Bill Gates: Altair 8800

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pages: 528 words: 146,459

Computer: A History of the Information Machine by Martin Campbell-Kelly, William Aspray, Nathan L. Ensmenger, Jeffrey R. Yost

Ada Lovelace, air freight, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, barriers to entry, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, Build a better mousetrap, Byte Shop, card file, cashless society, cloud computing, combinatorial explosion, computer age, deskilling, don't be evil, Donald Davies, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, fault tolerance, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, Frederick Winslow Taylor, game design, garden city movement, Grace Hopper, informal economy, interchangeable parts, invention of the wheel, Jacquard loom, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, light touch regulation, linked data, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, optical character recognition, packet switching, PageRank, pattern recognition, Pierre-Simon Laplace, pirate software, popular electronics, prediction markets, pre–internet, QWERTY keyboard, RAND corporation, Robert X Cringely, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the market place, Turing machine, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, women in the workforce, young professional

The Altair 8800 was unprecedented and in no sense a “rational” product; it would appeal only to an electronics hobbyist of the most dedicated kind, and even that was not guaranteed. Despite its many shortcomings, the Altair 8800 was the grit around which the pearl of the personal-computer industry grew during the next two years. The limitations of the Altair 8800 created the opportunity for small-time entrepreneurs to develop “add-on” boards so that extra memory, conventional teletypes, and audiocassette recorders (for permanent data storage) could be added to the basic machine. Almost all of these start-up companies consisted of two or three people—mostly computer hobbyists hoping to turn their pastime to profit. A few other entrepreneurs developed software for the Altair 8800. The most important of the early software entrepreneurs was Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft. Although his ultimate financial success was extraordinary, his background was quite typical of a 1970s software nerd—a term that conjures up an image of a pale, male adolescent, lacking in social skills, programming by night and sleeping by day, oblivious to the wider world and the need to gain qualifications and build a career.

The launch of the Altair 8800 in 1975 transformed Gates’s and Allen’s lives. Almost as soon as they heard of the machine, they recognized the software opportunity it represented and proposed to MITS’s Ed Roberts that they should develop a BASIC programming system for the new machine. Besides being easy to develop, BASIC was the language favored by the commercial time-sharing systems and minicomputers that most computer hobbyists had encountered, and would therefore be the ideal vehicle for the personal-computer market. Roberts was enthusiastic, not least because BASIC would need a lot more memory to run than was normally provided with the Altair 8800; he expected to be able to sell extra memory with a high margin of profit. Gates and Allen formed a partnership they named Micro-Soft (the hyphen was later dropped), and after six weeks of intense programming effort they delivered a BASIC programming system to MITS in February 1975.

What brought together these two groups, with such different perspectives, was the arrival of the first hobby computer, the Altair 8800. THE ALTAIR 8800 In January 1975 the first microprocessor-based computer, the Altair 8800, was announced on the front cover of Popular Electronics. The Altair 8800 is often described as the first personal computer. This was true only in the sense that its price was so low that it could be realistically bought by an individual. In every other sense the Altair 8800 was a traditional minicomputer. Indeed, the blurb on the front cover of Popular Electronics described it as exactly that: “Exclusive! Altair 8800. The most powerful minicomputer project ever presented—can be built for under $400.” The Altair 8800 closely followed the electronics hobbyist marketing model: it was inexpensive ($397) and was sold by mail order as a kit that the enthusiast had to assemble himself.


pages: 459 words: 140,010

Fire in the Valley: The Birth and Death of the Personal Computer by Michael Swaine, Paul Freiberger

1960s counterculture, Amazon Web Services, Apple II, barriers to entry, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Byte Shop, cloud computing, commoditize, computer vision, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Google Chrome, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Jony Ive, Loma Prieta earthquake, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, Mother of all demos, Paul Terrell, popular electronics, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, stealth mode startup, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Tim Cook: Apple, urban sprawl, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog

Meanwhile, Allen and Gates were putting increased effort into their own company, Microsoft. Throughout 1975, Gates, Allen, and Rick Wyland, who was hired to write 6800 BASIC, were branching out with their versions of BASIC, including developing versions for other companies. The relationship between Microsoft and MITS was becoming less clearly defined as the two companies grew. The fact that Bill Gates had yet to write the disk code for the Altair 8800 didn’t help matters, especially because Gates, on leave from Harvard, was considering returning to school. Paul Allen, in his role as MITS software director, nagged Gates about finishing the code. According to Microsoft legend, in February 1976 Gates checked into a motel with some pens and a stack of yellow legal pads. When he came out, he had finished the disk code. * * * Figure 24. Bill Gates Gates temporarily abandoned his glasses while speaking at the first World Altair Computer Convention in Albuquerque in 1976.

, logarithms, sines, matrix inversion, nuclear-reactor calculations, and stuff like that. And your home computer is kind of small, not too much memory. Maybe it’s a Mark-8 or an Altair 8800 with less than 4K bytes and a TV Typewriter for input and output. You would like to use it for homework, math recreations, and games like NUMBER, STARS, TRAP, HURKLE, SNARK, BAGELS. Consider, then, Tiny BASIC. “It’s Going to Happen!” Many of Dr. Dobb’s and PCC’s readers did more than consider Tiny BASIC. They took Allison’s program as a starting point and modified it, often creating a more capable language. Some of those early Tiny BASICs allowed large numbers of programmers to start using the microcomputers. Two of the most successful versions came from Tom Pittman and Li-Chen Wang. Pittman knew microprocessors as well as anyone, including the engineers at Intel, because he had written one of the first programs for the 4004.

“No, Ed,” Allen objected. “We’ll have to rewrite all our software for the 6800. We’ll have two instruction sets to support. That just doubles our headaches.” Roberts prevailed. MITS did develop a 6800 machine, starting work on it late in 1975. Named the Altair 680b and attractively priced at $293, that computer was substantially different from the original Altair 8800. Components from the 8800 could not be used in the 680b, nor could the original Altair BASIC. When the new computer magazine Byte unveiled Southwest Tech’s 6800 computer in November 1975, the announcement was soon followed by MITS’s announcement of its 680b. Additional engineers were hired to work on the new design, and new employees were added. The struggle to keep up with the orders for the 8800 and the determination to rush out the 680b had swelled the ranks of MITS employees from 12 to more than 100 in just a year.


From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry by Martin Campbell-Kelly

Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, barriers to entry, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, business process, card file, computer age, computer vision, continuous integration, deskilling, Donald Knuth, Grace Hopper, information asymmetry, inventory management, John Markoff, John von Neumann, linear programming, longitudinal study, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, Network effects, popular electronics, RAND corporation, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, software patent, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Programming Languages Microsoft got its start developing the first programming languages for microcomputers.4 The first microprocessor-based computers were so simple that they did not require an operating system, but programmers did need a programming language to develop application programs. Bill Gates and Paul Allen filled this void in 1975 by providing a programming language for the MITS Altair 8800. Gates was born in 1955 into a well-to-do and socially accomplished Seattle family. He was educated in private schools. In the fall of 1973 he began an undergraduate program at Harvard University, expecting to follow his father in the legal profession. Some years earlier, however, at the age of 13, Gates had become an enthusiastic user of a time-sharing terminal that his school had rented. He had become an accomplished programmer in BASIC, a programming language designed for novices. Gates and his schoolmate Paul Allen had explored the inner software complexities of the time-sharing system and had become real experts.

Between this experience and the day Gates went off to Harvard, he and Allen were summer interns at the systems integrator TRW, further honing their programming skills.5 According to Gates and his many biographers, in his sophomore year at Harvard he saw the January 1975 issue of Practical Electronics, which had the Altair 8800 kit on the cover, and saw in a flash the opportunity to The Personal Computer Software Industry 205 become the leading vendor of programming languages for microcomputers.6 The Altair 8800 used the Intel 8008 microprocessor, with which Gates and Allen were already familiar. Working mainly at night, Gates and Allen wrote a BASIC compiler for the Altair during the next month. Although a considerable achievement, writing a BASIC translator was a task that a first-rate senior undergraduate at any good computer science school could have been expected to accomplish. The manufacturer of the Altair, Albuquerque-based MITS, distributed the software for Gates and Allen, paying them a royalty of about $30 a copy.

Although some professional software development practices diffused into microprocessor programming, much of the software technology was cobbled together or re-invented, an amateurish legacy that the personal computer software industry took several years to shake off. The first microprocessor-based computer (or certainly the first influential one) was the Altair 8800, manufactured by Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS). This machine was sold in kit form for assembly by computer hobbyists, and its appearance on the cover of Popular Electronics in January 1975 is perhaps the best-known event in the folk history of the personal computer. The cover reads: “Exclusive! Altair 8800. The most powerful minicomputer project ever presented—can be built for under $400.”3 The Altair computer was positioned in the market as a minicomputer. Costing one-tenth as much as the cheapest commercially available model, and targeted at the electronics hobbyist, the Altair 8800 was successful in its niche. Several hundred were sold in the 6 months after its introduction.


pages: 598 words: 183,531

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition by Steven Levy

air freight, Apple II, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Buckminster Fuller, Byte Shop, computer age, computer vision, corporate governance, Donald Knuth, El Camino Real, game design, Hacker Ethic, hacker house, Haight Ashbury, John Conway, John Markoff, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, non-fiction novel, Norman Mailer, Paul Graham, popular electronics, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, software patent, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Hackers Conference, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

So it was that Ed Roberts’ computer was named Altair. Roberts and his design helper Bill Yates wrote an article describing it. In January 1975, Solomon published the article, with the address of MITS, and the offer to sell a basic kit for $397. On the cover of that issue was a phonied-up picture of the Altair 8800, which was a blue box half the size of an air conditioner, with an enticing front panel loaded with tiny switches and two rows of red LEDs. (This front panel would be changed to an even spiffier variation, anchored by a chrome strip with the MITS logo and the legend “Altair 8800” in the variegated type font identified with computer readouts.) Those who read the article would discover that there were only 256 bytes (a “byte” is a unit of eight bits) of memory inside the machine, which came with no input or output devices; in other words, it was a computer with no built-in way of getting information to or from the world besides those switches in front, by which you could painstakingly feed information directly to the memory locations.

I believe their story—their vision, their intimacy with the machine itself, their experiences inside their peculiar world, and their sometimes dramatic, sometimes absurd “interfaces” with the outside world—is the real story of the computer revolution. Who’s Who: The Wizards and Their Machines Bob Albrecht. Founder of People’s Computer Company who took visceral pleasure in exposing youngsters to computers. Altair 8800. The pioneering microcomputer that galvanized hardware hackers. Building this kit made you learn hacking. Then you tried to figure out what to do with it. Apple II. Steve Wozniak’s friendly, flaky, good-looking computer, wildly successful and the spark and soul of a thriving industry. Atari 800. This home computer gave great graphics to game hackers like John Harris, though the company that made it was loath to tell you how it worked.

The problem was that when you were finished, what you had was a box of blinking lights with only 256 bytes of memory. You could put in a program only by flicking octal numbers into the computer by those tiny, finger-shredding switches, and you could see the answer to your problem only by interpreting the flickety-flock of the LED lights, which were also laid out in octal. Hell, what did it matter? It was a start. It was a computer. Around the People’s Computer Company, the announcement of the Altair 8800 was cause for celebration. Everybody had known about the attempts to get a system going around the less powerful Intel 8008 chip; the unofficial sister publication of PCC was the Micro-8 Newsletter, a byzantinely arranged document with microscopic type published by a teacher and 8008 freak in Lompoc, California. But the Altair, with its incredibly low price and its 8080 chip, was spoken about as if it were the Second Coming.


pages: 317 words: 101,074

The Road Ahead by Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold, Peter Rinearson

Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Berlin Wall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Bob Noyce, Bonfire of the Vanities, business process, California gold rush, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, Donald Knuth, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, glass ceiling, global village, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, medical malpractice, Mitch Kapor, new economy, packet switching, popular electronics, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, speech recognition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Ted Nelson, telemarketer, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture

We're still late with projects sometimes but a lot less often than we would have been if we hadn't had those scary baby-sitters. Microsoft started out in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975 because that's where MITS was located. MITS was the tiny company whose Altair 8800 personal-computer kit had been on the cover of Popular Electronics. We worked with it because it had been the first company to sell an inexpensive personal computer to the general public. By 1977, Apple, Commodore, and Radio Shack had also entered the business. We provided BASIC for most of the early personal computers. This was the crucial software ingredient at that time, because users wrote their own applications in BASIC rather than buying packaged applications. In the early days, selling BASIC was one of my many jobs. For the first three years, most of the other professionals at Microsoft focused solely on technical work, and I did most of the sales, finance, and marketing, as well as writing code.

We sent letters from my dorm room to all the big computer companies, offering to write them a version of BASIC for the new Intel chip. We got no takers. By December, we were pretty discouraged. I was planning to fly home to Seattle for the holidays, and Paul was staying in Boston. On an achingly cold Massachusetts morning a few days before I left, Paul and I were hanging out at the Harvard Square newsstand, and Paul picked up the January issue of Popular Electronics. This is the moment I described at the beginning of the Foreword. This gave reality to our dreams about the future. January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics On the magazine's cover was a photograph of a very small computer, not much larger than a toaster oven. It had a name only slightly more dignified than Traf-O-Data: the Altair 8800 ("Altair" was a destination in a Star Trek episode).

It had a name only slightly more dignified than Traf-O-Data: the Altair 8800 ("Altair" was a destination in a Star Trek episode). It was being sold for $397 as a kit. When it was assembled, it had no keyboard or display. It had sixteen address switches to direct commands and sixteen lights. You could get the little lights on the front panel to blink, but that was about all. Part of the problem was that the Altair 8800 lacked software. It couldn't be programmed, which made it more a novelty than a tool. What the Altair did have was an Intel 8080 microprocessor chip as its brain. When we saw that, panic set in. "Oh no! It's happening without us! People are going to go write real software for this chip" I was sure it would happen sooner rather than later, and I wanted to be involved from the beginning. The chance to get in on the first stages of the PC revolution seemed the opportunity of a lifetime, and I seized it.


pages: 781 words: 226,928

Commodore: A Company on the Edge by Brian Bagnall

Apple II, belly landing, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Byte Shop, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Firefox, game design, index card, inventory management, Isaac Newton, low skilled workers, Menlo Park, packet switching, pink-collar, popular electronics, prediction markets, pre–internet, QWERTY keyboard, Robert Metcalfe, Robert X Cringely, Silicon Valley, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Ted Nelson

The PET received better coverage in Popular Science, the magazine that launched the Altair 8800. The editors ran a feature listing the most popular microcomputers of the day, including the Altair 8080, the IMSAI 8048, the Processor Technology Sol, the CompuColor, and even the upcoming Radio Shack TRS-80.[3] The editors were impressed with the appearance of the PET and featured it on the cover. The image showed the PET sitting on a kitchen counter, with a recipe for Oriental Salad on the screen. Although there had been many orders for the 4-kilobyte PET, it became clear the memory was severely limiting. Commodore wisely began discouraging orders for the 4-kilobyte version in favor of the 8-kilobyte version, which cost $795. The opportunity to purchase a computer for personal use seemed incredible. Bill Gates, in a 1993 Smithsonian interview, saw the PET 2001 as a landmark machine for the pricing as much as the technology.

To acquire BASIC, Commodore would make a deal with a small company called Micro-Soft. At the time, Micro-Soft did not own an operating system. Instead, it sold programming languages, principally its well-regarded version of BASIC. A young Bill Gates led the company. Some people mistakenly believe Gates invented BASIC, but John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz invented it in 1964 at Dartmouth College. Peddle finds the misconception amusing. “I knew BASIC when Gates was still in * grammar school,” he laughs. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were still new to business. Their company had grown to five employees and their BASIC language was quickly becoming the industry standard. Micro-Soft was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[2] In late 1976, Peddle received a phone call. “A guy calls me up from this place Micro-Soft and says, ‘I’ve got a BASIC for the 6502 and we’re not finding any customers.

Articles and projects appeared in these magazines well into 1979. MOS Technology released the KIM-1 in 1975, the same year as the Altair 8800 computer. The Altair has come to be known as the first personal computer system in North America to herald the new microcomputer revolution. The differences between the KIM-1 and the Altair computer illustrate a split in design philosophy within the computer world. The KIM-1 was a single-board computer, with all components mounted on a single printed-circuit board. It had room for expansion, but there were no slots to insert adapter cards. This design philosophy reduced production costs and thus gave the KIM-1 a major pricing advantage over the Altair. The Altair 8800 used an Intel 8080 chip, which retailed for $360, but inventor Ed Roberts was able to negotiate the price down to $75 each in bulk.


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Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley

air freight, Apple II, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Bob Noyce, card file, cuban missile crisis, dumpster diving, Hush-A-Phone, index card, Jason Scott: textfiles.com, John Markoff, Menlo Park, popular electronics, Richard Feynman, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, the new new thing, the scientific method, undersea cable, urban renewal, wikimedia commons

Hacking on microcomputers had another advantage over hacking phones because you might actually be able to make money at it. The Altair 8800, for example, quickly caught the attention of a couple of undergraduates from Harvard University. Sensing a business opportunity, the duo proposed to write an interpreter for the BASIC computer language, something that would make the Altair far more useful. Upon seeing demo code from the pair, MITS took them up on the deal. The Harvard students—two kids named Bill Gates and Paul Allen—dropped out and started a company called Micro-Soft to pursue the opportunity. Intel’s 8080 found itself at the center of a competitive whirlpool of other companies’ microprocessor chips: the Motorola 6800, the MOS Technology 6502, the Zilog Z80. MITS’s Altair 8800 spawned a cottage industry of competitors as well, mostly kits, mostly clumsily named: the IMSAI 8080, the Processor Technology SOL-20, the MOS KIM-1, the Southwest Technical Products Corporation SWTPC 6800.

Intel didn’t know it yet but that chip would be the thing that started the home computer revolution and would lead to Intel’s eventual domination of the microprocessor market. In January 1975 Popular Electronics, a geeky electronic hobbyist magazine, offered its readers an unbelievable chance to own their own slice of high-tech heaven. “Project Breakthrough!” the cover fairly shouted. “World’s First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models . . . ‘Altair 8800.’” The cover’s photo showed a large metal box—blue, as it happened—about the size of three toasters, its nerd-sexy front panel festooned with dozens of tiny toggle switches and red LEDs. The computer had an Intel 8080 processor and 256 bytes of memory. It had no screen or keyboard, not even a teletype. If you wanted to program it, you would be flipping switches on the front panel for some time.

If you wanted to program it, you would be flipping switches on the front panel for some time. But before you could program it you had to build it. It came as a kit, consisting of empty circuit boards and bags full of electronic components you had to solder together. The price? A mere $397, mail-ordered from a company no one had ever heard of: MITS in Albuquerque, New Mexico. MITS’s phone began ringing off the hook. Within weeks thousands of orders were called in for the Altair 8800, more than four hundred in a single day. The Popular Electronics editor Les Solomon said later, “The only word which could come into mind was ‘magic.’ You buy the Altair, you have to build it, then you have to build other things to plug into it to make it work. You are a weird-type person. Because only weird-type people sit in kitchens and basements and places all hours of the night, soldering things to boards to make machines go flickety-flock.”


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What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Apple II, back-to-the-land, beat the dealer, Bill Duvall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Buckminster Fuller, California gold rush, card file, computer age, computer vision, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, different worldview, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Thorp, El Camino Real, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, general-purpose programming language, Golden Gate Park, Hacker Ethic, hypertext link, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the printing press, Jeff Rulifson, John Markoff, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Mahatma Gandhi, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, Paul Terrell, popular electronics, QWERTY keyboard, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Stallman, Robert X Cringely, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South of Market, San Francisco, speech recognition, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, The Hackers Conference, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, union organizing, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

If they wanted to make money on it, that was just great. As part of his work at SRI, Allison had helped develop a mainframe BASIC programming language called Interaccess BASIC. Interaccess was a time-sharing firm that had been started by a small group of SRI alumni, who had contracted with the think tank for the software as part of their plan to compete with the dominant time-sharing company Tymshare. The group had bought a handful of CDC 3800 computers that had been sold as surplus by the nearby Air Force Satellite Control Facility in Sunnyvale. At the time, the machines were the cheapest computing system you could possibly purchase. Their business plan positioned them to be a Tymshare competitor for one-third the price. When in early 1975 an Altair 8800 computer showed up at the PCC office, Allison carefully looked at its specifications, and what he discovered horrified him.

He was then living next door to Fred Moore on Homer Lane in Menlo Park. Both men were single fathers, and they shared a radical political perspective. In the Whole Earth Catalog spirit, Tesler’s activist neighbor argued with him that people were eventually going to build their own computers. Tesler wasn’t so sure about that, but when he saw an advertisement in the local paper announcing the visit of a van to Palo Alto to show off the new MITS Altair 8800 computer kit, he thought he would go take a look. It had been only six months since Popular Electronics magazine had published a cover story on the Altair, a blue-edged metal box with lights and switches and not much else. Now the Albuquerque, New Mexico, company that manufactured it was sending a bus on tour around the country to demonstrate it. Tesler went over to Rickey’s Hyatt House Hotel on El Camino Real in Palo Alto to attend the presentation, and though he hadn’t been very impressed with the machine, he went straight back to Xerox and said, “I just saw something really important.”

Terrell had approached MITS about the possibility of distributing their new Altair computer. Although the company was planning on selling the machines by mail order, Terrell met with MITS’s founder Ed Roberts at the National Computer Conference in Anaheim, California, in 1975 and reached an agreement where he would promote Altairs in northern California and in return receive a commission on the machines sold in the region. MITS planned a nationwide bus tour for its Altair 8800, giving many people their first hands-on experience with a personal computer. The company had equipped a van as a mobile showcase, and Terrell reserved a conference room at Rickey’s Hyatt House, a Palo Alto hotel. The room held eighty people, but more than two hundred showed up in response to advertisements in local newspapers, including Larry Tesler, who would later unsuccessfully try to convince his colleagues that he had seen the future.


A People’s History of Computing in the United States by Joy Lisi Rankin

activist fund / activist shareholder / activist investor, Albert Einstein, Apple II, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, computer age, corporate social responsibility, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Grace Hopper, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, Howard Zinn, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Mother of all demos, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pink-collar, profit motive, RAND corporation, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, the market place, urban planning, Whole Earth Catalog, wikimedia commons

The newspaper published games in BASIC so readers could create the games on their own computing systems. It regularly offered information on the DEC and HP minicomputers that “spoke” BASIC , as well as books and other resources for learning BASIC . Albrecht also founded the associated P ­ eople’s Computer Center, a storefront that offered public computing access. Albrecht and the ­People’s Computer Com­pany ­were central to the Bay Area home computer endeavor; in fact, one of Albrecht’s ­People’s Computer Com­pany instructors, Fred Moore, founded the Homebrew Computer Club.17 When MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) publicized its Altair 8800 microcomputer in 1975, Albrecht and the ­People’s Computer Com­pany recognized its “home computer” promise; a ­People’s Computer Com­pany cover featured the Altair, but more importantly, the ­People’s Computer Com­pany recognized the need for a BASIC for the Altair.18 In the issue immediately following its Altair-­ cover issue, the ­People’s Computer Com­pany put out a call to its community of computing p ­ eople. ­

See Better Chance, A (ABC) program Advanced Research Proj­ects Agency (ARPA), 9, 190, 194–195, 201–205, 207, 225, 233; ARPANET and, 9, 107, 109, 135–137, 194–195, 205–207, 224–225; Licklider’s role in, 114; Multics and, 116; my­t hol­ogy of, 107 African American. See Race Albrecht, Bob, 95, 102, 229, 234–236; role in spreading BASIC, 7, 68–69, 94–100, 105–106, 154 Allen, Paul, 2, 236 Allerton Park, Illinois, 174 ALOHA (network), 136–137 Altair 8800 microcomputer. See Microcomputers Alternative ­Futures Proj­ect. See ­under Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO): politics and Anderson, Harlan, 100 Anderson, Wendell, 155 Apple Computers: Apple Macintosh, 189–191; Apple II microcomputer, 100, 237–240; BASIC in history of, 9, 105, 237–238; education and, 238–240; Steve Jobs and, 2, 9, 189–191, 237–239; my­t hol­ogy of, 2, 190–192; The Oregon Trail on, 8–9, 139–140; personal com­ puters and, 105, 189, 191 ARPA.

“A Pioneering Game’s Journey: The History of Oregon Trail.” US Gamer, April 19, 2017. http://­w ww​.­usgamer​.­net​/­articles​/­t he​-­oral​-­history​-­of​ -­oregon​-­t rail. Roberts, H. Edward, and William Yates. “ALTAIR 8800: The Most Power­f ul Minicomputer Proj­ect Ever Presented—­Can Be Built for U ­ nder $400.” Popu­lar Electronics 7, no. 1 (January 1975): 33–38. Rome, Adam. The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-­In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation. New York: Hill and Wang, 2013. Rosegrant, Susan, and David Lampe. Route 128: Lessons from Boston’s High-­Tech Community. New York: Basic Books, 1992. Rothman, Josh. “The Origins of ‘The Oregon Trail.’ ” Boston Globe, March 21, 2011. http://­archive​.­boston​.­com ​/ ­bostonglobe​/­ideas​/ ­brainiac​/­2011​/­03​/­t he​ _­origins​_­of​_­2​.­html.


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Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold

Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, Donald Knuth, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Eratosthenes, Grace Hopper, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, James Watt: steam engine, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Louis Daguerre, millennium bug, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, popular electronics, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture

On home computers, BASIC got an early start when buddies Bill Gates (born 1955) and Paul Allen (born 1953) wrote a BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 in 1975 and jump-started their company, Microsoft Corporation. The Pascal programming language, which inherited much of its structure from ALGOL but included record handling from COBOL, was designed in the late 1960s by Swiss computer science professor Niklaus Wirth (born 1934). Pascal was quite popular for IBM PC programmers, but in a very specific form—the product Turbo Pascal, introduced by Borland International in 1983 for the bargain price of $49.95. Turbo Pascal (written by Danish student Anders Hejlsberg, born in 1960) was a version of Pascal that came complete with an integrated development environment. The text editor and the compiler were combined in a single program that facilitated very fast programming.

Despite neither method being intrinsically "right," the difference does create an additional incompatibility problem when sharing information between systems based on little-endian and big-endian machines. What became of these two microprocessors? The 8080 was used in what some people have called the first personal computer but which is probably more accurately the first home computer. This is the Altair 8800, which appeared on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. When you look at the Altair 8800, the lights and switches on the front panel should seem familiar. This is the same type of primitive "control panel" interface that I proposed for the 64-KB RAM array in Chapter 16. The 8080 was followed by the Intel 8085 and, more significantly, by the Z-80 chip made by Zilog, a rival of Intel founded by former Intel employee Federico Faggin, who had done important work on the 4004.

Bibliography SPECIAL OFFER: Upgrade this ebook with O’Reilly Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software Charles Petzold Copyright © 2009 Charles Petzold (All) Microsoft Press books are available through booksellers and distributors worldwide. For further information about international editions, contact your local Microsoft Corporation office or contact Microsoft Press International directly at fax (425) 936-7329. Visit our Web site at mspress.microsoft.com. Send comments to mspinput@microsoft.com. Macintosh is a registered trademark of Apple Computer, Inc. Microsoft, MS-DOS, and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Other product and company names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.


pages: 559 words: 157,112

Dealers of Lightning by Michael A. Hiltzik

Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, beat the dealer, Bill Duvall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, business cycle, computer age, creative destruction, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Thorp, El Camino Real, index card, Jeff Rulifson, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, oil shock, popular electronics, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, the medium is the message, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, zero-sum game

The two programs together represent the world’s first user-friendly computer word processing system. January 1: Xerox establishes the System Development Division, its most comprehensive attempt to commercialize PARC technology. More than five years later, SDD will launch its masterwork, the Xerox Star. January: The Altair 8800, a hobbyist’s personal computer sold as a mail-order kit, is featured on the cover of Popular Electronics, enthralling a generation of youthful technology buffs—among them, Bill Gates—with the possibilities of personal computing. February: PARC engineers demonstrate for their colleagues a graphical user interface for a personal computer, including icons and the first use of pop-up menus, that will develop into the Windows and Macintosh interfaces of today. March 1: PARC’s permanent headquarters at 3333 Coyote Hill Road are formally opened.

My wife, Deborah, was a loving and steadfast partner in this project from beginning to end, whether the demand was for the heavy labor of transcribing interviews or for the definitive and lucid insights that alone can rescue a hopelessly snarled chapter from the hell of a weary writer’s bewilderment. Lastly, I owe more than I can express to my wonderful sons, Andrew and David, who will inherit the world PARC made. Index Abramson, Norman, 186 Adobe Systems, 374, 396 Advanced Research Projects Agency. See ARPA Advanced Systems Division (ASD), 282–84, 357commercialization of Alto and, 278, 283–86 Alarm clock worm, 298 ALOHAnet, xiv, 186–87, 189 Alpha, 198 Altair 8800, xvi, 323, 333, 334 Alto, xv, xix–xxiv, xxvii, 141, 163, 167–77, 212, 224–25, 233, 261, 274, 303, 321, 324, 326, 330, 333, 357, 389, 395 Apple and, 335–36, 338–43asynchronous architecture and, 252–53 Bilbo and, 326 Bravo and, 194–95, 198–200, 208–9, 210, 283, 310 BravoX and, 283commercialization of, xvi, xxvii, 278, 282–88, 357, 392–93 Cookie Monster and, xv, xxii–xxiii, 81, 198, 231, 233cost of, 176diagnostic program for, 294display of, 171, 172–75, 176, 239 Draw and, 212 Elkind and, 168, 175, 278, 282–84 Ellenby and, 261–65, 268, 278, 283, 284–88 Ethernet and, 141, 176, 184–93, 212, 250, 251, 343 Futures Day and, 266, 271–72, 278, 280, 393 Goldman and, 278, 282–83 Gypsy and, 194–95, 207–10, 283interactivity and, xxi, 169, 170–71, 172–73 Kay and, xv, xxi, 167–68, 169, 170, 175, 220–28, 239, 283, 316 Kearns and, 286, 287, 288 Lampson and, xv, 141, 167–68, 171, 173–74, 175–76, 194, 195, 198, 206, see also Bravomanufacturing process and, 261–62 Markup and, 212 MAXC and, 175, 176 McCreight and, 141, 169, 176–77musical synthesizer and, 221 OfficeTalk and, 285 Penguin and, 285 POLOS and, 205–7, 210, 307at public school, 222–24, 314–15reset switch and, 289 SIL and, 212, 319 Simonyi and, 283, 284, 357 Smalltalk and, 220–21, 222–23software course for executives using, 274–75success of, 211–12 Taylor and, 3, 170–71, 205–6, 211text editor for, 194, 195, 198, see also Bravo Thacker and, xv, xix–xxiv, 4, 141, 163, 167–77, 174, 175, 212, 250–51, 289 Twang and, 221–22 Worm crashing, 289–90, 294–98 Xerox and, 285–88, 392, 393, 395 Xerox Model 850 versus, 264, 265, 274 Alto II, 262–63 Alto III, 263–65, 268, 350 850 word processor versus, 264, 265, 283 Ames Research Center, 197 Apple Computer, 329, 369–70 Apple II and, 332, 357, 358eMate and, 321 Goldberg and, 330, 335–36, 337, 338–40 Hall and, 334–35, 337, 338, 339, 340 Jobs and, xvi, xvii, xxiii, 329–45, 369–70, 389, 391 Lisa and, xvii, xviii, 337–38, 341–42, 343, 344 Macintosh and, xvi, xvii, xviii, xxiv, 329, 340, 341–42, 343, 344, 370, 389, 391, 395–96 Microsoft versus, xxv, 395–96size of, 392 Smalltalk and, 335–36, 338–43 Tesler and, 330, 333–34, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339, 340–41, 342, 344–45 VisiCalc and, 332 Wozniak and, xvi, 332 Architecture of information, 394 Archival memory, 123 Argus 700, 262 ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), 11–12, 13, 14, 42–43, 118 ARPANET and, 43–46, 48, 78 Augmentation Research Center and, 64, 65 Berkeley 500 and, 78grants of, 61graphics and, 43, 231 Illiac IV and, 197 Licklider and, 11, 12–14, 18, 44 LINC and, 42 Mansfield Amendment and, 47–48 PDP—10 and, 98 Pup shared with, 291–93research conferences and, 16–17 Taylor and, 14–20, 42–43, 90, 146 University of Utah and, 90 Vietnam War and, 45–47 See also IPTO ARPANET, xiii, 48, 78, 171, 180, 184, 266 IMPs and, 118, 320as “internet,” 291–93 MAXC and, 115, 183–84 PDP—10 and, 98 POLOS Novas and, 189 Pup and, 291–93 Taylor and, 8, 43–45, 48 VLSI and, 310 Artificial intelligence, 91, 98 Bobrow and, 121, 237, 261 ASCII, 135, 139 “As We May Think” (Bush), 63 Asynchronous architecture, 252–53 Atkinson, Bill, 340, 342–43 Atlantic Richfield Company, 284 AT&T, 30, 53, 57, 391 Augmentation Research Center, 63–67 Aurora Systems, 241 Ballmer, Steve, 358–59 Bardeen, John, 57, 160 Barker, Ben, 180 Bates, Roger, 173 Bauer, Bob, 59 Beat the Dealer (Thorp), 146 Beaudelaire, Patrick, 212, 231 Becker, Joe, 369 Bell, Alexander Graham, xxiii Belleville, Bob, 250–52, 253, 369–70 Bendix LGP30 computer, 70 Berkeley Computer Corporation, xiv, 68–69, 73–79, 106, 107–8, 197, 230 500 computer and, 76, 78, 109 Genie and, 69, 70, 72–73 1 computer and, 74–76 Biegelsen, David, 52–53, 58, 152 “Biggerism,” Thacker and, xx, 75 Bilbo, 326 Billboard worm, 298 BitBlt, Ingalls and, xv, 226–28, 342 Bitmapped screen Alto and, 173–74, 272 Star and, 362, 364 Blue books, 291 Bobrow, Daniel G., 261, 376, 399artificial intelligence and, 121, 237, 261 Bolt, Beranek & Newman and, 121, 280, 301 Elkind and, 280, 281, 282 Boeing Corporation, 284 Boggs, David R., 178–79, 399 Alto and, 294 Ethernet and, 141, 176, 187–92 Futures Day and, 267, 272 Novas and, 188 Worm and, 290–91 Bolt, Beranek & Newman, 76, 118, 119, 120, 121, 180, 265–66, 280, 301, 320 Boolean logic, 109, 304 “Bose Conspiracy,” 152–53 Box Named Joe, A, 222 Brand, Stewart Rolling Stone and, xv, 155–62, 204, 223 Whole Earth Catalog and, 157 Bravo, 208–9, 210, 227, 283, 310, 373 Lampson and, 194, 195, 198, 199, 201 Simonyi and, xv, 194–95, 198–201 BravoX, 283–84, 285, 364 Simonyi and, 283, 357, 360 Brittain, William, 57 Brooks, Frederick, 74, 76 Brown, John Seely, 302, 386, 399 Brunner, John, 295–96, 297, 298–99 Brushes, Alto and, 174 Building 34, 140 Burroughs, 24, 89, 101 Bush, Vannevar, 63–64, 67, 122 Buvall, Bill, 64 C++, xiv Campbell, Sandy, 381–82 “Capability Investment Proposal” (Ellenby), 285, 286–87, 288 Card, Stuart, 302 Carlson, Chester, 22, 35, 130, 350, 393 Carnegie-Mellon, 43 Carter, Jimmy, 283–84 Carter, Shelby H., 285–86, 287, 363 CD-ROM, 55, 123 Cedar, 325 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 336 Character generator.

See PARC Papert, Seymour, 218 LOGO and, 91–92, 164, 222 Parallel processing, Worm and, 289–90, 293–99 Paramount Pictures, Futures Day and, 267 PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), xivambiance of, 277–78 Bardeen saving, 57, 160collegiality at, 57–59, 150–53at Coyote Hill Road, xv, xvi, 254–55creative method of, 107dedication of, 53–54division of, 356, 372, 374–75evaluation of Xerox’s role with, xxvi–xxvii, 55–57, 60–61, 95–96, 373, 389–98future and, 122–24 Goldman’s proposal for, xiii, 29–32governing principle of, xxii, xxviinternal conflicts in, 372–73invention at, xxiv–xxvlost decade and, 55–57, 394money earned for Xerox by, xxvi, 128, 144 name of, 30, 38office of the future and, 123, 165, 233, 235, 237opening of, 40research agenda of, 55, 386site of, 31, 32, 37–40 PARC Universal Packet. See Pup Pattern sensitivity, Intel 1103 memory chip and, 114 PDP-1, 71, 72 PDP-10, 98, 99, 100, 103, 104–6, 108, 121, 124, see also MAXC PDP-11, 248 Peeker, 298 Pendery, Don, 121–22, 143 Pendery Papers, 122–24 Penguin, 285 Personal computer, xxiii, 95, 391 Altair 8800 and, xvi, 323, 333, 334 Dorado and, xvii, 318–21, 322, 324–26, 327 Dynabook and, xiii, 94, 163–67, 175, 211, 216, 321, 327, 336 IBM PC and, xviii, xxiv, 212, 360, 368–69, 370, 389, 391, 395 Kay and, 81, 89, 93–94, 95 Minicom and, 163–67 Taylor and, 5, 8, 49 See also Alto; Lisa; Macintosh Photoconductor fatigue, 130–31 Piaget, Jean, 91 Piece tables, 199 Pimlico, 271 Pirtle, Mel, 72, 73–74, 76, 77, 78, 197 Pixar, 240 Pixels, xxii, 164, 165 POLOS (PARC On-line Office System), 166, 170, 173, 176, 307 Alto and, 205–7, 210, 307 English and, 307 Fairbairn and, 307 Mott and, 203–5, 206 Novas and, 184–85, 188, 189, 202, 206as obsolete, 206–7, 210 Tesler and, 201–3 Pop-up menus, xvi, 209 BitBlt and, xv, 227–28 Portable computer.


pages: 519 words: 142,646

Track Changes by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum

active measures, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Buckminster Fuller, commoditize, computer age, corporate governance, David Brooks, dematerialisation, Donald Knuth, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, feminist movement, forensic accounting, future of work, Google Earth, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Haight Ashbury, HyperCard, Jason Scott: textfiles.com, Joan Didion, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, mail merge, Marshall McLuhan, Mother of all demos, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, pattern recognition, pink-collar, popular electronics, RAND corporation, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, text mining, thinkpad, Turing complete, Vannevar Bush, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K, Year of Magical Thinking

While the story about Xerox’s failure to effectively commercialize those ideas is well known, the sequence of events behind the actual systems and their development is complex, involving multiple generations of hardware and software.15 The computer that Jobs famously saw demonstrated at PARC in 1979 (by none other than Larry Tesler, who had by then been working there for the past six years) was called the Alto, which had been prototyped as early as 1973.16 The Xerox Alto is not to be confused with the Altair 8800, the machine that famously graced the cover of Popular Electronics in January 1975 and (so the story goes) motivated Bill Gates to leave Harvard. (The Altair communicated its output to users, not on a screen or even on paper, but through gnomic blinking LED lights, the epitome of the “digital black-magic box” mentioned by the Homebrew Computer Club.)17 Unlike the Altair, then, the Alto was a fully functioning graphical computer system, years ahead of its time.

The first-generation of Z-80 and Intel 8080 eight-bit microcomputers, typified by Cromemco and IMSAI, had meanwhile given way to so-called integrated personal computer systems from Apple, Tandy, Commodore, and Osborne. IBM was only just getting into the PC business that year, and Microsoft had just recently moved from Albuquerque to Washington State with a contract to produce something called a Disk Operating System (their primary competition was the rival operating system CP/M). Disks themselves were literally floppy—5¼- or 8-inch black squares that actually waggled up and down; the smaller 3½-inch floppies (which were not floppy but rigid) did not yet exist. Hard drives existed, but were seen only rarely on the sorts of machines most consumers would buy. Time magazine was still more than a year away from declaring the personal computer its “Machine of the Year.” Popular Electronics had featured the Altair 8800—usually considered the world’s first microcomputer—on its cover in January 1975, but in 1981 was still a year away from renaming itself Computers and Electronics.

I’ve heard hundreds of those stories over the last few years, and their patterns inform my work here even if the particulars are not always narrated. So last, I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to tell me about their first word processor. INDEX Abe, Kōbō, 194, 221 Ackerman, Patricia Freed, 143–144, 153, 297n16 Adams, Douglas, 111–112, 221, 289n87, 321n71 Altair 8800, 51, 123, 291n17 Amazon.com, 88; Kindle, 27, 84. See also E-readers American Management Association (AMA), 34–36, 41, 145–148, 153, 161, 182 Analog (magazine), 39, 94, 109, 110 Anderson, Kevin J., 222 Anthony, Piers, 20, 25, 207, 260n38 Anzaldúa, Gloria Evangelina, 22, 262n59 Apple, 43, 114, 127; AppleTalk, 201; BASIC, xi, 105, 106, 107; HyperCard, 10, 24, 257n35, 263n67; Imagewriter, 195; iPad 4, 18, 23, 307n3; Lisa, 142; MacBook Air, 76; Macintosh, xiv, 112, 127, 185, 195–202, 235, 236; Macintosh IIe, x, xi, 115; Macintosh IIsi, 185; Macintosh SE, 201; Macintosh SE/30, 202, 320n61; MacPaint, 295; Mac Performa, 215; Mac PowerBook, 26, 75, 184–185; MacWrite, xiv, 40, 201 Apricot (computer), 111, 274n84 Aquinas, Thomas, 252n5 Archives: computers and, 8, 33, 158, 198, 200, 209, 210, 213–215, 239 Archives, Inc., 67–68 ARPANET, 69, 96 ASCII, 94, 100, 120, 272n75, 307n52 Ashbery, John, 75, 76 Asimov, Isaac, 56–59, 62, 71, 92–95, 98, 141, 143, 238, 275n13, 275n14, 282n2 Atari, 140, 282n2 Atwood, Margaret, 16, 19, 161, 208, 302n85 Austen, Jane, 7, 8, 191, 192, 194 Auster, Paul, 8–9, 13, 20–22, 27, 261n48, 285n31 Austerityware, 237–238 Automation: and archives, 239; and efficiency, 29, 40, 47, 55, 99, 159, 182; fears surrounding, 37–39, 43, 44, 192, 268n27, 270n57; and the workplace, 147–153, 176; and writing, 38, 39, 44, 49, 144, 159, 192, 290n107 Avant-garde, 25, 72, 160, 173, 179, 192, 196, 202 Babbage, Charles, 14, 115 Bad Sector (users’ group), 64–66, 219 Baen, Jim, 102, 283n17, 287n50 Baker, Nicholson, 32, 87, 285n31 Baker, Russell, 35 Baker Josephs, Kelly, 313n65 BAKUP (users’ group), 64, 66 Ballard, J.


pages: 720 words: 197,129

The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

1960s counterculture, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Apple II, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, beat the dealer, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, bitcoin, Bob Noyce, Buckminster Fuller, Byte Shop, c2.com, call centre, citizen journalism, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, commoditize, computer age, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Debian, desegregation, Donald Davies, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Hofstadter, Dynabook, El Camino Real, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, en.wikipedia.org, Firefox, Google Glasses, Grace Hopper, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, Hush-A-Phone, HyperCard, hypertext link, index card, Internet Archive, Jacquard loom, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, Mother of all demos, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, Norman Macrae, packet switching, PageRank, Paul Terrell, pirate software, popular electronics, pre–internet, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFC: Request For Comment, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Rubik’s Cube, Sand Hill Road, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, slashdot, speech recognition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Nature of the Firm, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, wikimedia commons, William Shockley: the traitorous eight

As they were rushing the article into print, Roberts still hadn’t picked a name for it. According to Solomon, his daughter, a Star Trek junkie, suggested it be named after the star that the spaceship Enterprise was visiting that night, Altair. And so the first real, working personal computer for home consumers was named the Altair 8800.113 “The era of the computer in every home—a favorite topic among science-fiction writers—has arrived!” the lede of the Popular Electronics story exclaimed.114 For the first time, a workable and affordable computer was being marketed to the general public. “To my mind,” Bill Gates would later declare, “the Altair is the first thing that deserves to be called a personal computer.”115 The day that issue of Popular Electronics hit the newsstands, orders started pouring in. Roberts had to hire extra people in Albuquerque to answer the phones.

Mims III, “The Altair Story: Early Days at MITS,” Creative Computing, Nov. 1984; Freiberger and Swaine, Fire in the Valley, 35 and passim. 109. Levy, Hackers, 186. 110. Mims, “The Altair Story.” 111. Levy, Hackers, 187. 112. Levy, Hackers, 187. 113. Les Solomon, “Solomon’s Memory,” Atari Archives, http://www.atariarchives.org/deli/solomons_memory.php; Levy, Hackers, 189 and passim; Mims, “The Altair Story.” 114. H. Edward Roberts and William Yates, “Altair 8800 Minicomputer,” Popular Electronics, Jan. 1975. 115. Author’s interview with Bill Gates. 116. Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, “Crystal Fire,” IEEE SCS News, Spring 2007, adapted from Crystal Fire (Norton, 1977). 117. Author’s interviews with Lee Felsenstein, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Bob Albrecht. This section also draws from the accounts of the Homebrew Computer Club origins in Wozniak, iWoz (Norton, 2006); Markoff, What the Dormouse Said, 4493 and passim; Levy, Hackers, 201 and passim; Freiberger and Swaine, Fire in the Valley, 109 and passim; Steve Wozniak, “Homebrew and How the Apple Came to Be,” http://www.atariarchives.org/deli/homebrew_and_how_the_apple.php; the Homebrew archives exhibit at the Computer History Museum; the Homebrew newsletter archives, http://www.digibarn.com/collections/newsletters/homebrew/; Bob Lash, “Memoir of a Homebrew Computer Club Member,” http://www.bambi.net/bob/homebrew.html. 118.

., ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6 Albert, Prince Consort, ref1 Albrecht, Bob, ref1, ref2 Alcorn, Al, ref1, ref2 algebra, ref1, ref2 algorithms, ref1 Allen, Paul, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10 BASIC for Altair designed by, ref1, ref2 8008 language written by, ref1 electronic grid work of, ref1 Gates’s disputes with, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 in Lakeside Programming Group, ref1 PDP-10 work of, ref1, ref2 “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” (Brautigan), ref1, ref2 ALOHAnet, ref1 Alpert, Dick, ref1 Altair, ref1, ref2, ref3 Altair 8800, ref1, ref2, ref3 BASIC program for, ref1, ref2, ref3 exhibition of, ref1 AltaVista, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, ref1 American Physical Society, ref1 American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC), ref1 America Online (AOL), ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6 Ames Research Center, ref1 Ampex, ref1, ref2 analog, ref1 digital vs., ref1, ref2, ref3 Analytical Engine, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10 Differences Engine vs., ref1 Lovelace’s business plan for, ref1 Lovelace’s views on potential of, ref1 Menabrea’s notes on, ref1 punch cards and, ref1, ref2 as reprogrammable, ref1 Analytical Society, ref1 “Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine, The” (Brin and Page), ref1 Anderson, Sean, ref1 Andreessen, Marc, ref1, ref2, ref3 Android, ref1 A-O system, ref1 Apollo Guide Computer, ref1 Apollo program, ref1, ref2, ref3 Apple, ref1n, ref2, ref3n, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9 creativity of, ref1 headquarters of, ref1, ref2 Jobs ousted from, ref1, ref2 lawsuits of, ref1 Microsoft’s contract with, ref1 patents of, ref1 Apple I, ref1 Apple II, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 AppleLink, ref1 Apple Writer, ref1 Applied Minds, ref1 Aristotle, ref1 Armstrong, Neil, ref1 ARPA, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8 funding for, ref1 ARPANET, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10, ref11, ref12 bids on minicomputers for, ref1 connected to Internet, ref1 distributed network of, ref1, ref2 first four nodes of, ref1, ref2 military defense and, ref1 start of, ref1 ARPANET News, ref1 arsenic, ref1 artificial intelligence, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8 human-machine interaction and, ref1, ref2 as mirage, ref1, ref2, ref3 video games and, ref1 Artificial Intelligence Lab, ref1 Asimov, Isaac, ref1 assembly code, ref1 assembly line, ref1, ref2 Association for Computing Machinery, ref1n “As We May Think” (Bush), ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8 Atanasoff, John Vincent, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8 influence of, ref1, ref2 Atanasoff, Lura, ref1 Atanasoff-Berry computer, ref1 AT&T, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6 Atari, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6 founding of, ref1 Atari 800, ref1 Atkinson, Bill, ref1, ref2 Atlantic, ref1, ref2 atom bomb, ref1, ref2 Atomic Energy Commission, ref1 atomic power, ref1 ATS-3 satellite, ref1 Augmentation Research Center, ref1, ref2, ref3 augmented intelligence, ref1 “Augmenting Human Intellect” (Engelbart), ref1, ref2 Auletta, Ken, ref1 Autobiography (Franklin), ref1 automata, ref1 Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), ref1, ref2 automobile industry, ref1 Aydelotte, Frank, ref1 Baba, Neem Karoli, ref1 Babbage, Charles, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10, ref11, ref12, ref13, ref14, ref15 Ada’s first meeting with, ref1 government attack published by, ref1 limits of Analytical Engine mistaken by, ref1 logarithm machine considered by, ref1, ref2 Lovelace given credit by, ref1 Lovelace’s Analytic Engine business plan and, ref1 programming as conceptual leap of, ref1 weekly salons of, ref1, ref2, ref3 Babbage, Henry, ref1 BackRub, ref1 Baer, Ralph, ref1 Baidu, ref1 ballistic missiles, ref1, ref2 Ballmer, Steve, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4 Bally Midway, ref1, ref2, ref3 Baran, Paul, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8 packet-switching suggested by, ref1 Bardeen, John, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7 in dispute with Shockley, ref1, ref2, ref3 Nobel Prize won by, ref1 photovoltaic effect studied by, ref1 solid-state studied by, ref1 surface states studied by, ref1 Barger, John, ref1 Bartik, Jean Jennings, see Jennings, Jean BASIC, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9 for Altair, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4 batch processing, ref1 BBC, ref1 Beatles, ref1 Bechtolsheim, Andy, ref1 Beckman, Arnold, ref1, ref2, ref3 Beckman Instruments, ref1 Bell, Alexander Graham, ref1, ref2, ref3 Bell & Howell, ref1 Bell Labs, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10, ref11, ref12, ref13, ref14, ref15, ref16, ref17, ref18, ref19, ref20, ref21 founding of, ref1 Murray Hill headquarters of, ref1 patents licensed by, ref1 solid-state physics at, ref1, ref2, ref3 transistor invented at, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4 Bell System, ref1 Benkler, Yochai, ref1, ref2 Berkeley Barb, ref1, ref2 Berners-Lee, Tim, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7 background of, ref1 and creation of browsers, ref1 hypertext created by, ref1 and micropayments, ref1 religious views of, ref1 Bernoulli, Jacob, ref1n Bernoulli numbers, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 Berry, Clifford, ref1, ref2 Beyer, Kurt, ref1, ref2 Bezos, Jeff, ref1 audaciousness celebrated by, ref1 Bhatnagar, Ranjit, ref1 Big Brother and the Holding Company, ref1, ref2 Bilas, Frances, ref1, ref2 Bilton, Nick, ref1 Bina, Eric, ref1, ref2 binary, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4 in code, ref1 in German codes, ref1 on Z1, ref1 Bitcoin, ref1n bitmapping, ref1 Bletchley Park, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7 Blitzer, Wolf, ref1 Bloch, Richard, ref1, ref2, ref3 Blogger, ref1, ref2 Blogger Pro, ref1 blogs, ref1 coining of term, ref1 McCarthy’s predictions of, ref1 Blue, Al, ref1 Blue Box, ref1, ref2 Board of Patent Interferences, ref1 Bohr, Niels, ref1 Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9 bombe, ref1 BOMIS, ref1, ref2 Bonneville Power Administration, ref1 Boole, George, ref1, ref2 Boolean algebra, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 Borgia, Cesare, ref1 boron, ref1 Bowers, Ann, ref1 brains, ref1, ref2 Braiterman, Andy, ref1, ref2 Braithwaite, Richard, ref1 Brand, Lois, ref1 Brand, Stewart, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10 Brattain, Walter, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7 in dispute with Shockley, ref1, ref2, ref3 Nobel Prize won by, ref1 photovoltaic effect studied by, ref1 solid-state studied by, ref1 in World War II, ref1, ref2 Brautigan, Richard, ref1, ref2, ref3 Breakout, ref1, ref2 Bricklin, Dan, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4 Brilliant, Larry, ref1, ref2 Brin, Sergey, ref1, ref2, ref3 Google founded by, ref1, ref2, ref3 PageRank and, ref1 personality of, ref1 Bristow, Steve, ref1 British Association for the Advancement of Science, ref1 Brookhaven National Lab, ref1, ref2 Brown, Ralph, ref1 browsers, ref1 bugs, ref1 Bulletin Board System, ref1 Burks, Arthur, ref1 “Burning Chrome” (Gibson), ref1 Burns, James MacGregor, ref1 Bush, Vannevar, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10, ref11, ref12, ref13, ref14, ref15, ref16, ref17 background of, ref1 computers augmenting human intelligence foreseen by, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8, ref9, ref10, ref11 linear model of innovation and, ref1 personal computer envisioned by, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4 technology promoted by, ref1, ref2 Bushnell, Nolan, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6 venture capital raised by, ref1 Busicom, ref1 Byrds, ref1 Byron, George Gordon, Lord, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 incest of, ref1, ref2 Luddites defended by, ref1, ref2, ref3 portrait of, ref1, ref2, ref3 Byron, Lady (Annabella Milbanke), ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 Cailliau, Robert, ref1, ref2 Caine Mutiny, The, ref1 calculating machines: of Leibniz, ref1 of Pascal, ref1, ref2 calculators, pocket, ref1, ref2, ref3 calculus, ref1, ref2 notation of, ref1 California, University of, at Santa Barbara, ref1 Call, Charles, ref1 Caltech, ref1, ref2 CamelCase, ref1 capacitors, ref1 CapitalLetters, ref1 Carey, Frank, ref1 Carlyle, Thomas, ref1 Cary, Frank, ref1 Case, Dan, ref1, ref2 Case, Steve, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 background of, ref1 Cathedral and the Bazaar, The (Raymond), ref1, ref2 cathode-ray tubs, ref1 Catmull, Ed, ref1 Caufield, Frank, ref1, ref2 CBS, ref1, ref2, ref3 CB Simulator, ref1 Census Bureau, U.S., ref1, ref2 Centralab, ref1 central processing unit, ref1 Cerf, Sigrid, ref1 Cerf, Vint, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6, ref7, ref8 background of, ref1 internet created by, ref1 nuclear attack simulated by, ref1 CERN, ref1, ref2 Cézanne, Paul, ref1 Cheatham, Thomas, ref1 Cheriton, David, ref1 Chicago Area Computer Hobbyists’ Exchange, ref1 Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Byron), ref1, ref2 Chinese Room, ref1, ref2 Christensen, Clay, ref1 Christensen, Ward, ref1 Church, Alonzo, ref1, ref2 circuit switching, ref1 Cisco, ref1 Clark, Dave, ref1 Clark, Jim, ref1 Clark, Wes, ref1, ref2, ref3 Clinton, Bill, ref1n Clippinger, Richard, ref1 COBOL, ref1, ref2n, ref3, ref4, ref5, ref6 Cold War, ref1 Collingwood, Charles, ref1 Colossus, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 as special-purpose machine, ref1 Command and Control Research, ref1 Commodore, ref1 Community Memory, ref1, ref2, ref3 Complex Number Calculator, ref1, ref2, ref3 Compton, Karl, ref1 CompuServe, ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4, ref5 computer, ref1, ref2 debate over, ref1, ref2, ref3 “Computer as a Communication Device, The” (Licklider and Taylor), ref1 Computer Center Corporation (C-Cubed), ref1 Computer Quiz, ref1 Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, ref1 computers (female calculators), ref1, ref2 Computer Space, ref1, ref2, ref3 “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (Turing), ref1 Conant, James Bryant, ref1, ref2 condensers, ref1, ref2 conditional branching, ref1 Congregationalist, ref1 Congress, U.S., ref1 Congress of Italian Scientists, ref1 Constitution, U.S., ref1n content sharing, ref1 Control Video Corporation (CVC), ref1, ref2 copper, ref1 Coupling, J.


pages: 538 words: 147,612

All the Money in the World by Peter W. Bernstein

Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, corporate governance, corporate raider, creative destruction, currency peg, David Brooks, Donald Trump, estate planning, family office, financial innovation, George Gilder, high net worth, invisible hand, Irwin Jacobs: Qualcomm, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job-hopping, John Markoff, Long Term Capital Management, Marc Andreessen, Martin Wolf, Maui Hawaii, means of production, mega-rich, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, Norman Mailer, PageRank, Peter Singer: altruism, pez dispenser, popular electronics, Renaissance Technologies, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, school vouchers, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the new new thing, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, traveling salesman, urban planning, wealth creators, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, women in the workforce

A number of companies that later propelled their founders to great riches were, in fact, born in a dorm room. Even though Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen both dropped out of college, the seed for what became Microsoft was planted while Gates was still at Harvard. Allen had already dropped out of Washington State University to take a programming job in Boston. The story goes that while visiting Gates, Allen saw a Popular Electronics story describing the MITS Altair 8800, the “World’s First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models,” which prompted the duo to talk themselves into dropping everything and starting a company. “Paul saw that the technology17 was there,” Gates later recalled. “He kept saying, ‘It’s gonna be too late. We’ll miss it.’” They teamed up to write a version of BASIC (short for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), a compact computer language for the MITS machine, and Microsoft was born.

Prior to Apple’s astounding success and before the arrival of the 8088 chip, personal computers were viewed as gadgets for hobbyists. Now, for the first time, the potential existed for the personal computer to have a role in the business world. Gates and his friend Paul Allen4 had already established a reputation for themselves as whiz kids in high-tech circles when they developed software to run the first personal computer, the Altair 8800, in 1975. Several years later the two were making a comfortable living with Microsoft, their tiny, Seattle-based software company. Now, suddenly, the industry’s Goliath wanted to do business—but only according to IBM’s script, and with Gates only playing a minor role in the corporation’s plans. Gates arrived with Ballmer5 in Miami, Florida, on the red-eye from the West Coast; according to some accounts, they hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours.

The government’s famous 1998 antitrust suit against Microsoft charged the company with predatory pricing, illegally bundling its browser for free with the Windows operating system, and bribing distributors so they would not sell Netscape’s browser. Microsoft countered that it had not impeded competitors and that giving away its browser was an innovation that benefited consumers. Netscape lawyer Gary L. Reback saw the situation differently: “The only thing J. D. Rockefeller did23 that Bill Gates hasn’t done is use dynamite against his competitors!” he complained.*5 It was a stinging remark, but many others shared his view. Bill Gates had “an incredible desire to win and to beat other people,” ex–Microsoft executive Jean Richardson recalled for a PBS documentary, Triumph of the Nerds. “At Microsoft, the whole idea was that we would put people under.”


pages: 230 words: 71,320

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

affirmative action, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, computer age, corporate raider, crew resource management, medical residency, old-boy network, Pearl River Delta, popular electronics, Silicon Valley, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, union organizing, upwardly mobile, why are manhole covers round?

All of the fourteen men and women on the list above had vision and talent. But they also were given an extraordinary opportu nity, in the same way that hockey and soccer players born in January, February, and March are given an extraordinary opportunity.'1" Now let's do the same kind of analysis for people like Bill Joy and Bill Gates. If you talk to veterans of Silicon Valley, they'll tell you that the most important date in the history of the personal computer revolution was January 1975. That was when the magazine Popular Electronics ran a cover story on an extraordinary machine called the Altair 8800. The Altair cost $397. It was a do-it-yourself contraption that you could assemble at home. The headline on the story read: “PROJECT BREAKTHROUGH! World's First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models.” To the readers of Popular Electronics, in those days the bible of the fledgling software and computer world, that headline was a revelation.

The perfect age to be in 1975, in other words, is old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you missed it. Ideally, you want to be twenty or twenty-one, which is to say, born in 1954 or 1955. There is an easy way to test this theory. When was Bill Gates born? Bill Gates: October 28,1955 That's the perfect birth date! Gates is the hockey player born on January 1. Gates's best friend at Lakeside was Paul Allen. He also hung out in the computer room with Gates and shared those long evenings at ISI and C-Cubed. Allen went on to found Microsoft with Bill Gates. When was Paul Allen born? Paul Allen: January 21, 1953 The third-richest man at Microsoft is the one who has been running the company on a day-to-day basis since 2000, one of the most respected executives in the software world, Steve Ballmer. Ballmer's birth date? Steve Ballmer: March 24,1956 Let's not forget a man every bit as famous as Gates: Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple Computer.

And do you know who wrote much of the software that allows you to access the InternetBill Joy. After graduating from Berkeley, Joy cofounded the Silicon Valley firm Sun Microsystems, which was one of the most critical players in the computer revolution. There he rewrote another computer languageJavaand his legend grew still further. Among Silicon Valley insiders, Joy is spoken of with as much awe as someone like Bill Gates of Microsoft. He is sometimes called the Edison of the Internet. As the Yale computer scientist David Gelernter says, "Bill Joy is one of the most influential people in the modern history of computing/' The story of Bill Joy's genius has been told many times, and the lesson is always the same. Here was a world that was the purest of meritocracies. Computer programming didn't operate as an old-boy network, where you got ahead because of money or connections.


pages: 403 words: 87,035

The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti

assortative mating, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, business climate, call centre, cleantech, cloud computing, corporate raider, creative destruction, desegregation, Edward Glaeser, financial innovation, global village, hiring and firing, income inequality, industrial cluster, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, medical residency, Menlo Park, new economy, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, Productivity paradox, Richard Florida, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Skype, special economic zone, Startup school, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, thinkpad, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Wall-E, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

But on a rainy morning in early January 1979, something happened that changed the history of the city. A Tale of Two Cities Everyone now associates Microsoft with Seattle. However, in the early part of its life, Microsoft was located a world away. In fact, the company was founded in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That year it had one product, one client, and three employees. The client was MITS, an Albuquerque hardware firm that was making a successful home computer kit called the Altair 8800; the product used BASIC software to operate the kit. In the following months and years, Microsoft prospered in New Mexico. Its future looked so promising that by the end of 1975 one of the two founders, an intense, preppy-looking twenty-year-old named Bill Gates, took a leave of absence from Harvard to join Paul Allen, the other founder, who was already in Albuquerque.

The billboard, which is still very much talked about today, perfectly captured the mood of a city in decline. Although the relocation of Microsoft from Albuquerque to Seattle seemed insignificant at the time, it helped turn Seattle into one of America’s most successful innovation hubs. What is remarkable is how serendipitous it was. Bill Gates and Paul Allen could have moved the company to Silicon Valley, where many other technology companies were already established, or they could have stayed in Albuquerque. With its dry weather, relaxed attitudes, the Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque seemed as if it was destined to develop a local high-tech cluster, and it probably would have if Microsoft had stayed there. From the point of view of Microsoft, staying in Albuquerque would not have been crazy in 1979. The idea of a move met some resistance at first, because some of the employees liked New Mexico and did not want to deal with the logistics, but Gates and Allen stood firm in their decision.

The overwhelming conclusion of these studies is that while it is true that those who go to college tend to have more analytical ability than those who do not, college does directly raise people’s productivity and salaries. Of course this does not mean that everyone should go to college. The history of technology is dotted with brilliant innovators who dropped out. If you have a groundbreaking idea, it obviously makes sense to pursue your dream. When Bill Gates decided that working for Microsoft was more important than finishing Harvard, it was a turning point for the software industry. If he had finished college first, Microsoft might not have become the dominant force it later became, and Gates himself would have been several billions poorer today. If Mark Zuckerberg had stayed in college, his nemeses, the Winklevoss twins, might have developed a social networking site before him. In 2010 the venture capitalist Peter Thiel launched a controversial charity that offers $100,000 scholarships to twenty-year-olds with exceptionally promising business ideas to enable them to drop out of college.


pages: 247 words: 81,135

The Great Fragmentation: And Why the Future of All Business Is Small by Steve Sammartino

3D printing, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, augmented reality, barriers to entry, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, bitcoin, BRICs, Buckminster Fuller, citizen journalism, collaborative consumption, cryptocurrency, David Heinemeier Hansson, disruptive innovation, Elon Musk, fiat currency, Frederick Winslow Taylor, game design, Google X / Alphabet X, haute couture, helicopter parent, illegal immigration, index fund, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, Law of Accelerating Returns, lifelogging, market design, Metcalfe's law, Minecraft, minimum viable product, Network effects, new economy, peer-to-peer, post scarcity, prediction markets, pre–internet, profit motive, race to the bottom, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, remote working, RFID, Rubik’s Cube, self-driving car, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Skype, social graph, social web, software is eating the world, Steve Jobs, survivorship bias, too big to fail, US Airways Flight 1549, web application, zero-sum game

What’s certain is that social media and citizen journalism will evolve into social design and social manufacturing. It’s the way it’s always been, excluding the 200-year halcyon period of the industrial era. Dad vs daughter I’ve been thrilled to own a 3D printer for a few years now. I purchased one when they hit their Altair moment (the Altair 8800 is regarded as the first affordable personal computer and the spark of the home computer revolution). It’s a pretty impressive party trick introducing someone to the basic idea of 3D printing, helping them work through their initial incredulity, showing them a little video about it, and then helping them print their first item. It’s a social experiment I’ve undertaken on both my 70-year-old father and my four-year-old daughter. While I was tinkering with my 3D printer in my home office, my daughter came in the room and asked me what that ‘toy’ was, pointing to the printer.

The first hand-held GPS receiver, which was launched in 1989 (the Magellan NAV 1000), was the size of a brick and cost $2500 to purchase. These days the GPS is another ‘free’ device we get with our pocket ‘super computer’, the smartphone. The free super computer In fact, most of the important technologies we use today are becoming integrated into the smartphone, which isn’t really a ‘smart phone’ at all — it’s actually the most personal of personal computers. While Bill Gates aimed to have a computer on every desk in every home, Steve Jobs put a super computer in every person’s pocket. The evidence is in the number of uses for the smartphone. The telephone function only gets 22 of the more than 150 interactions we have with our smartphones daily.2 One of the most amazing things about this super computer is that it’s actually free. The recommended retail price is a bit of a red herring.

Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of lenses Jesse Schell Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Carl Sagan Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing Alex Wipperfurth The Cluetrain Manifesto Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed Ray Kurzweil The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel Benjamin Graham One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know To Make Money In The Market Peter Lynch The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing Burton G. Malkiel Rework Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson The Road Ahead Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold, Peter Rinearson Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions Christian Lander Documentaries Connections (series 1-3, 1978-1997) Series presented by James Burke. The Corporation (2013) Film on the concept of the corporation. Cosmos (1980) Series presented by Carl Sagan. The Day the Universe Changed (1985) Series presented by James Burke.


pages: 377 words: 115,122

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

8-hour work day, Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, call centre, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, game design, hive mind, index card, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, longitudinal study, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, new economy, popular electronics, Ralph Waldo Emerson, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rosa Parks, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, telemarketer, The Wisdom of Crowds, traveling salesman, twin studies, Walter Mischel, web application, white flight

Their mission: to make computers accessible to regular people—no small task at a time when most computers are temperamental SUV-sized machines that only universities and corporations can afford. The garage is drafty, but the engineers leave the doors open to the damp night air so people can wander inside. In walks an uncertain young man of twenty-four, a calculator designer for Hewlett-Packard. Serious and bespectacled, he has shoulder-length hair and a brown beard. He takes a chair and listens quietly as the others marvel over a new build-it-yourself computer called the Altair 8800, which recently made the cover of Popular Electronics. The Altair isn’t a true personal computer; it’s hard to use, and appeals only to the type of person who shows up at a garage on a rainy Wednesday night to talk about microchips. But it’s an important first step. The young man, whose name is Stephen Wozniak, is thrilled to hear of the Altair. He’s been obsessed with electronics since the age of three.

And yet the elasticity that Schwartz found in some of the high-reactive teens also suggests the converse: we have free will and can use it to shape our personalities. These seem like contradictory principles, but they are not. Free will can take us far, suggests Dr. Schwartz’s research, but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits. Bill Gates is never going to be Bill Clinton, no matter how he polishes his social skills, and Bill Clinton can never be Bill Gates, no matter how much time he spends alone with a computer. We might call this the “rubber band theory” of personality. We are like rubber bands at rest. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much. To understand why this might be so for high-reactives, it helps to look at what happens in the brain when we greet a stranger at a cocktail party.

Some psychologists map the two tendencies on vertical and horizontal axes, with the introvert-extrovert spectrum on the horizontal axis, and the anxious-stable spectrum on the vertical. With this model, you end up with four quadrants of personality types: calm extroverts, anxious (or impulsive) extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts. In other words, you can be a shy extrovert, like Barbra Streisand, who has a larger-than-life personality and paralyzing stage fright; or a non-shy introvert, like Bill Gates, who by all accounts keeps to himself but is unfazed by the opinions of others. You can also, of course, be both shy and an introvert: T. S. Eliot was a famously private soul who wrote in “The Waste Land” that he could “show you fear in a handful of dust.” Many shy people turn inward, partly as a refuge from the socializing that causes them such anxiety. And many introverts are shy, partly as a result of receiving the message that there’s something wrong with their preference for reflection, and partly because their physiologies, as we’ll see, compel them to withdraw from high-stimulation environments.


pages: 464 words: 155,696

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli

Albert Einstein, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Bob Noyce, Byte Shop, Charles Lindbergh, computer age, corporate governance, El Camino Real, Isaac Newton, John Markoff, Jony Ive, Kickstarter, Marc Andreessen, market design, McMansion, Menlo Park, Paul Terrell, popular electronics, QWERTY keyboard, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Tim Cook: Apple, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog

Their first get-together occurred shortly after the publication of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, which featured a cover story about the Altair 8800 “microcomputer.” Gordon French, a Silicon Valley engineer, hosted the gathering in his garage to show off an Altair unit that French and a buddy had assembled from the $495 kit sold by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). It was an inscrutable-looking device, about the size of a stereo component amplifier, its face sporting two horizontal arrays of toggle switches and a lot of blinking red lights. The clunky thing couldn’t do too much, but it demonstrated the feasibility of having a computer to yourself, one that you could program twenty-four hours a day if you wanted to, without having to wait in line or punch any cards. Bill Gates read the article, and shortly thereafter famously dropped out of Harvard to start a little outfit called Micro-soft to design software programming languages for the Altair.

ON A SEPTEMBER day in 1981, just a couple of months after Scotty’s departure, Bill Gates visited the Apple campus in Cupertino. The twenty-six-year-old CEO of Microsoft made the trip fairly often, since his company worked closely with Apple on programming languages for software developers. At the time, Steve was far richer and far more well-known. Gates, however, was the far more precocious and astute businessman. After dropping out of Harvard, Gates had started Microsoft in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his prep school programming buddy, Paul Allen. Albuquerque was home to MITS, the maker of the Altair computer that had so excited the Homebrew hobbyists. Gates and Allen wrote a piece of software called an “interpreter” that made it possible for hobbyists to write their own programs for the Altair in the simple but popular BASIC programming language.

WHEN WORD GOT back to Cupertino of Bill’s ambitious CES presentation, Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein persuaded Steve to convene an emergency off-site executive staff meeting at the Garden Court Hotel in downtown Palo Alto to rethink where Apple was headed. “Bill Gates was already talking about what we would end up calling our ‘digital hub’ strategy,” recalls Mike Slade. “So I just cribbed his talk and pitched it to Steve at the off-site meeting. I said, ‘Shouldn’t we be doing this? We can’t let Microsoft do it. They’ll just screw it up!’ ” Apple employees had never had much respect for Microsoft’s ability to create anything but ungainly, confusing, and half-baked technologies for consumers. The animus went back decades. Even though Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint were instrumental in the early success of the Mac, Microsoft’s unforgivable sin, from the vantage point of Cupertino, was its derivative creation of Windows. Steve was being expedient when he offered to abandon Apple’s long-standing lawsuit against Microsoft to seal the deal with Gates upon his return in 1997.


pages: 378 words: 110,518

Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason

Alfred Russel Wallace, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Basel III, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, bitcoin, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, business cycle, business process, butterfly effect, call centre, capital controls, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, Claude Shannon: information theory, collaborative economy, collective bargaining, Corn Laws, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, credit crunch, currency manipulation / currency intervention, currency peg, David Graeber, deglobalization, deindustrialization, deskilling, discovery of the americas, Downton Abbey, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, eurozone crisis, factory automation, financial repression, Firefox, Fractional reserve banking, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, future of work, game design, income inequality, inflation targeting, informal economy, information asymmetry, intangible asset, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, late capitalism, low skilled workers, market clearing, means of production, Metcalfe's law, microservices, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, mortgage debt, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, Pearl River Delta, post-industrial society, precariat, price mechanism, profit motive, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, reserve currency, RFID, Richard Stallman, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, secular stagnation, sharing economy, Stewart Brand, structural adjustment programs, supply-chain management, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Transnistria, union organizing, universal basic income, urban decay, urban planning, Vilfredo Pareto, wages for housework, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce

For the first thirty years, computers were big and rare, and computing took place in businesses and universities. When desktop PCs were invented in the mid-1970s, they were little more than an assembly of electronic boards and a screen. And corporations did not build them, hobbyists did. The Altair 8800 was a breakthrough machine, sold via magazine ads to a subculture of geeky people who wanted to learn programming. You needed a programming language to make the computer do what you wanted, and two Seattle-based guys came up with one: Altair BASIC, distributed on a reel of paper with holes punched through it, price $200. But soon they noticed that sales of the language were lagging behind sales of the computer. Users were copying and distributing the punched paper reels for free. In an angry ‘Open Letter’ the software’s author urged them to kick pirates out of computer club meetings and to pay up: ‘Most of you steal your software.

In an angry ‘Open Letter’ the software’s author urged them to kick pirates out of computer club meetings and to pay up: ‘Most of you steal your software. [You believe] hardware must be paid for but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid.’17 The author was Bill Gates, and he soon came up with a solution: to own the operating system as well as the programming language. Gates designed Windows, which became the standard operating system on PCs. Soon Windows built a near monopoly of the corporate desktop and Gates became a billionaire. His ‘Open Letter’ would go down as the second most important document in the history of digital economics. Now here is an excerpt from what I think is the most important document: If anything deserves a reward, it is social contribution. Creativity can be a social contribution, but only in so far as society is free to use the results.

According to standard economics a person like Richard Stallman should not exist: he is not following his self-interest but suppressing it in favour of a collective interest that is not just economic but moral. According to market theory, it is those motivated by the pursuit of private property who should be the more efficient innovators. According to mainstream economics, large corporations such as Google should be doing what Bill Gates did: making a land-grab for everything and trying to destroy Open Source software. Now Google is a hard-assed capitalist firm, but in pursuit of its own interests it is forced to fight for some standards to be open and some software to be free. Google is not postcapitalist – but as long as it keeps Android Open Source it is being forced to act in a way that prefigures non-capitalist forms of ownership and exchange, even if, as the EU is investigating, they use this position to carve out dominance.


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This Machine Kills Secrets: Julian Assange, the Cypherpunks, and Their Fight to Empower Whistleblowers by Andy Greenberg

Apple II, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Burning Man, Chelsea Manning, computerized markets, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, domain-specific language, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, fault tolerance, hive mind, Jacob Appelbaum, Julian Assange, Mahatma Gandhi, Mitch Kapor, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Mohammed Bouazizi, nuclear winter, offshore financial centre, pattern recognition, profit motive, Ralph Nader, Richard Stallman, Robert Hanssen: Double agent, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Skype, social graph, statistical model, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, undersea cable, Vernor Vinge, We are Anonymous. We are Legion, We are the 99%, WikiLeaks, X Prize, Zimmermann PGP

“He saw very early that there was a schism forming between people who understood computers and those who were afraid of them,” says Zatko. “He wanted me to grow up with technology all around me.” Sure enough, by the time Zatko could speak, he was asking questions about his computational playthings. By the age of five, he was tinkering with his father’s Southwest Technical Products Corporation 6800 microcomputer, Altair 8800, and Tektronix 4051. Those early PCs had to be assembled from kits, and learning to use them was often inextricable from learning to code. So a kindergarten-age Zatko acquired the ability to write software as naturally as most children learn to write their ABCs. At the same time, his parents introduced him to the violin and later the guitar; his talents on both sets of instruments, digital and analog, developed in parallel.

Pinpointing the moment when Berg and Assange’s philosophical differences blossomed into full-out contempt and animosity isn’t easy: Perhaps it was after Berg exploded at Assange in a cramped, dark, and stuffy hotel room in Reykjavík. Or maybe it was when Berg began to use the group’s funds to pay for systems upgrades without asking Assange for his consent. But only one event has been publicly cited by both men as a clear spark for their conflict. When I asked Jacob Appelbaum, he summarized it: “Basically, Daniel never should have gotten married.” Berg met Anke Domscheit at a falafel joint in Berlin in February 2010. She was ten years his senior and had a young son. But they connected immediately—Domscheit was a consultant with Microsoft focused on “open government,” working on the same issues of transparency as Berg, and he was attracted to her unique style and idealism. Just nine days later, they decided to wed. They planned to change both of their names to Domscheit-Berg. Assange’s first reaction, when Berg told him about meeting Domscheit, was to suggest that Berg dig up “dirt” on her that would be useful when they separated, a piece of advice that deeply wounded Berg.

As Dildog wrote in the advisory L0pht published, “Click on the link. Become aware of what happens to your machine. Freak out and beg Microsoft to make the bad man stop.” The next year, Mudge discovered that the encryption used by Windows NT, the corporate version of Microsoft’s operating system, had several fatal weaknesses: It stored passwords without regard for upper or lower case characters, and split them into more easily analyzed chunks of seven characters no matter how long they were. While it used a technique called a “hash” to encrypt those password chunks, it failed to “salt” its hashes, a trick that added another layer of noise into the cipher. Each of those mistakes made it mathematically far easier for a systematic hacker to guess the key. Mudge called Microsoft’s approach “kindergarten crypto.” And L0phtCrack, the tool he built, combined every trick in the code-breaking textbook—dictionary attacks that cycle through huge word-sets, brute force attacks that attempted every possible key, and more technical methods like rainbow tables—to defeat that crippled cryptography in record time.


pages: 498 words: 145,708

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole by Benjamin R. Barber

addicted to oil, AltaVista, American ideology, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, business cycle, Celebration, Florida, collective bargaining, creative destruction, David Brooks, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, G4S, game design, George Gilder, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, informal economy, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, late capitalism, liberal capitalism, Marc Andreessen, McJob, microcredit, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, pattern recognition, presumed consent, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Nader, road to serfdom, Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, spice trade, Steve Jobs, telemarketer, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, the market place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas L Friedman, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, X Prize

There were mathematicians like John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz, who invented BASIC but never managed to commercialize their work, as well as other visionaries who either lacked the technical expertise (William Gibson or John Perry Barlow, for example), or creators like Ed Roberts, the inventor of the Altair 8800, whose careers floundered as their fledging companies were bought up before the big money was made. The creator of the Cray Supercomputers, Seymour Cray, built what many people regarded as the best computers in the world, only to see his company go under and his own personal fortune vanish. The mass consumer market in electronics, like the petroleum products market, had to be created before the great profits it promised could be reaped. Others focused on the products, but Bill Gates created the market and in the end fashioned a market monopoly for his company.

As once Weber had argued that the medieval guild served to unite and thus to “limit” competitors,73 Rockefeller could argue modern cartelism limited competition among the anarchic forces that had created wealth, enabling a society (and its cartel owners) to maximize the rationality and orderliness of a prosperous and growing industrial economy. Bill Gates, Jr.:74 To the extent archetypes of capitalist development, early, middle, and late, coexist in every period of capitalism, we should be able to identify more contemporary exemplars of Weber’s capitalist accountant, people who like John D. Rockefeller forge monopoly to secure control over the “rational growth” of capitalism. Bill Gates, Jr., is an apt candidate, if obviously far too modern and postindustrial to fully incarnate the ethos Weber celebrated. Exploiting the work done by earlier inventors and engineers, Gates adapted software to different hardware platforms, especially BASIC, that was to become the foundation for his business at Microsoft. But much more importantly, Gates created a new business model.75 For the Microsoft DOS and Microsoft BASIC platforms became the industry standards through methods that were aimed at creating domination rather than competition.

My research assistant Rene Paddags did extensive research and also helped order the arguments in this section. 75. David Bank, Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft (New York: Free Press, 2001), p. 17; Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews, Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry and Made Himself the Richest Man in America (New York: Doubleday, 1993), p. 167; Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby, Microsoft Secrets: How the World’s Most Powerful Software Company Creates Technology, Shapes Markets, and Manages People (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), chapter 3. 76. Manes and Andrews, Gates, p. 162. 77. U.S.A. v. Microsoft (2001). Full ruling available at www.dcd.uscourts.gov/ms-conclusions.html. 78. Ibid. 79. Bill Gates, with Nathan Myhrvold and Peter Rinearson, The Road Ahead (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), p. 50. 80.


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Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

Bill Gates: Altair 8800, British Empire, computer age, cuban missile crisis, desegregation, financial independence, Grace Hopper, Isaac Newton, labor-force participation, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, music of the spheres, new economy, operation paperclip, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Steve Jobs, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Works Progress Administration, Yogi Berra

Sanger, “A Year Later, Two Engineers Cope with Challenger Horror,” New York Times, January 28, 1987. The history of the microprocessor can be found in Robert Slater, Portraits in Silicon (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989). The role of Jack Kilby in the development of the microchip is described in T. R. Reid, The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985). A history of the Altair 8800 can be found in Robert M. Collins, Transforming America: Politics and Culture During the Reagan Years (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009). Stephen Wozniak is quoted as saying, “The whole vision of a personal computer popped in my head,” etc., in Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs (Simon and Schuster, 2011). The antenna failure on Galileo is explained in J. George et al., “Galileo System Design for Orbital Operations,” Digital Avionics Systems Conference, Phoenix, Arizona, 1994, and Jean H.

Data were fed in using toggle switches, and output came through the blinking pattern of red LEDs on the front of the machine. The company expected to sell only a few hundred of the kits, priced at $395, but instead, within three months, they were backlogged with four thousand orders. Given the popularity of their microcomputer, in 1975 they took a chance on hiring two childhood friends: Bill Gates, a twenty-year-old student at Harvard, and Paul G. Allen, a twenty-two-year-old employee at Honeywell. The two adapted the BASIC programming language for the Altair, making it far easier to use. The first program was delivered on a paper tape. Now connected to a Teletype terminal, Allen typed “PRINT 2 + 2” and immediately the answer popped out on the paper: 4. The new software was so popular that its users widely copied and distributed it among their friends.

Because of this, Gates and Allen found their profits smaller than expected—they were barely breaking even. In response, Gates wrote an “open letter to hobbyists” in early 1976, sent to the Homebrew Computer Club and published in their newsletter, where he declared, “Most of you steal your software… Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid.” Despite their poverty, Gates and Allen still managed to form their own company, which eventually turned into the empire named Microsoft. A demonstration of the Altair energized two computer engineers who happened to be part of the Homebrew Computer Club: Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs. After Wozniak saw the Altair for the first time, he had a revelation. “The whole vision of a personal computer popped in my head,” he said. “That night I started to sketch out on paper what would later become known as the Apple I.” Personal computers, or PCs, soon underwent a revolution, with Apple, IBM, Xerox, Tandy, and Commodore all contributing models.


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Troublemakers: Silicon Valley's Coming of Age by Leslie Berlin

AltaVista, Apple II, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, beat the dealer, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Bob Noyce, Byte Shop, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, computer age, discovery of DNA, don't be evil, Donald Knuth, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Thorp, El Camino Real, fear of failure, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, game design, Haight Ashbury, hiring and firing, industrial robot, informal economy, Internet of things, inventory management, John Markoff, Kickstarter, Kitchen Debate, Leonard Kleinrock, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Minecraft, Mother of all demos, packet switching, Ralph Nader, Robert Metcalfe, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Snapchat, software as a service, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, union organizing, upwardly mobile, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, women in the workforce

Although quite rudimentary—the computers were programmed by flipping switches, and their output was not text on a screen or printer but a series of flashing lights—the MITS Altair offered the processing power of a $20,000 minicomputer at a cost of only $395 (unassembled). MITS never claimed that the Altair was a personal computer; the company called the machine a “minicomputer kit.” As one historian describes it, “The Altair 8800 often did not work when the enthusiast had constructed it; and even if it did work, it did not do anything very useful.”17 At the second meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club, someone programed an Altair to play the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” through a transistor radio’s speakers.18 That sort of playful innovation was typical. The Homebrew spirit ran mostly in an idealistic, antiestablishment direction.

Bob Metcalfe, one of the inventors of Ethernet, had left a year earlier to start 3Com, a networking company.II Within two years, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock would depart to launch Adobe; Charles Simonyi would leave to become employee number forty at Microsoft, where he would lead the technical development of Microsoft Word and Excel; and David Liddle and Don Massaro would start a personal computer company called Metaphor Computer Systems.12 Most people left for the same reason Tesler did: a sense of frustration bordering on futility at Xerox. “An engineer lives for one thing—to build something that millions of people use,” explains Chuck Geschke, who adds that “money was not an object.”13 (Nor was money a significant factor in Tesler’s departure; he had to ask what a stock option was when Apple offered it to him.) What was the point of being the best in the world if your ideas never reached anyone? In the end, Apple, IBM, and companies such as Adobe and Microsoft commercialized many of the innovations from PARC’s computer science lab and systems science lab.

“Now the shoe’s on the other foot.”65 He compared IBM to a new hamburger stand and Apple to McDonald’s.66 IBM ran advertisements featuring women, warm-fuzzy promises (“One nice thing about having your own IBM Personal Computer is that it’s yours”), and Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp from Modern Times, the movie about one small man’s fight against big business and bureaucratic technological efficiency.67 The IBM PC proved so popular that within days of its launch, the company quadrupled production.68 By the end of 1982, one IBM PC sold every minute of the workday, and the 150,000 machines that IBM manufactured that year came a close second to Apple’s production of 225,000.69 One year later, IBM’s share of the personal computer market surpassed Apple’s, and by 1985, the personal computer division of IBM was so successful that had it been a stand-alone company, it would have been the world’s third largest computer company, behind Digital Equipment Corporation and IBM itself.70 Within a year of the PC’s introduction, software developers around the world had written 753 programs for the machine.71 VisiCalc’s parent company wrote a version of the program for the IBM PC. Microsoft can trace much of its success to IBM’s decision to adopt a Microsoft operating system for the PC. The flood of new software titles initiated a virtuous cycle for IBM: more software meant more sales, which in turn meant that more people wanted to write software for the fast-selling machine. Since Microsoft licensed the PC’s operating system to other computer manufacturers (who could also buy the same Intel microprocessors and other chips used in the IBM machines), Apple faced even more competition from IBM-compatible computers made by different companies.


The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal by M. Mitchell Waldrop

Ada Lovelace, air freight, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Apple II, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, Bill Duvall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, Byte Shop, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, Donald Davies, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, experimental subject, fault tolerance, Frederick Winslow Taylor, friendly fire, From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death, Haight Ashbury, Howard Rheingold, information retrieval, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Rulifson, John von Neumann, Leonard Kleinrock, Marc Andreessen, Menlo Park, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, packet switching, pink-collar, popular electronics, RAND corporation, RFC: Request For Comment, Robert Metcalfe, Silicon Valley, Steve Crocker, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, Turing machine, Turing test, Vannevar Bush, Von Neumann architecture, Wiener process, zero-sum game

Since the only real, working Al- tair had gotten lost in transit before reaching the photographers in New York (it would turn up a year later), the cover showed the best mockup that MITS could manage on short notice: a pale-blue Altair shell with an impressive array of switches and diodes across the front that did absolutely nothing. But it certainly looked like the real thing. And right there in the box's upper-left-hand corner was the name: Altair 8800. "Project Breakthrough!" proclaimed the headline. "World's First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models." Inside, readers learned that the kits could be had from MITS for just $397. MITS would be a year or more digging out from under the avalanche. Having expected maybe a few hundred orders, Roberts and his crew ultimately received more than ten thousand. And why not? The kit was a steal, considering that the retail price of the 8080 chip alone was $360.

And by the following year, 1977, with more than a LICK'S KIDS 435 hundred companies wanting to license CP/M for their new machines, Kildall was hurriedly rewriting the system in a way that he hoped would keep him sane. His basic idea was to collect all the code that had to be customized for each new computer or disk drive and put it into a small Unix-like kernel that he called the Basic Input/Output System, or BIOS. Getting that right for a given machine would then be the responsibility of the licensee, not Kildall. And once that was done, the rest of CP/M would run without change. Now, if this all sounds familiar, no wonder: when Bill Gates and his crew at Microsoft were later asked to write a "Disk Operating System" for the new IBM PC, they responded with a clone-MS-DOS-that was just barely different enough from CP/M to avoid legal action.

Indeed, except for the 8080 chip, the Altair was a minicomputer, right down to those switches and diodes on its front face; Roberts had copied the layout from a Data General Nova 2 he'd bought for the MITS office (the company was selling time-sharing services with it). The minicomputer heritage was equally ob- vious on the inside, where the design was identical in spirit to the "Unibus" ar- chitecture of DEC's PDP-11. Basically, it was just one big array of slots for add-on cards: everything in the Altair was modular and replaceable. Even Roberts's later choice for an official programming language was reminis- cent of the minis. Created in the spring of 1975 by two young men who had been inspired by the Popular Electronics article-Bill Gates, now a Harvard under- grad, and his high school buddy Paul Allen, a programmer working outside Boston-Altair BASIC took a number of key features from DEC's BASIC for the PDP-11. (The language also owed its existence to the Harvard PDP-10, interest- ingly enough. Since Gates and Allen didn't have access to an Intel 8080 at the time, they used Gates's student account on the big machine to create a simula- 432 THE DREAM MACHINE tion of the microprocessor-in the process burning up some forty thousand dol- lars' worth of computer time that was not supposed to be used for commercial purposes.