Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems

What Does Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems Mean?

Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) was an American electronics company that is famous for developing the Altair 8800 computer as well as the company that Bill Gates and Paul Allen worked for before founding Microsoft. MITS was founded by Henry Edward Roberts and Forrest Mims in December 1969 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and its first product was a miniaturized electronic and telemetry system for model rockets.


Techopedia Explains Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems

Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems was a company that was born out of the "Space Race" between the USA and the former USSR, which resulted in the popularity of the model rocketry hobby. It was founded by Henry Edward Roberts, an electrical engineer and a US Air Force commissioned officer, Forrest Mims, also a commissioned USAF officer with a great inclination towards technology. They were later joined by Bob Zaller, also a USAF officer, and Stan Cagle, who came up with the name Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, which was shortened to MITS because Mims wanted an acronym similar to MIT.

The very first products sold by MITS in 1969 were electronic telemetry modules meant for model rocket guidance and control. They later sold the Opticom, which was a device that transferred voice using light, but they ended up selling only 100 units. The company had its big break in 1971 when it started selling the MITS 816 four-function calculator, which sold thousands of units per month, but due to steep competition from Texas Instruments, Bowmar Instrument Corporation and Commodore Business Machines, which could produce calculators cheaper than the total price of the components used by MITS, the company pulled out of the calculator market. It was later in 1974 when MITS cemented its legacy in history when it produced the Altair 8800, the machine that prompted Bill Gates and Paul Allen to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and co-found Microsoft there. Roberts eventually tired of his management role in MITS and sold the company to one of its suppliers, Pertec Computer Corporation, for $6 million in shares, which culminated in May of 1977.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.