MITS launches the Altair 8800 on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine
18th December 1974
The Altair 8800 was a microcomputer based on the Intel 8080 processor. Designed by Ed Roberts and Bill Yates of MITS, the Altair is widely recognised as the first commercially successful personal computer, bringing computing into the hands of the general public for the first time.
The Altair 8800 was launched with a front-cover story in the January 1975 edition of Popular Electronics magazine. This edition of the magazine went on sale in the week before Christmas 1974. The price of the Altair 8800 was $439 in kit form, or $621 fully assembled.
The first Altair 8800 prototype was completed in October 1974 and shipped to Popular Electronics in New York. However, a strike by the shipping company meant it was lost in transit and never reached the magazine. The machine that actually featured on the cover is a hastily-assembled replacement -- just an empty box with switches and LEDs.
The Altair 8800 was wildly successful. After the January issue of Popular Electronics went on sale, MITS was flooded with orders, taking on extra staff to answer the phones. Ed Roberts had originally forecasted total sales of 800 machines, but in February 1975 alone MITS received 1,000 orders.
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