Altair 8800

Altair 8800The January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics Magazine goes on sale days before Christmas 1974, with its cover article heralding the arrival of the MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer. The first open-architecture microcomputer, the Altair is available in kit form or fully assembled, with 4K of RAM built around an Intel 8080 processor. Expecting to sell a few hundred kits, MITS founder Ed Roberts finds himself flooded with so many orders that he has to hire additional workers to start catching up with the backlog of purchases, with the time from order to delivery stretching into months. This is the beginning of the modern computer revolution, with companies other than MITS producing peripherals and software for the Altair. The most notable of these third-party vendors is a newly-formed company called Microsoft – a two-man operation founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen – which produces a working version of the BASIC language for the Altair.