May 12, 2005

The Amazing, the Glowy, the Usually Working Altair 8800! Now With 256 Bytes of Memory!

The name of the rocket in the previous entry rang a bell in my head - did that rocket share the same name with that early computer? Close. The rocket is an Altairis. The computer was an Altair. But since I'm here:

The January 1975 cover of Popular Electronics featured the first personal computer, the MITS ("Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems") Altair 8800.

"To enter programs or data, one set the toggle switches on the front. There was no keyboard, video terminal or paper tape reader. All programming was in the machine code of binary digits. The first Altairs came with only 256 bytes of memory; they also lacked output devices such as printers. Results of a program were indicated by the pattern of flashing lights on the front panel."

Geeks and hobbyists went nuts over this thing, and the computer industry started rolling.

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