Ed Roberts played a seminal role in the early development of hobbyist microcomputers and personal computing. In 1974, his company, MITS, created a computer kit—called the Altair 8800—that became the most successful and influential computer of its time. This interview, by historian of computing David Greelish, took place in early 1995 at Roberts’ office in Cochran, Georgia. Roberts describes the founding of MITS as a model rocket electronics company he founded with two USAF friends which began manufacturing electronic calculators and then personal computers, in both kit and assembled form. The interview then covers the challenges in responding to thousands of unforeseen orders as the Altair sold far beyond projections due to a cover-story construction article in the hobbyist magazine Popular Electronics in January 1975. Roberts also describes the Altair 8800 “ecosystem”—that large network of people and companies who created add-on products for the computer. He concludes by discussing the end of MITS as a company and his later accomplishments, including becoming a medical doctor.
US Air Force; Mims, Forrest; MITS (Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems); Popular Electronics; Calculators; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Pertec; Intel 8080 (Microprocessor); Motorola 6800 (Microprocessor); Altair 8800 (Computer); Sphere; Mark-8; Gates, Bill; Allen, Paul; BASIC (Computer program language); Bunnell, Dave; International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)