Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: Interview

Expand Messages
  • stevenaleach
    I would suggest, if you can find it, pick up a copy of Stephen Levy s book Hackers - Heros of the computer revolution . This is a terrific book that covers
    Message 1 of 7 , May 31, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      I would suggest, if you can find it, pick up a copy of Stephen Levy's book "Hackers -
      Heros of the computer revolution". This is a terrific book that covers computer
      history beginning with the Tech Model Railroad club at MIT in the early 1960's on
      through the Altair, Apple, IBM PC, etc.

      > I am a high school student doing research for a history project on
      > the development of the personal computer. Through my research, I
      > have found that the MITS Altair 8800 is considered the first
      > microcomputer. I found this group and thought someone here might be

      Just to put things in perspective, as I'm sure many people will point out, the the Altair
      was not actually the first personal computer, or even the first commercially produced
      personal computer. The Mark 8 for example was a personal computer that just barely
      predated the Altair, it was based on the intel 8008 processor. Plans for the Mark 8
      ran in another national electronics magazine, and full schematic plans and even
      printed circuit boards could be ordered. Other machines were created by hobbiests,
      even some based off of the intel 4004, and others with no microprocessor at all that
      were built entirely from TTL logic circuits. There were several commercially produced
      machines that could be considered hobbiest/personal computers that predated the
      altair was well. There were even publications for homebrew computer hobbiests at
      the time that the Altair was created.

      The Altair does hold a very important place in history however. Basically it was a
      matter of the right place at the right time. The 8080 processor was powerful enough
      for a very useful machine where it's predecessor the 8008 was rather limited. The
      Altair came at a time when the components were available *just* easily enough, and
      the prices *just* low enough to make hobbiest computers practical, especially since
      Ed Roberts managed to work out a deal with Intel to buy cosmetically damaged 8080
      processors for $75 a piece when the normal price was $360 a piece. (the $360 price
      was an intentional pun on the IBM system 360 computer). Consider also that unlike
      the Mark 8, you could get a kit complete with every part you needed. With the Mark
      8, you essentially got schematics, boards if you ordered them, and a shopping list.

      The Altair also provided a logical expansion bus which was probably one of it's most
      important attributes. The Altair bus, later called the S-100 bus by IMSAI, was pretty
      much the standard for personal computers until the IBM PC came along and
      eventually ended the world of hobbiest computers. The S-100 bus made expansion
      hardware by other manufacturers possible. The Altair was also produced and sold in
      large enough numbers to create a worthwhile market for hardware and programs. It's
      sort of the chicken and egg thing.

      Oh, and it seems that the Altair bus might never have existed if it weren't for the fact
      that the original prototype that was shipped to Popular Electronics got lost. Ed
      Roberts had originally designed the altair as a set of boards stacked on top of each
      other with spacers in between. This is how the machine that was sent to PE was set
      up, he went on to make some changes, including the bus because it was neater and
      cleaner than the ribbon cables. The Altair on the PE cover (you can see a picture of it
      on the home page here) is actually a mockup since the real prototype got lost. There
      is nothing inside that box.

      You should consider too that the Altair came out when there was still a thriving
      interest in home electronic projects in this country. It was often cheaper to build your
      own equipment thant to buy it. This is no longer the case, and our attention spans
      have collapsed so much, and our desire for instant gratification has become so great
      that this is no longer possible. Heathkit is no more, they are out of business. Radio
      shack barely carries electronic components anymore (Try finding basic 7400 series
      chips at a Radio Shack anymore). Once again, the Altair came about at the right time.
    • alltare
      Another right time/right place thing that made the Altair the first *commercially viable* computer was Altair BASIC. Bill and Paul developed this high level
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 1, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        Another right time/right place thing that made the Altair the first
        *commercially viable* computer was Altair BASIC. Bill and Paul
        developed this high level programming language shortly after the
        introduction of the Altair, and specifically for it (no, they didn't
        invent BASIC- I think Dartmouth College did that. But they did write
        the Altair version). It was the first affordable functional language
        that took users beyond machine and assembler programming. This
        allowed business software to be developed more easily (accounting,
        word processing, etc.), and the Altair became the first business
        computer too. When the market grew beyond hobbyists, the horizon was
        greatly expanded. If it werent for cash flow problems and then the
        Pertec takeover and mismanagement, MITS might well still be a major
        PC manufacturer. It's not generally known, but MITS had a machine
        based on Motorola's 68000 CPU ready to go into production when Pertec
        closed the doors. This would have beaten the Macintosh to the market
        by years. Rumor had it that there was also a 50MHz machine in
        development. Remember that this was in the days when 4MHz was
        screamingly fast.

        MITS put companies other than Microsoft on the map. I believe
        Peachtree Software still exists. Their accounting software was
        originally written for the Altair, under MITS' name. Of course, any
        company that made Altair/S-100 buss hardware could trace its roots to
        MITS. MITS printed the first PC magazine long befor "Byte" and
        sponsored the first personal computer exposition long before COMDEX.
        Not bad for a company that closed its doors after selling computers
        for only about five years.

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

        --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "stevenaleach"
        <leachm003@h...> wrote:
        > I would suggest, if you can find it, pick up a copy of Stephen
        Levy's book "Hackers -
        > Heros of the computer revolution". This is a terrific book that
        covers computer
        > history beginning with the Tech Model Railroad club at MIT in the
        early 1960's on
        > through the Altair, Apple, IBM PC, etc.
        >
        > > I am a high school student doing research for a history project
        on
        > > the development of the personal computer. Through my research, I
        > > have found that the MITS Altair 8800 is considered the first
        > > microcomputer. I found this group and thought someone here might
        be
        >
        > Just to put things in perspective, as I'm sure many people will
        point out, the the Altair
        > was not actually the first personal computer, or even the first
        commercially produced
        > personal computer. The Mark 8 for example was a personal computer
        that just barely
        > predated the Altair, it was based on the intel 8008 processor.
        Plans for the Mark 8
        > ran in another national electronics magazine, and full schematic
        plans and even
        > printed circuit boards could be ordered. Other machines were
        created by hobbiests,
        > even some based off of the intel 4004, and others with no
        microprocessor at all that
        > were built entirely from TTL logic circuits. There were several
        commercially produced
        > machines that could be considered hobbiest/personal computers that
        predated the
        > altair was well. There were even publications for homebrew
        computer hobbiests at
        > the time that the Altair was created.
        >
        > The Altair does hold a very important place in history however.
        Basically it was a
        > matter of the right place at the right time. The 8080 processor
        was powerful enough
        > for a very useful machine where it's predecessor the 8008 was
        rather limited. The
        > Altair came at a time when the components were available *just*
        easily enough, and
        > the prices *just* low enough to make hobbiest computers practical,
        especially since
        > Ed Roberts managed to work out a deal with Intel to buy
        cosmetically damaged 8080
        > processors for $75 a piece when the normal price was $360 a piece.
        (the $360 price
        > was an intentional pun on the IBM system 360 computer). Consider
        also that unlike
        > the Mark 8, you could get a kit complete with every part you
        needed. With the Mark
        > 8, you essentially got schematics, boards if you ordered them, and
        a shopping list.
        >
        > The Altair also provided a logical expansion bus which was probably
        one of it's most
        > important attributes. The Altair bus, later called the S-100 bus
        by IMSAI, was pretty
        > much the standard for personal computers until the IBM PC came
        along and
        > eventually ended the world of hobbiest computers. The S-100 bus
        made expansion
        > hardware by other manufacturers possible. The Altair was also
        produced and sold in
        > large enough numbers to create a worthwhile market for hardware and
        programs. It's
        > sort of the chicken and egg thing.
        >
        > Oh, and it seems that the Altair bus might never have existed if it
        weren't for the fact
        > that the original prototype that was shipped to Popular Electronics
        got lost. Ed
        > Roberts had originally designed the altair as a set of boards
        stacked on top of each
        > other with spacers in between. This is how the machine that was
        sent to PE was set
        > up, he went on to make some changes, including the bus because it
        was neater and
        > cleaner than the ribbon cables. The Altair on the PE cover (you
        can see a picture of it
        > on the home page here) is actually a mockup since the real
        prototype got lost. There
        > is nothing inside that box.
        >
        > You should consider too that the Altair came out when there was
        still a thriving
        > interest in home electronic projects in this country. It was often
        cheaper to build your
        > own equipment thant to buy it. This is no longer the case, and
        our attention spans
        > have collapsed so much, and our desire for instant gratification
        has become so great
        > that this is no longer possible. Heathkit is no more, they are out
        of business. Radio
        > shack barely carries electronic components anymore (Try finding
        basic 7400 series
        > chips at a Radio Shack anymore). Once again, the Altair came about
        at the right time.
      • TMollerup
        Steve, You mentioned below that MITS was going to place a Motorola 68000 into production, but closed its doors before doing so. I had previously assumed the
        Message 3 of 7 , Sep 8, 2003
        • 0 Attachment
          Steve,

          You mentioned below that MITS was going to place a Motorola 68000
          into production, but closed its doors before doing so. I had
          previously assumed the Altair 680 was just that. What is the
          difference between the 8800 and the 680? Additionally, what is the
          8800b? Thank you for taking the time to write-up the message below,
          and for answering my questions. This forum is rich with information.

          Todd Mollerup

          --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, alltare <no_reply@y...>
          wrote:
          > Another right time/right place thing that made the Altair the first
          > *commercially viable* computer was Altair BASIC. Bill and Paul
          > developed this high level programming language shortly after the
          > introduction of the Altair, and specifically for it (no, they
          didn't
          > invent BASIC- I think Dartmouth College did that. But they did
          write
          > the Altair version). It was the first affordable functional
          language
          > that took users beyond machine and assembler programming. This
          > allowed business software to be developed more easily (accounting,
          > word processing, etc.), and the Altair became the first business
          > computer too. When the market grew beyond hobbyists, the horizon
          was
          > greatly expanded. If it werent for cash flow problems and then the
          > Pertec takeover and mismanagement, MITS might well still be a major
          > PC manufacturer. It's not generally known, but MITS had a machine
          > based on Motorola's 68000 CPU ready to go into production when
          Pertec
          > closed the doors. This would have beaten the Macintosh to the
          market
          > by years. Rumor had it that there was also a 50MHz machine in
          > development. Remember that this was in the days when 4MHz was
          > screamingly fast.
          >
          > MITS put companies other than Microsoft on the map. I believe
          > Peachtree Software still exists. Their accounting software was
          > originally written for the Altair, under MITS' name. Of course,
          any
          > company that made Altair/S-100 buss hardware could trace its roots
          to
          > MITS. MITS printed the first PC magazine long befor "Byte" and
          > sponsored the first personal computer exposition long before
          COMDEX.
          > Not bad for a company that closed its doors after selling computers
          > for only about five years.
          >
          > Steve
          > ==============================
          >
          > --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "stevenaleach"
          > <leachm003@h...> wrote:
          > > I would suggest, if you can find it, pick up a copy of Stephen
          > Levy's book "Hackers -
          > > Heros of the computer revolution". This is a terrific book that
          > covers computer
          > > history beginning with the Tech Model Railroad club at MIT in the
          > early 1960's on
          > > through the Altair, Apple, IBM PC, etc.
          > >
          > > > I am a high school student doing research for a history project
          > on
          > > > the development of the personal computer. Through my research,
          I
          > > > have found that the MITS Altair 8800 is considered the first
          > > > microcomputer. I found this group and thought someone here
          might
          > be
          > >
          > > Just to put things in perspective, as I'm sure many people will
          > point out, the the Altair
          > > was not actually the first personal computer, or even the first
          > commercially produced
          > > personal computer. The Mark 8 for example was a personal
          computer
          > that just barely
          > > predated the Altair, it was based on the intel 8008 processor.
          > Plans for the Mark 8
          > > ran in another national electronics magazine, and full schematic
          > plans and even
          > > printed circuit boards could be ordered. Other machines were
          > created by hobbiests,
          > > even some based off of the intel 4004, and others with no
          > microprocessor at all that
          > > were built entirely from TTL logic circuits. There were several
          > commercially produced
          > > machines that could be considered hobbiest/personal computers
          that
          > predated the
          > > altair was well. There were even publications for homebrew
          > computer hobbiests at
          > > the time that the Altair was created.
          > >
          > > The Altair does hold a very important place in history however.
          > Basically it was a
          > > matter of the right place at the right time. The 8080 processor
          > was powerful enough
          > > for a very useful machine where it's predecessor the 8008 was
          > rather limited. The
          > > Altair came at a time when the components were available *just*
          > easily enough, and
          > > the prices *just* low enough to make hobbiest computers
          practical,
          > especially since
          > > Ed Roberts managed to work out a deal with Intel to buy
          > cosmetically damaged 8080
          > > processors for $75 a piece when the normal price was $360 a
          piece.
          > (the $360 price
          > > was an intentional pun on the IBM system 360 computer). Consider
          > also that unlike
          > > the Mark 8, you could get a kit complete with every part you
          > needed. With the Mark
          > > 8, you essentially got schematics, boards if you ordered them,
          and
          > a shopping list.
          > >
          > > The Altair also provided a logical expansion bus which was
          probably
          > one of it's most
          > > important attributes. The Altair bus, later called the S-100 bus
          > by IMSAI, was pretty
          > > much the standard for personal computers until the IBM PC came
          > along and
          > > eventually ended the world of hobbiest computers. The S-100 bus
          > made expansion
          > > hardware by other manufacturers possible. The Altair was also
          > produced and sold in
          > > large enough numbers to create a worthwhile market for hardware
          and
          > programs. It's
          > > sort of the chicken and egg thing.
          > >
          > > Oh, and it seems that the Altair bus might never have existed if
          it
          > weren't for the fact
          > > that the original prototype that was shipped to Popular
          Electronics
          > got lost. Ed
          > > Roberts had originally designed the altair as a set of boards
          > stacked on top of each
          > > other with spacers in between. This is how the machine that was
          > sent to PE was set
          > > up, he went on to make some changes, including the bus because it
          > was neater and
          > > cleaner than the ribbon cables. The Altair on the PE cover (you
          > can see a picture of it
          > > on the home page here) is actually a mockup since the real
          > prototype got lost. There
          > > is nothing inside that box.
          > >
          > > You should consider too that the Altair came out when there was
          > still a thriving
          > > interest in home electronic projects in this country. It was
          often
          > cheaper to build your
          > > own equipment thant to buy it. This is no longer the case, and
          > our attention spans
          > > have collapsed so much, and our desire for instant gratification
          > has become so great
          > > that this is no longer possible. Heathkit is no more, they are
          out
          > of business. Radio
          > > shack barely carries electronic components anymore (Try finding
          > basic 7400 series
          > > chips at a Radio Shack anymore). Once again, the Altair came
          about
          > at the right time.
        • Larry T.
          ... Todd The 8800B was an upgraded 8800. MITS improved the powersupply, included a full chasis monterboard (instead of 4 slots then adding on 4 slots at a
          Message 4 of 7 , Sep 8, 2003
          • 0 Attachment
            --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, TMollerup <no_reply@y...>
            wrote:
            > Steve,
            >
            > You mentioned below that MITS was going to place a Motorola 68000
            > into production, but closed its doors before doing so. I had
            > previously assumed the Altair 680 was just that. What is the
            > difference between the 8800 and the 680? Additionally, what is the
            > 8800b? Thank you for taking the time to write-up the message below,
            > and for answering my questions. This forum is rich with information.
            >
            > Todd Mollerup
            >

            Todd

            The 8800B was an 'upgraded' 8800. MITS improved the powersupply,
            included a full chasis monterboard (instead of 4 slots then adding on
            4 slots at a time).

            The 680 was a totally different design using the Motorola 6800 8-bit
            processor. MITS had a full line of cards for this system using a
            different bus layout. The main board had the CPU and front panel
            logic on it (and I think some RAM) then the chassis had a vertical
            mother borad instead of horizontal like the 8800's.
            Larry
          • TMollerup
            Ahh. Larry. That clears up years of confusion. Now I understand that the 68000 and the 6800 are not the same. Seeing both, I had assumed as a kid, the last
            Message 5 of 7 , Sep 8, 2003
            • 0 Attachment
              Ahh. Larry. That clears up years of confusion. Now I understand that
              the 68000 and the 6800 are not the same. Seeing both, I had assumed
              as a kid, the last zero was optional, much the way people would say
              version 3 vs. version 3.0. I should have assumed different. Of
              course, when I was in high school (I'm 36), it was difficult to find
              information. The libraries were behind the times and the teachers
              knew little. At my boarding school, we pushed them. One of the upper
              classmen put together a Timex Sinclair Z-80 if I remember the name
              correctly. Everyone circled around him in his dorm room, not only
              because he had a Timex computer, but he had the best soldering iron
              in the dorm.

              I put together a little kit computer my Physics teacher though would
              feed my thirst. I don't remember much about the procesor used in the
              kit, but I loved the 8 bit LED binary readout. Just the counting
              routine was wonderful. It made binary crystal clear, which certainly
              has helped me over my life time. (Surprisingly, most computer people
              don't understand something as basic as binary)

              Well, now I understand that the 6800 (6809) was the 8-bit processor
              and the 68000 was the 16-bit. I remember everyone, back in the 80's,
              putting down the 8088 design. Microsoft even seemed to support the
              idea of a complete migration away from the platform with the hardware
              abstration layer (HAL) introduced with Windows NTAS 3.1.

              When I bought my Altair in 2000, I was hoping to continue learning
              about basic processor operation, in addition to owning a piece of
              history. I would be picking-up where I left off in high school. I
              have been in technology my whole life, and feel I'll be missing out
              if I don't someday learn how to toggle data into a processor.
            • Larry T.
              ... that ... find ... upper ... 80 s, ... hardware ... Your Altair is still a good tool. That is why I will be keeping several different versions running
              Message 6 of 7 , Sep 9, 2003
              • 0 Attachment
                --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, TMollerup <no_reply@y...>
                wrote:
                > Ahh. Larry. That clears up years of confusion. Now I understand
                that
                > the 68000 and the 6800 are not the same. Seeing both, I had assumed
                > as a kid, the last zero was optional, much the way people would say
                > version 3 vs. version 3.0. I should have assumed different. Of
                > course, when I was in high school (I'm 36), it was difficult to
                find
                > information. The libraries were behind the times and the teachers
                > knew little. At my boarding school, we pushed them. One of the
                upper
                ...

                > Well, now I understand that the 6800 (6809) was the 8-bit processor
                > and the 68000 was the 16-bit. I remember everyone, back in the
                80's,
                > putting down the 8088 design. Microsoft even seemed to support the
                > idea of a complete migration away from the platform with the
                hardware
                > abstration layer (HAL) introduced with Windows NTAS 3.1.

                Your Altair is still a good tool. That is why I will be keeping
                several different versions running myself.

                As far as the 6800/6809/68000:
                MITS and SWTP (Southwest Technical Products) both had 6800 systems
                Of course, Apple, Atari, and Comodore had 6502 systems.
                I do not know if anyone had 6809 systems, the 6809 as a very strange
                beast indeed. I'm not sure, but it may have been the 8088 of the 68000
                family.
                The 68000 ended up in the Apple Lisa and Macintosh family, Atari
                ST/TT/Falcon family and the Comodore Amiga family
                The 8088 was an 8-bit bus version of the 8086, which was the parent of
                the 80x86 and Pentium CPU familys from Intel. (If you look back to
                articles when the IBM PC was introduced, Intel made statements to the
                effect that they did not know the 8088 was a 16-bit chip!)
              Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.