The Altair-Duino

I was a child of 9 years old when the Altair 8800 was announced on the pages of Popular Electronics magazine in January of 1975. It captured my imagination – and I knew that someday I would build and own my own computer. I never did get an Altair 8800 – the computer revolution was started and it moved FAST. The heyday of the Altair lasted only a short while. The first computer I built was 7 years later when I built the Sinclair ZX81 kit (yes, you can still buy them!)

Well imagine my surprise 42 years later when David Hansel of Brookline, MA published his Ardunio-based Altair 8800 emulator project on hackster.io! I knew this was my chance to finally build an Altair 8800! Sure, there are other Altair 8800 clones out there, but all seemed out of reach for a simple working-man hobbyist. There’s Mike Douglas’s excellent altairclone.com which is a dead-ringer look-alike for the Altair 8800, but it’s over $600, there’s also the very ambitious altairkit.com in which Grant Stockly painstakingly recreated every board and component of an original Altair.

Once I saw David’s code and design, I knew I could improve on it and make an affordable, easy-to-build kit. My first “beta-testers” were my 12 and 14 year old sons! Yes, you can still follow David’s original plan if you wish. If you want a ready-to-go kit, look no further!

This is a cycle-accurate recreation of the original Altair 8800. What does that mean? It means the Intel 8080 CPU is emulated, as is some of the basic I/O (disk drives, serial ports, etc.) but everything else is REAL Altair machine code and CP/M that was created more than 40 years ago!

Original Altair 8800
Dimensions: 17″ x 7″ x 18″
Weight: depends on cards loaded, but generally around 65 lbs.
RAM: 64KB maximum

Altair-Duino
Dimensions: 15″ x 6″ x 2″
Weight: 2.5 lbs with bamboo case.
RAM: 512KB (64KB maximum for Altair emulation, the rest used as storage for Altair programs and utilities.)

Wait! The original Altair was not in a bamboo box!

I know this does not have the accurate "look" of the original Altair, that's because I had two goals in making this kit:

  1. Be an accurate recreation of the functionality of the original Altair 8800.
  2. Be affordable.
The size of the front panel is within a few centimeters of the original Altair, and you are welcome to put it in a genuine Optima case if you can find one!

I also have to say “thank you” to Oscar Vermeulen of Obsolescence Guaranteed for his recreation of the PDP-8, which got me on this quest to recreate historic computers.  What’s next?  I’m working hard on an Apple-1 kit, and a lot of people have been requesting a “WarGames” IMSAI 8080…

 

The Kit

This is a kit you can probably put together in a Saturday afternoon. Here’s what’s included:

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PC Board

You’ll receive a professionally made printed circuit board with all components, ready for you to assemble.


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Arduino Due

Arduino’s first ARM development board, based on a powerful 32bit CortexM3 ARM microcontroller.


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Fully Loaded

Because of the capacity of the Due, it comes pre-loaded with useful and entertaining Altair software.


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Take it Further

The source code for the Altair simulator is published under GPLv3, meaning you can experiment and modify the code.



  • Available now!

    “Know Your Roots” T-shirts. Make sure you tell those young millennials exactly where their precious technology comes from – It comes from us, the folks that invented home computers!
    Get yours here!



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