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The MITS Altair 8800

MITS Altair 8800 Prototype
This image appears on the cover of the January 1975 Popular Electronics Magazine. The system pictured is a non-functional model, because at the time of publication (Nov 1974) no actual Altair 8800 was available to photograph. Photos of the actual Altair 8800 first appeared in the February issue of Popular Electronics.

This page features nice scans of the two issues of Popular Electronics that introduced the MITS Altair 8800. To follow are selections relevant to MITS Altair 8800. The PDF is in the CISC367 directory in the member's area. To follow are selections relevant to MITS Altair 8800.

January 1975 Popular Electronics
The issue that introduced the MITS Altair 8800. Volume includes ads for SWTPC CT-1024 terminal and MITScope.

February 1975 Popular Electronics
Includes part to of the January Altair article, the first advertisement and first actual pictures of the Altair.

Popular Electronics January 1975 Cover
Project Breakthrough! The World's First Computer Kit to Rival Commercial Models ... "ALTAIR 8800" SAVE OVER $1000 Click for larger image.

Popular Electronics January 1975 Table of Contents
The most powerful minicomputer project ever presented-for under $400. Click for large image


Editor Art Salsberg

SWTPC CT-1024 terminal
THE HOME COMPUTER IS HERE! For many years, we've been reading and hearing about how computers will one day be a household item. Therefore, we' re especially proud to present in this issue the first commercial type of minicomputer project ever published that's priced within reach of many households-the Altair 8800, with an under-$400 complete kit cost, including cabinet... Click the image above to read the entire editorial.

SWTPC CT-1024 terminal
Advertisement for the SWTPC CT-1024 terminal. Click for larger image.

Ad for MITS mitSCOPE Model Milliscope 416
Ad for MITS mitSCOPE (MS-416). Click for larger image.

EXCLUSIVE! ALTAIR 8800 The most powerfuL Minicomputer project ever presented - can be built for under $400

Popular Electronics January 1975 page 33
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Popular Electronics January 1975 page 34
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Popular Electronics January 1975 page 35
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Popular Electronics January 1975 page 36
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Popular Electronics January 1975 page 37
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Popular Electronics January 1975 page 38
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The February issue of Popular Electronics contained part two of the Altair introduction article. The first MITS Altair 8800 advertisement
Click for larger image. The first MITS Altair 8800 advertisement appeared in the February 1975 issue of Popular Electronics. Cover Image Table of Contents

Build the Altair 8800 Minicomputer Part II

Popular Electronics February 1975 page 56
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Popular Electronics February 1975 page 57
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Popular Electronics February 1975 page 58
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On the Work Bench Fall 2009

Selected recent blog articles with extra content...See my Vintage Computer Blog to search for latest articles, or post your questions.

Teletype ASR 33 Woes

Oops! I knocked over my working teletype ASR 33 and I had to repair it. After locating all of the pieces, I carefully re-installed as much I could. At first I was only partially successful.
The typewriter part of the Teletype model ASR 33 responsible for moving the print head over one space at a time.
I first determined that teletype was sending data correctly from the keyboard to the computer through the serial cable, and the computer was receiving the commands. Output from the computer to the teletype is received and the print head itself is printing the correct characters. The print head was not moving horizontally along the line, saying in place and printing each character one on top of the other. I was able to get it running again, and in the process learned a lot about how they work..
Restoration Notes

Burroughs L7000 Computer

I have been contacted by a jewelry store in Newark Delaware who has a Burroughs L7000 computer to donate. I have helped make arrangements to have this picked up and delivered to the MARCH museum in Wall New Jersey, part of the InfoAge complex at Camp Evans.
This is a close up of a logic card from the L7000 "Magnetic System" CPU unit.

The faceplate of the CPU Unit. The Magnetic System is approximately 5' tall by 2' deep by 6' long.

The Burroughs workstation was used for I/O with the Magnetic System, and independently for various accounting functions.
Go to thread

The COSMAC Microkit 1 (RCA)

The COSMAC Microkit 1 (RCA) was an early 1801 microcomputer kit from 1975.

I found the picture above in an article by Robert M. Grossman, Associate Editor of EDN Microprocessor Design Series Volume II. Robert's article was titled µC Systems Directory: where have all the µP's gone?. NOTE: µC = "microcomputer" and µP = "microprocessor".

Another photo from µC Systems Directory: where have all the µP's gone?. Pictured here are the Scientific Micro Systems "Microcontroller", the M6800 (Motorola) SBC, and the MicroPac 80 microcomputer (Process Computer Systems). Read more about the MicoPac 80 below

MITS is listed as a manufacturer in the directly and so are a lot of very interesting other companies, some I never heard of, but I am missing the page that lists the models and prices of the other computers with microprocessors. We all know about the MITS Altair, but was the Allen-Bradley Co. of Highland Hts. Ohio making a computer in 1975?

The Process Computer Systems MicoPac 80

Intrigued to learn more about the lesser-known microcomputers from 1974-1975 I spent some time doing a little research. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with the original lead engineer of the MicroPac 80 computer, Rick Barnich. The MicroPac was produced by Process Computer Systems which was later known as Xycom. Although little is commonly known about the MicroPac 80, it is a historical computer that should be recognized. This is the first commercial computer that used the Intel 8080 microprocessor as the CPU. According to Rick, the MicroPac was originally designed and built to be used as an interface with the HP 2000 series, DEC PDP, and Data General minicomputers using the minicomputer as the CPU. Rick and his team realized that their MicroPac could be used as a stand alone computer if they had an appropriate microprocessor, and Process Computer made arrangements with Intel to get one of the new prototype S910 chips to experiment with. The plan was to use the S910 in the MicroPac as the CPU, and then they would also design I/O and RAM boards so that their system could run as a stand-alone microcomputer. By December of 1973 Rick and his team finished their new MicroPac 80, and in January 1974 the S910 arrived. After minor adjustments to compensate for voltage differences, Rick and his team finished the MicroPac 80. The system was fully functional, had a front panel, and used a teletype for I/O and storage. What's significant here is that the MicroPac 80 was launched with a prototype chip at least 3 months before Intel announced their new microprocessor, by then called the 8080, in April/May of 1974. Rick still has the original prototype 8080 CPU.

The Computer History Museum has an oral history about the 8080 which is in line with Rick Barnich's story.

UPDATE: Check out these PCS Product Brochures. Rich sent me a CD with a lot of PCS brochures, and I have also obtained a number of other printed brochures. This was a serious company in the industrial microcomputer market!

CompuPro S-100 Computer

I finished up on a CompuPro (formerly Godbout) S-100 8086/8085 256K RAM system with dual Qume 842 disk drives and a Qume terminal. Pretty beefy. The CompuPro's dual enclosure comes with Qume QumeTrak 842's. As received the left/boot drive was not operating correctly (seek errors). To get started I swapped the drives and reversed the D0/D1 jumpers so I could boot the system. I later traded a Tandon 848 for a Shugart 850 (because it fits in the chassis), adjusted the jumpers and installed as the new data drive. Aside from the noisy drive enclosure fan, this computer and drives are now running quite well.
The CompuPro 88/85 Rack System from 1980-1981.

The CompuPro boots to CP/M 86 and has a nice version of MBASIC. This is only one of many operating systems that the CompuPro can handle.
Blog Thread and Pictures

MITS Altair 8800a

Here are some pictures of my MITS Altair 8800a model. This unit has been on loan to Dan Roganti who has restored power to the unit by replacing some caps (I believe). More to come in early 2010.
The relatively rare Altair 8800a model was advertised by MITS for less than a year. Note the front plate variation compared with the original model. Click image for larger view.

read more

Vintage Computer Festival East 6.0

Pictures from the Vintage Computer Festival East 6.0 held September 12 and 13th at the Info Age Science Center in Wall, NJ USA
William (Bill)Dromgoole's "..Ohio Scientific Superkit with a homebrewed power supply and no case, 25x25-character display, and external parallel ASCII keyboard. The Superkit consists of model 500a CPU board, model 480 backplane, and 440b video card. Also installed are a model 430b cassette I/O interface with D/A and A/D converters and model 420c memory cards. .." One of my favorite exhibits.

Exhibit Pictures

Televideo PM/286

The Televideo PM/286 Computer with 8 user ports. The PM/286 is a near IBM AT clone with notable features such as a 286 processor with external switch to change from 8 mhz to 6 mhz (should you be feeling a bit slow that day) and cassette port for backup storage.
This model has a high resolution color CGA card, a Novell controller and a 8-port user controller.
Read more

Televideo TS-816

I took this system out for a spin, it had been 4 or 5 years. Still works great. Here are some new pictures.
The Televideo TS-816 has no internal disk drive, only a tape unit, which is used for backup and restore operations. Fortunately the hard drive will still boot and support multiple terminal operation modes. Above is the view of the console boot screen. I used the serial port from a laptop serving as the console to download the a version of the BASIC program ELIZA to the hard drive. Using a separate terminal in user mode I could then run the program.

Read more

MITS 1440 Calculator

The MITS Model 1440 was a electronic calculator kit first produced in 1972 before the Altair 8800. This calculator was capable of performing square, square root, and memory storage. It had 15 digit LED readout.
The 1972 MITS 1440 Calculator restoration by Bob Grieb of TaunTek.com

There were 6 integrated circuits ("ROMS") but Bob replaced the one marked FDY 360B-7006 with a modern equivalent he made himself(!). He also replaced at least one zener diode. He sent me a complete write up of the repairs and notes.
Additional pictures and documents related to the 1440 | Read more

Qume QVT-108

The Qume QVT-108 terminal appears to be 9600 baud terminal. This terminal came with a CompuPro 8086/8085 system and was probably used as the console.

A few more pictures | read more

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