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'Father of the Personal Computer' Ed Roberts Passes Away

Gordon Kelly


'Father of the Personal Computer' Ed Roberts Passes Away

Sad news on this Good Friday I'm afraid folks, Dr. Ed Roberts - dubbed the "father of the personal computer" - passed away yesterday at the age of 68 after a long battle with pneumonia.

Robert's title came from his creation of the Altair 8800 in 1974, which was built on Intel's famous 8080 processor. With a launch price of $395 (circa $1,000 in today's money) it shattered price barriers and was featured on the front cover of influential magazine Popular Electronics.

Roberts then hired two young developers, a certain Bill Gates and Paul Allen, to write Altair BASIC - the computer's programming language which became the first product from a fledgling 'Micro-Soft'. Roberts sold his company - Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) - to disk drive manufacturer Pertec in 1977 for $6m and retired from the electronics industry at just 36 years old. He moved to Georgia where he fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a medical doctor and ran a small practice in tiny Cochran (pop. 4,455) until his death.

"Ed was willing to take a chance on us -- two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace -- and we have always been grateful to him..." said Gates and Allen in a statement. "The day our first untested software worked on his Altair was the start of a lot of great things. We will always have many fond memories of working with Ed in Albuquerque, in the MITS office right on Route 66 -- where so many exciting things happened that none of us could have imagined back then."

We salute you Dr Roberts.


via BBC News


April 3, 2010, 3:35 pm

I guess many who read TR will not have even been a smile in their dad's eye when the first 'minicomputer' as it was called appeared. Some of us fortunately or otherwise were! I feel blessed to have witnessed in my life time the rise of PC's. In what other generation could you witness a form of social and economic revolution in such a short span of time.

I never knew him but his legacy is ours forever.....


April 3, 2010, 11:32 pm

@Chocoa - well said.


April 4, 2010, 1:04 am

Wow. That is quite the biography. Retire a multi-millionaire and go on to practice medicine in a small town. I like that. Sounds like a guy I would have liked.


April 6, 2010, 6:03 pm

Well done Dr Ed Roberts. RIP.

Here's another unsung hero of modern computing, Dr Robert Noyce, - truly inspirational and natural Leader and not just an utterly brilliant scientis/engineer. Look out for the BBC documentary "Podfather - Robert Noyce and The Rise of Silicon Valley" and be amazed. He was Steve Job's Mentor and Job in turn was the mentor of the guys who founded Google.

Moogle Stiltzkin

April 7, 2010, 7:35 pm

well the computer really made a difference to me and the world, and for that thank you Dr Ed Roberts. RIP.

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