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MITS / Pertec / ICOM Attache (Altair)

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  • david__winter
    Hi there, I acquired a MITS/ICOM Attache machine. Since thie machine is really rare (around 200 made, mine being #32), maybe some of you need to know that it
    Message 1 of 6 , Mar 15, 2002
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      Hi there,

      I acquired a MITS/ICOM Attache machine. Since thie machine is
      really rare (around 200 made, mine being #32), maybe some of
      you need to know that it is an improved Altair 8800 with
      built-in keyboard, video board, BASIC in ROM, etc.

      My machine is missing EVERY board except the video board.
      I have just acquired a Tarbell cassette board with docs, and now
      need the other boards: CPU, EPROM (BASIC), SIO, PIO, RAM, etc.

      I do have some Cromemco S-100 boards, but I don't know if they
      would work on my Attache. I didn't try anything yet.

      Anybody has spare Altair boards at fair prices ?


      Bye,

      David.
    • alltare
      David, The Attache is really an Altair 8800bT. The difference, other than physical appearance, is that it used a special 2-board set for video and keyboard
      Message 2 of 6 , Mar 15, 2002
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        David,

        The Attache is really an Altair 8800bT. The difference, other than
        physical appearance, is that it used a special 2-board set for video
        and keyboard operation, instead of an external terminal. If you only
        have one video board, that's your first problem. Of course, if you
        use an external CRT terminal, then you don't need either board- you
        just need a serial port. The Attache also used the 8800b CPU board
        and for serial I/O and booting, a TurnKey board. It did not normally
        use ROM BASIC (but it was able to), and since you already have a
        Tarbell disk controller, you should be able to use disk BASIC
        instead.

        Cromemco S-100 boards should work OK in the Attache. Ebay is the
        place to find more parts.

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

        --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., david__winter <no_reply@y...> wrote:
        > Hi there,
        >
        > I acquired a MITS/ICOM Attache machine. Since thie machine is
        > really rare (around 200 made, mine being #32), maybe some of
        > you need to know that it is an improved Altair 8800 with
        > built-in keyboard, video board, BASIC in ROM, etc.
        >
        > My machine is missing EVERY board except the video board.
        > I have just acquired a Tarbell cassette board with docs, and now
        > need the other boards: CPU, EPROM (BASIC), SIO, PIO, RAM, etc.
        >
        > I do have some Cromemco S-100 boards, but I don't know if they
        > would work on my Attache. I didn't try anything yet.
        >
        > Anybody has spare Altair boards at fair prices ?
        >
        >
        > Bye,
        >
        > David.
      • david__winter
        Hi Steve, Thanks for your reply. My machine has the 2-board set for video output, so I only need the rest. An interesting point is that I have the schematics
        Message 3 of 6 , Mar 17, 2002
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          Hi Steve,

          Thanks for your reply. My machine has the 2-board set for video
          output, so I only need the rest. An interesting point is that I
          have the schematics for all boards. However, I don't know if the
          Cromemco boards will work since I'll need a Turnkey board too.
          They may operate, but the machine will still need the turnkey
          board to boot at a specific address. Maybe my cromemco 8080
          board integrates this feature as it has a few sockets for 1702
          EPROMs. This board may force the ROM to start at 0000...

          I also have a Cromemco PROM board which contains ROMs in which I
          could read "Extended Disk Basic version 0579", that is, a May 1979
          Extended Disk Basic.

          I have been actively looking for Altair boards on eBay since months
          but either the prices were too high (sort of people who think they
          can give a high value to everything) or the boards were not the
          ones I needed.

          Anyhow, I'll stay patient...

          How many Attache machines are known to exist nowadays ?


          David.



          --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., alltare <no_reply@y...> wrote:
          > David,
          >
          > The Attache is really an Altair 8800bT. The difference, other than
          > physical appearance, is that it used a special 2-board set for
          video
          > and keyboard operation, instead of an external terminal. If you
          only
          > have one video board, that's your first problem. Of course, if you
          > use an external CRT terminal, then you don't need either board- you
          > just need a serial port. The Attache also used the 8800b CPU board
          > and for serial I/O and booting, a TurnKey board. It did not
          normally
          > use ROM BASIC (but it was able to), and since you already have a
          > Tarbell disk controller, you should be able to use disk BASIC
          > instead.
          >
          > Cromemco S-100 boards should work OK in the Attache. Ebay is the
          > place to find more parts.
          >
          > Steve
          > ================================
          >
          > --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., david__winter <no_reply@y...> wrote:
          > > Hi there,
          > >
          > > I acquired a MITS/ICOM Attache machine. Since thie machine is
          > > really rare (around 200 made, mine being #32), maybe some of
          > > you need to know that it is an improved Altair 8800 with
          > > built-in keyboard, video board, BASIC in ROM, etc.
          > >
          > > My machine is missing EVERY board except the video board.
          > > I have just acquired a Tarbell cassette board with docs, and now
          > > need the other boards: CPU, EPROM (BASIC), SIO, PIO, RAM, etc.
          > >
          > > I do have some Cromemco S-100 boards, but I don't know if they
          > > would work on my Attache. I didn't try anything yet.
          > >
          > > Anybody has spare Altair boards at fair prices ?
          > >
          > >
          > > Bye,
          > >
          > > David.
        • alltare
          Maybe some of the other group members know about those Cromemco boards- I don t know much about them. It may be, as you said, that the Cromemco 8080 board
          Message 4 of 6 , Mar 17, 2002
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            Maybe some of the other group members know about those Cromemco
            boards- I don't know much about them. It may be, as you said, that
            the Cromemco 8080 board does the same function as the MITS turnkey
            board. If the 8080 board has 1702 support, it's probably for
            bootstrap chips, but you may not need boot chips if you're using ROM
            BaSIC.

            The only Cromemco PROM board I know of is the "Bytesaver", which was,
            I think, an 8K board. I don't see how you could squeeze MITS' disk
            extended BASIC into 8K, so you must have Cromemco's or someone else's
            BASIC there. In any case, I suppose you should be able to execute
            the BASIC from address 0000. Without some RAM, you may not be able
            to get anything to work, though. I would suggest getting at least
            16K of STATIC memory.

            If you can tell us the models or names of those 2 boards, maybe
            someone here can tell you how to operate them. If you can't identify
            them, post some good pictures or scans in the "Photos" section of our
            group page.

            I mis-spoke earlier. I thought you had a Tarbell disk controller. I
            now realize that it's a tape interface, but that shouldn't change
            anything else I said.

            I don't know how many attaches were made, but certainly more than
            200.

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

            --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., david__winter <no_reply@y...> wrote:
            > Hi Steve,
            >
            > Thanks for your reply. My machine has the 2-board set for video
            > output, so I only need the rest. An interesting point is that I
            > have the schematics for all boards. However, I don't know if the
            > Cromemco boards will work since I'll need a Turnkey board too.
            > They may operate, but the machine will still need the turnkey
            > board to boot at a specific address. Maybe my cromemco 8080
            > board integrates this feature as it has a few sockets for 1702
            > EPROMs. This board may force the ROM to start at 0000...
            >
            > I also have a Cromemco PROM board which contains ROMs in which I
            > could read "Extended Disk Basic version 0579", that is, a May 1979
            > Extended Disk Basic.
            >
            > I have been actively looking for Altair boards on eBay since months
            > but either the prices were too high (sort of people who think they
            > can give a high value to everything) or the boards were not the
            > ones I needed.
            >
            > Anyhow, I'll stay patient...
            >
            > How many Attache machines are known to exist nowadays ?
            >
            >
            > David.
            >
            >
            >
            > --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., alltare <no_reply@y...> wrote:
            > > David,
            > >
            > > The Attache is really an Altair 8800bT. The difference, other
            than
            > > physical appearance, is that it used a special 2-board set for
            > video
            > > and keyboard operation, instead of an external terminal. If you
            > only
            > > have one video board, that's your first problem. Of course, if
            you
            > > use an external CRT terminal, then you don't need either board-
            you
            > > just need a serial port. The Attache also used the 8800b CPU
            board
            > > and for serial I/O and booting, a TurnKey board. It did not
            > normally
            > > use ROM BASIC (but it was able to), and since you already have a
            > > Tarbell disk controller, you should be able to use disk BASIC
            > > instead.
            > >
            > > Cromemco S-100 boards should work OK in the Attache. Ebay is the
            > > place to find more parts.
            > >
            > > Steve
            > > ================================
            > >
            > > --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., david__winter <no_reply@y...>
            wrote:
            > > > Hi there,
            > > >
            > > > I acquired a MITS/ICOM Attache machine. Since thie machine is
            > > > really rare (around 200 made, mine being #32), maybe some of
            > > > you need to know that it is an improved Altair 8800 with
            > > > built-in keyboard, video board, BASIC in ROM, etc.
            > > >
            > > > My machine is missing EVERY board except the video board.
            > > > I have just acquired a Tarbell cassette board with docs, and now
            > > > need the other boards: CPU, EPROM (BASIC), SIO, PIO, RAM, etc.
            > > >
            > > > I do have some Cromemco S-100 boards, but I don't know if they
            > > > would work on my Attache. I didn't try anything yet.
            > > >
            > > > Anybody has spare Altair boards at fair prices ?
            > > >
            > > >
            > > > Bye,
            > > >
            > > > David.
          • wtsnet
            Hi David, Congratulations on getting an Attaché. The first computer I bought was an Attaché. A few of us at Pertec bought an Attaché from Burcom, the
            Message 5 of 6 , Mar 17, 2002
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              Hi David,

              Congratulations on getting an Attaché. The first computer I bought
              was an Attaché. A few of us at Pertec bought an Attaché from Burcom,
              the Houston, TX Altair store. We paid $307.50 each and also bought
              the companion Sanyo 9" composite video monitor. The problem then was
              the same as now. Boards and drives cost too much to get an Attaché
              running. It took me twenty years to find a supply of Altair boards. I
              have about 100 and paid over $8K. I won't be selling them cheap. I
              paid $100/board just to make sure I could get them. I didn't want to
              wait another twenty years.

              The first thing I noticed about the Attaché was the case. It is built
              like luggage, but has no keyboard cover or handle. I took the top off
              and only put it on when I store the machine. Next, I found the
              keyboard and video boards. The keyboard is not that great and neither
              was the video. The video is 16X64 and mine flickered when scrolling.
              I removed both. The video board only uses the S100 buss for power.
              Input is RS-232 serial. Later, I took an S100 connector and attached
              a power cable. I can use the video external to the chassis. I ground
              off the rivets and removed the keyboard mounts.

              Next, I removed the bottom part of the case and added rubber feet.
              The result is a small, light machine with an open top and a small
              footprint. I used it to test and repair boards and the open top was
              handy. The part of the chassis that covers the power supply is a
              handle for carrying. Later, I put the bottom back on. The area where
              the keyboard was can store small parts or a couple of boards. Here is
              a picture of the machine in its current state.
              http://www.VirtualAltair.com/Attache%20Side.jpg. I moved the reset
              switch to the front to get it away from the off switch.

              I got boards when I worked at Vector Graphic. Vector Graphic boards
              expect a motherboard with termination on the buss. Some don't work in
              an 18-slot Altair. The good news is that they work in the Attaché 10-
              slot motherboard. The same motherboard is found in the rare 8800b dm
              and sm. The first board in the picture is a MITS 2SIO for Altair
              compatibility. The second board is a Tarbell 1011D controller to run
              8-inch SSSD CP/M. The third board is a Vector Graphic 64K Dynamic
              memory. The fourth board is a Vector Graphic Z80. The fifth board is
              a Vector Graphic Floppy/Hard Disk controller. The last board is a
              Vector Graphic Bitstreamer II serial/parallel for Vector Graphic
              software compatibility.

              The Vector Graphic Prom/Ram III is not shown. It burns 2708 Proms and
              contains the Vector Graphic boot prom plus two custom proms. One prom
              is a Vector Graphic Serial Monitor, modified to work at 6MHz. The
              other prom is a Tarbell Boot Prom modified for Pertec floppy drive.
              Pertec 8-inch floppy drives. I also modified a CP/M BIOS for 8-inch
              Pertec floppies and the 2SIO. I have another version for the
              Bitstreamer.

              I made modifications the back of the chassis.
              http://www.VirtualAltair.com/Attache%20Rear.jpg. The first three DB-
              25 connectors are serial ports from the Bitstreamer II. Below that is
              a 9-pin D connector. This connector goes to a fuse block I mounted on
              top of the transformer and connected to buss power. This is the
              connector used by Vector Graphic to power peripherals. I can use it
              for drives or the external MITS video I made. The next two DB25
              connectors are for the MITS 2SIO. Below these is a 34-pin connector
              for Vector Graphic 5.25" diskette drives. The vertical 50-pin
              connector is for 8" floppies. I had to lengthen the hole for the
              connector. The serial number is 100-000082. The connector to the
              right of the label is for MITS or Vector Graphic composite video (not
              used now). The small hole is for the original reset switch. Note that
              your hand has to pass over the on/off switch to get to reset.

              That is how I got my Attaché running. I saved all the pieces and
              could restore the machine to almost original condition, but it works
              too good. Contact me if you are interested in Vector Graphic boards.
              Note: Pertec may have intended to use ROM BASIC. The only doc I have
              for ROM BASIC is specific to the Attaché. Also FYI, at the time of
              the Attaché, ICOM was no longer a company. It was acquired along with
              MITS to form the Pertec Microsystems Division. ICOM became a product
              line and was used to separate products from the MITS "Business
              Systems".

              Tom Sanderson




              --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., david__winter <no_reply@y...> wrote:
              > Hi Steve,
              >
              > Thanks for your reply. My machine has the 2-board set for video
              > output, so I only need the rest. An interesting point is that I
              > have the schematics for all boards. However, I don't know if the
              > Cromemco boards will work since I'll need a Turnkey board too.
              > They may operate, but the machine will still need the turnkey
              > board to boot at a specific address. Maybe my cromemco 8080
              > board integrates this feature as it has a few sockets for 1702
              > EPROMs. This board may force the ROM to start at 0000...
              >
              > I also have a Cromemco PROM board which contains ROMs in which I
              > could read "Extended Disk Basic version 0579", that is, a May 1979
              > Extended Disk Basic.
              >
              > I have been actively looking for Altair boards on eBay since months
              > but either the prices were too high (sort of people who think they
              > can give a high value to everything) or the boards were not the
              > ones I needed.
              >
              > Anyhow, I'll stay patient...
              >
              > How many Attache machines are known to exist nowadays ?
              >
              >
              > David.
              >
              >
              >
              > --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., alltare <no_reply@y...> wrote:
              > > David,
              > >
              > > The Attache is really an Altair 8800bT. The difference, other
              than
              > > physical appearance, is that it used a special 2-board set for
              > video
              > > and keyboard operation, instead of an external terminal. If you
              > only
              > > have one video board, that's your first problem. Of course, if
              you
              > > use an external CRT terminal, then you don't need either board-
              you
              > > just need a serial port. The Attache also used the 8800b CPU
              board
              > > and for serial I/O and booting, a TurnKey board. It did not
              > normally
              > > use ROM BASIC (but it was able to), and since you already have a
              > > Tarbell disk controller, you should be able to use disk BASIC
              > > instead.
              > >
              > > Cromemco S-100 boards should work OK in the Attache. Ebay is the
              > > place to find more parts.
              > >
              > > Steve
              > > ================================
              > >
              > > --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., david__winter <no_reply@y...>
              wrote:
              > > > Hi there,
              > > >
              > > > I acquired a MITS/ICOM Attache machine. Since thie machine is
              > > > really rare (around 200 made, mine being #32), maybe some of
              > > > you need to know that it is an improved Altair 8800 with
              > > > built-in keyboard, video board, BASIC in ROM, etc.
              > > >
              > > > My machine is missing EVERY board except the video board.
              > > > I have just acquired a Tarbell cassette board with docs, and now
              > > > need the other boards: CPU, EPROM (BASIC), SIO, PIO, RAM, etc.
              > > >
              > > > I do have some Cromemco S-100 boards, but I don't know if they
              > > > would work on my Attache. I didn't try anything yet.
              > > >
              > > > Anybody has spare Altair boards at fair prices ?
              > > >
              > > >
              > > > Bye,
              > > >
              > > > David.
            • alltare
              Tom s right- the Attache video boards provide a pretty crude display of only 16 lines of 64 characters. There s no addressable cursor, either (I never noticed
              Message 6 of 6 , Mar 19, 2002
              • 0 Attachment
                Tom's right- the Attache video boards provide a pretty crude display
                of only 16 lines of 64 characters. There's no addressable cursor,
                either (I never noticed any flicker, though). But there was one big
                advantage to that low resolution display. If you ran the composite
                video output into an RF modulator, you could hook it up to the
                antenna terminals of a TV set instead of a real video monitor. I did
                this with my Attache, using a modulator that I bought at Radio
                Shack. All TVs are limited by the sound trap filter, so 64
                characters/line is about the max that you can display on a TV. The
                higher frequency video information of the standard 80-character-per-
                line displays would cause the TV picture to tear and become
                unreadable. (You could get more bandwidth out of a black-and-white
                TV by doing a little hacking: Instead of putting an RF signal into
                the TV's antenna terminals, you could input the composite video
                signal directly into the first video amplifier, and disconnecting the
                first video amp from the preeceeding tuning and filtering circuitry.
                This would eliminate the sound trap problem and give you a clean
                picture, even at 80 characters/line. This is what Tandy did with
                their original TRS-80 monitor. Did you ever wonder why their
                official monitor looked so much like a TV? They just left out the
                tuner section of a cheap TV, then doubled the price).

                Remember that back when MITS made the Attache, real video monitors
                were still pretty expensive, even the little 9" Sanyo. Using a TV
                eliminated that additional cost.

                David- If you want to try using a TV, I think you can still buy
                modulators at Rad Shak, but the video input of your VCR (not
                available back then) will work as well. The VCR will act as the
                modulator. (The only problem I see is that you'll probably need a
                U.S. type NTSC TV and VCR. Don't you guys use the PAL standard in
                France?)

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

                --- In altaircomputerclub@y..., wtsnet <no_reply@y...> wrote:
                > Hi David,
                >
                > Congratulations on getting an Attaché. ... The keyboard is not that
                great and neither
                > was the video. The video is 16X64 and mine flickered when
                scrolling.
                > I removed both. The video board only uses the S100 buss for power.
                > Input is RS-232 serial ...
                >
                >Tom Sanderson
                ========================================
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