Triumph of the Nerds

 He’s been touted as the “Pharaoh of the Pacific Northwest” for his renovation of South Lake Union in Seattle, and listed among Time Magazine’s Most Influential for two years running. He owns 3 major league sports teams, and has left big footprints in several industries, including computers, medicine and space travel. And yet Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen has been described as a down-to-earth, regular guy—“the nicest billionaire you’ll ever meet.”


But just in case you never do meet him, you can still see that “Regular Guy” side of Allen via a few videos that have been floating around the Internet lately.


Check it out:

1) Shaq Attack:

Basketball phenom Shaquille O’Neal recovers gracefully from a tumble into the stands by shaking the hand of Trail Blazers owner, Paul Allen.


2) High Five:

A Seahawks win has owner Paul Allen and fans in a very good mood. Check out this video of Allen high-fiving Seattle Seahawks fans as he walks off the field.


3) Twice Bitten:

Here Paul Allen is a good sport as he is attacked by a “vampire” while chatting with a comely news reporter about Gwen Stefani and technology.


4) Cannes Hello:

Here is a video of Allen in Cannes, France, coming ashore from a trip aboard one of his megayachts, Tatoosh. His lovely home in St. Jean Cap-Ferrat, called Villa Maryland,  was a hangout for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt during the 61st Cannes Film Festival last summer.


5) Blazers Workout:

Here is Paul Allen again after a Blazers workout, chatting about chatting with some dynamic new potential players from France — in French, no less.


6) Blazers Press Conference:

And here he is again talking about his favorite basketball team.



 7) Beard or No Beard?

 Here is Paul Allen joking around with Bill Gates as the famous photo from 1978 is retaken 30 years later: (2:30 minutes into the program):


(From BBC’s “The Money Programme: Bill Gates: How a Geek Changed the World.” (Part 2)


8 ) A Computer on Every Desk:


And here he is talking about the realization of the dream that he and Bill Gates had of putting a computer in every home and on every desk:


9) Best Computer History Video of All Time:

If you haven’t seen Robert Cringley’s “Triumph of the Nerds,” in which many of the pioneers of the computer industry, including Paul Allen, were featured, you’ve got to check it out. Here is one place where you can find it :


10) Jamming with Friends:

Finally, here are a few of my favorites—-Paul Allen performing in concert through the years, just being a regular guy, having a good time and playing some pretty decent guitar rifts besides!


Here he is hamming it up with his band:


And here is a bearded version of Paul Allen in 1995, having a great time performing with some good friends:

So maybe this post isn’t “Evri”-thing you wanted to know about Paul Allen—

in fact, you can find that here:


But it’s still fun to see Allen in candid mode. :-)_________________________________________________________________________________

BTW—I know I’ve been away for awhile.

I’ve been a little sidetracked lately, doing some serious cyberspace exploration with my mini-pc, a Flipstart, and I’ve been having just too much fun with it to stop by.   But I’ll be back soon, I promise, with more six degrees connections, and a list of cool sites and other things I’ve discovered lately along the way.

Stay tuned…..

So what is Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen’s connection to Life, the Universe and Everything?  

Well, to begin with, it’s not through “Life Itself” although he is linked to the author of a book by that name.*1 See…  
And it’s not through the Universe, although Paul Allen built a spaceship (and launched an industry) in order to traverse it. *2

    And it’s not even through “Everything,” although Alanis Morissette was one of the artists who opened Paul Allen’s music museum, the Experience Music Project in June of 2000.   

So what’s the connection? Perhaps the best way to answer the second question is to start with the first. So:  Q: What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?  A:  (To quote Google Calculator:) 


The answer to life, the universe and everything = 42

    More about calculator.,_the_Universe,_and_Everything

 42—-The answer to life, the universe and everything—comes from Douglas Adam’s series, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” In the story, a “simple answer” to the Ultimate Question is requested from the computer “Deep Thought,” which was specially designed for this very purpose.  After 7 ½ million years and much anticipation, the computer arrives at its disappointing conclusion— “42.”


“Forty two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”

“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.” [2] ( from Wikipedia)  

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy began as a BBC Radio 4 series which first aired in March of 1978. The story has since been transformed into a series of best selling novels, a TV series, a record album and computer game and several stage adaptations, including a movie which was released in 2005.   

So what is Paul Allen’s connection to Life, the Universe and Everything?

Let’s start with Allen’s connection to the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.  Paul Allen is connected to writer Douglas Adams, who was sometimes affectionately referred to as “DNA,” because Adams and Allen were both portrayed in the movie “Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires.” See…   and  and   

Douglas Adams also worked on Monte Python’s Flying Circus with Eric Idle, who has been a guest at Paul Allen’s parties. See… 

And through the Hitchhiker movie, Paul Allen is also connected to Kevin Bacon—-

(through John Malkovich, who starred in Hitchhiker as well as “Queen’s Logic” with Kevin Bacon)


to Scarlett Johansson, of  The Perfect Score—–

 (through Hitchhiker’s Zooey Deschanel).

See this Gap commercial: 

 Finally, “Deep Thought,” the computer that took 7 ½ million years to come up with the answer “42” from the movie, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” has an IBM counterpart by the same name that plays a mean game of chess. 


  According to Wikipedia,   IBM’s “Deep Thought” was named after Douglas Adam’s fictional AI computer.    (And IBM is linked to Paul Allen because IBM played a key role in the history of Microsoft’s rise to fame. See… )   

Paul Allen has invested in his own kind of “Deep Thought” computer—the  “Digital Aristotle” — “an application capable of answering novel questions and solving advanced problems in a wide range of scientific disciplines.” 

Whether Allen’s Digital Aristotle will come up with a better answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything” than “Deep Thought” did remains to be seen. J *2.5  

But since “the answer” is 42, then maybe the real question is this: 

How is Paul Allen connected to the number 42?   

Well, let’s see… 

Star Trek, Production #42  “The Trouble with Tribbles,” was written by David Gerrold, an award-winning science fiction writer who started his career in 1966 as a college student by submitting an unsolicited story outline for the television series, Star Trek. He was invited to submit several premises, and the one chosen by Star Trek was filmed as “The Trouble with Tribbles.” (from Wikipedia)     Gerrold is a featured sci fi writer at Paul Allen’s Science Fiction Museum in Seattle, Washington. 

Jupiter 42  Paul Allen’s friend, Gina Gershon, starred in the little known animated series “Tripping the Rift” about 5 misfits who live on the starship Jupiter 42.  


Vertigo 42   And Vertigo42, in the building Tower 42 in London, England (pictured on an episode of the BBC Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy)   is an exclusive London hotspot. Equally hot and exclusive is Paul Allen and Dave Stewart’s Hospital, which opened in Covent Garden in the same city just a few years ago.  The Hospital website     Tower 42 (Vertigo 42)

  42 years ago,     In 1965, Paul Allen’s parents enrolled him in the seventh grade at Lakeside school, where he met lifelong friend and future business partner, Bill Gates and began his life-changing fascination with computers. 

42 Canines:    Allen’s family show dog, Keira, had 42 teeth.

(No, I didn’t count….. 🙂   See.. 


BTW, why 42?

All sorts of theories have been floating around about it, but according to Douglas Adams himself,

           The answer to this is very simple.  It was a joke.  It had to be
        a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that
        one.  Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are
        all complete nonsense.  I sat at my desk, stared into the
        garden and thought `42 will do'.  I typed it out.  End of


So those are the answers……but, while we’re on the subject, what about Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen’s connection to Life IN the Universe (and everything…)? 

Funny you should ask, because a week or so ago, Allen and SETI unveiled the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California.  The ATA is a giant array of telescopes designed to explore the heavens in search of natural and unnatural phenomena in the universe.

From The New York Times:*3

”When the Allen Telescope Array, as it is known, is complete, it will consist of 350 antennas, each 20 feet, or 6 meters, in diameter. Using the separate antennas as if they were one giant dish, radio astronomers will be able to map vast regions of the sky cheaply and efficiently. The array will help search for new phenomena like black holes eating each other and so-called dark galaxies without stars, as well as extend the search for extraterrestrial radio signals a thousandfold, to include a million nearby stars over the next two decades. On Thursday, 42 of the antennas, mass-produced from molds and employing inexpensive telecommunications technology, were to go into operation.    “It’s like cutting the ribbon on the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria,” said Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the Seti Institute in Mountain View, California, who pointed out that this was the first radio telescope ever designed specifically for the extraterrestrial quest. The telescope, named for Paul Allen, who provided $25 million in seed money, is a joint project of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Seti Institute.

“If they do find something, they’re going to call me up first and say we have a signal,” Allen said in an interview, adding, “So far the phone hasn’t rung.” Describing himself as “a child of the ’50s, the golden age of space exploration and science fiction,” Allen, a founder of Microsoft, said he first got interested in supporting the search for extraterrestrial intelligence after a conversation 12 years ago with Carl Sagan, the Cornell University astronomer and exuberant proponent of cosmic wonder. When the idea later arose to build a telescope array on the cheap, using off-the-shelf satellite dish technology and advanced digital signal processing, Allen was intrigued. “If you know anything about me,” he said, “you know I’m a real enthusiast for new unconventional approaches to things.” *3


Over and over again you can see that Paul Allen has a soft spot for the impossible dream, the quixotic quest, the science project that crosses the boundaries of current possibility.

Whether it’s saving a football team or an old theater where he used to see 2001 A Space Odyssey, or building a space ship to reach the stars, Allen rescues the underdog, tilts at windmills and sometimes ends up with the last laugh on projects that started out with a giggle factor.


 Inspired by his love of science fiction (Allen also founded a Science Fiction Museum in Seattle) and SETI enthusiasts such as Arthur C. Clarke, Allen became involved in supporting SETI when his friend Carl Sagan asked him to help keep the SETI program alive after the Government decided to stop funding it. In 2001 he joined with the University of California, Berkeley, and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute to install a set of 42 dish antennas in Hat Creek, California.    On October 11, the first phase of the ATA was put into operation.


From Time Magazine:*4

“The so-called Allen Telescope Array (ATA), which was scheduled to go live on Oct. 11, does what conventional radio telescopes do.  That is to say, it listens to the faint whisper of radio signals from celestial objects like quasars, which make up the collective voice of the universe.  But the ATA can listen on a private line too—the one on which suspiciously regular pulses emanating from the vicinity of sunlike stars would be carried. That’s how our broadcasts would sound to beings out there, and that’s how their broadcasts—if they exist—would sound to us.”*4

   Which leaves us with the question…. Is there really intelligent life out there in the Universe?  

 According to Paul Allen….  “It’s the longshot of longshots, but if we did hear a signal from another civilization, that would be world-changing.” *5 

  In any case, if there isn’t life somewhere out there in the incredibly vast, seemingly illimitable universe, then, to quote Ellie Arroway from the movie, “Contact,”   “…it’s an awful waste of space.”



One final thing——

In case you missed it, when Paul Allen flipped the switch on the Allen Telescope Array on October 11, 2007, guess how many of the 350  20ft radio telescopes were activated?

 42, of course…… J

Stay tuned for more 6 degrees connections…. 



Footnotes:*1 Sir Francis Crick, author of “Life Itself.” co-discovered the Double Helix
in 1953, (the year Paul Allen was born), with scientist James Watson.

Watson  is a friend of Paul Allen’s.   Not only was he a guest at Allen’s St. Petersburg party, but he is also currently a Senior Advisor for Paul Allen’s Institute for Brain Science. ,  

* 2. NASA is asking the same questions…   (NASA Seeks Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything June 2, 05, news service Jeff Hecht)

*2.25 Adams, who died unexpectedly in 2001, was well-loved by his fans.   See…  Htichhiker’s guide review   

*2.5 Perhaps some of Allen’s latest web intelligence Ventures, including Twine or Hypertext Solutions, could do better as well ….:-)

  *3 “New telescope array to listen to the universe for signs of life”
By Dennis Overbye The New York Times
Thursday, October 11, 2007

*4.   Time Magazine online  “Looking Up” by Jeffrey Kluger and Michael D. Lemonick ,9171,1670525,00.html

Excerpt from Time article:  “I’m someone who likes to invent what the future of science and technology looks like,” Allen says. Grandiose maybe, except that he and a Seattle school pal did that once before. The ATA could grow to 350 dishes, but it may not have to. If it gets us asking questions that go beyond the usual noise of the news, it has done its job even before its switch is thrown.”

*5.  Seattle Times “Allen’s Newest Venture for a Galaxy Far, Far Away” 



Everything you wanted to know about SETI but were afraid to ask….  

 Paul Allen’s Interview last week with Boing Boing…….

SETI webcam:

SETI webcam, Alternate View:

 (Just kidding—this is a clip from the movie, “Contact.” J)


Youtube Tutorial on SETI—great 6 part video 

1)  Edna Devore (2) Space Suits Space Craft Images (3)  Thomas Pierson (4) (CEO–SETI) Jill Tartar  Frank Drake (5) Darwin and Orchids  The Drake Equation (6)_   


 SETI History:  `Hello, Is Anyone Out There?’ Congress Thinks Not
Source: Morning Edition (NPR)
Date: 2/25/1994

Allen Telescope Array (early stages)

From a 2004 article about SETI: The ATA will be a general-purpose radio telescope that will provide fundamentally new measurements and insights into the density of the very early universe, the formation of stars, the magnetic fields in the interstellar medium, and a host of other applications of deep interest to astronomers. At the same time, this 21st Century radio telescope will also have the capability to search for possible signals from technologically advanced civilizations elsewhere in the galaxy.    Paul Allen: “I am very excited to be supporting one of the world’s most visionary efforts to seek basic answers to some of the fundamental questions about our universe and what other civilizations may exist elsewhere,” said Allen. “I am a big proponent of leveraging revolutionary technology and design and applying it to important problems in science. The developments taking place with this new instrument will not only enables us to realize a lot of bang for our research and development buck, but it will also change the landscape of how telescopes will be built in the future. An instrument of this magnitude, which will result in the expansion of our understanding of how the universe was formed, and how it has evolved, and our place therein, is the reason I am the primary supporter of its development, design and construction.”  


Some Great Links on the ATA:,9171,1670525,00.html

 Miscellaneous: Carl Sagan on Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence   Search for Life on other planets DYI channel
Hat Creek home video