Honorary Unsubscribe

Randy Cassingham’s Honorary Unsubscribe Recognizes the Unknown, the Forgotten and the Often Obscure People who Had an Impact on Our Lives.
These are the people you will wish you had known.

PC inventor

H. Edward Roberts

An electrical engineer, Roberts got his start building the electronics for a heart-lung machine (his early ambition was to be a doctor). At one of his first jobs, he came face to face with a room-sized IBM computer, which “opened up a whole new world” for him, he said. “And I began thinking, What if you gave everyone a computer?” He turned his skills into making calculator kits, which he sold from his company, MITS, in Albuquerque, N.M. When calculator sales petered out in the early 1970s, Roberts designed the first successful personal computer, the MITS Altair, which he sold as a $439 kit, figuring hobbyists would enjoy doing the actual assembly. The so-called microcomputer was featured on the cover of Popular Electronics in January 1975 (pictured below), inspiring a revolution by nerdy types — like Bill Gates (who quit Harvard and moved to Albuquerque to work with Roberts, since he and buddy Paul Allen had written a BASIC programming language for the Altair. The duo called their new company “Micro-Soft”.)

Popular Electronics Altair Cover, 1/75Many industry historians consider Roberts “the father of the personal computer.” Roberts figured he’d need to sell 200 kits to break even. By May of 1975, MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) had sold 2,500; by August, more than 5,000. By October he had 90 employees. By 1977 Roberts sold the company and walked away from the business, using his millions to go to medical school and become a country doctor, practicing in Cochran, Georgia. When he became ill, Bill Gates flew to be with him. Roberts died in Georgia April 1 from pneumonia. He was 68.

From This is True for 4 April 2010

Honorary Unsubscribe Books

HU BooksThe Early Writeups from This is True's popular Honorary Unsubscribe feature are now available for your Kindle (or Kindle software for your smartphone, tablet, or computer) as low-cost ebooks.

See details on Volume 1 (covering 1998 through 2000), Volume 2 (2001 through 2003), Volume 3 (2004 through 2006), and Volume 4 (2007 through 2009).

The honorees truly are the people you wish you had known.

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