…of which right now I have quite a lot. My store/studio (www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) is still open, but only for passport/ID photos and curbside delivery/pickup, so the days are super slow.
So I get to do some hobby stuff. And my hobby intertests are wide. They also include electronics and computers, and the other day, I bought an Arduino-based Altair 8800 simulator kit (from www.adwaterandstir.com). An excellent kit, by the way, highly recommended.
The Arduino is a modern microcontroller, and the Altair 8080 was really the first personal computer, way back in 1974.
After seeing that article, a couple of young students from Harvard decided to write a BASIC interpreter for it, and the rest is history – you may recognize the names in the Altair BASIC manual:
Anyway, the Altair looked like this…:
And the simulator I built looked like this:
And then it looked like this:
And now, after seven hours of soldering and constructing, looks like this:
And it works! So now I can watch blinking lights (loom up “blinkenlights“). And I can program some BASIC to calculate primes:
..and I can rum CP/M, play Othello and Star Trek and Zork, and in general, do the things you could do in 1977.
Why on earth would I want to do this?
Because it’s a cool conversation piece. And it looks super cool: the Altair with its lights and data/address switches was based on the Data General NOVA.
And because it’s a special thing to run the original Bill Gates/Paul Allen Basic (even “Micro-Soft” did not exist yet) – the project that made Gates $100 billion, and that is responsible for most computer stuff you have now. And to type the same “PRINT 2+2” command that Paul Allen typed in New Mexico to demonstrate the project to MITS, the makers of Altair, and to see the same “4” appear that impressed them enough to buy this BASIC, is quite an experience too.
And above all else, because just like photography, this takes me back. Back to the 1970s and 80s. I feel like I am 20-odd years old again!
And it’s always handy to know prime numbers. I guess.