Dwight Watt - Newspaper Article #256 7/9/2014

Question: Who invented the microcomputer?


Ed Roberts is credited with being the father/inventor of the inexpensive general microcomputer. He created the MITS Altair computer in 1974. It was featured along with him on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine in January 1975. A number of other individuals and companies are recognized for various parts of the microcomputer.

A number of computer hobbyists/geeks had ended up in Albuquerque NM in the early to mid 1970s. Ed Roberts had started college for medicine and got into technology by working on the electronics of a heart lung machine.

After the machine appeared on the magazine Bill Gates and Paul Allen moved to Albuquerque to develop a BASIC programming language for the Altair computer. They worked for Ed Roberts at this point. They then took their knowledge formed a small company and moved to the state of Washington that is Microsoft.

Ed Roberts sold his company for several million dollars, a large sum for a computer company then, and moved back to rural SE Georgia. He opened up a plant on his land way away from people that designed and made controllers for model railroads. I took my class at Swainsboro Tech on a tour of it and unfortunately he was out that day. He then pursued his dream of being a doctor and graduated in the first class of the Mercer medical college. He practiced pediatrics for a number of years in Cochran Georgia.

Just before I started teaching in Dublin GA he made one of his rare public appearances about technology and spoke at the tech college graduation. I wish I had known beforehand and I would have attended.

He died in 2010 of pneumonia. You can realize the importance he played in the development of microcomputers by his visitors in the hospital. Paul Allen called him a number of times and Bill Gates flew into Macon to visit him in his last week.

I have used the Ed Roberts story for many years to inspire my students when they claim they can never be someone by coming from rural Georgia.

Thank you to Bennie for a good conversation he and I had about Ed Roberts and him telling me a few things I did not know since he knew Ed and me telling him I had visited that rural manufacturing plant that was in a barn.