back to article RIP Paul Allen: Microsoft cofounder billionaire dies at 65 after facing third bout with cancer

Billionaire Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975 and is credited with coining the company's name, has died of cancer aged 65. The announcement was made by Vulcan Inc, the vehicle that managed Allen's billions, on behalf of his family and the Paul Allen Network. The organization said he died, “Monday …

  1. GrumpyKiwi

    RIP Mr Allen.

    For both better and worse you changed the world.

  2. Griffo

    Say what you will

    I know on this site that a large portion of the participants are Microsoft haters. But you have to admit that the founders have been some of the most philanthropic people in history. Compare that to Bezos or Ellison or Zuch who horde their billions like some modern age Scrooge McDuck.

    Vale Allen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Say what you will

      To be fair, while Allen started philanthropy pretty quickly it took Gates a while to come around. He was a billionaire longer than Zuck has been before he did - though granted when he did it he went ALL in. Hopefully Zuck & Bezos will follow in his footsteps. Ellison is just a cretin, and I wouldn't be surprised if he builds a tomb that puts the Taj Mahal to shame as his way of taking it all with him.

      1. Jim 59

        Re: Say what you will

        RIP Paul Allen and well done. 65 is too young.

        Regards Zuck being a hoarder, Ellison a cretin, Bezos a miser, I think ALL these guys will be giving their riches away sooner or later.

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

          Re: Say what you will

          I think ALL these guys will be giving their riches away sooner or later.

          I believe the phrase is 'trying to buy a ticket to Heaven'

          1. HolySchmoley

            Re: Say what you will

            "Regards Zuck being a hoarder, Ellison a cretin, Bezos a miser, I think ALL these guys will be giving their riches away sooner or later."

            >I believe the phrase is 'trying to buy a ticket to Heaven'

            Too late. For a couple of them a thin asbestos suit in the other place is the most they can aspire to,

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Say what you will

      Also this site has the most honest Obit I've seen.

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Say what you will

      I know on this site that a large portion of the participants are Microsoft haters.

      A large portion of the participants here use Microsoft software daily and hate Microsoft business decisions such as firing their software testers and then getting our end users to do the testing, and then ignoring us when we point out that things are broken, etc etc etc etc etc etc. The list of things that annoy us is probably to long to list on El Reg, i'm sure that there must be a post size limit so I won't try and list them all.

      But anyway, the short story is that although we might hate dealing with broken software it doesn't mean that we hate everybody who has ever been involved with Microsoft. Just the people that came up with the ideas that are causing us major headaches. And the people who signed those ideas off.

      1. MOV r0,r0

        Re: Say what you will

        Adobe, OTOH...

      2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        participants are Microsoft haters

        Well for me it is the fact that I'm forced to but a laptop complete with a virus.

        I'd rather just have the hardware and then I can choose.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Say what you will

      On the other hand, how much more money in the world would be available for charitable purposes or for investing in and improving public services (you know, like a National Health Service), if even half of the money spent on Microsoft licences had been spent on developing and sharing open source software instead?

      It's all very well for someone almost unbelievably incredibly wealthy to be able to donate large sums to charity when the main reason that they have most of that money is because of the massive amount of revenue their company has extracted from the public sector (ie, taxpayers) and from individual members of the public ("Windows tax") and from other businesses.

      Nonetheless, three bouts of cancer, that's very unlucky; although ultimately we all die of something in the end. My condolences to his friends and family, nevertheless.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: Say what you will

        Not as much as you'd expect. Large institutions already have that choice and generally choose not to go down that path; when they do implement large projects the outcome is usually a cost and time overrun.

        People also by and large spend money on something that exists, or is guaranteed to exist, in a fairly short time frame. I suspect the funding of open source alternatives over buying an available product is several orders of magnitude smaller. Plus, of course, it's only really useful when all your applications are available, not just one.

    5. tmz

      Re: Say what you will

      They have not been visited by the ghost of Christmases yet to come. They will be on the list, though.

  3. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    May he rest in peace.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

      "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him".

    2. Steven 1

      Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

      Stay classy El Reg...

    3. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

      Typical anonymously-posted bile.

      There's a time and a place. This may be the latter, but it's hardly the former.

      What have YOU contributed?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

        > Typical anonymously-posted bile.

        > There's a time and a place. This may be the latter, but it's hardly the former.

        > What have YOU contributed?

        Well as my original posting was modded - no problem mods, your sandpit - I've been in the business decades and shipped multiple products that sold multi million SKU's. So yes, I've done my small bit.

        As for been anon. See above. I've been in the business decades and know exactly how it works. Very very small world. And if you got the SCC ref you'll realize just how long I've been around and how senior I am. To paraphrase a recruiter who cold called me a few decades ago, I was one of the very few people with a resume where they not only recognized all the companies but all the project too. Which is quite an accolade by the usual (low) standards of recruiters. And this is in the 'Valley, CA, not some 'Rsehole, Lancs.

        So, yeah, I know what I am talking about. I have been around a long long time.

        Hey, mods, what the usual time period that has to elapse before you can trash the dead for the thieving scumbags they really were? Like my recent Steve Jobs outing. Five years?

        For future reference.

        1. HolySchmoley

          Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

          >how long I've been around

          >how senior I am

          >I know what I am talking about.

          >I have been around a long long time.

          You forgot to mention your modesty and critically objective self-evaluation,

          Is Donny your hero, by any chance?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

            > You forgot to mention your modesty and critically objective self-evaluation,

            Well I have been working in the business in for 35 years by this stage. Mostly in California, mostly in the Bay Area. Nice sunny day here in SF. No fog so far.

            And you?

            If you would like to discuss in finer detail anything from 6502 asm on the Apple II, the ROM memory map of the MacPlus all the way to custom code gens for LLVM , how exactly to bring up a hypervisor process manager (written in x86/C) on bare iron, or the finer points of re-architecting the rewrite of a major segment leading desktop OS application feel free to ask away. Some of us actually got to work on lots of fun projects over the years. Although the VP of Engineering gig was a real drag. So I dont do management now.

            Are you a guy on the IT support desk by any chance?

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          not some 'Rsehole, Lancs.

          Ah, you've been to Lancashire.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

      And here I had been blaming Californians for ruining Seattle all these years. They all sold their homes in 1986 and moved north, paid asking price in cash for everything they could get their hands on. Long before the Microsoft three became a thing.

      Unfortunately they moved east around 1993 and caused the mid 2000's housing bubble.

      Everyone blames boomers for ruining the economy. I believe it was a specific type of boomer. The Californian.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..

        > And here I had been blaming Californians for ruining Seattle all these years....

        Well I dont know how long you've known Seattle , me only since early 1990's, but I got the full history from the locals going back to long before the Boeing crash of the early 1970's to the Post War Boom built on Boeing. If you want to talk historical housing prices of the areas I've lived in and around Seattle, or the Eastside, going back 50 plus years by this stage I'd be glad to oblige.

        In Seattle proper there have only been three real estate booms. The original one - the Klondike, the Boeing Boom post war, and the current one which started 10 years ago. The current one has nothing to do with MS on the Eastside but everything to do with the massive influx of population due to the massive SLU real estate development. From the historical 550K ish population to well over 700K in less than a decade.

        As for Californians ruining the Pacific Northwest. Well based on my experience of several decades almost all the "Californians" who "ruined" places like Seattle were not born in or from Californian in the first place. The vast majority were people who moved to Cal from elsewhere, back East mainly, then moved on up to the Great Green North. So pretty much the same sort of people who ruined California in the first place. Outsiders. Lifestyle carpet baggers.

        Oddly enough the reason I got to know Seattle in the first place was because there were so many people from Seattle in California and I heard first hand so many intriguing stories of where they were from. So I had to go look see.

        Despite everything the Seattle area is still a great place. Superior in every way to the ultra smug, ultra complacent, ultra white hipster town that is Portland. Even after 25 years I still find Portland a slightly repellent place.

        A bit like Tacoma.

        1. Agamemnon

          Re: Sorry to piss on the still warm grave..


          I'm "from California" (landed there with my MilBrat lifestyle). The Better Half is a native from Ballard so now I live on the East Side, specifically, in Redmond, and have been here for half a decade. I'm not a part "of this", I don't engage in the laughable Tech Industry here, the non-existent Tech Culture, and none too interested in the new housing boom either. The East Side is a candy cane and gingerbread, Stepford, Surburban, bedroom community shit hole (did I mention I Also grew up in Stockton and have a rock solid foundation for comparison?).

          No, these people are Not Californians. California (and mostly SoCal, you can tell by their driving style, not kidding) was just their Last Stop, and so that's the license plate you see on their shitty SUVs. THey are, in fact, mostly East Coasters. The Better Half and I argue about this quite a lot in fact.

          SAdly, I've seen this in three places I've left specifically because of these folk.

          Lifestyle Carpetbaggers...I super like that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Unfortunately they moved east around 1993 and caused the mid 2000's housing bubble

        Not really. U.S. Senators tinkering with the Community Reinvestment Act caused the housing bubble. Californians, for better or worse, are not gods. Only government has the potential to screw things up so monumentally.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He didn't die...

    He was uploaded to the Microsoft Cloud!! RIP

  6. Urh


    ....I'll be able to get a reservation at Dorsia.

    1. Shooter

      Re: Finally....

      i literally watched that movie for the first time last night; otherwise I would have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Good reference.

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    "Billionaire Paul Allen, who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975 and is credited with coining the company's name"

    I always thought it was Bill Gate's wife that came up with the name? *wink wink, nudge nudge*

    Joking aside, it's sad. Like others have said, for better or for worse, he helped change the world and has done a lot more to help people than other bazillionaires. RIP.

  8. OzBob

    If there is any afterlife

    I hope he is forced to maintain their systems using Registry Edits.

    Have a copy of his bio, (from an Op Shop), the tech part is a nice read, he was at the forefront of IT for a while.

    And I thought Gates was the salesman and Allen the techie (Writing a boot loader for the Altair while on the plane to deliver BASIC to the vendor? Cant imagine his Bill-ness doing that!).

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: If there is any afterlife

      Bill was famously involved in the Windows source code even after Windows was a huge deal. Big Bill reviews or whatever they were called.

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: If there is any afterlife

      I hope he is forced to maintain their systems using Registry Edits

      and he has to use edlin ...

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: and he has to use edlin

        And using a line editor created an entire breed of programmers who checked their code after they hit "return" ... something that's missing these days.

        I'm not down on progress or change but we have to realize that every cloud rains sometimes even if it's sold with a silver lining - Allen was very talented, Gates too but the coding environment that they were raise in don't exist any longer - writing a boot loader means that you know a lot more than just how to write code.

        Few people these days are trained to write code and then sit back and look at it to check that it does what it's supposed to do and only that - that's the users job isn't it? I wonder how Allen felt about that?

        1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

          Re: and he has to use edlin

          You had 1s and 0s? We had to use ls and Os.

          1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

            We had to use ls and Os.

            We had to use ls an DOS?

            MS-DOS. :-)

  9. RGE_Master

    Given his contributions to technology, climate change, disease prevention and cure, this man should be knighted by Her Majesty The Queen of England. He was an inspiration to those who worked in IT, you could go as far to say, without him, IT would be decades behind. He's a man I'd be proud to have just an iota in common with.

    A moment of silence for our fallen comrade, you fought well good sir, now you don't need to suffer anymore.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Minor quibble.

      We haven't had a " Queen of England" in a long while. She's queen of lots of places but England not specifically mentioned.

      1. Stumpy

        Plus, Knighthoods cease upon death, so Mr Allen cannot be knighted.

  10. HmmmYes

    Have they tried turning the power off and on?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    His BSOD epitaph ...

    Fatal Stop: c000000a {Unexpected EOL} The initial session process or system process terminated unexpectedly with a status of 0x00000000 (0xc0000000 0x0000000). The system has been shut down.

    1. fords42

      Re: His BSOD epitaph ...

      Damn those onion cutting ninjas...

  12. Hans 1

    @El Reg

    Gates had tried to buy Allen's shares at a low price in 1983.

    Source for this ? Paraphrasing Allen: I came into the office one afternoon unexpectedly as I was undergoing cancer treatment and overheard Steve and Bill discuss diluting my shares. I burst in ... That was very unpleasant, possibly the worst day in my life.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: @El Reg

      This sounds like something Ballmer thought up. But I'm sure Gates eagerly participated.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: @El Reg

        Don't know the details but it isn't a necessarily evil activity.

        You have 4 staff, you lose one, you need to replace them to keep the business running,

        You can't afford to pay the new hire enough to lure them away from HP/Ti/IBM so you offer stock. If the one you lose has 1/4 of the stock you don't have anything to offer the new hire.

        It's why the incentive/vesting plans for founders are so complex now

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

          Re: @El Reg

          Still sounds pretty evil to me, notwithstanding the fact Allen wouldn't have been short of a few bob.

          You have 4 staff, you lose one - offer them some of your *own shares* rather than pinching someone else's. After all, you're betting the employee will be a great revenue earner.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: @El Reg

            That creates a weird incentive that people who remain working for the company get diluted while anyone that leaves doesn't.

            Not directly equivalent but was involved in a company where one co-founder died leaving his widow owning half the business. She wouldn't give up any shares to recruit a new technical co-founder and the company died. VCs now typically have a first-refusal/claw-back clause if a founder leaves early or dies.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: @El Reg

              with a company that small ( 4 people ) and one says "I'm leaving to be a silent partner , send me my 25%" then surely the 3 doing the work would pay themselves corresponding salaries to relect the work they were putting in .

              In fact , I dont see why they wouldnt follow the amazon model and say "oh , no profit this year , sorry shareholders"

            2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

              Re: @El Reg

              That's why you need to carefully construct share agreements, so that they act properly as their aim of both rewarding employees and keeping them in the company as you point out with the widow example.

              If you bought a present for someone, and it later became immensely valuable, you don't get to ask for it back. It's the same with share schemes granting part ownership of the company without any attached terms. It's basic common sense to cover the case of someone leaving. If you haven't covered that, then you live with it, which includes making them offers, but doesn't consist of shafting them.

              In other words, if you made a bad decision you may have to live with it, rather than being a dick.

  13. Joe Drunk

    Allen also bought into sports: the Portland Trail Blazers NBL team, and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.

    That's NBA Trailblazers .

    1. Shooter

      @ Joe Drunk

      I deliberately waited to read the El Reg obit, because most of the MSM headlines concentrated on his sports interests and not his tech background.

  14. Dwarf Silver badge

    Paul Allen meets Pearly Gates ?

    This is one of Bill's other brothers, the remaining one being SeaGates, to cope with all the additional storage requirements as the OS and products grow over time.

    Seriously though, the end of another pioneer, a sad loss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You think that when we get to heaven St Peter will be standing there with a Microsoft tablet and checking us in on the cloud now?

  15. andy 103

    Well, that's a nicer eulogy than the Steve Jobs rant

    In reference to this article -

    I was ridiculed by people for suggesting it's not very nice to talk about dead people in a negative way, particularly over business decisions or how they interacted with others during their life, even if it was in a less than favourable way.

    Steve Jobs seems to have got the wrath of The Reg plus many readers. Opinions (so far) on Paul Allen seem divided. I am really curious as to see what comments we'll get about Linus when that eventually happens.

    Personally I say RIP and wish his family/friends well. There's a time and place. If you can't say something nice...

    1. NinjasFTW

      Re: Well, that's a nicer eulogy than the Steve Jobs rant

      you don't automatically get all the shitty things you've done in life (Not talking about Paul Allen, just in general) ignored simply because you've died! This doubly applies to how they've interacted with others.

      If you care about your future legacy or that of your descendants then you should maybe think about while you're still alive and can do something about it.

      If we sanitise asshole behaviour then it becomes more acceptable to be an asshole. There is enough of them around as it is!

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      Re: Well, that's a nicer eulogy than the Steve Jobs rant

      You might have a point if it was just a one off with Steve, but he was an arsehole over, and over again, and he didn't really improve much with age.

  16. Moog42

    RIP, he had an impact beyond all measure not matter what your OS of choice. I for one really appreciated his interest in marine archaeology and his funding for the raising of the bell from HMS Hood, and his foundations work studying the coelacanth.

  17. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    RIP, Paul Allen

    The man did a lot of work saving old aircraft and making them available for display. He should be recognized for that as well.

    Love them or hate them, Microsoft made the modern PC what it is. The hardware was easy, making it useful (and usable) was Microsoft's contribution. Though I use Linux (except at work) my hat is off to Gates and Allen for what they accomplished. They stepped on more than a few toes, and you can argue that Microsoft's best days are behind it, but Gates and Allen did it first.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: RIP, Paul Allen

      Microsoft made the modern computer industry what it is.

      Imagine only being able to learn about computers by being hired as the lowest of the low at some company that had a mainframe, and gradually working your way up. Then if you left that knowledge was worthless because the next company had a different mainframe (or enough tweaks to the same one)

      The irony is everyone being able to switch between jobs using the same apps on the same containers running on the same Linux on different cloud service is because Microsoft standardised the PC OS

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He created magical products?

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Allen's biggest contribution was deal-making?

    Allen's biggest contribution to early Microsoft was deal-making rather than code.”

    That would be news to the rest of us, Allen wrote a 6502 simulator written in Macro 10 Assembler that was subsequently used to write BASIC, he did also write the bootstrap loader, you would agree not a trivial task and Monte Davidoff did the floating point routines. ref ref

    A successful treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma led to Allen resigning from Microsoft in 1983 .. His departure from day-to-day activities at Microsoft wasn't without some rancor: Gates had tried to buy Allen's shares at a low price in 1983.”

    Actually Allen left after overhearing Gates and Ballmer discussing how to get his shares back before he died.

    "They were bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders," ref

  20. Moeluk

    Always copying Apple

    Can Microsoft not come up with a single idea, without pinching it off our beloved fruit based company.

    I wonder if the coffin will be zune brown.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Always copying Apple

      what by having one of the pioneers die?

  21. devTrail

    Fact checking

    According to the article Paul Allen pledged to give away most of his wealth and for this they call him a philanthropist. However I see that he still had enough money to own several companies and a NBA team which has more to do with power and politics than with charity. At this point I am wondering whether he really delivered on the pledge, how much is his estimated wealth now?

    Please don't rush to label me as a Microsoft hater, I'm just fact checking.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Nit picking

      He donated more than $2bn of his $20bn fortune, and pledged to give most of it away – until cancer stopped him.


      1. devTrail

        Re: Nit picking

        Thank you for the details. So, he gave away about 10% of his wealth in 8 years even though he was aware he didn't have a lot of time left. According to my basic knowledge of math and the English language that's far from the definition of "most".

        1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: devtrail

          I think you're skipping over the word "promise", here. And finances. The guy didn't have a Scrooge McDuck style vault of gold coins. If someone's worth $20bn, they don't have that cash in hand.


        2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

          Re: Nit picking

          It's still a lot of money, and if you have lots of money you are not obliged to spend every waking moment working out how to give it away.

          If I ever win the lottery big, I'd be happy with a million or two. With a hundred million you'd have to plan how to spend and give it away, and I'm not sure I'd want the hassle.

    2. Tom 35

      Re: Fact checking

      Maybe if these people didn't feel the need to collect billions in the first place. That money came from someplace.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strange fish was Paul Allen however always admired his interest in Oceanography and marine conservation being a keen scuba diver myself.

    Be nice if he left the Octopus and some cash to convert it to a gun boat so save the whale could put paid to the hunters.

  23. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Thus die all enemies of Linux.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      I dunno about that; After seeing various cancers take away family members, I wouldn't want that fate on my enemies.

      I have nothing bad or good to say about Mr. Allen, so I will simply wish for peace on his surviving family.

  24. lowwall

    Philanthropy was not his first thought

    Let's not make too much of his late interest in philanthropy. The reason he had given $2 billion and had only $20 billion left to give - instead of the $50 billion Mr. Gates has already donated and the $90 billion he has left - is that Mr. Allen spent the decades of his retirement buying the biggest toys and coolest stuff available. This includes multiple megayachts culminating in the 18th largest yacht in the world, complete with 2 submarines, a glass-bottom pool, and a recording studio; private planes including a G650 and the 757 he later re-sold to Donald Trump; the above-mentioned sports teams, plus the Seattle soccer club, which are perhaps the ultimate toy for US billionaires; the usual 10 figure homes in Seattle, Beverly Hills, Mailbu, Manhattan, Hawaii, London, Côte d'Azur, etc. and a private island or 2. He also like to collect things including a billion dollar art collection, enough planes (even a MiG-29) to open one museum, enough guitars and music memorabilia to open another, and enough old computer gear to open a third. He even collected his childhood movie theatre, buying it when it was slated to be torn down and refurbishing it just for the hell of it.

    He also dumped a lot of cash over the years into dozens of business projects, but nothing much came out of it. He certainly would have been better off leaving it in Microsoft stock or something passive like an S&P 500 fund.

    I'm not blaming him, when I was a kid and read about what he was doing, I thought it was the coolest thing imaginable, except for the lack of supercars. But the appropriate summary bio would be Coder, Microsoft Co-founder, Billionaire Hedonist.

  25. steviebuk Silver badge

    Never knew him personally...

    ... obviously but he's part of Microsoft history even if he did leave early. Its the end of an era.


  26. William Towle

    Other obituaries

    Bill Gates writes:

    I particularly enjoyed the line "[Allen] had a cool beard which I couldn't pull off"

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