Today in History: The Altair 8800 buildable computer goes on sale in 1974 #VintageComputing

1974: The Altair 8800 microcomputer goes on sale.

Via Wired, 1974: The Altair 8800 microcomputer goes on sale. It didn’t offer much, but it was the small start of a big trend toward small things.

A small New Mexico company — with the big name of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems and the small name of MITS — manufactured the Altair as a do-it-yourself kit. At its heart was the Intel 8080 microprocessor, with the remarkable capacity of 8 bits, or 1 byte.

The kit offered a 256-byte memory, just about enough to contain one sentence of text. The Altair’s open, 100-line bus structure evolved into the S-100 standard.

Keyboard? Dream on. That was a few years in the future. Input was accomplished through the “Sense Switches” (I/O address 255), eight toggle switches on the left side of the front panel. Display? More dreaming. Output was accomplished through LEDs on the front panel. LEDs, 1974: high tech, kiddo.

The Altair 8800 kit sold for just under $400 (about $1,900 in today’s money). If you wanted to forgo the case, you could get the kit for under $300. Or you could order the whole deal fully assembled: Old-Computers.com quotes a $595 price.

Altair 8800

MITS sold more than 2,000 Altairs by the end of 1975, beyond Roberts’ wildest expectations. IMS Associates, which sold the remarkably similar IMSAI 8080 microcomputer, shipped 50 that year.

But the Altair inspired more than knockoffs. The Commodore PET, complete with keyboard and monitor, debuted in early 1977. The Apple II came out later that year.

News of the Altair 8800 excited Paul Allen and Bill Gates, who wrote the first microcomputer BASIC for the 8800 and, within months, went on to found Microsoft together.

Read more on Wired and Wikipedia.

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Join 15,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community! http://adafru.it/discord

What do you want from CircuitPython in 2020?

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7:30pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Follow Adafruit on Instagram for top secret new products, behinds the scenes and more https://www.instagram.com/adafruit/

Maker Business — Apple’s Mac Pro doesn’t fall far from the tree

Wearables — How to twist light

Electronics — Linear Love

Biohacking — Vitamin-C + Gelatin for Accelerated Recovery

Python for Microcontrollers — CircuitPython snakes its way to Teensy 4.0, i.MX Feathers take flight and more! #Python #Adafruit #CircuitPython @circuitpython @micropython @ThePSF @Adafruit

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Learning from IoT Projects, Adafruit Joins the LoRa Alliance, Ring Ransoms, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode: Opening a World of Possibilities

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at AdafruitDaily.com !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.