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One of the biggest figures in personal computing passed away, today. Paul Allen, best known for his role as Microsoft co-founder, has died, a victim of the big C in the form of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Allen was known as a major visionary, entrepreneur, philanthropist and technologist, which had been on-and-off assailed by severe illnesses. He had recently announced his cancer had returned, after 9 years in remission.
His single biggest achievement can be pinned on the founding of Microsoft, together with former school buddy Bill Gates, way back in 1975. It was through this partnership that DOS (and later MS-DOS), became synonymous to personal computing, and made computing truly ubiquitous. In 1982 he left Microsoft due to a diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma which resulted in months of radiotherapy. In 2009, a second bout with cancer, this time Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, pushed him away from board rooms for good.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1981.
His stake in Microsoft, having left him a billionaire many times over, allowed him to give back to his hometown of Seattle, and to its inhabitants. He enjoyed his time pursuing a great number of projects that gave Seattle its distinct personality: from major sports franchises like the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and Portland Trailblazers (NBA) and Seattle Sounders (in the MLS), to the patronage of universities and higher-learning institutes, to the MoPop, or Museum of Pop Culture. He was also one of the major drivers behind commercial space travel, together with Burt Rutan and later, with Sir Richard Branson's VirginGalactic.
His philanthropic ventures gave away over $2.5 billion in patronage.
A statement and tribute published by his family and co-workers at Vulcan Inc. (the company that managed Allen's philanthropic ventures) read “All of us who had the honor of working with Paul feel inexpressible loss today. He possessed a remarkable intellect and a passion to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, with the conviction that creative thinking and new approaches could make profound and lasting impact."
However, it was Bill Gates, his friend and age-old business partner who really drove it home.
"(...) Paul was a true partner and dear friend. Personal computing would not have existed without him. He channeled his intellect and compassion into a second act focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world. He was fond of saying, “If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it.” That’s the kind of person he was", added Gates. "Paul loved life and those around him, and we all cherished him in return. He deserved much more time, but his contributions to the world of technology and philanthropy will live on for generations to come. I will miss him tremendously."
For what it's worth, this author didn't appreciate the value of people like Paul Allen until he was able to look back and see the magnitude of his technological and philanthropic contributions. People like Paul Allen are the ones we don't hesitate to wish a great place in the afterlife.