Anyone who fondly remembers the Altair revolution probably wasn’t there. But that doesn’t stop us nerds from romanticizing one of the coolest proto-computers ever made. Originally sold as a way to interact with the magical 8800 chip back in January 2017, the Altair is one of the first usable home computers although it had no keyboard, mouse, or screen. For early geeks it was heaven.
Now you can buy a replica Altair complete with switches, lights, and case. The Altairduino runs an Arduino Due and comes with all the gear you need to recreate the original Altair.
Maker Chris Davis, a developer from Minnesota, built the product because we was fascinated by personal computer history.
“I’ve always wanted one, but getting a used one was far too expensive and even the existing emulator kits were too much money. When I ran across David Hansel’s post on Hackster.io, I knew it was a project I could tackle,” he said. “I made one, then another. I had a few circuit boards left so I offered them to a few people online. Well, everyone wanted one, so I developed it into a saleable kit.”
The kit is completely open source and you can try out the simulator here. Davis isn’t done with his project, either.
“I’m looking at recreating an Altair 680, a Kenbak-1 (I almost have that finished) and a recreation of the OAE OP-80A paper tape reader kit,” he said.
He’s impressed with the Altair’s power but it might be frustrating to some who want to run classic games on this strange early computer.
“It can’t run Doom, but it can run Colossal Cave Adventure!” he said.