Do you recall my Would You Like an Apple 1 Computer? blog from last year in which I told the tale of how I once met Steve Wozniak (or he once met me — it’s hard to remember the nitty-gritty details)?
As part of that blog, I mentioned my chum Vince Mazur, who is the founder of Mazur Instruments. In fact, I have one of Vince’s PRM-9000 Radiation Monitors quietly clicking away here in my office (I like to be prepared). Vince is the proud owner of an original Altair 8800 computer, just the thought of which causes me to drool in a very unprofessional manner (and before you ask [yes Tom, I’m talking to you], there really is no way to drool in a professional manner).
Now, before the Altair, there was the Kenbak-1. This little beauty, which was invented by John V. Blankenbaker in 1970 and first sold in early 1971, is considered by the Computer History Museum and the American Computer Museum to be the world’s first “personal computer.” As we are informed by the Wikipedia:
Since the Kenbak-1 was invented before the first microprocessor, the machine didn’t have a one-chip CPU but instead was based purely on small-scale integration TTL chips. The 8-bit machine offered 256 bytes of memory, implemented on Intel’s type 1404 silicon gate MOS shift registers. The instruction cycle time was 1 microsecond (equivalent to an instruction clock speed of 1 MHz), but actual execution speed averaged below 1000 instructions per second due to architectural constraints such as slow access to serial memory. The machine was programmed in pure machine code using an array of buttons and switches. Output consisted of a row of lights.
Back in 1971, the first Kenbak-1 sold for $750, which was a lot of money at the time. Sadly, only 50 were manufactured, of which a mere 14 are currently believed to exist in the hands of various collectors around the world.
I would love to own one of these little scamps. Well, now I can… sort of. I’ve run across the ADWATER & STIR website in the past. Maybe I signed up to be kept in the loop because I just received an email informing me of two new replicas that have been added to the collection: The nanoKenbak-1, which is only 8.5” x 1.5” and is on sale for only $25 (they are usually $30), and the µKENBAK-1, which is a 1:2 scale kit featuring a steel enclosure with machined aluminum sides and is available for $124.95.
But wait, there’s more, because a full-size Kenbak-1 replica is in the works. This bodacious beauty, which should be available soon, is going to cost $375, which really isn’t too bad when you think about it. What does bring a frown to my face is that the run is going to be limited to only 50 units (much like the original).
And there’s still more, because ADWATER & STIR also offers an almost-full-size, cycle-accurate Altair 8800 recreation. The low-profile, display shelf friendly “Altair-Duino Standard” kit costs $159.95, while the upgraded “Altair-Duino Pro” kit with a large bolt-together acrylic case costs $249.95.
I’m squirming in my seat because I would love to add both the full-size Kenbak-1 replica and the almost-full-size, cycle-accurate Altair 8800 recreation to my collection. How about you? Could you be tempted to anything you’ve heard about here?
Can it play Global Thermonuclear War
Of course! (The real trick is to get it to STOP playing Global Thermonuclear War!)
I got my nanoKENBAK-1 about a week ago – could not pass up the price.
It now sits proudly on my desk at work flashing away. If I ever can get the time I really hope to have it do more. It is very cool looking and the history of its ancestor is the real reason why I had to get it. Max – You have to get one!!! I can picture you wearing it like a large bow tie!!!
Chewy!!! It’s great to hear from you!!! I envy you the nanoKENBAK-1, but for myself I lust over the almost-full-size, cycle-accurate Altair 8800 recreation… if only I had the cash to flash…