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These instructions are for the Version 1.4 board. If you aren’t sure what board you have, take a look at this page: What Kind of Kit Do I Have?

  • I would strongly suggest comparing the parts you received with the list below. Let me know if you’re missing anything and I will send a replacement.

Parts List

  • 1 x PC Board
  • 36 x 5mm Red LED
  • 36 x 12mm LED Standoff
  • 36 x NPN Transistor
  • 36 x 150Ω Resistor
  • 36 x 10kΩ Resistor
  • 17 x Mini Toggle on-off
  • 8 x Mini Toggle (on)-off-(on)
  • 1 x 470Ω Resistor
  • 1 x 47µF Capacitor
  • 2 x 1kΩ Resistor
  • 2 x 0.1µF Capacitor
  • 1 x Pre-programmed Arduino Due
  • 1 x Front Panel
  • 1 x “Altair 8800” Metalic Sticker
  • 1 x HC-05 Bluetooth Module
  • 1 x Micro SD Module
  • 1 x DC-022 Power jack
  • 1 x 12v (or 9v) Power Supply
  • 1 x 6 Pin Cable
  • 4 x 14mm Standoff
  • 4 x 20mm Standoff (2 if you selected the MAX3232 kit)
  • 4 x 3mm Screws
  • 4 x 3mm Nuts (2 if you selected the MAX3232 kit)
  • 1 x Dual Pin Header
  • 2 x Single Pin Header
  • 1 x 6 Pin Female Header
  • 1 x 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • 1 x USB Cable
  • Project Box
    If you selected the optional MAX3232 rear panel kit:
  • MAX3232 DB9 Serial Module
  • Laser-cut rear panel
  • 30cm Panel Mount USB Extension
  • Steel screws, washers, nuts
  • 2 x 20mm Female-Female Standoff

Other Parts You May Need

  • Soldering Iron with a nice fine tip
  • Good Solder (I recommend Alpha Fry Rosin Core 0.032” Solder)
  • Flat Screwdriver
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Needle-nose Pliers
  • Side Cutters (Nippers)
  • Drill with 3mm or 1/8″ and 12mm or 1/2″ bits
  • Micro SD Card (256MB is sufficient)
  • Computer

A word about soldering: Don’t underestimate the need for good solder and a good soldering iron. Most problems I’ve seen people have with this kit are caused by cold joints or insufficient wetting. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money. I’ve had good luck with $8 soldering kits from eBay (however I do throw away the solder that comes with those…) Just make sure it has an adjustable temperature and comes with an assortment of tips. Right now I’m using a $55 soldering station and it works great. I strongly advise you to get quality 60/40 Rosin core .032″ diameter solder (I use Alpha Fry). The spools I buy are only $10 and well worth it. I set my iron to 400 degrees and use the fine point tip.

Your Arduino will arrive pre-programmed, but you may have to upload the software at some point.  You can do that by following the instructions on this page.

  • Start off by finding the bag labeled “150Ω Resistor”.
  • Add the 36 150Ω resistors to the top rows under the LED/Transistor pairs in locations R1-R36. Resistors are non-polarized, meaning they can go in either direction, you do not need to worry about orientation.
  • Next is the bag labeled “10kΩ Resistor”.
  • Add the 36 10kΩ resistors to the second row in locations R37-R72.
  • Next is the bag of 36 transistors.
  • The orientation of the transistor is crucial, but relatively simple. Just make sure the flat end of the transistor is facing up, just like the image printed on the circuit board.
  • Grab the ziplock bag of assorted parts.
  • In that bag you will find one electrolytic capacitor and one 470Ω resistor (Yellow, Violet, Brown, Gold color code). If you don’t want to decipher the color code, just know you will find three resistors in the bag, two that match, and one that does not. This is the one that does not match another.
  • These two components mount in the back (underside) of the PC board in R73 and C1. The orientation of the resistor does not matter, but make sure the short lead of the capacitor (marked with a “-” on the side) goes in the hole also marked with a “-“.

  • In the same bag, you will find two 0.1 µF capacitors (marked with “104”) and two 1kΩ resistors (Brown, Black, Red, Gold).
  • Those can be mounted on the front of the PC board in R74, R75, C2, and C3 on the lower right side of the board. The orientation of the components does not matter.
  • Use your side cutters to clip the single pin headers into 5 segments of 8 pins, and 1 segment of 10 pins to mount the Arduino board. Also clip the double header to a 36-pin (2×18 pin) header.
  • Add the male headers to the underside of the PC board. You can also add the six-pin female header for the SPI connector on the Arduino. Make sure you add these to the correct side of the board because desoldering 92 connections would not be fun!
  • Solder the headers carefully. Make sure they are as close to vertical as possible, and make sure the solder flows completely over the connection. Most problems happen here with cold solder joints, or solder bridges.
  • After you’re done soldering the headers, try putting the Arduino in place and check for a secure fit. Remove it when you’re done.
  • Get the bag containing 25 toggle switches (17 blue and 8 red). If your switches have nuts and washers, you may remove and discard them.

    Before installing the switches, I’d strongly suggest toggling each back and forth a few times to make sure they move smoothly and with the appropriate amount of effort. I recommend this because desoldering a bad switch is a real pain!

  • Put all the switches in place without soldering them. Blue (two position) on the top row and the power switch location, Red (three position momentary) on the bottom row.
  • Put the front panel in place to hold the switches in the correct position (having all two-way switches in the down position makes this easier.)
  • Turn the board over and solder the switches.

    HINT: Before you solder, make sure all three legs are protruding through the holes. Two isolated incidents have been reported where the leg was pushed up into the switch, causing a short which was very difficult to diagnose!

  • Next is the bag of LEDs and 12mm spacers.
  • Just like the switches, put the LEDs and spacers in place and do not solder them You do not have to do them all at once, it may be easier to do them in two or three groups.

    The orientation if the LEDs is crucial. Make sure the long lead of the LED is toward the bottom of the PC board and the flat side of the LED is toward the top.

  • Again, like the switches, put the front panel in place to hold the LEDs while you solder them.
  • While you are soldering the LEDs, you can verify that the long lead is toward the bottom of the board.
  • Make sure you trim the leads after you solder the components. Next we are installing a ribbon cable that could get punctured if you leave the LED or transistor leads untrimmed.
  • We’re going to install the six-pin ribbon cable on the underside of the PC board. On the upper side of the board, you can see the labels pictured here.
  • Place the cable as pictured and solder it in place.
  • Put the Arduino in place, routing the cable as shown.
  • This is a good time to test your kit so far. Take the USB cable and plug it into the Programming port on the Arduino. Turn the board over (so you’re looking at the face) and plug the other end of the USB cable into a computer or USB power supply. When the kit is powered, all LEDs will briefly flash, then go dark, and a second or two later, a random pattern of LEDs will light. My favorite quick-and-easy test is to set SW1 on and lower the AUX1 switch. This will run “Kill The Bit” and you will see LED15 to LED8 light in sequence.
  • Here’s a good second test: set all address switches (blue switches) to ON and raise the EXAMINE toggle. All address LEDs (0-15) should light. If not, there is either a problem with that addresses LED or toggle switch.
  • Now we’ll install the micro SD card module.
  • If you will not need to access the micro SD card, the SD card module is installed on the back of the PC board where indicated.
  • If you would like the micro SD card accessible from outside the case, take a needle-nose pliers and carefully bend the pins to a 90 degree orientation.
  • Install the module with the SD card holder facing toward the outside of the PC board, as shown. Make sure it is perpendicular and square with the PC board. Later we will cut a hole in the bamboo case for access.
  • Next we’re going to add the Bluetooth module. If your module has angled pins, that’s not quite what we want.
  • So grab a needlenose pliers and bend the pins straight slowly and gently.
  • You can now solder the Bluetooth module to the underside of the PC board.

    Your Bluetooth module may have six pins or four pins. If it only has four pins – solder them to the center four pins of the six-pin connection area.

  • If you have chosen the MAX3232 DB9 serial module (before March 2018), you can find installation instructions for this module here, if you purchased your kit March 2018 or later (with the panel mount USB), see the instructions here

  • Attach the 14mm standoff to the topside of the circuit board (with male end down) and screw it into the 20mm standoff on the underside of the circuit board.
  • Place the front panel in the project case and mark the location of the four holes (I like to use a small drill bit to mark where the holes need to be.)

    Drill those holes with a 1/8″ (3mm) drill bit.

  • If you prefer not to “eyeball” the location of the mounting holes, you can place them using these measurements (from the edge of the box to the center of the hole):
    17mm x 36mm
    22mm x 36mm
    17mm x 14mm
    22mm x 14mm

    Click image for a larger view.

  • Drill holes with a 3mm or 1/8″ drill bit.

    While you’re drilling holes in the project case, drill a 1/2″ (12mm) hole in the lower left area for the DC jack (if you did not install the rear panel.)

    Also drill a 1/2″ (12mm) hole a bit left of center for the USB cable.

  • If you want access to the micro SD card from the outside of the case, you will need to cut a slot for it. Mark a point that is 65mm x 37mm (see photos.)
  • That is the center point of the slot. Draw a 16mm x 3mm rectangle around that point.
  • Drill a 3mm or 1/8″ hole in the top and bottom of the slot, then cut between them with a X-acto or utility knife.
  • Solder a short length of parallel stranded wire from the circuit board (lower left) to the power jack. The square solder pad is for the positive (center pin) wire. The other hole is for ground.
  • Plug the Arduino into the circuit board, pass the USB cable through the project box and plug it into the “Programming Port”

    When the Arduino is connected to a computer’s USB port, it will draw power from the port and will not need to be connected to a DC power supply.

  • Apply the metallic “Altair 8800” sticker.
  • Attach the front panel to the topside of the circuit board. Make sure the standoff holes line up, and the LEDs line up with the appropriate holes. You will probably have to apply some force, especially around the threaded switch posts. Add the 3mm nylon screws to keep the front panel in place.
  • Copy the Altair disk files to an SD card (1MB is sufficient) and install the SD card in the Micro SD card module. The disk images are available here. Put the files in the root of the SD card, do not leave them in the “disks” folder. From your vantage point, the card will appear upside-down.

HINT: If you have loaded the disk images on the card and see nothing but a non-stop sequence of “c” when you access the card, you need to completely reformat the card (FAT or FAT32, be sure to select FULL format, not a quick format.)

Better yet, I strongly suggest downloading the SD card formatter from the SD Association.

I have have built dozens of Altair-Duinos and every time the SD card functions correctly, but I have run into a couple circumstances where the micro SD card I was trying to use *absolutely* would not work. I don’t know why, but apparently it can happen. Then your only choice is to try a different card. A few guys have reported that reloading the Arduino software has helped them.

  • If you put the SD card in before you do the final assembly, it will help you guide the SD module into place in the slot you cut in the case.
  • This is how the SD card module will look when properly seated in a 3mm x 16mm slot.
  • Place the front panel/circuit board assembly into the project box. The male ends of the 20mm standoffs should protrude through the holes on the bottom of the project box. Secure it in place with 3mm nuts.

If your case seems a little tight (it’s wood so it tends to expand/contract with temperature and humidity) you can easily trim it a bit with an X-Acto knife.