Altair 8800 Goes on Sale; Inspires PC Era

PE_Jan_1975_CoverDecember 19, 1974

Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, otherwise known as MITS, begins selling the Altair 8800 microcomputer kit. As the base computer used toggle switches for input and LEDs for output, it was far from a personal computer as we know it today. However, it is one of the most important computers in history, for it inspired the first generation of entrepreneurs that created the personal computer industry. After the Altair 8800 appeared on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine in January 1975, MITS was flooded with orders. Expecting to sell at most 800 units, MITS sold over 5,000 units by August of 1975. A young Bill Gates and Paul Allen, excited by the possibility of small computers that could be used in the home, wrote the BASIC programming language for the Altair, their first software product which formed the basis of their future company, Microsoft. The Altair was also popular with the Homebrew Computing Club, where Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs began their partnership selling their own computer kit, the Apple I.