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  #1  
Old 12-08-2007, 02:48 AM
mardy mardy is offline
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Default Is it better to build or to preserve?

Strange question, let me explain. I was recently fortunate enough ( My wife says crazy enough. ) to get my hands on an original Altair 8800 kit completely unassembled. It is just as it was 31 years ago when it was first ordered. I myself have been longing to get my hands on one of these for as many years. But now that I finally have one, I am torn between wether or not to actually build it.

Being new to vintage computers, I'm not sure if I would be doing a disservice by assembling this very unique collection. On the other hand, if I build it and get it to run, it would probably be one of the most pristine units in existence.

Any recommendations?
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2007, 12:06 PM
Geoff Harrison Geoff Harrison is offline
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Well it's your money so it's your choice, but if I had bought it, I wouldn't even think about building it.

Many collectors will say these machines were built to be used, so there's no point in collecting them and storing them away unused, and mostly I agree with them.

In this case, though, you paid big money for an absolutely unique machine in unusual condition. Leave it as it is and you'll still have a very special machine, build it and you'll have just another Altair 8800 that goes for $2000 - $3000 on eBay.

If you want the experience of building an 8800 from scratch then build one of Grant's kits. The experience is exactly what you would have had back in the 70's, and the end result is not just something that's kind of similar to an 8800, it is exactly the same as an 8800.

Whichever choice you make, please consider Grant's suggestion to let him archive hi-res scans of the boards. It would be a shame to lose that data.

Best of luck, whatever you decide.

Geoff.
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  #3  
Old 12-11-2007, 02:38 PM
mardy mardy is offline
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Well, I unpacked the kit last night. One simple word describes the experience, amazing. It was like stepping back in time. For those of you who saw the add on eBay, it did not do it justice. Most of the kit pieces were still factory sealed. The manual binder and it's pages were pristine. Even the Optima case was still in the original shipping box!

After seeing and touching it first hand, it is quite clear to me that there is no way that I would ever build this.

What I want to do now, with the help of Grant, is to document and preserve this amazing find. Long term, I think that this machine might be better served if it were in the hands of a more serious collector than myself. Till then...

-Mardy
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  #4  
Old 12-12-2007, 12:05 AM
marty marty is offline
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Talking Just Wondering ????

Hi Mardy;

I was just Wondering --- What ALL is in your Origional KIT ?????

THANK YOU Marty
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  #5  
Old 12-12-2007, 06:19 AM
Cappellanus Cappellanus is offline
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Wow, I wondered who bought that kit!!! I thought it was that deep-pocket collector in Florida who's assembling a museum.

Yes, many would consider the kit ruined by assembly. On the other-hand, it's yours to do as you please. As a collector of old books (some 500 years old) I always considered collecting antiques a responsibility. We book collectors hate the 19th century people who tore "title-pages" out of rare books to frame and display, or stamped their names in books already 300 years old.

What should you do with it? Museums don't have deep pockets, they hope for donations. Bill Gates has yet to show any nostalgia for old computers, even though this was the machine he hit it big with.

I'd love to see a quality archive of high-quality scans of all printed material, and high-quality scans of all PC boards. The existing internet scans are low quality, except for Grant's copies. I'd also like to see copies of the paper tapes, both photos of the leaders, and raw byte data. I'm unsure if there are "any" real original raw paper tape data for Altair programs on the internet. Most of what's out there, are just memory dumps, I think.

A word about the cassette tapes: These magnetic tapes have far outlived their life expectancy I worry if you play them even once on a dusty old cassette tape player that spent 10 years in your garage, you'll wipe off 30% of the useful signal. Consider only playing them on museum quality archival equipment, with heads that have been properly demagnetized. A list of specialists who read old magnetic tapes for the museum and library industry are here: http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub...resources.html Yes, it would be expensive.

In any case, you're now the keeper of a unique relic. Maybe that's a terrible responsibility. I wish I had the same delemma!!! If you want to part-out any of the tapes (paper or magnetic) I'm willing to take some of the responsibility off your hands!!!

Last edited by Grant Stockly; 09-10-2012 at 09:12 PM.
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  #6  
Old 01-06-2008, 01:30 AM
Forbin376 Forbin376 is offline
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Default Build and enjoy!

Build it after CAREFULLY duplicating the 1702 PROM for the front panel. Be extra careful with static discharge when working with the 4000 series chips as they are early CMOS and rather sensative. I suspect that Grant must have the PROM source for his replica kit. Oh - I do remember the fun of actually getting something to run and being able to work on it at the signal level - now all we do is swap cards.

UPDATE: My notes above refere to an Altair 8800B not an ALtair 8800A - Sorry for the confusion.

Last edited by Forbin376; 01-13-2008 at 08:10 PM. Reason: Corrected Information
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