Oct 31, 2011

The Spark

Here is the product -- and the magazine cover -- that started the revolution.

Reading this article sent Gates and Allen into developing a BASIC programming language for the machine (after having picked up the phone and telling Altair officials that they had already done so).

It also sent the geeks at the Valley-based Homebrew Computer Club into a frenzy. Here, in kit form, was the answer to their dreams. By the time Wozniak showed up for a meeting, one was there laying spread-out across a folding table for all to inspect.

The company that made the Altair 8088, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), was a garage startup just like its more famed follower-firms that would come along a few years later. Founded by former Air Force engineers, its initial products were radio transmitters and the heavy-duty programmable calculators of the day. Its mail order approach gave it tremendous advantage on delivering the first desktop PCs to the massive starving geeks demand.

The early units are now collector items.

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