If you want to own a vintage computer there are sometimes auctions on ebay, but the end prices are high enough to give your bank manager palpitations. The MITS Altair 8800 for instance – when one of them pops up on ebay the closing price will frequently be well over £2,000.
Enthusiast Mike Douglas has developed the Altair 8800 clone to keep the prices down for everyone. It is a reproduction of the iconic computer using modern technology to recreate the appearance of the ancient design.
The MITS Altair 8800 was released in 1975 and it brought down the cost of owning a computer, at the time ridiculously large and expensive. The MITS company of Albuquerque, New Mexico used the Intel 8080 processor and charged $621 assembled.
The Altair 8800 was the first home computer that came as a complete kit, instead of needing assembly. Over 2,000 units were sold at the time.
Bizarrely by today’s standards, the Altair 8800 didn’t ship with a keyboard or monitor and the first ones didn’t even have ports. It was a blue and white box measuring 17.7 x 43.1 x 44.4 cm with rows of switches and LED lights on the front panel which were highlighted with weird labels such as ‘WO’ and ‘HLTA’. It was powered by machine language and programming it was an incredibly tedious process of flipping switches to input binary code.
It held 64k of ram and had a CPU that ran at 2mhz.[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suyiMfzmZKs’]
MITS couldn’t build enough units at the time and there were reports that some buyers even camped out in the company car park to get their hands on one of them.
To recreate this iconic piece of computer history Mike Douglas went about using the original data sheets and schematics to design his own replica.
The Altair 8800 Clone ships fully assembled or in a kit form. There are online tutorial videos and documents for using the hardware and how you can program it. If you have no experience soldering circuit boards, then buying the preassembled kit is the way to go.