Ed Roberts, PC Pioneer

The creator of the Altair 8800 died on this day. There’s a nice post by Bill Gates and Paul Allen paying respect to his legacy. As they say, he wasn’t as well known or respected as he should have been, but he was the one who proved that a home PC was possible, and I suspect his efforts gave us all the computers we (for the most part) enjoy 5 years earlier. Certainly without him there’s a good chance that Microsoft would have never existed.

His history is quite interesting; his starting point was a his model rocket hobby. He formed the company MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) initially making guidance systems, then calculators when they sold badly. These were a vast success until TI (Texas Instruments) started muscling in forcing him to think of a new product. The Altair was it. Such small beginnings resulted in such a important creation.

Thus it should be hardly surprising, yet still interesting, to note that when MITS was at probably it’s most successful he grew tired of it all, sold up and after a few years he retrained (at 41) and became a doctor in a small town.