Who Needs an Altair Clone?
For those of us who lived through the personal computing revolution in the late 1970's, an Altair
8800 was always on our wish list. Or for the younger computer enthusiast who wants to know what all the
excitement was about, this is your chance to finally own an Altair 8800 and experience first-hand
the birth of personal computing. While you won't get to build and troubleshoot the same internal
hardware, the remainder of the experience is so similar, you'll be back in 1976!
Because of its reliability, you'll find the Altair Clone to be very useful as a reference point or sanity check when trouble-shooting problems with a real Altair 8800 you may be working on.
Vintage Computer Collectors and Museums
Because a vintage Altair is a valuable and fragile piece of equipment, the Altair must generally be kept in a
"keep your hands off" display during shows. Of course the attendees would love to be able to
touch and play with the equipment! The Altair 8800 Clone can serve as a "hands on" demonstration unit
to enhance the experience of those attending the show.
For demonstrations that you may be running yourself, there is always concern of hardware failures right before the show goes live. Because of its simple and modern internal hardware, the Altair Clone can serve as a very reliable backup (or primary) demonstration machine.
The Altair 8800 Clone can be used for a number of excellent demonstrations for topics including the history of computing, intro to operating systems, microprocessor basics, number systems, etc. However, the hands-on learning experience that the Altair Clone can provide in a lab series can be especially valuable. Many core computer science principles can be learned more effectively and in a more interesting manner with a hands-on lab series that centers around the Altair Clone.
- Teach and reinforce number systems (binary, octal, hex) with assignments that use the Altair front panel to enter and verify simple programs.
- Learn about Von Neumann computer architecture with simple front-panel programs that demonstrate the 8080 CPU, its ALU and registers, as well as shared instruction and data storage.
- Introduce microprocessor basics and assembly language programming using a real computer instead of a web-based Java simulator or other "detached" type of learning tool.
- Learn about microprocessor interrupt processing and watch hardware interrupt acknowledge take place on a cycle-by-cycle basis. This kind of detail just can't be seen on today's computers.
- Learn and use early programming languages like BASIC and FORTRAN.
- Teach and demonstrate serial communication principles. Use early communication protocols.
- Use early personal computer operating systems and understand the progression from a BASIC only environment, to a development environment like Altair DOS, to a more full-featured, end-user and development environment like CP/M.
- Of course, demonstrate and learn about numerous significant topics in personal computing history.