Strolling New York City's famed Fifth Avenue and nearby garment district, we crossed the portals of a new type of store, into a brand new world. The new retailers were computer stores, which we recognized as the herald of an oncoming revolution.
For sale on the merchants' shelves were "hobby" or home computers, technically called microcomputers and later personal computers. These were first the passion of the build-it-yourself crowd; later, armed with software like VisiCalc and WordStar, number-crunchers and wordsmiths alike began slipping the little machines past the corporate eyes of Information Systems departments.
We took readers inside such microcomputers as the Altair, considered the first commercially successful personal computer, of which about 10,000 were sold. The Altair came with an Intel chip and a Basic programming language from a fledgling company, Microsoft.
We also introduced our readers to some of the important and influential personalities from the frontier days of the microcomputer. Weighing in with opinions on the new machines were Ted Nelson, a founder of the Southern California Computer Society-one of the earliest of such computer groups--and David Ahl, who started Creative Computing magazine from the basement of his Morristown, New Jersey, home in 1975. We also meet Ed Roberts, president of MITS, the company whose assemble-it-yourself computer was but the opening salvo in a movement that changed how America did business. Then, such pioneers were often regarded as zealots trumpeting a fad. It was no fad.
Timeline: December 1976
In 1976 a mysterious illness, which becomes known as Legionnaire's Disease, kills 29 conventioneers in Philadelphia; IBM introduces the first inkjet printers; two space probes, Viking I and II, land on Mars; the first auto-focus camera is introduced; the United States celebrates its bicentennial.