Dr Henry Edward Roberts

Dr Henry Edward Roberts has died at the age of 68. He was truly the father of home computing, the platform on which video gaming is based. His company was Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) and in January 1975 his $395 kit computer, the Altair 8800, appeared on the front cover of Popular Electronics. And the word exploded. They could not keep up with demand, cloned imitators appeared, new magazines were published and a young man wrote a version of the programming language BASIC to run on it. His name was Bill Gates.

The main feature of the architecture of this machine was a backplane bus that cards carrying components plugged into, called the S-100 bus, this became the standard for microcomputers until Apple came along. When I opened my computer store Microdigital, in 1978, we offered an S-100 machine.

It is now well over 30 years since the revolution that we now take for granted happened. It was created by individual people and it is sad that time is now catching up on them, what was real events is now rapidly becoming history.

2 comments ↓

#1 feingarden on 04.02.10 at 7:29 pm

Wow, a magazine cover from the days when electronics magazines were for people who could solder, and “consumer electronics” was still 15 years in the future. Remember when Radio Shack sold electronic components and not just cell phones and TVs? ;)

#2 docred on 04.02.10 at 8:47 pm

Ed Roberts was from an era when the meaning of the term ‘hacker’ did not mean someone who used canned code and hardware to do nasty things. He was from the pioneer age of personal computing, when the real hackers and hardcore computer techs could solder, add in hex in their heads, and if there was no disk IO interface for your hobby computer, you sat down and designed one :)

If you ever have the chance, read the book Hackers by Steven Levy. Roberts is featured in the second part of the book, right in the thick of things in the personal computer genesis. In tribute to those finger shredding switches on the front of the Altair :)

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