Dave (courier_iii) wrote,

R.I.P. Ed Roberts ...,

He was a tinkerer, with a good idea.

He built a something in 1974, and then built a second copy and shipped it to Popular Electronics. One of the editors took the gizmo home and started playing with it on his dining room table. His young daughter came into the room, and she suggested calling it an Altair, because she had been watching Star Trek and they had just visited there.

The gizmo became the cover story. It was difficult to work with - you had to play with little switches on the front for about ten minutes just to get it turned on - but it worked, and it was moderately successful as a kit. It was the first commercial PC. [Although the phrase "PC" did not come into common usage for about another seven years - back then it was a micro computer.]

A young Bill Gates and Paul Allen read the story. They moved to Albuquerque and began working with Ed at his company - MITS. They ported Basic to "Tiny Basic" so that there would be something to run on the machine.

We know what happened to Bill and Paul - but Ed?
There were competitors, there were the usual start up management issues. He sold the business in 1977.
He took the money, became a gentleman farmer,and used some of the rest to fund his way through medical school.
He became a small town country doctor.
He died on Thursday in Macon, Georgia - too young at age 68 - from complications of pneumonia.

He had the vision.
"Someday everyone would own a computer."
He didn't get rich from it - but he was right.
And you might not have been reading this if he hadn't proved to be correct.

Remember him - with fondness.

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