Altair 8800a on EBAY

From: Richard Erlacher <>
Date: Wed Oct 3 13:33:25 2001

If I remember correctly, the Altair, by the time one had the kits to build a
complete computer, and if one didn't mind tracking down the errata sheets for
each kit, and fixing the design errors, of which there were enough, was almost
impossibly expensive, too.

My first home computer only cost me $90 or so for all the components and boards,
not to mention a box and power supply, of which the latter two were the largest
part of the cost. The next largest cost after the box and power supply parts,
was the 5" TV, which I hacked into a monitor.

The boards cost about $22 for the bunch and the Keyboard cost about $10. I had
a couple of grocery sacks of 21L02's that served as memory, the bunch of which
came on scrapped KIM-2 and KIM-3 boards, which I got for six-pack, and used some
wirewrap sockets that I scrounged from a simulation project that used tons of
them. Of course I had to desolder the IC's from their boards, and unwrap and
desolder the wirewrap sockets. The components in the WW sockets were useless,
as they had been stock-numbered and I didn't want to figure out what they were.

Building up an Altair back in the '70's cost about what an eBay Altair costs
nowadays, by the time you figure in the cost of the fixes and the cost of the
new components. If you wanted to save dough, you bought scrap boards and became
good at scrounging the parts without destroying them.

By comparison with the Altair, the Imsai, which was more or less the same thing,
but had a more ostentatious front panel, worked much better, and their stuff
generally worked out of the box or assembled as issued, with a few notable
exceptions, including the early front panel.

AFAIK, the early Altair front panel generally requires extensive modification,
or disconnection from the system if you want the computer to work. It was,
methinks, intended more to teach the user about how a computer works, when it
works, rather than to serve as a truly useable front panel, though, under the
right conditions and with the right boards, it was useable, even when the CPU
was supposed to run as well.

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Allain" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2001 10:39 AM
Subject: Re: Altair 8800a on EBAY

> Richard Erlacher said:
> > The Altair was never a computer that one interested in computing
> > would have bought for what the kit cost....
> So what Was the serious computer to buy for that era?
> It would probably be impossibly expensive, leaving many,
> including the serious, without anything.
> John A.
Received on Wed Oct 03 2001 - 13:33:25 BST

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