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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Paul Allen ........Who?

Paul Allen is a personality who is not so much hyped about , I know many of you out there would disagree. But still I would like to present a little overview of his early life in this blog.

Paul Gardner Allen was born on January 21, 1953 at Mercer Island, Seattle, Washington, to Kenneth S. Allen, an associate director of the University of Washington libraries and Faye G. Allen. I found his middle name given as Gertrude in another web source.

Allen attended Lakeside School, a prestigious private school in Seattle and befriended Bill Gates, two years his junior but who shared a common enthusiasm for computers. Lakeside School then had only a single computer. Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and a few other Lakeside students (many of whom were the first programmers hired at Microsoft) immediately became inseparable from the computer and used up all the computer hours in no time. They would stay in the computer room all day and night, writing programs, reading computer literature and anything else they could to learn about computing. Soon Gates and the others started running into problems with the faculty. Their homework was being turned in late (if at all), they were skipping classes to be in the computer room and worst of all, they had used up all of the schools computer time in just a few weeks. Paul was then 14 years old while Bill was 12.

Allen and Gates and a small group of other Lakeside students began programming in BASIC, using a teletype terminal. In the fall of 1968, Computer Center Corporation opened for business in Seattle. It was offering computing time at good rates, and one of the chief programmers working for the corporation had a child attending Lakeside. A deal was struck between Lakeside Prep School and the Computer Center Corporation that allowed the school to continue providing it's students with computer time.Gates and his comrades immediately began exploring the contents of this new machine. It was not long before the young hackers started causing problems. They caused the system to crash several times and broke the computers security system. They even altered the files that recorded the amount of computer time they were using. They were caught and the Computer Center Corporation banned them from the system for several weeks.

Bill Gates, Paul Allen and, two other hackers from Lakeside formed the Lakeside Programmers Group in late 1968. They were determined to find a way to apply their computer skills in the real world. The first opportunity to do this was a direct result of their mischievous activity with the school's computer time. The Computer Center Corporation's business was beginning to suffer due to the systems weak security and the frequency that it crashed. Impressed with Gates and the other Lakeside computer addicts' previous assaults on their computer, the Computer Center Corporation decided to hire the students to find bugs and expose weaknesses in the computer system. In return for the Lakeside Programming Group's help, the Computer Center Corporation would give them unlimited computer time. The boys could not refuse. Gates was quoted as saying "It was when we got free time at C-cubed (Computer Center Corporation) that we really got into computers. I mean, then I became hardcore. It was day and night". Although the group was hired just to find bugs, they also read any computer related material that the day shift had left behind. The young hackers would even pick employees for new information. It was here that Gates and Allen really began to develop the talents that would lead to the formation of Microsoft seven years later.

After graduation, Allen attended Washington State University, though he dropped out after two years to pursue his dream of writing software commercially for the new "personal computers". Allen and Gates bought an Intel 8008 chip for $360 and build a computer to measure traffic. They launched their first company, Traf-O-Data. They produced a small computer which was used to help measure traffic flow. From the project they grossed around $20,000. The Traf-O-Data company lasted until Gates left for college. Meanwhile Allen was also hired as a programmer by Honeywell in Boston. He later convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard College and together they found Microsoft.

In December of 1974, Allen was on his way to visit Gates when along the way he stopped to browse the current magazines. What he saw changed his and Bill Gates's lives forever. On the cover of Popular Electronics was a picture of the Altair 8080 and the headline "World's First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models." He bought the issue and rushed over to Gates' dorm room. They both recognized this as their big opportunity. The two knew that the home computer market was about to explode and that someone would need to make software for the new machines. Within a few days, Gates had called MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems), the makers of the Altair. He told the company that he and Allen had developed a BASIC that could be used on the Altair. This was a lie. They had not even written a line of code. They had neither an Altair nor the chip that ran the computer. The MITS company did not know this and was very interested in seeing their BASIC. So, Gates and Allen began working feverishly on the BASIC they had promised. The code for the program was left mostly up to Bill Gates while Paul Allen began working on a way to simulate the Altair with the schools PDP-10. Eight weeks later, the two felt their program was ready. Allen was to fly to MITS and show off their creation. The day after Allen arrived at MITS, it was time to test their BASIC. Entering the program into the company's Altair was the first time Allen had ever touched one. If the Altair simulation he designed or any of Gates' code was faulty, the demonstration would most likely have ended in failure. This was not the case, and the program worked perfectly the first time. MITS arranged a deal with Gates and Allen to buy the rights to their BASIC. Gates was convinced that the software market had been born. Within a year, Bill Gates had dropped out of Harvard and Micro-Soft was formed.

This post has already become too voluminous. So the rest will be in the next post.

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