…is of little use to you? Do you long for the days of your youth when computers were new, and exciting (and perhaps useful only to those with the “know how”?) Or maybe the early days of computers were before you were even born, and you simply want to know what the big deal was? Or maybe you’re like me, a mere child when you first heard the notion that people could actually have a computer in their very own home!
I was a child of 9 years old when the Altair 8800 was announced on the pages of Popular Electronics magazine in January of 1975. It captured my imagination – and I knew that someday I would build and own my own computer. I never did get an Altair 8800 – the computer revolution was started and it moved FAST. The heyday of the Altair lasted only a short while. The first computer I built was 7 years later when I built the Sinclair ZX81 kit (yes, you can still buy them!)
Well imagine my surprise 42 years later when David Hansel of Brookline, MA published his Ardunio-based Altair 8800 emulator project on hackster.io! I knew this was my chance to finally build an Altair 8800! Sure, there are other Altair 8800 clones out there, but all seemed out of reach for a simple working-man hobbyist. There’s Mike Douglas’s excellent altairclone.com which is a dead-ringer look-alike for the Altair 8800, but it’s over $600, there’s also the very ambitious altairkit.com in which Grant Stockly painstakingly recreated every board and component of an original Altair.
Once I saw David’s code and design, I knew I could improve on it and make an affordable, easy-to-build kit. My first “beta-testers” were my 12 and 14 year old sons! Yes, you can still follow David’s original plan if you wish. If you want a ready-to-go kit, look no further!
Original Altair 8800
Dimensions: 17″ x 7″ x 18″
Weight: depends on cards loaded, but generally around 65 lbs.
RAM: 64KB maximum
Dimensions: 15″ x 6″ x 2″
Weight: 2.5 lbs with bamboo case.
RAM: 512KB (64KB maximum for Altair emulation, the rest used as storage for Altair programs and utilities.)
Wait! The original Altair was not in a bamboo box!
I know this does not have the accurate "look" of the original Altair, that's because I had two goals in making this kit:
Be an accurate recreation of the functionality of the original Altair 8800.
The size of the front panel is within a few centimeters of the original Altair, and you are welcome to put it in a genuine Optima case if you can find one!
I also have to say “thank you” to Oscar Vermeulen of Obsolescence Guaranteed for his recreation of the PDP-8, which got me on this quest to recreate historic computers. What’s next? I working hard on a Kenbak-1 kit, and a lot of people have been requesting a “WarGames” IMSAI 8080…