Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The MITS Altair 8800 is a microcomputer design from 1975, based on the Intel 8080A CPU. Sold as a kit through Popular Electronics magazine, the designers intended to sell only a few hundred to hobbyists, and were surprised when they sold over ten times that many in the first month. Today the Altair is widely recognized as the spark that led to the personal computer revolution of the next few years: The computer bus designed for the Altair was to become a de facto standard in form of the S-100 bus, and the first programming language for the machine was Microsoft's founding product, Altair BASIC.
Around this time Roberts received a letter from a Seattle company asking if he would be interested in selling their BASIC programming language for the machine. He called the company and reached a private home, where no one had heard of anything like BASIC. In fact the letter had been sent by Bill Gates and Paul Allen from the Boston area, and they had no BASIC to offer. When they called Roberts to follow up on the letter he expressed his interest, and the two started work on their BASIC interpreter using a self-made simulator for the 8080 on a PDP-10 minicomputer. They figured they had 30 days before someone else beat them to the punch, and once they had a version working on the simulator, Allen flew to Albuquerque to deliver the program, Altair BASIC (aka MITS 4K BASIC), on a paper tape. Miraculously it worked the first time, and Gates soon joined him and formed Microsoft, then spelled "Micro-Soft".
- MITS Altair 8800 exhibit at OLD-COMPUTERS.COM's virtual computer museum
- Virtual Altair Museum
- The History of the MITS Altair
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