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English: Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 1, January 31, 1976

A LETTER FROM MITS - Just as the Newsletter was in final preparation a letter arrived from Bill Gates via MITS. Reproduced (the only MITS "software" we have ever reproduced) on page 2, it should be read by every computer hobbyist. Surely many of you will want to write to Bill. Send a copy of your correspondence to me at the HOMEBREW COMPUTER CLUB NEWSLETTER, P. 0. Box 626, Mountain View, CA 94042 and I will try to summarize your comments.

Editor: Robert Reiling

Dave Bunnell of MITS sent the letter via special delivery mail to every major computer publication in the country. The letter was also published in MITS Computer Notes (February 1976, page 3), People's Computer Company (March 1976), and Radio-Electronics (May 1976, pages 14 and 16).
Français : Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter - Volume 2, n°1 : 31 janvier 1976.

UNE LETTRE DU MITS - Alors que la newsletter était presque prête, unelettre de Bill Gates est arrivée du MITS. La reproduction (le seul "programme" du MITS que nous ayons reproduit) en page 2 devraient être lu par tous les friands d'ordinateurs. Il est certain que plusieurs d'entre vous vont vouloir répondre à Bill. Envoyer moi une copie de votre correspondance à l'adresse : HOMEBREW COMPUTER CLUB NEWSLETTER, P. 0. Box 626, Mountain View, CA 94042 et j'essaierais d'en faire un résumé de vos commentaires.

Rédacteur : Robert Reiling

Dave Bunnell du MITS a envoyé la lettre aux principales publications d'informatique du pays. La lettre a été publiée dans le Computer Notes du MITS (3 février 1976), People's Computer Company (mars 1976) et Radio-Electronics (mai 1976, pages 14 et 16).


February 3, 1976

An Open Letter to Hobbyists

To me, the most critical thing in the hobby market right now is the lack of good software courses, books and software itself. Without good software and an owner who understands programming, a hobby computer is wasted. Will quality software be written for the hobby market?

Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby Market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving and adding fea- tures to BASIC. Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, ROM and DISK BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however. 1) Most of these “users" never bought BASIC (less than 10% of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) The amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent of Altair BASIC worth less than $2 an hour.

Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but soft- ware is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?

Is this fair? One thing you don't do by stealing software is get back at MITS for some problem you may have had. MITS doesn't make money selling software. The. royalty paid to us, the manual, the tape and the overhead make it a break-even operation. One thing you do do is prevent good software from being written. Who can af- ford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his pro- duct and distribute for free? The, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very lit- tle incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft.

What about the guys who re-sell Altair BASIC, aren't they mak- ing money on hobby software? Yes, but those who have been reported to us may lose in the end. They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meeting they show up at.

I would appreciate letters from any one who wants to pay up, or has a suggestion or comment. Just write me at 1180 Alvarado SE, #114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates

General Partner, Micro-Soft


DigiBarn Computer Museum:

Original scanned as a JPG by Len Shustek. Image was cleaned up by Swtpc6800 en:User:Swtpc6800 Michael Holley
Author Bill Gates
(Reusing this file)

Bill Gates sent this "Open Letter" to the Homebrew Computer Club and an exact copy was printed in the January 1976 issue of the Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter. The Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter was published between 1975 and 1977 without a copyright notice and is in the public domain.

When a person sends a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine it is assumed it will be printed under the copyright of that publication. The author has the right to send the letter to multiple publications and each can print it. Bill Gates did just that. In addition to Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter, the letter was printed in the February 1976 issue of Computer Notes, the March 1976 issue of People's Computer Company and the May 1976 issue of Radio Electronics. It is apparent from reading the letter that Mr. Gates wanted it published and he did not include a copyright notice or other restrictions. Since he distributed (published) the letter without a copyright notice before 1978, the letter is in the public domain.
Other versions File:Bill Gates Letter to Hobbyists ocr.pdf


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1925 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice. For further explanation, see Commons:Hirtle chart as well as a detailed definition of "publication" for public art. Note that it may still be copyrighted in jurisdictions that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works (depending on the date of the author's death), such as Canada (50 p.m.a.), Mainland China (50 p.m.a., not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany (70 p.m.a.), Mexico (100 p.m.a.), Switzerland (70 p.m.a.), and other countries with individual treaties.

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