Microsoft founders honor 'inventor of PC' Ed Roberts

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Ed Roberts, the creator of the world's first personal computer and mentor to Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, has died aged 68.

Roberts was the creator of the Altair 8800, which he marketed as a self-build kit. The $395 device had no keyboard or screen, and Roberts later said that at the time he saw it as an item of interest only to nerds.

After seeing a picture of the machine in Popular Electronics magazine in 1975, the two wrote to Roberts offering to write software for the device.

"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," say Gates and Allen.

"The day our first untested software worked on his Altair was the start of a lot of great things."

The software, called Altair-Basic, became the foundation stone of Microsoft. "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," say Gates and Allen.

Roberts sold his company, MITS, in 1977, went to medical school and became a country doctor.

He died yesterday in a Macon hospital after a long bout of pneumonia.