My Altair 8800 Story

It was the New Year 1975. The popular songs where “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand and “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jasks. On the cover of the January 1975 issue of “Popular Electronics” was the bold statement “Project Breakthrough! - World’s First Minicomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models… Altair 8800.” Like many readers, as soon as I saw the Altair 8800 I wanted one for my own. The only problem, I was only 15 years old and had no money. I pleaded with my parents to spend $439, a large sum in those days, to get an Altair 8800 kit for me to build. Needless to say my lobbing efforts failed. All through college I was thinking about saving enough to buy my own Altair. By the time I graduated in the early 80s the Altair revolution was dwindling leaving a hole in my computer life.

Don’t get me wrong, I built other computers over time starting with another “Popular Electronic” article in August 1976 titled “Build The COSMAC ELF A Low-Cost Experimenter’s Microcomputer.” The low-cost of this build allowed me to buy the parts and a PC board from Quest Electronic and in 1977 I had my first microcomputer. After the COSMAC Elf I build several versions of S100 based computers, purchased an Apple II, various Commodore computers, TRS-80s and finally I enters in to IBM PC world like everyone else. Computers where, and continue to be, a major part of my life.

But for over 35 years later, I still want to have my own Altair 8800 to fulfill the first craving of that 15 year old boy. It does not make any sense. At work I am the I.T. department manager and literally surrounded by all forms of computer hardware. And that is just the beginning. Like all good computer geeks, my house is filled with Raspberry Pi, Apple everything, many high powered desktop PCs hand built for each family member special, NAS, Linux servers and everything to tie it all together. So to say I have some computers may be an understatement.

But there was still that old craving!

Finally after 35 years of waiting for the right time to get my own Altair 8800, I finally did. A “new” one? Well not really. My “new” Altair is really a new Altair 8800 Clone Computer. The Altair 8800 Clone is a full size, fully functional replica of the original computer. It is an accurate, functional, hands-on unit built with modern hardware. The Clone accurately duplicates the operation of an Altair 8800.

With the new Altair 8800 Clone I can start to finally fill the five year technical back log, the hole in my early years in computing. I can now experience the total range of computer geek Dom. From my earliest memories of that 15 year old boy excited to learn everything computer to today modern senior computer sensei teaching other.

Many might think I’m a little nuts to do this…and maybe I am just a little. But I’m having great fun play with my new/old Altair 8800 Clone and that is all that counts!