Everybody wanted to be second.
–Ted Nelson, computer visionary, philosopher, and critic
During the two and a half years between the January 1975 Popular Electronics cover story announcing the Altair 8800 and the May 1977 sale of MITS to Pertec, a new industry was on the rise. The Altair announcement triggered both technological and social change. The hobbyists who read the Popular Electronics article may not have envisioned the subsequent proliferation of microcomputers, but they did realize they were witness to the start of a radical change in the way people accessed computers. They had been longing for it.
Programmers, technicians, and engineers who worked with large computers all had the feeling of being locked out of the ...