EARLY DAYS AT MITS, INC.
Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) was founded in 1969 in Albuquerque, New Mexicio, USA, by Ed Roberts, Forrest M. Mims III, Stan Cagle and Bob Zaller.
MITS was founded to develop and sell model rocketry light flashers and telemetry transmitters. Stan and I left MITS to pursue other interests, and I continued working with Ed on a freelance basis to write manuals for some MITS products. The company went on to introduce Ed Roberts' Altair 8800, the microcomputer that launched the personal computer age. Paul Allen and Bill Gates moved to Albuquerque to develop software for the Altair and to found Microsoft. The Altair Ed gave me in return for writing the Altair operator's manual has been on display at the Smithsonian Institution for more than 16 years.
A web site about the early days at MITS is being planned. The site will include previously unpublished photographs, including the workbench where I developed and tested various MITS products, including our very first product, the TLF-1 Transistorized Light Flasher. The photograph of the workbench below was made by Mark Langford at his studio in San Antonio, Texas.
Closeup of my workbench (used from 1969 to 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) showing projects and original tools from 1966 to 1970.
The rocket payload section at upper left (fall 1966) transmitted signals to the ground over a beam of near infrared light (940 nm) from an early Texas Instruments PEX-1201 light-emitting diode. The rocket payload section at lower left (1967) is a sun-tracking guidance system that led to the development of the miniature transistorized light flasher and the two tracking transmitters at center (1969).
The original light flasher shown above (and in photo 4 below) was flown more than 17 times. On its final flight on 5 July 1969, it served as the tracking light for the rocket shown on the workbench, which was a capacitor-discharge control experiment launched at night from the top of an earthern dam at the Albuquerque Academy (photos 1-2 below).
A neater version of the light flasher (photo 5 below) that I made was published as a construction project in Model Rocketry magazine in September 1969 (photo 6 below). This article led directly to the formation of MITS and launched my writing career.
For more information, please visit my revised and expanded home page at www.forrestmims.org.
Questions: forrest.mims [at] ieee [dot] org