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View Full Version : Altair #1 - Lost in the mail. Who got Altair #2?



collectorcraig
May 29th, 2015, 06:01 AM
It is fairly well established that the first Altair built was lost in transit to Les Solomon back in October of 1974. Which raises the question of where did Altair #2 go? I always assumed that Ed Roberts built the second one and shipped it off to Les Solomon to replace the lost one. However, "Leiy" made a comment a few weeks back about the Altair shown in "Triumph of the Nerds" that got me wondering.

In that documentary film, the narrator (Robert Cringley/Mark Stephens) pulls an Altair off the shelf in his garage and announces that it was the second Altair built and has serial #2. The front panel appears to be an Altair 8800 but the back does not. The power cord is in the far left corner and it has a removable fuse. As "leiy" commented, it looks like the back of an Altair 8800b. Also, switches on the front have colored plastic covers. So, is this really Altair #2? I would be interested to hear what other Altair experts think about Cringley's claim.

Here is a link to a You Tube video showing this segment at about the 18:25 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuBXbvl1Sg4

simplex
May 29th, 2015, 06:07 AM
Very interesting, hope someone knows. Also, if Altair #1 ever turned up, would the original owner still be able to claim it? :)

How do you lose something so big and heavy!

TJ_Mossman
May 29th, 2015, 06:22 AM
If you look closely you'll see that the serial number sticker is actually from Pertec.

My guess is that he's lying, or the unit was upgraded. FWIW MITS did offer an upgrade kit (8800b-PS), which I beleive my 8800 has, but whether or not they still offered it after the Pertec acquisition is anyone's guess. (mine has a mits sticker)

Here's a page with a 8800bt, showing the pertec sticker: http://www.computercloset.org/MITSAltair8800bt.htm

DDS
May 29th, 2015, 08:39 AM
Very interesting, hope someone knows. Also, if Altair #1 ever turned up, would the original owner still be able to claim it? :)

How do you lose something so big and heavy!

If it does, it could start a can of worms as big as this one:

https://jimsgarage.wordpress.com/2007/01/14/the-missing-daytona-coupe-mystery/

http://www.caranddriver.com/features/death-deception-and-the-4-million-cobra-feature

http://www.caranddriver.com/news/multimillion-dollar-cobra-lawsuit-settled-car-news

NeXT
May 29th, 2015, 10:18 AM
Very interesting, hope someone knows. Also, if Altair #1 ever turned up, would the original owner still be able to claim it? :)

How do you lose something so big and heavy!

Legend has it they lost a Cray in the mail.

BubbaShakers
May 29th, 2015, 11:16 AM
Undoubtedly intercepted in transit by US Treasury agents and currently stored in a secure facility somewhere in South Dakota (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warehouse_13). Should it ever turn up, whoever finds it might not want to try operating it...

SomeGuy
May 29th, 2015, 01:59 PM
They are both hidden underneath a huge pile of lost socks. :)

rittwage
May 29th, 2015, 04:04 PM
Cringley stretching the truth a little to make a story more interesting?

Say it ain't so...

:)

leiy
May 29th, 2015, 07:19 PM
The #2 in this documentary film maybe an actual #2 with back penal swapped and power supply upgraded to 8800b, or maybe not a #2, who knows?

The "#1" in popular electronics cover I strongly believe is a prototype, so I suppose the real look outside and inside of #1 is as the same as early 1974 Altair rev.0 production batch, both of #1 and #2 maybe exist, or both of them were damaged or lost.

So I suppose the real Altair rev.0 with lowest serial ever exist is #3, and the biggest serial with light-yellow pillar board holder inside Altair I can find on internet so far is #47.

collectorcraig
May 30th, 2015, 06:35 AM
Your comment about Altair #2 being lost might be supported by a claim made by the lady that sold Altair #3 on eBay a few years back. Altair #3 was bought by someone in England and it was donated to the "Centre of Computing History" in Cambridge, UK. Here is her description as it appeared on eBay:

"The Altair 8800 - the first machine to run the Microsoft Software!

This machine belonged to my father, who knew Les Solomon, and was able to purchase the 2nd and 3rd machines made. Somehow the 2nd one has been lost, but this one has been stored rather well for these many years. It is in apparent working condition, although since the manuals are missing, I don't really know how to test it beyond verifying that it does light up.

I know my father upgraded it as much as was possible when he had it. I am not sure how much of it is actually original other than the box itself. I did poke around a bit and was surprised to discover what appears to be a western digital hard drive and hdd controller card in it. What I wouldn't give to know what is stored on that drive! But without the time or resources to find out, I will leave it up to the lucky winning bidder to find that out! Also, it appears that the power supply has either been upgraded or added to.

The exterior of the box does have some markings on it. They appear to be stains of some sort, but are not extremely noticeable. The insides appear to be in good condition, but a bit dusty. "

Here is a link to the museum's site and the Altair display: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/d...S-Altair-8800/ (http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/179/MITS-Altair-8800/)

In their photos, it appears that Altair #3 was heavily modified and the serial number tag had obviously been removed and replaced a few times. Also, it has blue pillars to hold the boards rather than the typical yellow ones seen in other early Rev. 0 Altairs. She does not say that her father got these from Les Solomon, but I assume that was the case since he would have had the first one of two Altairs available. Here are some photos:

http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/attachment.php?attachmentid=24503&stc=1

leiy
May 30th, 2015, 06:57 AM
Your comment about Altair #2 being lost might be supported by a claim made by the lady that sold Altair #3 on eBay a few years back. Altair #3 was bought by someone in England and it was donated to the "Centre of Computing History" in Cambridge, UK. Here is her description as it appeared on eBay:

"The Altair 8800 - the first machine to run the Microsoft Software!

This machine belonged to my father, who knew Les Solomon, and was able to purchase the 2nd and 3rd machines made. Somehow the 2nd one has been lost, but this one has been stored rather well for these many years. It is in apparent working condition, although since the manuals are missing, I don't really know how to test it beyond verifying that it does light up.

I know my father upgraded it as much as was possible when he had it. I am not sure how much of it is actually original other than the box itself. I did poke around a bit and was surprised to discover what appears to be a western digital hard drive and hdd controller card in it. What I wouldn't give to know what is stored on that drive! But without the time or resources to find out, I will leave it up to the lucky winning bidder to find that out! Also, it appears that the power supply has either been upgraded or added to.

The exterior of the box does have some markings on it. They appear to be stains of some sort, but are not extremely noticeable. The insides appear to be in good condition, but a bit dusty. "

Here is a link to the museum's site and the Altair display: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/d...S-Altair-8800/ (http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/179/MITS-Altair-8800/)

In their photos, it appears that Altair #3 was heavily modified and the serial number tag had obviously been removed and replaced a few times. Also, it has blue pillars to hold the boards rather than the typical yellow ones seen in other early Rev. 0 Altairs. She does not say that her father got these from Les Solomon, but I assume that was the case since he would have had the first one of two Altairs available. Here are some photos:

http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/attachment.php?attachmentid=24503&stc=1



Great information!

I'm also acquire an Altair 8800 recent with trimmed SN221940 sticker without "A" or "K" suffix like the #3

I look the #3 photos carefully, the inside machine is heavily modified, looks like none MITS board inside. Since it has been heavily modified, I suppose the light-yellow pillar was broken during the repeating insert or pullout s-100 boards on previous testing process.

Thank you, Leiy.

xprt
May 30th, 2015, 08:20 AM
Gee, those pictures reminded me of a video that YouTube recommended I watch last week featuring Altair #3:

https://youtu.be/NzCB9-Njdsc

smp
May 30th, 2015, 11:03 AM
Hi all,

I've been following this thread with great interest.

I am wondering about all these Altairs with very low serial numbers, and the claim about one of these actually being Altair #2, after the one that got lost in the mail to Popular Electronics for the article. If the picture on the cover of the January 1975 Popular Electronics magazine is the actual Altair #2, then why are we fretting about these Altairs in Optima cases? Was Altair #2 re-manufactured into an Optima case after the PE photo shoot? I have never heard that.

Might it be possible that there was an Altair #1 (lost in the US Mail) and an Altair #2 (as shown on the cover of PE), and then, when MITS started making the actual kits and assembled units for sale, they changed over to the Optima case version with the 4 slot motherboards, and they started *again* with #1, 2, 3, ... ?

If this were to be the case, then we are talking about the Altair #2 in the Optima case, and we have not seen the actual Altair #2 as photographed for PE.

Just my random thoughts...

smp

collectorcraig
May 30th, 2015, 11:24 AM
The Altair pictured on the cover of Popular Electronics (Jan. 1975) is just a mocked-up model put together for a cover photo. The unit lost in the mail was shipped in October and would have been used for the cover photo--had it arrived! But since the January issue was actually published in late November of 1974, they needed something and this is what they came up with on short notice.

Here is a link to a site showing that original photo and the actual article: http://www.vintagecomputer.net/altair-poptronics.cfm

smp
May 30th, 2015, 12:12 PM
The Altair pictured on the cover of Popular Electronics (Jan. 1975) is just a mocked-up model put together for a cover photo. The unit lost in the mail was shipped in October and would have been used for the cover photo--had it arrived! But since the January issue was actually published in late November of 1974, they needed something and this is what they came up with on short notice.


Ah! Got it. Thanks for setting me straight.

smp

mnbvcxz
May 30th, 2015, 01:02 PM
Altair #1 "got lost in the post" but it did not disappear into an alternate dimension, it existed and may still exist somewhere, it may turn up one day.

lisa2
May 30th, 2015, 07:56 PM
Have you contacted Bob about this? Maybe he could give some more details on the history of this system.

It seems that he would be easy to contact:

http://www.cringely.com/bout-bob/

Corey986
June 1st, 2015, 02:42 AM
So I suppose the real Altair rev.0 with lowest serial ever exist is #3, and the biggest serial with light-yellow pillar board holder inside Altair I can find on internet so far is #47.

I can safely say serial number 201 has the light yellow pillar board guides on the first couple of cards, the later added cards moved to the blue ones.

Cheers,
Corey

leiy
June 1st, 2015, 02:59 AM
I can safely say serial number 201 has the light yellow pillar board guides on the first couple of cards, the later added cards moved to the blue ones.

Cheers,
Corey


Great info! Any photos? Thank you.

Corey986
June 1st, 2015, 03:10 AM
I'll try to remember to take some tomorrow.

Corey986
June 2nd, 2015, 01:43 PM
OK, here is Altair #201
24581
24582
24583

leiy
June 2nd, 2015, 05:05 PM
OK, here is Altair #201
24581
24582
24583

Nice machine. Thank you very much.

Leiy

leiy
June 2nd, 2015, 05:54 PM
OK, here is Altair #201
24581
24582
24583

I noticed the DB25 holes from backpanel are round corners & right side of PSU metal base plate from last photo has holes. These makes the #201 Altair special.

The #201 indicate, the SN number with light-yellow pillar holder on stock Altair computers reached to #201 so far, and the lowest serial with blue pillar holder I found on internet so far is #790.

Thank you.
Leiy.

Marty
June 2nd, 2015, 06:50 PM
Hi All;

I have never seen an old Altair with the BIG Capacitors over on the side, instead of the small ones along the Back of the machine..

THANK YOU Marty

Corey986
June 3rd, 2015, 02:33 AM
This one has been upgraded. The entire power supply had been upgraded and attached to the original motherboard is a 3rd party one which adds 8 slots.