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M > MITS  > Altair 680

Altair 680

Chuck Gould experience:
I built one of these soon after they came out. It was purchased from "The Computer Store" in Santa Monica.".
Someone at the store had written an interpreter called "VTL" (for "Very Tiny Language"). Reason being - it fit in 3/4K ROM, which was installed in the remaining 3 sockets (the first was the monitor ROM).
No floating point and one string array. Single character variables. But, you could do some "cool" things without loading any software. Of course, it only had 1K of RAM.
Later, I modified it by literally piggy-backing another 2K of RAM, consisting of 16 1Kx1 (yes ONE) chips.
Many years later, I designed a 32K dynamic RAM board that sat on a platform above the mother-board. It also had a parallel interface so I could run character tests on the Data Products line printers I supported. The RAM was needed to load (through a tape interface) a full version of BASIC.
I still have the machine in storage. In fact, I was talking with another engineer about it the other day. One of these days, I'll have to set it up at work.
Sure learned a lot from that machine. I'm a self-taught software and digital design engineer. It really gave me the background I needed both with the CPU and doing the design work on the RAM.

Ron Scales remembers:
I have a 680b in pieces that I bought at a surplus sale when I worked for the company.   The one thing I didn't get with the parts is the ROM Monitor program.   Didn't feel much like putting it together after that.  We had a number of peripheral devices that were offered but probably never sold well.  Some of them were 16Kx8 bit static RAM, 16Kx8 bit dynamic RAM, Audio cassette interface, 5.25" floppy disk drive w/basic, A/D-D/A interface, Process Control interface, and Universal I/O interface.  We tried to develop a wafer tape interface that used a small continuous loop magnetic tape (faster than audio cassettes).  The tape drives were not reliable enough to make it worth marketing.  Also, prototyped a 680 version with a faster uP (2MHz clock) that worked well.  We compared it against the 8800b with benchmark basic programs and the 680b ran faster.

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