My sick obsesion
Name someone else who would love to own this:
I, too, have the same sick obsession.
In fact, if they weren't going for so much on eBay, I'd a had me one of those babies by now....
That very one, or an Imsai. Loved the cool look of those wide-blade toggle switches!!!
Wiered huh?I saw an altair 8800 on ebay for $4400!!!
Yeh, it is very odd.
I used to have this idea that I would have a Pre-PC computer museum, hobbyist stuff and the like. Heck, my own collection of machines I used and still have around here would have made at least a start.
But looking now at the folks on the internet who are serious collectors, I know I never could have kept up. They are spending SERIOUS bucks on select machines.
Ahh, well. Maybe someday. I think there will always be tinkerers and hobbyists; though they are well below the radar of the computer biz. Though that Altair was circa 1975/76, there are still people that will enjoy them, partly because they are readily understandable, hardly ever break and all the parts are still available!!
Though I will readily admit I would not have an ASR-33 teletype machine around my house anymore, at least not without a soundproof booth....
Ummm....what is it?
glenn check out www.lotcomm.com i know they have some obsolete nasa equiptment i just dont know when it will be put up for sale.i worked there when they were first starting. barry
Seti I think that is the very first "computer" if I know my history It didnt do much withouth people putting in programs by flipping switches up and down...took about 10 or so flips just to add 1 plus 1.
Dell had a contest last year about who has the oldest computer. The winner had an Altair and won a new computer.
Thanks for the link Barry... Hmmm, wonder if an Atlas rocket will fit in my backyard??
The MITS (Albequerque, NM) Altair 8800 was the second digital hobbyist/home computer offered to the public. It was a kit; later offered as fully assembled units. Plans were published in the Jan 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. The hobbyist could buy all the parts and buid it from the magazine plans, or buy the kit from MITS.
A competing magazine had actually beaten them to the punch as far as plans--- July '74's Radio-Electronics had a Mark-8 computer designed by Jonathan Titus based on the Intel 8008. (It never offered much in expansion boards or software, and darn few kits were sold).
Another company, Heathkit (Benton Harbor, MI) actually offered a full kit computer before the Altair, theirs based on the Digital Equipment Corp. PDP-8 mini-computer-- but it was incredibly expensive (around $5000.)
If I remember right, you could get the assembled Altair units for about $650. In any case, it was, for most of the public, the first computer they had ever been exposed to. Remember inflation when you see these prices... a '75 American family car off the showroom averaged under $8000.
By that time there were three choices of chip to use: the Intel 8008 ('72), Intel 8080 ('74), and the Motorola 6800 ('74). The Altair used the 8080.
When you turn an Altair on, you toggle in a set of instructions into the first several memory locations. Then you run that loader program, usually intended to establish a link with a Teletype or cassette interface, so you can load useful software in.
A teletype terminal was useful because they acted as keyboard and printer/display, many of the models could read punched-paper tapes, and a few models could even punch the tapes, too. Western Union was phasing them out in the early seventies, so they were cheap and plentiful.
But you could get video terminals, too, if you had the money; and standalone printers, cassette storage, eventually 8" diskette storage.
The real reason the Altair is so celebrated is that a whole industry, the MicroComputer industry, grew up around it.
The processor board was a card on a bus, so you could upgrade, add memory, io cards, etc. This bus became eventually known as the S-100 bus. Lots of companies jumped in to make boards for the Altair and its later "clones".
Bill Gates and Paul Allen, students at the time, "obtained" a printout of a PDP-8 source listing for BASIC, developed in 1964 at Dartmouth college. They pored over it and the 8080 instruction book and the Altair article, and decided they could offer a simplified port of it on paper-tape to load in on Altairs.
Software was rarely if ever sold as a commodity UNTIL Gates' "Microsoft". Mostly it was sold as a part of the computer itself. But by licensing it to MITS to sell as an option, they felt they could make good royalties.
They did the port by hand, and with the help of friends, got a Teletype paper-tape done in time to meet the MITS people. It amazingly worked the first time. This was February 1975...
MITS offered the BASIC on paper-tape for I think $285 or something like that. Of course everyone ended up with a friend's copy for free, and that's one reason why Bill is a bit touchy regarding Piracy....
The first real Operating System for Microcomputers was already developed by Gary Kildall and his company, Intergalactic Digital Research. He had ported it over to the 8080 the year before, to run on an Intel-built prototyping system, the MDS-800.
He began selling CP/M and that became the standard OS for all Intel-based micros until 1982.
Eight-dot-three filenames are one aspect of his legacy, for MS-DOS was originally intended as a clone of CP/M for the Seattle Computer Products S-100 8086 16-bit computer (bought from its developer by a shrewd Bill Gates).
So, the Altair is kind of a cornerstone machine, and I want one. Doesn't everyone?
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