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  #1  
Old 11-19-2006, 12:02 PM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
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Default AltairKit.com is online!

After months of work and waiting, the Altair 8800 kit is finally ready! Visit the website http://www.altairkit.com/ for more information.
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  #2  
Old 11-19-2006, 03:33 PM
JohnC JohnC is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Glendale, CA
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Thumbs up I'm Amazed at your Enthusiasm

As an original Altair 8800 owner I'm just completely floored and impressed by this. It rekindles the memories of the passion I felt and the dreams I had when I brought my Altair kit home from the COMPUTER KITS store in Berkeley in 1976. I have looked at all your pictures at altairkit.com and I'm amazed at your ability to reverse engineer the original Altair in such incredible detail.
I have a few questions of you:
What does Ed Roberts think of this? Is he supportive?
Why and where did you deviate from the original design; e.g., the switching power supply?
Are you satisfied with "Kill the bit" or are you going to run CPM, etc. with a printer and dumb terminal?

I went back and looked at your altaircomputerclub email and I see that you are working on a Super Altair card. Will this work on the original Altair? I'm thinking it will. Currently, I have my Altair connected to a Gateway PC with an RS-232 connection and hyperterminal. A LAN connection would be nice.

JohnC

Last edited by JohnC; 11-19-2006 at 03:43 PM. Reason: New thoughts, corrections
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  #3  
Old 11-19-2006, 10:51 PM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
As an original Altair 8800 owner I'm just completely floored and impressed by this. It rekindles the memories of the passion I felt and the dreams I had when I brought my Altair kit home from the COMPUTER KITS store in Berkeley in 1976. I have looked at all your pictures at altairkit.com and I'm amazed at your ability to reverse engineer the original Altair in such incredible detail.
Thanks! I imagine there will be people out there who could never afford the kit in 1975 who will now be able to have their dreams come true!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
I have a few questions of you:
What does Ed Roberts think of this? Is he supportive?
When I began the project I tried contacting him hoping that he would have artwork for the Altair. I e-mailed a few people I thought might be him and e-mailed people who I knew had the ability to contact him. None of them worked out. One person told me to give up, that he doesn't care any more. I'd love to hear from him! I hope this work makes him proud!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
Why and where did you deviate from the original design; e.g., the switching power supply?
The switching power supplies were a big deal. They offer short circuit protection, over current, over voltage, run cool, light weight, etc. My prototype yellowish cards were square and I had to cut the card edge out by hand. I cut it a little too narrow and it shorted +8v to both +16 and -16v. No smoke, no dammage. They are also quite powerful. The kit comes with a 100W (12.5A) 8v power supply and a 2.5A +/-16v power supply. Unlike the transformer based units, these will not have a voltage drop under load. For most people the power supplies are over kill, but moving to a power supply with half the output wattage made a difference of ~$15. I wanted to include a power supply that could power an Altair with a full 18 slots full of power hungry RAM cards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
Are you satisfied with "Kill the bit" or are you going to run CPM, etc. with a printer and dumb terminal?
I am working on an ADM3A emulator for a dumb terminal. I have used a desktop computer running Windows XP, but I find it distracting. The dumb terminal will have a serial port, VGA port, and PS2 port. Future support for NTSC/PAL might also be available. Cost will be low, $119-$130, or for the hard core DIY person who wants to make their own enclosure/brackets it will be $99. It is made out of a Spartan 3 starter kit from http://www.digilentinc.com so anyone could buy it and program it with the file I will make available.

As far as software, I had a request for a vintage development enviornment. So I had my 88-ACR board set, 88-2SIO, 88-4MCS, and 88-PMC scanned by Mile High Testing Services. This represents a big investment for me and I hope people will want these boards too. These boards will allow booting 4k basic from cassette tape. With simple modofications to basic the paper tape punch routines can be patched to work with the cassette player. I will most likely include a tape of basic and then a CD of programs, etc.

The 88-ACR is a board set made up of an 88-SIOB TTL serial board and MODEM BD which handles the DA/AD conversions. This connects to the tape drive. There are holes in the back panel of the Altair case for the two In/Out audio jacks.

The 88-2SIO 2 port RS-232 card (which I think might be compatible with a current loop?). It will connect to your terminal, which could be a computer, a real terminal, or the ADM3A hardware emulator using the Spartan 3 kit.

The 88-4MCS is a 4k Static memory card. With both the 1k and 4k card, you'll have 5k. Any Altair compatible S-100 memory card can be used.

The 88-PMC is a 1k PROM card. It would only be required so that you don't have to toggle the bootloader in every time you wanted to boot basic.

That describes the vintage approach. The next approach is quite different.

I'm working on a "SuperAltair" card that has the following features:

LEDs:
-Read Access (to any feature of the board)
-Write Access ...
-0-1023 RAM Access
-RAM Access
-EEPROM Access
-FLASH Access
-Ethernet Access
-MP3 Access
-2SIO Access
-DISK Access (MMC/SD Flash)

POJ: (Power-On-Jump)
-The FPGA senses a reset. It disables the S-100 memory cards and provides a jump instruction to the address specified by DIP switches. For example, the Altair could automatically jump to FF00 when the reset switch is pushed. This feature will allow the ROM Monitor/Altair to boot without touching a switch..

POR: (Power On Reset)
-A function of the FPGA is to reset the Altair on power up. Combined with POJ the Altair can automatically boot basic, monitor, etc with just a flip of the power switch - like an Apple II

RAM:
-64k of SRAM provided by the Spartan 3 kit. 1MB is available for future use.
-configureable as all 64k, or 56k (for ROM)
-option to disable the first 1k/5k so that the origional 88-1MCS/4MCS MITS cards can be used
-option to disable the first 32k (for other RAM cards)
-option to disable the second 32k ...

ROM:
-512k of FLASH (only programmable via a program, unless you can toggle at a 6us rate)
-the ROM's 0-8k space is located at 56-64k in the address space
-a page select register selects a bank of rom from the FLASH for the 60-64k address space (this allows a boot loader to have MANY different memory images in the 512k space without taking up too much address space)

Ethernet:
-10Base-T with 16k buffer space
-option to disable the ethernet's I/O Address Space

2SIO:
-Both ports are emulated
-1st and 2nd port can be connected to an External serial device
-1st port can be an emulated ADM3A which provides an 80x24 character VGA video output and has a connection for a PS2 keyboard
-option to disable the 2SIO I/O address space (so a real 2SIO can be used)

DISK:
-Final details on numker of disks supported is not available. Inspiration from Altair32 Emulator
-Raw access to MMC/compact flash card available to support large CPM partitions

MP3:
-Chip is used to produce the terminal "Bell" sound, as well as emulated disk sounds
-Can be used to play MP3s off of MMC card or make the Altair a networked MP3 player via the ethernet interface.

Those are all preliminary specifications. Personally I want the card so that I can use my Altair as a networked mp3 player. I want some help programming a Windows plugin for WinAMP that streams the MP3 to the Altair instead of playing it on the Windows PC. I have a sample program for linux/unix, but it is command line based.

The Altair is very fun to play with, but making it also part of a stereo system can greatly increase its value I think. We'll see how it goes. The SuperAltair basically makes the Altair as decked out as it could ever be, with only one slot!

CP/M, Disk Basic, it will run them all. I just need a starting point, and the base kit with 1k of ram is that starting point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
I went back and looked at your altaircomputerclub email and I see that you are working on a Super Altair card. Will this work on the original Altair? I'm thinking it will. Currently, I have my Altair connected to a Gateway PC with an RS-232 connection and hyperterminal. A LAN connection would be nice.
Yes, it will. The Altair is 100% compatible. In fact, since all the parts are new in my kit there is a good chance that authentic S-100 cards will work better. No corroded edge card connectors, IC sockets, old capacitors, etc.

I look forward to hearing more of your questions on the kit! Its great to hear that someone is interested in it.

Thanks,
Grant
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  #4  
Old 11-20-2006, 03:44 AM
JohnC JohnC is offline
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Location: Glendale, CA
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Default Super Altair card

Your description of the Super Altair Card sounds much more powerful than the original computer.

Rambling Thoughts
I was intrigued by the thought of owning my own computer since I learned a little about the DEC PDP-8I. I wanted to learn as much as I could and be in the vanguard of a new movement. Once I got it assembled and working, it sort of snowballed from there: Boy did it snowball! Where would the Arpanet, I mean internet, be today if no one could afford a personal computer.
There is a renewed interest in old computers nowadays. In my observation there seems to be several categories of people interested in this subject today:
Nostalgia buffs, like me with most of the fire burned out and just imperfect memories left.
- Collectors who are excited by the thought of owning something rare.
- Profit seekers who want to buy and sell vintage things on ebay.
- Modern day kindred spirits in the mold of the original enthusiasts.
End ramble
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  #5  
Old 11-20-2006, 03:57 AM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
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Default

That's why its the Super Altair card.

I hope I am the last of the three people you described!

Is there any thing at all about the website that you would change? I'm having a hard time getting anyone to tell me.
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  #6  
Old 11-20-2006, 04:45 AM
mamajo mamajo is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1
Thumbs up Congratulations!

Your descriptions reflect an incredible amount of commitment and labor! This has been an intense, educational, and successful project for you. WOW!
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  #7  
Old 11-20-2006, 05:56 AM
frisky frisky is offline
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Hi, the contact link does not seem to do anything.
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  #8  
Old 11-21-2006, 03:45 AM
JohnC JohnC is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Glendale, CA
Posts: 3
Default Bulletin Suggestions

You asked about website recommendations. Here's mine for what they're worth:
1. A Downloads Section, for members only, might be a good thing. However, there are already lots of places to download vintage software and information. Maybe something more unique to your style.
2. A picture gallery would be great if you have the space.
2. Links to/from Other Websites, especially from. People are not likely to find this bulletin unless they link to it from somewhere else.
3. What about a little judicious application of "eye candy"? Not too much, but just enough.

By the way, you are in Category three, of course. You would have fit right in at a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club at the SLAC auditorium in the mid seventies.
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  #9  
Old 11-21-2006, 09:27 AM
Grant Stockly Grant Stockly is offline
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I will consider your suggestions! I'm currently creating a nice links page including all the resources that allowed me to complete this project (it explains what each link gave me)

I am working on two videos of the Altair in operation to add to the site. One of it playing Fool on the Hill and another of it making some robot/alien noises. That should be entertaining. If a picture is a thousand words, then 30 per second for a few minutes is a lot of saved typing!

It sure is lonely in here. I had hoped that a bunch of people like you would come and discuss. So far no real technical questions from any one!

Grant
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  #10  
Old 11-22-2006, 04:20 AM
KGWagner KGWagner is offline
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Default

Quote:
It sure is lonely in here. I had hoped that a bunch of people like you would come and discuss. So far no real technical questions from any one!
I don't have any technical questions for you (yet), but I am curious about an anticipated release to ship date and pricing.

I used to have one of the original Altairs back 100 years ago, along with several of the peripherals such as the cassette deck, etc. I think I had mine up to 16K of memory - an embarassment of riches in the day <grin>

I don't know if I'll be able to afford one of yours yet, but it's powerfully attractive. There's just something fascinating to me about hand-assembling, flipping bits, and getting things to happen. I spent most of my career in industrial automation as a result.
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