1976 - An Open Letter to Hobbyists - Bill Gates
An Open Letter to Hobbyists
February 3, 1976
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 Alkair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving and adding features to BASIC. Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, R3M 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. Wo surprising things are apparent, however. 1) Most of these "users" never bought BASIC (less than 10% of all Altair 2::.r,zzs have bought SkSIC), a113. 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 software 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 a ford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are wrLting 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little 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 making money on hobby software? Yes, but thosewho 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, g114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more tan being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.
General Partner, Micro-Soft.
Existe una segunda carta "A second final letter" también de 1976
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).
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.