Go Backhardware index
click on home button to open mainpage

Altair 8800

1975 USA

Ed Roberts



Altair 8800



altairtape.gif (11608 bytes)

In January 1975 the birth of a special case takes place. The announcement on a front-page of a hackers magazine: Popular Electronics.

cover radio electronics announcement of Altair

The parent of this baby are MITS inc. and we call him Altair 8800. It is 18" x 17" 7 high and weighs the tremendous amount of 256 bytes ( that is a quarter K).It is said that this is the worlds first mini computer to rival commercial models. The Altair 8800 has a Intel 8080 CPU and is sold for 395 U$ or when you want it assembled 498 U$.


The Popular Electronics article is exaggerating enormously with the description of the Altair 8800

"a full-blown computer that can hold its own against sophisticated minicomputers now on the market... The Altair 8800 is not a 'demonstrator' or souped-up calculator... [it] is a complete system."
The article has a text box that sums some of the specifications and state the the Altair is so powerful it could run in a kind of multi tasking mode.
For example an automatic controller for a 27Mc station, a brain for a robot, a pattern recognition machine, and a print to Braille conversion for blind people.(1)
Many of these things will only be possible over two decades later. Indeed it was a bit over done by the editors of Popular Electronics. But it can be seen in the light of their enthusiasm of the idea that everybody could possess their own computer. This with a computer with only 256 bits, no keyboard, monitor, or data storage on tape or diskettes, were included. Let alone you could pay for that.(2)

De Altair is a do it your self kit and it can be post ordered for less than 500 U$. For this time incredible cheap. Especially when you know that the contemporary computers are the "Big Irons". Extremely expensive and extremely big. Only big and rich companies can afford to buy one.

altair1.jpg (47530 bytes)

MITS hoped to get about 400 orders during the two months the two part article would run in Popular Electronics. Like that MITS would be able to get the money to buy the parts it needed to build the machine. Quit a normal way to start up small businesses in this days. And it would give MITS the opportunity to build an assembly line for packing the kits.


But they under estimated the burning wanting of the Popular Electronic readers to have their own computer en have it running. MITS   receives the expected 400 orders in one afternoon, in three weeks about 250.000! The unit is sold for US$ 375 with kb memory.



Go Backhardware index
Last Updated on 23 April, 2004 For suggestions please mail the editors 

Footnotes & References