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Remembering the world of Apple’s Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

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File:Altair 8800 Computer.jpg
Altair 8800

Forrest Mims, according Discover one of the best brains in science, offers a glimpse into the earliest days of personal computing, when nerds hung around in garages with them newfangled machines, instead of cars (which most people thought they should have been doing instead):

One day in 1975 Ed Roberts (my MITS [Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems] co-founder) called and said he wanted me to meet his new programming genius. I hopped on the bike and was at MITS in a few minutes. After visiting with Ed a while, he took me to a room where a very young looking Bill Gates was giving a black board talk to three guys sitting or lying on the floor. Ed and I stood in the door waiting for Gates to acknowledge us, but he merely looked annoyed and ignored us. Finally, Ed said let’s go and we left. As we walked away, Ed said, in essence, that Gates was a really smart kid, but he was also a smart alec.

Ed and Gates had a royal split up after Ed sold MITS to Pertec. In later years they reconciled, and Gates even visited Ed when he was dying in the hospital. His son David, who was present, described this remarkable visit to me at Ed’s funeral. Gates didn’t promote his visit, which made it all the more significant to the family.

I didn’t know Paul Allen back then. I first met Allen at the opening of “StartUp,” the museum gallery he founded at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. This gallery is dedicated to the earliest days of the PC era and includes some of my artifacts from early MITS days, including a photo of Minnie [Forrest’s wife] typing the operating manual for the first MITS rocket transmitter. Next to her photo is the actual rocket I built to test the transmitter. I met Allen again at a rededication of the exhibit to Ed after Ed died. That’s when he told me that Gates had not yet read his soon-to-be published memoir “Idea Man,” the book that raised a controversy over its candid description of Gate’s temper outbursts that Ed used to tell me about, which I reviewed.

Aside from co-founding MITS, my only direct connection with the Altair 8800 computer was writing the first operator’s manual and developing the kit assembly manual style that I used for the MITS calculator kits. Ed gave me an Altair in exchange for writing the manual, and it’s been on display at the Smithsonian for many years.

I’ve read that Steve Wozniak designed the Apple 1 because he could not afford the MITS Altair that he saw demonstrated at the Homebrew Computer Club.

Some Macintosh fans are just too numb to write about it.

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