Welcome to AltairKit.com!

Grant Stockly, Website, Dec 23, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Looking at that Altair 8800 front panel takes me back. No, I didn't own one personally, but I know how the panel works, because I used to use a panel similar to that in 1980 (we had card readers so we'd just use the panel to initialize). What you do is you encode some data in binary using the toggles (the set of them under the red lights). Then you use one of the lower toggles to enter the data into a specific memory location (see the operations manual, p. 36). You could step through your program one machine language command at a time (second to the left toggle, lower line) or run them all at one (far left toggle) and watch the red lights do things. It's hard to believe everything we do in these systems is based on the same basic technology, but it's true. This isn't really the gift you want to give your kids, but the enthusiast who likes soldering things together might like it. It's kind of a niche market, though. Via Kottke.
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