The Altair-Duino

I was a child of 9 years old when the Altair 8800 was announced on the pages of Popular Electronics magazine in January of 1975. It captured my imagination - and I knew that someday I would build and own my own computer. I never did get an Altair 8800 - the computer revolution was started and it moved FAST. The heyday of the Altair lasted only a short while. The first computer I built was 6 years later when I built the Sinclair ZX81 kit.

Well imagine my surprise 42 years later when David Hansel of Brookline, MA published his Ardunio-based Altair 8800 emulator project on! I knew this was my chance to finally build an Altair 8800! Sure, there are other Altair 8800 clones out there, but all seemed out of reach for a simple working-man hobbyist. There's Mike Douglas's excellent which is a dead-ringer look-alike for the Altair 8800, but it's over $600, there's also the very ambitious in which Grant Stockly painstakingly recreated every board and component of an original Altair.

Actual (aged) newspaper clipping from 1981. "Local Boy Makes Good: Builds Computer". What can I say? It was a small town.

Once I saw David's code and design, I knew I could improve on it and make an affordable, easy-to-build kit. My first "beta-testers" were my 12 and 14 year old sons! Yes, you can still follow David's original plan if you wish. If you want a ready-to-go kit, look no further!

This is a cycle-accurate recreation of the original Altair 8800. What does that mean? It means the Intel 8080 CPU is emulated, as is some of the basic I/O (disk drives, serial ports, etc.) but everything else is REAL Altair machine code and CP/M that was created more than 40 years ago!

Original Altair 8800
Dimensions: 17" x 7" x 18"
Weight: depends on cards loaded, but generally around 65 lbs.
RAM: 64KB maximum

Altair-Duino (Pro version)
Dimensions: 15" x 6" x 6"
Weight: 3 lbs with acrylic case.
RAM: 512KB (64KB maximum for Altair emulation, the rest used as storage for Altair programs and utilities.)

Wait! The original Altair was not in an acrylic case!

I know this does not have the accurate "look" of the original Altair, that's because I had two goals in making this kit:

  1. Be an accurate recreation of the functionality of the original Altair 8800.
  2. Be affordable.
If you'd like an Altair replica with a more authentic look, I'd encourage you to take a look at Mike Douglas's Altair Clone, or his exciting Altair 8800c.

I also have to say "thank you" to Oscar Vermeulen of Obsolescence Guaranteed for his recreation of the PDP-8, which got me on this quest to recreate historic computers.  What's next?  I'm working hard on an Apple-1 kit, a Cosmac Elf, and an Altair 680.


The Kit

This is a kit you can probably put together in a Saturday afternoon. Here's what's included:


PC Board

You'll receive a professionally made printed circuit board with all components, ready for you to assemble.


Arduino Due

Arduino's first ARM development board, based on a powerful 32bit CortexM3 ARM microcontroller.


Fully Loaded

Because of the capacity of the Due, it comes pre-loaded with useful and entertaining Altair software.


Take it Further

The source code for the Altair simulator is published under GPLv3, meaning you can experiment and modify the code.

  • Available now!

    "Know Your Roots" T-shirts. Make sure you tell those young millennials exactly where their precious technology comes from - It comes from us, the folks that invented home computers! Get yours here!

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