Answers to The Six Degrees of Paul Allen Anniversary Contest 

 So the prizes didn’t jazz you, eh? C’mon, how many people do you know who have a Darth Vader Jump Drive? Oh well, I had to choose between giving out a Star Wars USB Drive or a new Xbox 360 Elite, and I knew that no one would want one of those, so….:-)

(But seriously, you might want to check out Dynamism’s site.  There are a few really cool items for sale including some sharp-looking futuristic sunglasses that double as a 50-inch plasma screen T.V. when connected to your video Ipod—well, something that feels like a 50-inch screen T.V., anyway—the “I-Theater” sunglasses are actually small enough to fold up and put in your pocket!   Or you could check out the  iTech Bluetooth Laser Virtual Keyboard –why lug around a real keyboard when you can flash a virtual lighted keyboard and type on just about  anything? (see… and   ). Pretty cutting edge stuff, you know?  

 But anyway—let’s get back to the contest ….. I know you’re just dying to know the answers, so here they are!  


(1) MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) of Albuquerque, N.M. announced “The World’s First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models,” the Altair 8800 PC, on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. Shortly afterwards, a couple of guys called MITS’ owner Ed Roberts and told him that they had a BASIC interpreter for his computer, the Altair.  One of them later went out to meet with Roberts, discovering on the plane that he and his partners had forgotten to write the loader for the program! He hastily finished writing the loader as he flew in to New Mexico and demonstrated the completed program, BASIC, at MITS headquarters to Ed Roberts and his staff. Fortunately the program worked, and Robert hired him as MITS Director of Software Development.  Who was he?  

Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.  Also— See Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews’ biography, “Gates; How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry—and Made Himself the Richest Man in America” pp.68—76. 

The story goes something like this…. Paul Allen and Bill Gates were friends who had worked with computers since high school. They had been following the development of microprocessors, and knew that they had tremendous potential.  One day Allen was walking across Harvard Square when he saw the headline of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics—“World’s First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models”—with a photo of an Altair computer on the cover.  

He knew that this was what he and Bill Gates, then a Harvard student,  were waiting for. The Altair was a computer with limited capabilities and no software—yet at the time it was a breakthrough machine—-other mainframe computers of the day were huge, expensive refrigerator-like contraptions—and here hobbyists had the exciting opportunity to own their own, affordable PC!  For 1975 it was like something out of a science fiction novel. 

Allen and Gates had never seen an Altair, but had designed a simulator for another business they had started together called Trafodata.  They knew it was possible, then, to design a software program for the Altair on a large PDP-10 computer.  Harvard just happened to have one of those, and Paul Allen took on the task of designing a simulator for the program they would be writing for the Altair. Bill Gates then started designing the Basic programming language itself. A third friend from Harvard, Monte Davidoff, worked on the math routines for the program.

Tall and bearded, Allen was the oldest-looking person in the group, so he was chosen to meet with MITS Director,  Ed Roberts to demonstrate the program the guys had invented. When Allen arrived at the Albuquerque airport, he expected to meet a professional in a business suit. But MITS director Ed Roberts was instead an earthy-looking guy who arrived in a pickup truck. Roberts’ company, MITS, was located in a dusty strip mall that also housed an office supply shop and a massage parlor. It was not exactly the Ritz. But Allen was not the only one who was surprised. Roberts was equally disconcerted when the software professional who was listed on Trafodata letterhead as  “President” of the company could not even afford the cost of an overnight stay at a local hotel!  Nonetheless, the next day, when the Altair had passed all of its memory tests and was ready for Allen’s program, the software that Allen and Gates wrote for the computer actually worked!

 Paul Allen returned home to greet his friend Bill Gates with a brand new Altair computer provided by MITS and a new title, “Vice President and Director of Software at MITS.”  

(2) The Rose Garden Arena, located at One Center Court in Portland, Oregon, opened its doors on October 12, 1995. The stadium, which is often used for concerts and other events, is the home of Portland’s professional basketball team, the Portland Trail Blazers. The guy who originally footed most of the $262 bill for the stadium also currently owns the Portland Trail Blazers. What is his name? 

 Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.  Allen purchased the Portland Trailblazers from Larry Weinberg in 1988 for $70 million dollars. The team was his first major purchase since Microsoft went public in 1986, and his first purchase of a professional sports team (though it wouldn’t be the last).  The team is still a favorite with Allen, who recently spent millions of dollars on new players this year in order to give the Blazers a winning edge in the upcoming season. 

 (3)  Seven tug boat crew members were plucked from icy seas off Port Alfred a couple of days ago in a dramatic sea rescue involving the luxury super yacht, the 414ft. Octopus. The maritime drama started at around 2pm on 8/23/07 when the tug boat, called Douala Tide, mysteriously sank 31 nautical miles off Port Alfred in heavy seas. The Octopus was one of the first ships on the scene and managed to rescue seven crew members of the tug. Who owns the Octopus?  

Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.  Allen owns the megayacht Octopus, which was at one time the largest privately owned yacht in the world. Allen was reportedly not on board at the time of the rescue but the crew members of his ship were the heroes of the day when they saved the lives of seven people during a violent storm near Port Alfred, South Africa. The 414 ft yacht crew responded to a distress call that was sent out to whomever was nearby, and Allen’s ship was large enough to withstand seas so heavy that rescue teams could not come close to the area  for several hours. 

 (4) The Seattle Seahawks football team was purchased in 1988 by real estate developer Ken Behring.  Eight years later, when Behring decided that he wanted to move the team to Los Angeles— much to the chagrin of Seahawks fans—another guy stepped in and eventually bought the team, thereby keeping it in Seattle. (For fun, check out this article from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer written in 1996: “SOS: Seahawks Mess Not About You” by Laura Vecsey. ( )  In 2002 the new owner helped build a new stadium in Seattle for the team called Qwest Field. In 2006, this same owner took the Seahawks to SuperBowl XL. Who was he? 

 Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.  If you have a chance, read Laura Vecsey’s editorial (above), written at a time when saving the Seahawks and keeping them in Seattle was a Quixotic dream held by a few  diehard fans. In 1996, SOS—the Save Our Seahawks group  who showed up to meet the players on their expectedly brief return to Seattle—were thought of as the “poor betrayed fans, who go down fighting like Don Quixote against the windmill.”    Enter Seattle’s Clark Kent, Paul Allen.   Although Allen’s father played football, Allen bought the team before he became an avid football fan, more than anything else as a favor to his hometown. The postscript for this story is that Allen purchased the Seahawks and then helped to build a stadium, eventually taking the team to the Superbowl. Check out this video of Allen raising the 12th Man flag at the NFC championship game the year the Seahawks went to the Superbowl. As Paul Allen appeared before a packed stadium crowd at that game, the marquee flashed “He Saved Our Seahawks” and the fans cheered so loudly that it shook Qwest Field Arena.  What a moment! 

(5)  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. The Foundation was established in the year 2000 and is dedicated to “bringing innovations in health and learning to the global community.”   Who founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? 

 Answer: Bill and Melinda Gates. 


What the Gates’ are doing is truly heroic. See this excerpt from Time Magazine:  

“Every year malaria kills 1 million people—most of them African children under age 5. When Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, 50, and his wife Melinda, 41, were looking for ways to give away their prodigious wealth, they assumed that such monumental problems were being worked on. Instead, Melinda says, they found a “vacuum that does need to be stepped into.” Step they did: the Gates Foundation now provides more than a third of the world’s entire malaria-research funding, and it’s paying off. The most effective drug to treat the disease, naturally occurring artemisinin, is in devastatingly short supply. But last month Gates-funded scientists announced that they had created the technology to manufacture artemisinic acid synthetically. Within five years, the cost of a lifesaving supply is expected to drop from $2.40 to 25 cents. Lead researcher Jay Keasling says it would not have been possible without a $43 million Gates grant. “I had companies call me and say, ‘This is great, but we can’t give you any money. We can’t make a profit on this,'” he says. But even if millions are saved from malaria, there will be more diseases and more death. The Gateses’ most profound influence has been to change expectations. Their belief that every life should have equal value, backed by their $29 billion endowment in the foundation, has injected hope not only into global health but also into their other priorities: public education, public libraries and at-risk families. The couple demands from grantees the same relentless focus on results expected of Microsoft employees and takes away the classic excuse for failure: not enough money. They have inspired others—from medical students, who are entering global-health fields in unprecedented numbers, to governments, which are putting billions into Gates initiatives. Says Jimmy Carter: “This is the most important foundation in the world.” 

(6) This famous photo, taken in 1978, depicts the early Microsoft crew. 

See…  One of the co-founders, a young looking guy with blonde hair is seated on the far lower left of the photo. His co-founder is seated on the far lower right sporting a beard and long hair.  Who is the co-founder seated on the right in this picture?  

 Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.   Often this photo is depicted with the caption: “Would you have invested?” These 11 early Microsoft employees look more like they belonged in a commune than as a part of one of the most successful companies of all time.  But behind the long hair and beards were the people who laid the foundation for the founders’ vision of  a “computer on every desk and in every home all running Microsoft software.”  

(7) Vulcan Productions (,  an independent film company, has produced a number of movies since it was founded including the Emmy winning documentary, PBS’ “Rx For Survival” and the Peabody Award winning “Black Sky,” a documentary about SpaceShipOne, the spaceship that won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004. Who is the Chairman of Vulcan Productions?  

Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen (are you beginning to see a pattern here :-)???


(8)  This computer mogul is also a rock musician who has performed with numerous musicians including Dave Stewart, Dan Aykroyd, Carlos Santana, Little Feat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mick Jagger and Peter Gabriel.  In 1999 he cut an album with his rock band, Grown Men.  On the album, special thanks were given to Dave Stewart, Peter Gabriel, Dan Aykroyd and the crews of the Meduse and the Charade,  two megayachts that this guy owned at the time.  He most recently performed with Spinal Tap at former Vice President Al Gore’s Live Earth Concert at Wembley Stadium in London. Who is he? 

 Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.


Paul on guitar

Paul Performing at the Recent Live Earth ConcertScroll sideways to video #58 Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” (You’ll have to wait a moment for the menu to appear—there’s a commercial that appears first. The menu is on the left…..”play clip” segment 57-63.) and

Paul’s “Grown Men” Rock Band Site: 

(9) This tech wizard is connected within six degrees to a number of famous people including Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, Princess Grace Kelly, photographer Annie Leibovitz, writers Truman Capote, Ian Fleming, John Steinbeck and Mark Twain, President Franklin Pierce, artists Georgia O’Keefe and Pablo Picasso, statesman Nelson Mandela and his Council of Elders, Former President Bill Clinton, scientists Carl Sagan and James Watson, musician Paul McCartney, director Martin Scorsese and actors Tom Hanks, Eric Idle and Scarlett Johansson—of The Perfect Score.  What is his name? (Hint: he wrote PC BASIC).  

Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen. (See previous posts of this blog)  

(10) In 1999, Seattle P-I’s movie critic William Arnold wrote this article about the revival of a nearly demolished theater in Seattle called the Cinerama. Fill in the name of the person he’s talking about at the end of the quote–( eg. Who saved the Cinerama?): 

“It may sound like shameless hype, but there’s no other way to say this: the survival and restoration of Seattle’s Cinerama Theater in the late 1990s is simply one of the greatest success stories in the whole checkered history of movie theater preservation in America. When the theater’s 35-year lease ran out in March 1997, no exhibitor was even vaguely interested in the once-luxurious movie showcase at Fourth Avenue and Lenora Street. The Seattle media wrote its obituary, and no sane observer gave the naive, grass-roots “Save-the- Cinerama” campaign the slightest chance of success. But two years later, the Cinerama is not only still standing, it’s undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation, and will reopen April 23 as the most technologically advanced, state-of-the-art cinema, not just in Seattle and the Northwest, but arguably on the entire planet.  A year ago, in what was supposed to be the Cinerama’s final week, I took a last, sad tour of the long-neglected facility — cringing at the water-damaged walls, crumbling screen, broken seats and dilapidated fixtures that seemed almost beyond repair. Late last month, I wandered through the same space and found it had been not just lovingly restored to its full 1963 glory, but transformed into a kind of nirvana for movie lovers — a theater so chock-full of extras and innovations that it’s hard to list them all……….”   See…

Answer: Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen.

The story of the Cinerama goes like this: (Excerpt from… “Eight Ways to Save a Cinema” by Lisa Gray, Houston Chronicle)

”In the late ’90s, Paul Allen was renting a video when he saw a petition
to save Seattle’s Cinerama Theatre from being razed to make way for
downtown development. The Microsoft mogul remembered the theater from its 1960s
heyday, and he loved its giant screen. He signed the petition.

And then — you see where this is going — he bought that whole block
of Seattle, including the theater. Through his holding company, he spent
millions of dollars to restore the Cinerama to its groovy glory, complete
with retro mohair seats. At the same time, he updated the
single-screen, 808-seat theater for the digital age, making it one of the highest-tech
movie theaters in the world.
Allen hooked up with AMC Theatres, and the Cinerama now operates as a
first-run movie house, the kind of place where people line up to see
Snakes on a Plane. Seattle Weekly readers regularly vote it the city’s best

Does Allen think he’ll make his money back? Jason Hunke, Allen’s
spokesman, says the theater operates at a profit and the mogul may develop an
empty parking lot next door. But Allen’s investment was about saving the
theater, not about wringing the maximum return on his money.  The Cinerama, Hunke
says, “is his gift to the city.” 

Seattle’s Clark Kent strikes again!!!


So those are the answers to the Six Degrees of Paul Allen Anniversary Quiz!  When it all comes down to it, this was not such a hard test after all, was it? 🙂  

 Now to start on this next year’s Six Degrees links to Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen, including Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, architect Frank Gehry, the Antikythera Mechanism and The Earl of Sandwich…..Stay Tuned!   (In the meantime, “Darth” and I will be going…..:-)