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PC maker Henry Edward Roberts dies in US

Henry Edward Roberts, a developer of an early personal computer that inspired Bill Gates to found Microsoft, died yesterday in Georgia. He was 68.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2010 08:03 IST

Henry Edward Roberts, a developer of an early personal computer that inspired Bill Gates to found Microsoft, died yesterday in Georgia. He was 68.

Roberts, whose build-it-yourself kit concentrated thousands of dollars worth of computer capability in an affordable package, inspired Bill Gates and his childhood friend Paul Allen to come up with Microsoft in 1975 after they saw an article about the MITS Altair 8800 in Popular Electronics.

Roberts, an ex-military man, later went on to careers as a farmer and a physician, but continued to keep up with computer advances: He recently told Gates he hoped to work with new, nanotechnology-enhanced machines, according to son David Roberts.

"He did think it was pretty neat, some of the stuff they're doing with the processors," said David Roberts, who confirmed Gates rushed to Georgia today to be with his mentor.

Roberts died in a Macon hospital after a long bout with pneumonia, according to his family.

"Ed was willing to take a chance on us -- two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace -- and we have always been grateful to him," Gates and Allen said in a joint statement released yesterday.

"The day our first untested software worked on his Altair was the start of a lot of great things. We will always have many fond memories of working with Ed."

The man often credited with kickstarting the modern computer era never intended to lead a revolution.

Born in Miami in 1941, Roberts spent time in the US Air Force and earned an electrical engineering degree from Oklahoma State University in 1968, according to information provided by his family.

He later parlayed his interest in technology into a business making calculators; when large firms like Texas Instruments began cornering the business, Roberts soon found himself in debt, David Roberts said.

Meanwhile, he was gaining an interest in computers _ at the time, hulking machines available almost exclusively at universities.