MITS Altair

(image borrowed from Gadgets-R-Us)
The MITS Altair is perhaps the most famous early computer. It represents a significant milestone, but it tends to be overhyped, and its historical significance is often overplayed.

So, what was the historical role of the MITS Altair?

To put the Altair in the proper perspective, it's important to remember a few things.

A brief MITS Altair Product Timeline

July 1974 The Mark-8 appears on the cover of Radio Electronics
August 1974 MITS completes the first Altair 8800 prototype
September? 1974 Railway Express loses the only Altair prototype en route to the Popular Electronics cover shoot in New York
January 1975 A mock-up of the Altair 8800 appears on the cover of Popular Electronics
February 1975 Paul Allen and Bill Gates demo and then license their BASIC implementation to MITS
March 1975 The MITS Altair newsletter, Computer Notes, declares, "Altair BASIC -- Up and Running."
October 1975 MITS introduces the Altair 680
BASIC 2.0 is released for the MITS Altair
November 1975 Altair 680 on cover of Popular Electronics
The name Micro-soft is used for the Gates/Allen software partnership
? 1976 MITS introduces the Altair 8800a
March 1976 MITS introduces the Altair 8800b
? 1976 MITS introduces the Altair 680b
May 1977 Pertec buys MITS and iCOM
June 1977 (iCOM) mini-disk intro'd
Altair 8800b turnkey intro'd
August 1977 Altair DOS intro'd
November 1977 Microsoft wins legal battle against Pertec for rights to BASIC
hard disk subsystem intro'd
January 1978 (iCOM) Attache intro'd
July 1978 Pertec ceases production of the Altair product line