Ed Roberts died today in Georgia at the age of 68. The development of the personal computer was too collaborative for any one person to deserve the honor of being the father of the industry…but as I think about it, I can’t think of anyone with a better claim on the title than Roberts. He may not have invented the PC, but he surely invented the PC industry.
Roberts cofounded MITS in Albuquerque in 1969 and served as its president. The company made rocket kits at first, and then calculators, and was struggling when Roberts made the decision to launch the Altair 8800, the first PC to gain any traction. When it appeared on the front cover of Popular Electronics magazine’s January 1975 issue, a couple of young geeks got so excited by the issue they picked up at Harvard Square’s Out of Town News that they wrote a version of the BASIC programming language for it even though they didn’t have an Altair. They relocated to Albuquerque and ended up founding a company to write software for the system. The geeks were Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and they called their company Micro-Soft.