Fare thee well, Paul Allen


With Marshal Mdeza:

Microsoft is almost synonymous to Bill Gates. It is as though Bill Gates solely founded the software giant; it was not so from the beginning. Bill Gates cofounded Microsoft with Paul Allen. Actually, it was Paul Allen who came up with the original name ‘Micro- Soft’ which is in ordinary speak means a very small software company.

Paul Allen befriended two year younger, Bill Gates at Lakeside High School in USA. They both had voracious appetite for computers and programming. Allen proceeded to Washington University where he later dropped out in order to pick a job as a programmer at Honeywell near Harvard University where Bill Gates had enrolled in the law school.


The two friends connected again and it did not take long before Paul Allen convinced Bill Gates to drop out at Harvard in the sophomore year. The two college dropouts formed Microsoft in 1975.

In 1981, the fortunes of Microsoft changed almost overnight. IBM was about to launch its first personal computer. The company decided to outsource both the computer chip and operating system software. Intel was ready with the computer chip and Microsoft would supply the software.

If truth has to be said, Microsoft made the commitment to supply the operating system yet it did not have any software in place. Bill and Allen quickly bought QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) from Tim Patterson and manipulated it into DOS (Disk Operating System) and sold it to IBM.


The two young men were very shrewd in the way they penned their contract with IBM, they dropped a clause which left them free to license the software to others other than IBM. That clause turned out to be a money spinner for Microsoft as they sold the software to other computer builders that came after IBM.

Allen was unfortunate; he left Microsoft in 1982 just a year after hitting the IBM jackpot after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was at this point where Bill’s and Allen’s relationship suffered a few hiccups regarding ownership of Microsoft.

Because now Bill Gates was doing almost all the work, he agreed with Paul Allen to split the shares from 50-50 to 60- 40; however Bill secretly amended this to 64-36. In 1983, Bill Gates tried to buy off Allen at $5/share but Allen would have none of it.

Paul Allen became an instant billionaire when Microsoft became public. In 2000, Allen resigned from Microsoft board and remained senior advisor on strategy to Microsoft’s executives. He had 100 million shares of Microsoft by 2014.

By March 2018 Forbes listings, Paul Allen was the 44th richest person in the world with $21.7 billion to show for it.

Born on January 21, 1953, Paul Allen died on October 15, 2018. During his life time, Paul Allen gave away $2 billion to charitable causes in areas as education, Wildlife conservation (mostly in Tanzania) and the Arts. He had his own football team.

Paul Allen was the man that influenced Gates into starting Microsoft and spent less than ten years there and made no name but made all the money a lot of people fail to make in an entire life time. RIP.

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