Dawn of the microcomputer: the Altair 8800

But Popular Electronics readers were introduced to something in the January 1975 issue that they had never encountered before. Below a heading that read “PROJECT BREAKTHROUGH”, the magazine’s cover showed a large gray and black box whose front panel bore a complicated array of lights and toggles. This was the Altair 8800, the “world’s first minicomputer kit to rival commercial models”, available for under $400. Though advertised as a “minicomputer”, the Altair would actually be the first commercially successful member of a new class of computers, first known as “microcomputers” and then eventually as PCs. The Altair was small enough and cheap enough that the average family could have one at home. Its appearance in Popular Electronics magazine meant that, as Salsberg wrote in that issue, “the home computer age is here – finally”.

You can play with the Altair 8800 in your browser.


  1. 2018-07-25 7:42 am
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