Altair kit

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Location: Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Altair kit

Post by Newz2000 » Mon Nov 27, 2006 12:57 pm

Make has a link to an Altair kit that looks quite good. It's not exactly cheap, but man does it look cool: ... 0_com.html

That is a little before my time (I think I was 3 or 4 when that came out) but I had a Vic 20 and a TRS 80 Coco 2 (with cassette storage).

My favorite old-computer-story is this:
I took my Vic 20 to my Grandmother's house. Together we worked through the instruction manual to write the sample programs. We came to the section where you program the computer to play music... the section was titled, "roll over Beethoven" (man, maybe this was the TRS 80, can't remember now)

The section introduced what we were going to do and then included several pages of code that had to be typed in. Just before the code listing, the instructions said something like, "now place your candelabra on top of your computer monitor and create your masterpiece." Well, I didn't know what a candelabra was, so I just typed the code. As you all know, it didn't work (no code does the first time). I checked my code as best as I could. I quickly came to the conclusion that the problem was because I couldn't find the candelabra to place on my monitor.

My grandmother and I looked and looked. We never did get that program to work though.

Oh, btw, I'm back from SF. I didn't go electronics part shopping... I just went down to pier 39 and watched the seals.

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Location: Northern Illinois

Post by jollyrgr » Mon Nov 27, 2006 3:53 pm

I like Make magazine but they have a SERIOUS flaw; they do not publish REAL schematics with their circuits. I know in the latest issue someone took them to task for this and they claim they will be correcting this oversite. (But I believe they will only publish schematics on the web site: BAD IDEA!) I think presenting an electronic project without a schematic is like telling someone how to keep bees and havest honey without telling them about the bee suit; someone is going to get stung.

Some circuits appear to be well thought out and cleverly described so that the NON electronics person could duplicate the project if they had all the parts in front of them. But give me the schematic and I'd be able to duplicate much faster. I like the simple projects that DON'T require a PIC to flash an LED.

Oh the computer stories of the past. Way back in the early 80s my high school held a "health fair". Different clubs put on different presentations. You could check your blood type, find your pulse and blood pressure etc. The computer club wrote a program to determine your Body Mass Index or whatever it is to determine how much you should weigh based on certain factors. The program was text based (as were almost all programs back then) and you would put in things in simple terms. I watched as a "Stoner" girl put in her information. When the prompt asked "Is all your information correct?" she responded "I think so" <ENTER>. Poor programming caused the Apple ][ to crash at a BIN dump.

One of the early "Lookie what I can do" for the wanna be's" would be to write a program like:

20 GOTO 10


10 LET x=0
20 LET x = x +1
30 GOTO 20

and run the program. (I was a lot more clever and made my counter go into the center of the screen and stay there counting in the same spot instead of scrolling up the screen.)

Well one happy smack decided he'd substitute the "F-Bomb" for HELLO at the computer right at the entrance to the comuter lab. This, of course, upset the computer teachers. When he explained why he was late for our math class there was one girl that was surprised. HOW COULD A COMPUTER ALLOW A DIRTY WORD?!?! The teacher had to explain that computers are just machines; they don't care what you write and will allow you to put anything you want.

Still this is not as bad as the trick (I hope it was a trick) played on a talk radio station. For those of you not familiar with toll roads they have (or used to have before SPEED PASS) two types of lanes. MANUAL and AUTOMATIC. A "blonde" called up and asked the host why the tollway had setup special lanes for AUTOMATIC and MANUAL. For "cars" and "trucks" this made sense. But why would you need lanes for automatic transmissions and manual transmissions?
No trees were harmed in the creation of this message. But billions of electrons, photons, and electromagnetic waves were terribly inconvenienced!

Dean Huster
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Location: Harviell, MO (Poplar Bluff area)

Post by Dean Huster » Tue Nov 28, 2006 4:21 pm

I saw an Altair 8800 kit on ebay and the picture looked pretty good. I'm assuming that maybe the copyright on the PC boards has expired and they're duplicating the originals. I'm not sure if all the original parts are still available, though. Some of that static and dynamic RAM might be a little scarce and new cards would have to be designed. That isn't a bad idea as the biggest static card that MITS made was 4KB.

I built one of the first Altair 8800s when they first came out. Trouble is, I was just being transferred from Okinawa to Pensacola so I had to wait a month or so before I could order so that it wouldn't end up in Neverneverland for the rest of my life. My original had all of the stock 256 BYTES of static RAM. I still have the beastie in storage but haven't fired it up in years. The filter caps will probably explode if I do.

Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).


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