The Altair 8800 from MITS (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems) was the “World’s first personal computer.” That is, the world’s first commercially successful, mass-produced personal computer. It established creator Ed Roberts as the “Father of the microcomputer” and Albuquerque, New Mexico as its birthplace. There were a few other earlier machines available in very limited numbers, but none of them came as a complete kit or fully assembled and tested as the Altair was.
Ed was one of the co-founders of MITS, along with key employee Forrest M. Mims III. The company was originally formed to sell electronic kits for model rockets. Later Ed bought out two other partners when he decided to go into the calculator kit market and they didn’t. By 1973, MITS sold over $1 million in calculators a year, but by mid-1974, competition from the Japanese with cheap calculators had the company in over $300,000 of debt. MITS needed another key product. There was a project rivalry between Radio-Electronics magazine and Popular Electronics, and R-E had published an article on a computer kit called the Intel 8008 processor based “Mark-8.” Ed decided that his company would create a computer based on the more power Intel 8080 and have it ready for a January 1975 issue of PE.
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