The Altair or Altair 8800 computer from MITS was developed by Henry Edward Roberts and introduced on December 19, 1974. It was later published on the front cover of Popular Electronics in 1975 making it almost instantly a huge success. The Altair 8800 included an Intel 8080 processor, "1024 word" memory boards with 256 bytes of memory (expandable to 64 K). It was available as a kit for $439 or assembled for $621 and had several additional add-ons such as a memory board and interface boards.
By August 1975, over 5,000 Altair 8800 personal computers were sold and started the personal computer revolution.
Microsoft's first program called Altair BASIC was designed for the Altair computer. The BASIC programming language was developed by Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Monte Davidoff and released on July 14, 1978.
How did the user use the Altair 8800 computer?
The Altair did not come with a keyboard, monitor, or printer and got its input from switches and output from flashing lights. An example of front panel programming on the Altair is shown in the following video.
Why is it called "Altair"?
The Altair was named PE-8, but Les Soloman the writer for the Popular Electronics article wanted a catchier name. His daughter suggested "Altair," the name of the place the Star Trek crew was traveling that week.