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Bill Loguidice's picture

New Altair 8800 Kit Available

Altair 8800 ReplicaAltair 8800 ReplicaGrant Stockly has announced the culmination of an ambitious project to create perfect replicas of the infamous Altair 8800 -- widely considered to have officially kicked off the home computer revolution with the 1975 advertisement for the kit in Popular Electronics and relative buying spree it elicited. It's a switch-based computer with no display other than LED lights -- all programming was done by flipping switches on the front panel, with the big advantage being that you were programming the system about as directly as possible. Of course it established what came to be known as the S-100 bus (for expansion cards with 100 pin connectors) that could greatly expand the system's capabilities, from alternate input and output methods to various storage and subsequent OS integration (most popularly, CP/M). The S-100 bus standard lasted from the mid-1970's through to the early 1980's when more user friendly systems began to become more prevalent and powerful. Of course the Altair 8800 also begat many clones, including the more capable IMSAI 8080, released only about six months later and featured (in a greatly expanded form) in the popular 1983 movie, War Games, starring Matthew Broderick.

In any case, the replicas will run you about $1700 or so, so they're not cheap, but if you try to get an original you'll find that it won't be any better of a deal. Regardless, the story of the replica's creation is quite compelling, as related here -- it's certainly a labor of love. It's also worth noting that the Altari 8800 saw the first appearance of Bill Gates' and Paul Allen's BASIC, helping the duo form what would of course become Microsoft. But that's a story for a different day...


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