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Roberts:Man behind MITS

Micro Instrumentation & Telemetry Systems, Inc...

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Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) was an American electronics company founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico that began manufacturing electronic calculators in 1971 and personal computers in 1975.Ed Roberts and Forrest Mims founded MITS in December 1969 to produce miniaturized telemetry modules for model rockets such as a roll rate sensor. In 1971, Roberts redirected the company into the electronic calculator market and the MITS 816 desktop calculator kit was featured on the cover of Popular Electronics in November 1971. The calculators were very successful and sales topped one million dollars in 1973. A brutal calculator price war left the company deeply in debt by 1974.

Roberts then developed the first commercially successful home computer, the Altair 8800. This was featured on the cover of the January 1975 Popular Electronicsand hobbyists flooded MITS with orders for this $397 computer kit.

 Paul Allen and Bill Gates saw the magazine and began writing software for the Altair computer.

They moved to Albuquerque to work for MITS and in July 1975 started Microsoft – originally named “Micro-Soft” by Paul Allen as recounted in this 1995 Fortune magazine article. MITS’s annual sales had reached $6 million by 1977 when they were acquired by Pertec Computer. The operations were soon merged into the larger company and the MITS brand disappeared. Roberts retired to Georgia where he studied medicine and became a small-town doctor.

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