MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) was founded in 1968 by Ed Roberts and two friends. MITS first made radio control devices, then calculators and in 1975 the Altair 8800 and 8800a microcomputer kits.
The 8800 system was sold for $397, a very attractive price. It is now considered by many to be the first real personal microcomputer any computer hobbyist could buy and use at home. Therefore, MITS and the Altair truly created the personal computer industry and changed the way many people live and work.
The Altair 8800 was also the first computer using a built-in Basic interpreter written by two guys working at MITS and called Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
Though the company maintained its lead as the primary seller, in 1976 MITS was in trouble. The company had grown too big too fast and had too many projects going on at the same time. Computers hardware quality was not good, products were failing, and customers were complaining. Communication within the company began to deteriorate. Paul Allen and Bill Gates both left MITS to develop their own company, Micro-Soft. Many manufacturers copied the Altair concept and one's heard about modern easy-to-use computers called Apple or Commodore.
In May 1977, Ed Roberts decided to sell MITS to Pertec for $6 million, a larger company that manufactured disks and tape drives for minicomputers and mainframe computers. Sadly, the sale of the company did not solve problems. The Pertec management team came in with new ideas and a new way of working and MITS people began to leave the company. Even Roberts became fed up with Pertec and left too. Pertec continued making Altairs small business System for about a year after the acquisition, moving away from the "Hobbyist Computer" image of the 8800. Computer production ceased definitively in July 1978.