and thus plant the seeds of what would eventually become Windows. However, he was forced to leave Microsoft in 1983, after developing Hodgkin's disease. Allen has been awarded the Life-Time Achievement Award by PC Magazine and was recently inducted into the Computer museum Hall of Fame.


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