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by David Bunnell

A long, long time ago, way back in 1973, the world was slow and dreary and mostly analog. There was no Federal Express, no e-mail and no venture-capitalist empire on Sand Hill Road. Where there are now chip-fabrication plants and pure business-to-business Internet plays, peach and cherry orchards abounded. Steve Jobs was barefoot in India, and Marc Andreessen was just learning to crawl. Some businesses had fax machines, but the faxes were printed out on expensive, smelly paper that smeared the ink. No one knew what a spreadsheet was. There were no pagers, no cell phones, no laptop computers. People actually wrote letters and even books on IBM Selectric typewriters.

Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce had founded Intel, but no one had heard or cared about it: Chips were just not yet all that glamorous. William Shockley had quit making microprocessors and was preaching genetics at Stanford University. Electronic calculators were the newest thing, if you could afford one, but most engineering students still had slide rules hanging from their belts. Down in Atlanta, Ted Turner was hawking billboard advertising. Most people still had black-and-white TV sets that got four channels: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. And everyone, it seemed, was watching the Watergate hearings.

Me? I was an ambitious 24-year-old looking for a way to get out of Albuquerque. And although I didn't know it yet, I had just landed the most important job of my life: as a technical writer at a "micro-electronics" company on the East Mesa called MITS. I didn't know much about electronics, but the very word sounded like something that could be really big. So I was very excited about this job because for the first time I could make a living by doing what I liked best: writing.

Welcome to MITS

I got the job at MITS not because I was qualified (I wasn't), but because the founder of the company, who seemed to have an endless capacity for hobbies and special interests, happened to share my passion for reading about World War II.

I found the job listed in the Albuquerque Tribune and somehow bullshitted my way past two rounds of interviews--one with the "head" technical writer, a nice but much-too-serious woman named Belinda Wilson; the other a brilliant but painfully shy vice president of engineering named Bill Yates (no connection to you know who). It was obvious that Yates would rather have been poring over a schematic diagram, doing the real work of this world, but he seemed somewhat resigned to the bureaucratic functions of his job.

Note: This story is from a fictional autobiography that David Bunnell is writing. Bunnell was actually in Albuquerque working for MITS at the time the Altair was introduced, and he did work with Paul Allen and Bill Gates. Much of this autobiography is true, and much of it is serious embellishment.