Altair 8800


Announced in 1974, the Altair was the first successful commercially-marketed and mass-produced personal computer.

MITS is known for the creation and marketing of the Altair, the first successful commercially-marketed and mass-produced personal computer

The Altair sold for about $395 in kit form and about $650 assembled. The Altair also introduced the Altair Bus (later known as the "S-100 Bus") which was also used in many other microcomputers that followed the Altair's blazed trail.

Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (or "MITS") was founded by Edward Roberts in 1968.

The Altair was designed by Roberts and two others, William Yates and Jim Bybee. All were former Air Force engineers. Ed Roberts left MITS in 1977, the year it merged with the computer company Pertec.

About 5,000 Altair 8800 units were sold by the end of 1975, and a total of about 10,000 were sold in the first two years.

The Altair is featured on the cover of the January 1975 issue of "Popular Electronics" under the heading "World's First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models."

Some sources say that the computer was named "Altair" after the planet Altair from a Star Trek television series episode "A Voyage to Altair." However, research provided by Ricardo Zelenovsky, states that there is no such episode, and the name may in fact be from a planed referred to in an early science fiction movie. "Forbidden Planet," where there is a planet called "Altair IV.")

The Altair needed a method for users to write programs for it. Bill Gates and Paul Allen became aware of the Altair and developed a BASIC interpreter for it and sold it to MITS. Allen went to work for MITS, while Bill Gates went on to develop other software. They later founded Microsoft Corporation.

Since you will  be using Putty to access the Altair, attach the USB cable to the Altair and then to your computer. Find which device is being used for the USB port in question. For me it's something like: /dev/ttyACM0. Check that the Connection type is Serial and the Speed should be 115200.

Launch putty with the aforementioned parameters. Lights should flash on the Altair. All switches should be 0. Push AUX1 down and you should be in.

(NB. AUX1 is left, AUX2 - right)

You can enter any of the programs on display by selecting the appropriate switches and pushing AUX1 down.

(NB. To stop all activity or a program:   Stop + Reset)

CPM Disks

A few things to try:

Type “DIR” to get a directory from the disk.

Type “DEMO”.  Yes, kind of pointless.

Type “LADDER”.  Basically an ASCII version of Donkey Kong.

Type “MBASIC” to load BASIC-80.  “FILES” gives you a directory.  RUN “STARTRK.BAS” loads and runs Star Trek.  “SYSTEM” exits to CP/M prompt.

Combo Disk Boot Loader / MITS  Disk Controller (1000)

(when entering this press enter for  Memory Size, capital O for LinePrinter, and enter for the rest.