Accidental Empires, Chapter 4 — Amateur Hour




You have to wonder what it was we were doing before we had all these computers in our lives. Same stuff, pretty much. Down at the auto parts store, the counterman had to get a ladder and climb way the heck up to reach some top shelf, where he’d feel around in a little box and find out that the muffler clamps were all gone. Today he uses a computer, which tells him that there are three muffler clamps sitting in that same little box on the top shelf. But he still has to get the ladder and climb up to get them, and, worse still, sometimes the computer lies, and there […]

Terminal Man

Ed Roberts died yesterday in Georgia. He was the founder of MiTS, the designer of the Altair 8800 and as close to being the father of the American personal computer as anyone can get. I say the American personal computer because French readers constantly correct me on this. Where, again, are all those French computer companies?

I knew Ed Roberts, though not very well. I never worked for or with him but I met him many times even years after he gave up computers for medicine in his late 30’s. That transition from digital hardware to medicine is key to Ed’s story and I think provides the crux of this column, which is […]