That's because it was the first actual computer you, an individual, could buy and actually do calculations with.
It's true in retrospect that MITS didn't understand the vocabulary of personal computing, that we needed a familiar input (a keyboard), and a familiar output (a TV) to make this more than an engineering toy. But still...there's a reason Bill Gates visited founder Ed Roberts on his deathbed.
Well, solar power is now having its MITS moment, and the Ed Roberts of our time may turn out to be Arthur Chew.
Chew runs a little outfit called Spinray Energy, in North Scituate, a town in western Rhode Island midway between Providence and the Connecticut border. And his MITS Altair, called the PowerDeck, is an $1,100 do-it-yourself solar system, which you can just plug into your house. No contract, no engineer, no nothing, just 200 watts of pure solar power. UL-listed.
Chew is modest about what he's done, noting that it's not a replacement for rooftop solar arrays costing tens of thousands of dollars, more of a “stepping stone” for those who want to “experiment” with the idea.
All Chew has done is create a kit around simple panels and microinverters, then put it on Amazon.com. Amazon, in turn, is now offering the kit for 10% off, $999 if you act now. They're saying shipments take one to three weeks.
I'm being careful when I call this a MITS system. I don't want you to think that all the problems of DIY solar are solved. But the way is now clear to build on this and actually create the solar equivalent of the Apple II, years ahead of schedule.
It's an important moment.