Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 16:01 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems I'm posting this one day late, because I didn't want it to get lost in all the April 1 nonsense. We've been in the computer age for a while now, and while that gives us the privilege of dealing with some truly great products and innovations, it sadly also means that we are starting to lose the pioneers that defined this industry. Yesterday, Ed Roberts shuffled out of life due to pneumonia. Dr. Henry Edward Roberts developed the Altair 8800, considered to be the first personal computer.
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Those were the days.
by melgross on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 16:03 UTC
melgross
Member since:
2005-08-12

I still have all the advertising, price sheets, and manuals.

Reply Score: 2

RIP
by poundsmack on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 16:35 UTC
poundsmack
Member since:
2005-07-13

your work in the industry and it's impact in the entire ecosystem of computing will never be forgotten. Thank you for helping us get to where we are today.

Reply Score: 4

deeply impressed
by evert on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 17:03 UTC
evert
Member since:
2005-07-06

The story of his life did make a deep impression on me. Technology, then back to the farm, medical school... This man did everything.

Edited 2010-04-02 17:06 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: deeply impressed
by Tuishimi on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 17:28 UTC in reply to "deeply impressed"
Tuishimi Member since:
2005-07-06

Yes. I like that he "left the business" and got into farming, then became a country doctor. Something about that is soothing to my soul. He was obviously brilliant and capable of doing many different things... and he also apparently enjoyed helping people and a simpler life style.

Neat stuff. Thanks for the post, Thom! (I had wondered why this wasn't posted yesterday).

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: deeply impressed
by parrotjoe on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 16:33 UTC in reply to "RE: deeply impressed"
parrotjoe Member since:
2005-07-06

Tuishimi, very well said. I find it soothing also.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: deeply impressed
by tylerdurden on Sun 4th Apr 2010 01:13 UTC in reply to "RE: deeply impressed"
tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

Indeed, I think not being constrained by money and profit as the only metrics which guided his personal life speak volumes in regards to his quality as a human being.

He seems to have lived a truly full life, RIP.

Reply Score: 2

RE: deeply impressed
by vodoomoth on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 00:51 UTC in reply to "deeply impressed"
vodoomoth Member since:
2010-03-30

Same thing here.

I must confess I did not know about this pioneer or about the computer he created. But I've taught computer science, automata theory, grammars, memory paging, context switching, resource allocation, all the things related to compilers and operating systems. And at that time, when telling students about "what happened before", I was just appalled when thinking about how difficult (and I stress the adjective) it must have been, back in those days I couldn't know, long before Java and other fancy modern technologies came to existence...


The user toggled the switches to positions corresponding to an 8080 microprocessor instruction or opcode in binary, then used an 'enter' switch to load the code into the machine's memory, and then repeated this step until all the opcodes of a presumably complete and correct program were in place

I don't even *want* to imagine what a bad evening could look like then.

We didn't get to where we are now by magic like Athena getting all grown-up and armed out of Zeus' head. There is some history and credit is due to those who made that history. It makes me incredibly mad (sad too) when I read that someone from the Free Software Foundation (or another FLOSS organization) disparaged Donald Knuth... come on, some icons are just untouchable... where would technology be without volume 3 of TAOCP, not to mention the other volumes? without TeX and Metafont? Same goes with "limitless ego" Linus Torvalds doing the same with CVS and SVN...
To me, that's close to blasphemy, no matter who you are, no matter how noble what you stand for is or how important your contribution was.

Many thanks to Ed Roberts.
Thanks Thom for this article, it brought me tears of gratitude and many thoughts about the pioneers (Babbage, Turing, Hamming, Huffman, Shannon, Ritchie & Kernighan come to my mind) we owe so much to.

Reply Score: 4

History
by Philby on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 18:03 UTC
Philby
Member since:
2006-11-04

I can only hope that a future history of the beginnings of the information age can remember such humble beginnings.

Yes Google, Microsoft and Apple are fascinating. But lets not forget the true beginners of this industry Ed Roberts, Felsenstein, Greenblatt, Gosper and many, many, many more...

Today there is (to the best of my knowledge) no comprehensive history or scholarship about this crucial part of the twentieth century other than transitive comments and blogs. It is painful to appreciate how much is being lost even as I write this.

Reply Score: 6

RE: History
by Philby on Fri 2nd Apr 2010 18:08 UTC in reply to "History"
Philby Member since:
2006-11-04

I should modify that they are some of my personal heros and I'm certainly not trying to rank above Babbage, Lovelace, Hopper et al et al et al.

Reply Score: 2

RE: History
by vodoomoth on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 00:55 UTC in reply to "History"
vodoomoth Member since:
2010-03-30

If you allow me to, I second each and every bit of that.

On another side, I am shocked at the low number of comments to this article, especially in contrast to what the iPhone articles attract.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: History
by darknexus on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 03:06 UTC in reply to "RE: History"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

On another side, I am shocked at the low number of comments to this article, especially in contrast to what the iPhone articles attract.


I'm not. Being of the younger generation and not a huge history buff of any kind, his name and the details of the Altair were new to me. In general, and not just in computing, many names end up being forgotten undeservedly by most people. It's very unfortunate, but I guess that's just how it is.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: History
by Laurence on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 09:35 UTC in reply to "RE: History"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

On another side, I am shocked at the low number of comments to this article, especially in contrast to what the iPhone articles attract.


I'm disappointed but not shocked.

Most people forget about Woz's contribution towards Job's success let alone many of the other greats of IT that hadn't achieved celebrity status in the media.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: History
by Gone fishing on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 11:38 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: History"
Gone fishing Member since:
2006-02-22

I'm disappointed but not shocked.


Don't be - obviously this is more news worthy than the latest ithing. However, it may not be lack of respect - just lack of anything to say.

Lets hope the spirit of innovation of the early days of computing of which Ed Roberts was a notable part can be emulated into the future. In some ways I feel that the opensource community is an attempt to do this.

Reply Score: 3

I read about him
by funny_irony on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 09:03 UTC
funny_irony
Member since:
2007-03-07

He is the one who bought Basic version 1.0 from Bill Gates.

His machine is the first one in the industry to run MS-Basic.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen saw an opportunity and wrote Altair BASIC, a true programming language, and the first commercial Microsoft computer product.

http://oldcomputers.net/altair.html

Reply Score: 1

"
by miles on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 14:18 UTC
miles
Member since:
2006-06-15

we are starting to lose the pioneers that defined this industry

Jay Miner died 16 years ago, so we're hardly "starting" to lose those pionniers. And I don't think he's the only one, neither that he was the first.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Raffaele
by Raffaele on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 15:11 UTC
Raffaele
Member since:
2005-11-12

My condolences.

These are really sad news.

May he rest in peace.

Ciao Ed!

Reply Score: 2

Sad indeed.
by bryanv on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 17:07 UTC
bryanv
Member since:
2005-08-26

Back in 99 or 00 (I don't know which) I did a research paper on the beginning of the PC industry in high school. I contacted the greats of the time -- including Ed Roberts.

Aside from Woz, Roberts was the only one to respond to my request for correspondence.

Ed came across to me as a humble man who had a down-to-earth sensibility that you don't seem to find these days. He described MITS as a failure, in that he was unable to achieve his original business goals -- making a living selling electronic kits for calculators and personal aerospace (model rocketry) use. But in the end, he stumbled upon the idea for a kit computer, put it together, and had -no-idea- what it would spur on.

The guy was a gentle hearted, accidental 'visionary', and his 'accident' afforded him the ability to pursue another career he'd always been interested in.

Reply Score: 3

To be honest...
by thavith_osn on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 19:43 UTC
thavith_osn
Member since:
2005-07-11

...I knew about the Altair (read about them at the time, but in country South Australia it was hard to get the bits and pieces back then), but couldn't tell you who made it (I've seen Pirates of Silicon Valley a few times now too)...

I guess I saw him as one of the important stepping stones on the way to where we are now, so didn't pay him as much respect as maybe I should have.

I love the idea of working on a farm too, I totally get where he was on that one!!!

Reply Score: 2

Pneumonia?
by Reinhardt on Sat 3rd Apr 2010 20:59 UTC
Reinhardt
Member since:
2010-04-03

I still think it's weird that people living in the so-called developed countries still die of pneumonia these days.
I can understand when you're older, your body is getting weaker and you're attracting more medical problems.
But he was 68 and that's way way too young.

Reply Score: 1