Paul Allen helps launch computer museum

/ Source: The Associated Press

Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, in a nod to the city where he got his start, is helping launch a museum gallery devoted to the history of computing.

The project at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science will create a $5 million permanent gallery dedicated to microcomputers and software innovations, museum officials said.

The natural history museum gallery primarily will be funded by Allen, but the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also committed $1 million.  The gallery is expected to open in 2006.

Allen and Gates lived in Albuquerque when they started a small software company in 1975 that grew into Microsoft.  They moved the company 25 years ago to Redmond, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, where they grew up.

"Paul's wanted to do something for years and years to give back to the community of Albuquerque," said spokesman Jason Hunke, who said Allen "spent some really formative years" in the city.  "He's always wanted to recognize those early roots both in a way that was meaningful to his story ... but also that really recognized what was happening in Albuquerque at the time, which was bigger than just Microsoft."

The gallery will include exhibits related to Microsoft, although Hunke said it's not meant to be a Microsoft museum.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

Exhibits will cover such things as Allen and Gates writing the first programming language for the Altair computer, the machine credited with starting the personal computer revolution.  The Altair was created by Albuquerque-based MITS, which drew Allen and Gates to the city in the first place.  The gallery also is expected to cover key developments by companies such as Apple and IBM.

Allen, who left Microsoft in 1983, is a major investor and philanthropist who, with an estimated $20 billion fortune, is the third-richest person on the recently released Forbes Magazine list of America's wealthiest people.  His business activities include investment in Hollywood's DreamWorks SKG and ownership of the Seattle Seahawks football team and the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team.

He has done other museum projects.  He founded the $240 million Experience Music Project in Seattle, which opened in 2000, and this summer opened the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in a wing of EMP.