Much has been said and written about the partnership between Bill Gates and Paul Allen that gave rise to Microsoft and personal computing. This week, Gates added a personal stamp to the story, with a remembrance aimed at showing what he truly appreciated about his longtime friend.
In a speech at the Forbes Philanthropy Summit, Gates presented Allen with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for Philanthropy. On Friday, on his Gates Notes blog, he shared the remarks and photographs he used to honor Allen, who died last October at age 65.
“Paul Allen was one of the most intellectually curious people I’ve ever known,” Gates wrote. “Ever since we were kids, he seemed to be interested in just about everything.”
From there, Gates laid out a number of traits and experiences which demonstrated what he loved about Allen — including Allen’s ability to play “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix.
“Paul was cooler than I was … I wasn’t experienced at much of anything back then,” Gates said.
In the spirit of the honor, Gates touched on the philosophy behind Allen’s giving, which included a wide range of issues that appear unrelated at first glance: preventing elephant poaching; improving ocean health; promoting smart cities; funding new housing for the homeless and arts education in the Puget Sound region; supporting research into the polio virus and efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; studying artificial intelligence.
“If you knew him, the logic in Paul’s portfolio is easy to see,” Gates said. “He gave to the things that he was most interested in, and to the places where he thought he could have the most impact.”
Gates shared an image of himself and Allen as kids, working on a teletype terminal that they were obsessed with. He talked about their shared love for books and Allen’s appetite for science fiction that Gates said put his own “to shame.” He detailed Allen’s understanding of microprocessors, Allen’s vision for software and the early days of Microsoft.
Gates said that after Allen left Microsoft, he explored his interests in “a way that only Paul could,” and mentioned his purchase of two sports franchises, the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks.
But Allen’s most lasting impact in Gates’ eyes is the Allen Institute — a place to push the boundaries of science long after Allen was gone.
“I wish Paul had gotten to see all of the good his generosity will do,:” Gates said. “He was one of the most thoughtful, brilliant, and curious people I’ve ever met. He deserved so much more time than he got — although no one can say his wasn’t a life well-lived.”