MITS Altair 8800
Introduced in 1975
Intel 8080 microprocessor
8-bit word size, semiconductor memory, capacity of 256 bytes to 64 kilobytes
2 microsecond instruction cycle, 500 KIPS
When MITS introduced the Altair, they were looking for a new product after companies like Texas Instruments had destroyed their calculator business. They hoped to sell as many as 1,000 in the first year. Within the first few months, they sold over 50,000 orders, which kept the founders sleeping on sofas in the office, working endless hours to meet demand.
While the Altair was an enormous draw for the hobbyist community, some questioned the usefulness of this minimal machine. Two young visionaries, Paul Allen and Bill Gates, addressed their concerns with a useful BASIC interpreter that ran on the Altair in as little as 4K bytes of memory. This was the beginning of the world’s largest software company.
This machine was purchased from a person who had bought the kit version. It was necessary to disassemble and reassemble it to get it working.