Altair 8800 micro replica kit?

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Altair 8800 micro replica kit?

Postby DigitalKid2AnalogMan » Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:27 am

Is there any interest among retro computing enthusiasts / kit builders for a Altair 8800 micro kit similar to the one previously offered by Briel Computers? Corneleous has some youtube videos on how he built his own Altair 8800 micro and it seemed really nice.

Currently, it seems like the only Altair 8800 replica on the market is a clone that is in a metal case and has the same physical dimensions as the original Altair 8800, but inside it is 99% air since everything is running on a few small ICs in one corner. The approach that Corneleous took in making his replica similar to Briel's, which in turn was very similar to the original in that it had many different ICs for each subsystem of the computer, seems like it would be more interesting overall to the majority of people interested in retro PCs and kits. The very fact that inside Corneleous' kit there were wires and cables going every which way and PCBs that were sandwiched together is very similar to how many vintage PCs were built.
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Re: Altair 8800 micro replica kit?

Postby Corneleous » Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:51 pm

I'd love to sell a kit of that computer- I have the circuit boards (Power supply and Propeller board, Main CPU board, and Ram expansion/Emulated Dual Disk Drive board) designed, tested, and ready to have made by a board house.

The only problem with this kit: It would most likely be kinda pricey. Here's why: In addition to the three circuit boards mentioned above, there's also the board that I'd have to make for the panel; My "prototype", one-off clone of Vince Briel's machine used perfboard for the panel, that I manually soldered up with all the LEDs, resistors, and switches. It took a while, but, works very well.. I'd imagine for a kit, this would have to be made into a circuit board just like the others. PCboards can be ordered cheaply from overseas.. If going for made in USA, it is more expensive. I'd probably have to order from overseas to make it cost effective.

Then, there's a LOT of parts: Four SRAM chips (two for 64k RAM, two for simulated disk drives), a propeller and it's eeprom, two Atmel ATmega8515's, 9 tri-state octals, two VREGs, etc. The panel has 32 LEDs, 32 resistors, 3 SIP resistor packs, and 25 toggle switches. Plus, a bunch of other passives and a few chips I'm not remembering. The case is like 10 bucks, the panel would need to be made, there's a few header pins, battery pack (for emulated disk drives), ribon cables, etc.

Finally, I'd almost certainly have to work out some sort of licensing deal with Vince Briel- as I know from designing the PE6502 (and I had help on the propeller code too) there is a TON of work that went into the firmware.
I'm certainly not trying to dissuade anyone (and the computer is really a LOT of fun!) It's just, we'd have to see what kind of interest there is in that kit being available.

And/OR: It probably would not be too hard to adapt the same panel design, to the Zeta2 computer- which uses a Z80 instead of the (emulated)8080 that the AltairMicro uses. Both run CP/M. The Zeta2 has two emulated disk drives, but also a real floppy controller is built in. Both machines have propeller terminal and SD card built-in (if the Zeta2 is built with a ParPropBoard add on). The Zeta2 appears slightly more powerful, but the propeller terminal software is not yet as evolved as the AltairMicro, and needs some work to include color and "graphics" like the AltairMicro has.

Jason Putnam
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