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Steve E

Inventor of the personal computer dies at 68

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H. Edward Roberts is dead. Arguably, he had more to do with the creation of the personal computer than any other single man. The king is dead. Long may he, and the MITS Altair, live in our memories.

 

R.I.P

 

Homework assignment: Anyone remember why it was called the Altair?

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That's sad. :P

 

Why was it called the Altair?

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That's sad. :P

 

Why was it called the Altair?

I'm so glad you asked.

(Sit back, relax, take your shoes off. Thoth is going into lecture mode. Ahem...)

 

The world’s first commercially successful personal computer was the Altair 8800 (by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems: MITS).

 

This unit was sold as a $400 kit in 1975. It was built around the Intel 8080 microprocessor and originally had no peripheral devices (e.g., neither monitor nor keyboard) and no connections for them. Nor did it originally come with an operating system or software of any kind. But this very lack of features helped to inspire what would become the personal computer industry.

 

The MITS Altair was created, named and marketed by H. Edward Roberts. Its model number was inspired by the Intel 8080 chip and the 8-bit bus architecture it is built around. The name “Altair” comes from the bright, double star of the same name, which is Arabic for “the flying one.” Its constellation, “Aquila,” is Latin for “eagle”. This is likely to have inspired the former U.S. Air Force officer — although some see more than a hint of influence from the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet” (Altair IV is the featured planet) and the Star Trek episode “Amok Time,” first aired 9/15/67 (Altair VI is mentioned but not visited). I think it's interesting how the Star Trek universe, which relies so heavily on computers, predates the personal computer.

 

In the interest of fairness I should mention that the Altair was introduced on the cover of the January, 1975 issue of Popular Electronics but the commercially unsuccessful Mark-8, designed by J. A. Titus, was introduced on the July, 1974 cover of Radio-Electronics. Some think that Titus should have been dubbed the father of the PC. Sales figures do seem to matter to history.

 

Class dismissed.

- Thoth.

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If I had a new iPad to test.... I would have taken notes. :)

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If I had a new iPad to test.... I would have taken notes. :)

This post isn't going anywhere.

I can wait.

:)

-Thoth

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