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Computer Collector
January 24th, 2005, 10:06 PM
I might get flamed for asking such an ignorant question, but here it goes:

Whats the point of the MITs Altair 8800 when you cant even type on it?

Terry Yager
January 25th, 2005, 10:59 AM
Blinkenlights!

--T

mryon
January 25th, 2005, 01:22 PM
Not to be a wise guy but that's like asking what's point of an Apple ][ because you can't play Doom 3 on it.

Erik
January 25th, 2005, 03:55 PM
I might get flamed for asking such an ignorant question, but here it goes:

Whats the point of the MITs Altair 8800 when you cant even type on it?

No flames, but you can type on it. You just need to learn octal first. . . :D

Erik

Exluddite
January 25th, 2005, 05:37 PM
I can't "type" on my digital alarm clock either, but it serves a very useful function.
I don't think you're asking the right question. What you should be asking is "What applications can be run on an Altair 8800?"

alltare
January 25th, 2005, 07:31 PM
You can "type" with the front panel switches. Or hook up a Teletype or other terminal, just like any other computer. Remember that it was state-of-the-art 30 years ago, and the only PC to be had.

I suppose the real reason people want an Altair is because it was a pioneer. The first of anything is usually collectable.

Plus, as Terry said, there's those blinkenlights.

Alltare
==================================


I might get flamed for asking such an ignorant question, but here it goes:

Whats the point of the MITs Altair 8800 when you cant even type on it?

Terry Yager
January 25th, 2005, 08:17 PM
I think it's the kind of question that, if you have to ask, you'll never understand the answer. Either you get it or you don't. Other such questions I sometimes get are "Why do you call your dogs "FatMan" & "LittleBoy"?" or "Why do you use an apparently anti-computer quote in your sig?" Well, the quote dates back to the early 70s, to a time when "The Computer" was sort of a metaphor for intrusive government ammassing vast stores of data about it's people. The current generation tends to take giant government databanks for granted, having grown up with them ever-present, but to us, back then, it was perceived as a very real and imminent threat to our personal liberty and the American way of life. (Remember, this was before FEMA & DHS, before FISA & the USA PATRIOT Act...back when the term "right to privacy" actually meant something). (Oh, am I rambling? Sorry). Anyways, my dog-naming scheme is just my brand of "gallows humor", and not intended as a reflection of the puppies' destructive abilities.

--T

Computer Collector
January 25th, 2005, 08:56 PM
What you should be asking is "What applications can be run on an Altair 8800?"

Yes, perhaps this would be the better question, thank you.

So, can you type a report and print it out?
Does it have a monitor?

(Im a newbie when it comes to this model, as you can see)

Ill keep a lookout for one in the thrift shops!

Terry Yager
January 25th, 2005, 10:34 PM
Ill keep a lookout for one in the thrift shops!

If you find one for less than a grand, consider it a bargain.

--T

mryon
January 26th, 2005, 10:50 AM
Sorry, I meant to leave a more useful answer as well ;)

If you want to do something "usefull" with it?
Um, well, not much chance.

As others have said, something like an Altair is important because of it's place in the evolution of home computing not because of what you can do with it now.

If you happened to stuble across one, you could swap it for numerous examples of something a little more useable (Apple ][, Commodore 64, etc) plus a whole lot of cash ;)

-mikol

Terry Yager
January 26th, 2005, 11:23 AM
Still, I think the short answer is possibly the best. Those blinkenlights are a end in and of themselves. I don't have an Altair or Imsai, but if I did, I would infect it with the GoodTimes email virus hoax to put it into the legendary Nth-complexity infinite binary loop, and then I could stare hypnotically at the front panel until I lapsed into a grand mal seizure.

--T

Computer Collector
January 26th, 2005, 07:50 PM
So, what does the thing do?

alltare
January 31st, 2005, 10:20 AM
Are you serious? Your nickname, "Computer Collector" implies that you should already know better than to ask that question.

"What does the thing do?". It computes, just like any other computer. You might as well ask what a Mac or an IBMPC does. They're computers! What do you want them to do?

There are lots of web sites where you can learn about Altairs. Perhaps you should visit a few. This very site (Vintage Computer) has an S-100 Forum ("S-100" is the IEEE name for the Altair buss) you could visit. I'm sure many readers can give you a list as long as your arm of sites to look at.

Alltare


So, what does the thing do?

Computer Collector
February 1st, 2005, 06:21 PM
I suppose I havent reached the same level of intelligence as you yet. Perhaps I should look for a new name. Im not qualified to call myself a computer collector yet.

alltare
February 2nd, 2005, 08:52 AM
Sorry, CC. I guess I was too harsh.

The Altair really is just another computer. It supports terminals, printers, modems, disks, tapes, and many other devices. You could easily access all 256 I/O ports, not just the handfull that today's PCs allow. It can be programmed to do anything you want it to do (within the constraints of installed memory, peripherals, etc.). So to ask what it can do is a question that you really could ask of any other computer too. The answer, again, is "What do you want it to do?"

alltare


I suppose I havent reached the same level of intelligence as you yet. Perhaps I should look for a new name. Im not qualified to call myself a computer collector yet.

Terry Yager
February 2nd, 2005, 10:45 AM
I suppose I havent reached the same level of intelligence as you yet. Perhaps I should look for a new name. Im not qualified to call myself a computer collector yet.

Do you own more than one computer? Do you hope to own even more computers in the future? Then you're prob'ly qualified to call yourself a collector...

--T

carlsson
February 2nd, 2005, 03:22 PM
Do you own more than one computer? Do you hope to own even more computers in the future? Then you're prob'ly qualified to call yourself a collector...
In that case, even my 68 year old dad is almost a collector, since he technically co-owns three low end PCs and under my guidance put a bid (but didn't get) a fourth, possibly better PC to replace one of the two in use.

Terry Yager
February 2nd, 2005, 04:30 PM
Sounds like he's got the bug, all right...

--T

carlsson
February 3rd, 2005, 04:48 AM
Actually I would call him more of an accordion collector than a computer collector. Or maybe advertisement poster and catalog collector, at least a couple of years ago.

Computer Collector
March 1st, 2005, 05:52 PM
ive been doing a little more research, and Ive come to a new conclusion. Correct me if Im wrong. But a keyboard and monitor combo called the
Lear-Siegler ADM-3A terminal connects to the Altair, and then you have the complete set-up. Is that how it goes?

This Lear-Siegler ADM-3A terminal looks very familiar. Unless there is another computer that looks almost identical, Im sure that I used to have to type on one of these in typing class when I was a kid. For some reason the teacher called them Commodores, though. But what we had in that class looked exactly like a Lear-Siegler ADM-3A terminal to me. Perhaps they were hooked up to some kind of Commodore under the table.

I ought to go back and ask if them still have them in some closet, and if I could buy them. However, even if they id still have them, (now 17 years later), I doubt they would want to sell them to me. You know how it is; people never want to give up their old computer stuff when they know you want it.

Terry Yager
March 1st, 2005, 06:17 PM
The L-S ADM 3A is only one of many different terminals that are compatible with the Altair, or any other S-100 computer that has an RS-232 (serial) port. There are also other solutions, like using a video board & a monitor, combined with a keyboard. Of course, the Altair comes with a full front panel, so why do you need a terminal anyways?
Many old computers & terminals look very similar to one another. A genuine ADM 3A is worth a pretty nice chunk of change these days. (I've seen 'em go for as much as a C-note on eBay lately). There are other, cheaper terminals that will work just fine with your Altair. You should consider one of them, unless you really have your heart set on an ADM 3A. OTOH, to be truly authentic, you'll need to get a TeleType terminal (with punch & reader) for it, or even better yet, roll-your-own TV-Typewriter..

--T

alltare
March 1st, 2005, 09:26 PM
Don't forget, your PC (modern day IBM PC, that is) can be used as a dumb terminal too. Windows ships with "HyperTerminal" as a system accessory. All you need is a null modem cable. It will emulate ANSI, VT100, and a few other standard terminals.

MITS actually sold a lot more Beehive CRT terminals (B-100 and B-150) than LSI ADM3 or ADM3A types. Beehives were cheaper and had addressable cursors, unlike the ADM3. They were also hell to fix. Before the CRTs, MITS sold kits for their own terminals- the "ComTer" (Computer Terminal), having a one-line display, and the "VLCT" (Very Low Cost Terminal), which sent and displayed in octal, and had an octal keyboard.

steve
==================


The L-S ADM 3A is only one of many different terminals that are compatible with the Altair, or any other S-100 computer that has an RS-232 (serial) port. There are also other solutions, like using a video board & a monitor, combined with a keyboard. Of course, the Altair comes with a full front panel, so why do you need a terminal anyways?
Many old computers & terminals look very similar to one another. A genuine ADM 3A is worth a pretty nice chunk of change these days. (I've seen 'em go for as much as a C-note on eBay lately). There are other, cheaper terminals that will work just fine with your Altair. You should consider one of them, unless you really have your heart set on an ADM 3A. OTOH, to be truly authentic, you'll need to get a TeleType terminal (with punch & reader) for it, or even better yet, roll-your-own TV-Typewriter..

--T

olddataman
March 1st, 2005, 11:58 PM
If you are talking about the basic Altair 8800, as delivered from the factory, it would not do much and indeed could not be equipped to do much. All programs had to be entered from the front panel, the mother board only accomadated 3 boards, (the CPU board, a memory board and the front panel board I think). So, in order to install more memory, an I/O board, an audio casette interface board and perhaps a Processor TEch VDM-1 video board and a parallel I/O board to attach a keyboard, you had to buy a bigger mother board, as many as 5 or 6 more boards at an average cost of about $175.00 each plus the mother board cost, and a keyboard at about $75.00, t.v. monitor at about $150.00 and (take my word for it) a Parasitic Engineering Co. power supply booster kit to get enough power to make the whole thing work. (The IMSAI computer was not much better, but did have enough power, a mother board with six slots in the basic system, )
I suspect that it didn't cost much more to add an ADM 3A to an Altair than it did to do the VDM-1, Parallel I/O board and keyboard route. The ADM-3A soxt less than $1,000 in kit form, and about $1300.00 assembled. (yes, it was the first terminal available as a kit, but was a b---h to assemble) and interfaced to the serial I/O board and contained the display monitor and keyboard too. By the way, MITS sold Model 33 ASR teletypewriters for $1500.00. but you could find them cheaper than that if you shopped around a bit.
Anyway, the thing about the Altair is that it could do lots of things, and if you had been to the First World Altair Convention in March of '76 and seen the dddissplays of end-user developed application programs you would have ben as amazed as most of us were, since the Microsoft Basic was just starting to be delovered.
By the way, I still have one of the VERY popular ADM-3 posters. The poster has Lear Seigler's name amd shows the ADM 3A superiaimposed on Star Trek's USS Enterprise. I'll see if I can get a decent photo of it and post it if anyone is interested.
I apologize for any grammatical or spelling errors here. I'm using new software and haven't figured out how to spell check yet.

Ray Borrill

alltare
March 2nd, 2005, 05:38 PM
Ray,

I was at the WACC too- I wonder if we bumped into each other.

What a great experience. Remember the guy who had a huge stack of ferrite core planes as his Altair's working memory? There were wires and cables everywhere. That's where the Cromemco Dazzler made its debut, too. Ted Nelson was selling autographed copies of his book "Computer Lib/Dream Machines". It's still a fun book to read, even after all these years.

Steve
=========================




...
Anyway, the thing about the Altair is that it could do lots of things, and if you had been to the First World Altair Convention in March of '76 and seen the dddissplays of end-user developed application programs you would have ben as amazed as most of us were, since the Microsoft Basic was just starting to be delovered.
...

Ray Borrill

mryon
March 3rd, 2005, 07:26 PM
I wish I had some way to read "Computer Lib/Dream Machines".
I keep hoping some day it will be available in PDF....


-mikol



Ray,

I was at the WACC too- I wonder if we bumped into each other.

What a great experience. Remember the guy who had a huge stack of ferrite core planes as his Altair's working memory? There were wires and cables everywhere. That's where the Cromemco Dazzler made its debut, too. Ted Nelson was selling autographed copies of his book "Computer Lib/Dream Machines". It's still a fun book to read, even after all these years.

Steve

alltare
March 3rd, 2005, 08:22 PM
Google search for that title yields 4200 hits.

I found a pdf chapter here:
http://mrl.nyu.edu/~noah/nmr/book_samples/nmr-21-nelson.pdf

And some other stuff here:
http://www.digibarn.com/collections/books/computer-lib/
and here:
http://cla.uconn.edu/reviews/cmptrlib.html



I wish I had some way to read "Computer Lib/Dream Machines".
I keep hoping some day it will be available in PDF....


-mikol



Ray,

I was at the WACC too- I wonder if we bumped into each other.

What a great experience. Remember the guy who had a huge stack of ferrite core planes as his Altair's working memory? There were wires and cables everywhere. That's where the Cromemco Dazzler made its debut, too. Ted Nelson was selling autographed copies of his book "Computer Lib/Dream Machines". It's still a fun book to read, even after all these years.

Steve

rocketman
March 27th, 2005, 07:46 PM
First to correct someone who posted about this terminal (ADM-3A) not having cursor addressability it does. The ADM-3 model didnt (the A stands for addressability). As far as building them yes they were a lot a soldering but not hard to build if you were good at it. The montior electronics and CRT alignment were done at the factory. You just had to build a very large circuit board with a ton of basic TTL chips on it. The kit was good because it came with sockets for all the chips. I made about 20+ of them from kits at the computer store I worked for so they could sell them as assembled models. I still have mine that I built as a kit. It still works perfect and looks like new. I remeber the price of kit as 795.00. I used to be able to build one in about two nights. I made a 100.00 for building one so it really helped with college bills. Those were fun days. I have to post some pics of the inside of mine so folks can see what they look like.