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Ed Roberts, developer of MITS Altair 8800 computer, dies at 68

Roberts

Ed Roberts, an engineer who helped develop a precursor to the modern personal computer, died Thursday in Georgia after several months of battling pneumonia, his son David said. He was 68.

Roberts was best known for developing and marketing the MITS Altair 8800 in the 1970s.

The build-it-yourself kit was operated by switches and had no display screen initially, but it inspired Bill Gates and his childhood friend Paul Allen to found Microsoft in 1975 after they saw an article about the Altair in Popular Mechanics. Gates and Allen founded Microsoft in Albuquerque to be based near MITS' headquarters.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Ed Roberts poses with the Altair 8800 computer in 1997. Credit: Associated Press / Atlanta Journal Constitution, William Berry


 
 
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I wish I could claim the Popular Mechanics article on the Altair as Microsoft's inspiration--I wrote it--but Gates was already at MITS when I arrived to research the story. The article that inspired Gates and Allen was probably the cover story on the Altair in Popular Electronics, some months earlier. I believe Bill Gates Sr. was the source of this error, in a TV interview.

Ivan Berger,
Fanwood NJ

The Associated Press later sent a correction saying it was Popular Electronics, not Popular Mechanics. The correct magazine was cited in the complete obituary that ran in the print edition and here:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-me-ed-roberts2-2010apr02,0,3043584.story
Thanks for your comment.


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