Alto II (was Re: PDP-8 prices

From: Eric Smith <>
Date: Wed Jan 27 19:15:05 1999

Tony replied to my post about Al's Alto II auction:

> But for a _known_ Xerox expert to be selling something 'as-is' makes me
> think. He trivially knows how to test it. He probably has boot disks
> around.

Were you interested enough to email Al with questions? He put "as is" on
the eBay description because it was the easiest way to describe it, and not
set unrealistic expectations. If I had an Alto II that I knew to be in
perfect working order, I probably wouldn't be willing to sell it on any
basis other than "as is". But if you had asked him for more details, I'm
pretty sure he could have told you a lot about the condition of the machine.

Getting one of these machines running takes a lot more effort than a Xerox
Star (8010), and it took a huge effort by multiple people inside and outside
of Xerox (including Al) to get an 8010 fully operational for the "Last Public
Demo of the Star" at PARC recently.

> Calling it mass-produced is a little strange, considering how few were made..

There were many hundreds made, perhaps more than a thousand. I don't know
the numbers. The Alto II specifically was built by the Xerox El Segundo
facilty, which was normally chartered with building full-production
equipment for revenue sale. All standard engineering practices for "real"
products were in place, i.e., document control, ECOs, and the like. The
only part that was missing was sales and marketing. So yes, in any
conventional sense of the term I think it is accurate to say that it was
mass-produced. It just wasn't mass-marketed.

> Simple. If I had a spare one (very unlikely, as it means I've found at
> least 2 and probably 3...), then I'd give it away. I'd find a collector
> who wanted it (Al would be top of my list due to his
> knowledge/experience) and donate it _on condition that it wasn't sold at
> a profit_.

Al has already donated a bunch of Altos to The Computer Museum, and one to
CHAC. He has been extremely unhappy with the results of the donations,
such that he is probably disinclined to donate any of his few remaining units
to anyone. Under the circumstances, I don't blame him.
Received on Wed Jan 27 1999 - 19:15:05 GMT

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