Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Discuss the new Altair 8800 Micro

Postby vbriel » Mar Wed 31, 2010 12:08 am

Thanks for asking questions guys, it was like a cave in here for a while, thought I was talking to myself :)

Full sized version will be offered as a single board and front panel bezel, and also as a full sized case that will hold a PC system, AKA the AltairPC. It's really early to price something that I don't even have a current prototype of, but just the front panel will be somewhere around $199-$250. The full case will depend on where I can get a case made at a good price. Completely custom cases do cost money to be made. The first prototype AltairPC that I made was simply a hacked up desktopcase, not good enough for any production.

Here's my plan moving forward:

1. Finish the Altair 8800 micro, go into production on that. (by June)
2. Convert the design over to a larger single board deisgn
3. Adjust/remove features on the single board design as needed
4. Adjust firmware code for the added LED's to be more Altair like
5. Check with protocase company on having custom case made

Most of the hard work is done, this is easier stuff to do, these steps just take longer.

On the AltairPC version, I don't think it needs the Pocketerm section, just a serial port. This will change how firmware gets flashed, but it's still possible to be able to update firmware.

Remember, the AltairPC isn't going to be some full Altair S100 box system, Grant already offered that. The AltairPC will be a PC case with an Altair front panel. Get your retro fix with modern hardware.

Nothing on the full sized version is set in stone yet, so your opinions do carry weight here. Yes, I make the final call, but it was people speaking out and contributing info that got me to change the micro back to using toggle switches. If I just can't do something, or don't like the idea, I'll say so, but if I there's something the full size will need in features I haven't mentioned, speak up, please.

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Postby vbriel » Apr Thu 01, 2010 7:55 am

Doing work on the NTSC composite video section. The VT100 code will not be very good there, just can't do all the commands at the moment.

What I can do is full color. Not just a color for the entire screen but each character can have its own color on the display. So, you will be able to set 22 different colors and I'm working on X,Y plotting of characters and X,Y get character functions.

The manual for this thing is going to be 300 pages.

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Postby Bill Loguidice » Apr Thu 01, 2010 11:50 am

The toggle switches were definitely a relief, Vince, as honestly, that's what I'm personally after -- a cheap (or, to put it better, "inexpensive") and reliable way to experiment with classic-style switch-based computing. As far as I know, there will be no cheaper way to do that than your micro version.

It's a good question about the goals of the full-sized project in light of what the micro will offer. I'll probably want a full-blown "macro" model as well, but given the way you're describing it, the question of value (personal or otherwise, again perhaps a better word is "purpose") comes up, particularly in light of it not being similar to what Grant offers/offered. I suppose when you're ready to devote time back to the full-sized model, it would be helpful feedback-wise if you state what your basic intentions are, and then we can offer our own thoughts of what might be helpful, or even necessary.

Anyway, great work as always, as looking forward to all of it...
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Postby vbriel » Apr Thu 08, 2010 7:23 am

New prototype board due in Monday. I already have the switches to build another board. I'm waiting on the front panel bezel now too, should be in any time. Once I get them in and I know they work, I'll post pictures.

I made one small firmware change that fixes RAM access so it only turns on the onboard RAM chip if it looks at memory below $8000.

More to come soon...

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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby dbetz » Apr Sat 10, 2010 6:13 pm

Vince,

You say that you are working on NTSC output. I assume that will be an option in addition to the VGA output that the PockeTerm normally produces. Is that correct? Or do you intend to switch to NTSC in place of VGA?

Thanks,
David
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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby vbriel » Apr Sun 11, 2010 12:55 pm

I actually got both working at the same time with the other features too! So, you could run both at the same time if you want (I've done it a lot lately while testing). I like the VGA because it is sharp and crisp, but I like the color features of composite.

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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby SteKos » Apr Mon 12, 2010 11:04 am

Is there a mailing list for notification of when the Mini Altair will be available?
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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby vbriel » Apr Mon 12, 2010 12:02 pm

No, sorry, I don't have any software to keep a mailing list. Things are coming around pretty fast, production will be in June, initial prices will be $199.95 for a kit and for a limited time, assembled will be $249. I will be taking pre-orders probably in May.

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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby vbriel » Apr Mon 12, 2010 5:44 pm

The new front panels are in and the pcbs and I have one built. Much better with the toggle switches. I was correct to think the top switch row is a little close to the bottom but due to the mini size, not a major issue. I took a couple of quick pictures and posted them on the website, you can see them here:

http://www.brielcomputers.com/wordpress/?cat=11

Let me know what you think,

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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby dbetz » Apr Tue 13, 2010 9:20 am

Wow! The new panel with the toggle switches looks great. Congratulations!
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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby ksavage68 » Apr Tue 13, 2010 11:11 pm

oh man, sweet!! Looks awesome. I will be one of the first in line to pre-order one. Now i gotta decide whether to get the kit or prebuilt. Those are really good prices. Will the case be molded in blue?
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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby sanman » Apr Wed 14, 2010 1:48 am

I agree the switches look great!
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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby SteKos » Apr Wed 14, 2010 5:13 pm

Agreed, it's a HUGE bonus having the toggle switches in there.

I'm waiting for the pre-orders to open. I've gotta have one.
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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby vbriel » Apr Wed 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Love the enthusiasm, I hope everybody likes it as much as I do. I'm going to try and do some proper video demonstrating the Altair and get it posted online. This is the type of product that I would feel better if people could actually get a better visual of how it looks and works.

I'm getting a lot of emails requesting email list for notice. so, email me at vbriel@oh.rr.com and I will add you to a list and send an email when I am ready to take preorders. I'm working on a special deal for the first 50 units, like a free SD card, but I'll have to see, don't hold me to that yet :)

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Re: Altair 8800 Micro Project Status

Postby vbriel » Apr Tue 27, 2010 6:00 pm

Not a lot to report right now, making minor mods on the final prototype. The battery backup for the RAM is being pulled and I'm working on the back panel. It takes less than 30 seconds to load 32K of RAM and I just didn't see the point. While the front panel is the primary piece you will see, I was going to fabricate the rear panel myself. This would really slow things down so I'm having a rear panel made now that will look really good out of aluminum. It is being made by the same company that is making the front panel. This eats into the project a little but I feel much better about a complete professional looking case on all sides. Because of the added overhead of the rear panel, I will not be including an SD card, sorry, but I'm sure that this isn't a big deal to most people.

The production version of the front panel plate will be painted and silkscreened in the same fashion as the original Altair. I wasn't happy with how the holes were ligned up with the overlay piece.

The manual writing is underway and I have about 20 pages done. I'm thinking it will be about 100 pages when I'm done so this will take a little while to write. Also, I will package up a nice CD with all the orignal Altair manuals, some programs and other cool things Altair related. I'm going to upload a few of the Creative Computing games for you to play with but I'll leave a few out for people to upload themselves.

I still need to work on a way to report the firmware version number. I'll probably do that as a VT-100 type command for ease to incorporate it into the system.

Serial numbering:

I've had requests to serial number the first 100 units. I'll do that. I've also been asked to sign the inside :roll: Sure, no problem. I'll sign the inside along with a hand written serial number on the inside. If you don't want me to sign the case, just let me know.

The release date is still sometime in June, probably mid June. If you aren't on the preorder list, I recomend it as the list is growing fast. The preorder list people will get advanced notice of preordering of at least a day or 2.

If I'm totally forgetting something, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

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