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Build Your Own Altair 8800 Personal Computer


Activities 0 Comments 02/26/2018 (This is a Level 0 News item)

Go back to 1974 and the dawn of home computing with this Arduino-based kit

The MITS Altair 8800 was the first commercially successful personal computer. Created by Ed Roberts in 1974, it was purchased by the thousands via mail order, proving there was a huge demand for computers outside universities and large corporations. Its influence was immense: For example, after seeing the Altair featured on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft (then Micro-Soft) in order to write a Basic interpreter for the new machine. [The January 1975 Popular Electronics is also available in the .PDF format here]

The Altair sold for US $439 in kit form. Original machines are now collectors’ items that trade for thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there are some cheaper alternatives for people who want to get a direct understanding of the Altair computing experience. Modern kits that replicate the Altair hardware as faithfully as possible are available, as are purely virtual online simulators. Falling somewhere between a replica and a simulation is the $149 Altairduinokit from Chris Davis. The Altairduino duplicates the front panel of the Altair in all its LED- and switch-festooned glory while emulating the internal hardware (including some once fantastically expensive peripherals), using an Arduino Due.

The Altairduino is derived from David Hansel’s work on cloning the Altairwith the Arduino Due and Arduino Mega 2560. If you want to build one of Hansel’s designs from scratch, you can do so by following his free instructions on hackster.io. The advantage of Davis’s kit is that it provides all the components, including a nice bamboo case and plastic front panel, along with a custom printed circuit board (PCB) that greatly simplifies construction.

... Click on the above for more information.  The kit can be purchased here for only $149.95 ($100 more assembled).


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