An old computer magazine online - from the year I first used email...
The piece on building an Altair 8800 (from a few years earlier) captures a bit of the flavor of a period when home computer meant serious hobbiest/amateur.
an interesting sample:
After finishing the 8800, the builder is given a simple addition problem to enter into the memory and run. But after he enters the program, and proofreads it, he may find - if his 8800 uses 4K memory boards with Signetic 2604 RAMs, many of which "do not meet the required specifications for access time and refresh period," as the MITS newsletter puts it (in recalling all such memory boards) - that various bits will drop out, and the program will not run correctly. This is somewhat disheartening, even if he can make the program work by relocating it in an unffected part of memory. Only one other program is provided in the manual, a multiply program.
Over the years I've come to have a real respect for Steve Wozniak - the guy at Apple who designed the computers. The Apple I was remarkable in the sea of hobbiest computers in the Bay Area. The Apple ][ was the first thing that was stable enough (largely through the simplicity of design) to begin to move into the consumer and business markets. There was a huge amount of hardware out there and most of it was bad -- really bad.
The Baltimore Sun recently ran a two part interview with The Woz.
If you worry about high prices, do a bit of searching on home computers before 1980 ...
Of course the other Steve comes to mind. One of the more interesting pieces I've come across is this 1995 Computerworld oral history. It should be noted that he was a half dozen years into Pixar and nearly a decade into NeXT at that point.
It is interesting to note that NeXT essentially took over Apple and Pixar is doing very well these days.