On Make Online, I posted my audio interview with Forrest Mims, the co-founder of MITS, the company that made and sold the Altair 8800 (which many people consider to be the first real personal computer). The designer of the Altair was Ed Roberts, who died this month at the age of 68. Forrest is a natural storyteller, and in this 20-minute interview he reveals a number of surprising and humorous anecdotes about Dr. Roberts, MITS, and the Altair.
After the Altair was introduced on the cover of Popular Electronics in 1975, people started calling up Roberts, offering to write a version of BASIC for his computer. Two of those people were Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Roberts invited Allen to come to Albuquerque (where MITS was located) to discuss his proposal. After Allen arrived, Roberts drove him to a local motel. Allen admitted he had no money to pay for the room. Roberts was also broke (he'd lost all his money when prices plummeted on electronic calculators, which MITS had been making and selling), but he gave Allen his credit card to pay for the room. Gates and Allen soon moved to Albuquerque to work with Roberts, and shortly afterwards founded "Micro-Soft" near the MITS office.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.