The National Radio Institute 832 was probably the first commercially available computer kit. It was sold as part of a correspondence computer course.
We don't know much about this machine, but Jason Anderson, the proud owner of the pictured machine sent us a letter from Lou Frenzel, the designer of the NRI-832:
I did design the 832 back in 1970-71 time period.
It was part of a home study course on computers offered by National Radio Institute, a school owned by publisher McGraw Hill. It was delivered as a series of kits, 5 if I remember correctly.
The memory was a diode switch matrix with 16 bytes programmable with slide switches. It also had an additional 16 bytes of TTL SRAM which was very expensive at the time. It was made with TTL digital logic which was very expensive, but I couldn't bring myself to use any of the older but cheaper RTL or DTL chips.
All processing was done serially with a total of 8 instructions. Amazingly, you could program almost anything if you could get it into the limited memory. This turned out to be a very popular course and kit surprising all of us at the time. We packaged the kits ourselves.
NRI went out of business in 1999 but McGraw Hill is still around, but I imagine
all that 832 stuff is long gone.
I had been hauling around a fully wired 832 for years and even offered it to the Boston Computer Museum as an example of early computer kits but it was rejected. I eventually threw it away after it suffered damage during hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1994. I think I still have one of the memory boards and a set of manuals somewhere in my storage unit. Haven't seen them for years.
We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system,
please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.
National Radio Institute
BUILT IN LANGUAGE
17 Storage locations for 8-bit words, expandable to 32 words with an optional semiconductor memory kit.