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Oct 15, 2018
Originally published on October 15, 2018 8:42 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has died. He and Bill Gates created the company together in 1975. Allen went on to a multifaceted career outside Microsoft. He was a philanthropist, real estate developer and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. His family says Allen died this afternoon of complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 65.

Reporter Matt Day of The Seattle Times has covered Allen's life and career, and I want to bring him in now from Seattle. Hi, Matt.

MATT DAY: Hi.

KELLY: So describe what Paul Allen's role was at Microsoft in those early days. What did he bring?

DAY: So I think with Gates, he brought an immediate enthusiasm to sort of capture the very early stage of the PC market. It was - he read a magazine article, I think it was, saying, hey, there's a commercial personal computer coming to market, and we've got to get on this as fast as we can. And so he actually wrote the first edition of the programming language that they would pair with, you know, one of the first commercially marketed PCs. And it just sort of took off from there.

KELLY: He never had the public profile or got the same recognition that Bill Gates did. And Allen left abruptly in the early '80s. At the time, that was chalked up to serious illness. But did his relationship with Gates play a role?

DAY: You know, he said it did. A number of years ago, when he was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, he worked to finish a memoir, "Idea Man," in which he did sort of detail some of the tension of his last year or two at the company. You know, he's a pretty soft-spoken guy. Gates was famously aggressive. I think there were some clashes there near the end of his tenure at Microsoft.

KELLY: Did he talk about whether he minded or not? Or was this - as you say, he was a soft-spoken guy - he didn't need the glory?

DAY: It's hard to say. I think he definitely felt that, you know, he didn't get the recognition that maybe he would have had he stayed around. You know, I think that there was some hurt feelings there.

KELLY: Post-Microsoft, he took on many roles, and I mentioned among them was philanthropist. He was left a multibillionaire from Microsoft. And I want to play a little bit from an interview with him. This is Paul Allen talking to NPR in 2004.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PAUL ALLEN: Science and space exploration and technology in general are really in my blood. And I just try to find things that either need to be done, should be done or where I can make a difference.

KELLY: Where he can make a difference. Matt Day, what kind of things was he focused on with his philanthropy?

DAY: Well, it's a real wide range. It's just a lot of stuff that he felt that it was only - he was in a position to do or he was in a unique position. It goes all the way from, you know, a number of institutes studying artificial intelligence and the brain to a campaign to count, essentially, all of the elephants in the wild on the continent of Africa. So it's just a really wide range of stuff that kind of reflects his eclectic interests.

KELLY: I noticed earlier today, before his death was announced, there was another announcement of a massive amount of money to help homeless and low-income families in Seattle. That issue was important to him as well.

DAY: Absolutely. And it's an issue that he's been pretty tied up in sort of with his business interests here. You know, since he's been a driving force by - in sort of a redevelopment of a key district in Seattle, it's now home to Amazon. All of this boom has come with a pretty big rise in homelessness. And so a couple years ago, Allen directed his team to see what they could do to help.

KELLY: That is reporter Matt Day of The Seattle Times talking about Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died today at the age of 65. Matt Day, thanks so much.

DAY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.