Re: The Demo setup for MARCH's Altair- current status
- Just to finish the thread, I'm going to repost something Corey added in another thread recently, "museum report". I think it's better to reply in this thread because the subject is specific here. And I'm quoting it for a reason. One correction is in 's.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, corey986 <no_reply@...> wrote:
> As for the Altair... I brought MARCH's bytesaver 32k and my bytesaver 8k. When I opened the machine to my surprise there was a not date correct tanner 32k ram/rom card. So I popped out a ram chip, changed a couple of jumpers and borrowed a radio from the guys next door and enjoyed a few rounds of fool on the hill and daisy. I have a nice video ill post up later.
> I'll look around when we get our working 1975 rom card back for a date correct ram board. Now remember our Altair at march is serial number 72 delivered around January 1975, when really the altair wasn't much more than a CPU and ram card. It took a couple of months for people to actually get more than 256 [bytes, not kbytes] of ram and a Terminal hooked up.
>I know people around here argue as to what the intended use of the altair was in the early days (first few months), but after a blinky light display many people were hungry to make this thing be a "real" computer and do productive things. By mid 1975 we know they were doing much more. Herb has mentioned it on many occasions that people used them to "make" stuff and magazines were established and groups established to just show off what you could do with the machine... But it started somewhere with blinky lights and very early on with a Steve Dompier and a song called Fool on the hill about 3 months after the March Altair was delivered and maybe even assembled.
> Having a ROM card setup for demos hopefully will strike a balance between our "as delivered" early altair and the reality of being able to demo it for tours.
Thanks Corey, on my behalf, for offering a complete description of what this particular MITS Altair is supposed to represent, and your experience with it. It's brilliant, and I'll explain WHY.
Only one minor correction: Magazines to "make stuff" existed DECADES before the Altair, including making computers (as best one could at the time). Some magazines around personal computing started just before the Altair; and many more after, which was your point.
I think it's very reasonable to have an exhibit just as Corey describes. But let's be clear: he's saying "this is a very early representation of what MITS first offered in 1975. Here's what it had....here's what it could do at that point." That's the exhibit - a point in time, now complete with a explanation. Corey provided the explanation. Frankly, that needs to be part of the exhibit too.
Why? Look at our discussion, look at the history. Without the explanation, even Corey is obliged to notice how "primitive" the Altair as delivered looks and acts. Any visitors with less knowledge (most of them) will come to the same conclusion, and miss the relevance and context.
So what this exhibit needs is called "interpretation" - text and pictures, artifacts, at the exhibit to say what Corey has said. As it leads to other exhibits (this was posted previously), that text serves as introduction to those.
Also: additional cards like the ROM card, other things Bill Degnan, Corey, et al suggested - they can be added for convenience of demonstration, that's important. Also, added short-term to change the exhibit, or otherwise to demonstrate some particular device or program. Exhibits change over time, they get boring otherwise. Explanation is simple: "this was added to do this, or to celebrate this person or thing, and produced on this date". Again, Corey's statement explains the need to add things, while preserving the "as first sold" concept of the exhibit.
Finally - Corey's experience is much the same as any Altair owner's was. I got the machine....I assembled it and it runs...now what do I do with it? So his discussion about his own experience has recreated the circumstances of the period. Our discussions repeat the discussions of the era. This too, could be "captured" and possibly added to the exhibit, as background.
This process, of repair and understanding of past technology in context, and capture of the process in restorations today - This is how my Web site works, so I'm talking about what I actually do. Same applies to other people in this thread.
You need to know the past, to restore these machines for the future. Software and docs, hardware, ads and publications of the period - they make no sense without that knowledge, they aren't worth preserving if considered in modern terms. So you have to be informed, and our discussion and Corey's experience was exactly that process. The challenge now, in my opinion, is how to inform our museum visitors, to take them through that same process, with the "as sold" Altair as a physical artifact.