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Altair #1 - Lost in the mail. Who got Altair #2?

Joined
Dec 16, 2003
Messages
46
Location
Minnesota
It is fairly well established that the first Altair built was lost in transit to Les Solomon back in October of 1974. Which raises the question of where did Altair #2 go? I always assumed that Ed Roberts built the second one and shipped it off to Les Solomon to replace the lost one. However, "Leiy" made a comment a few weeks back about the Altair shown in "Triumph of the Nerds" that got me wondering.

In that documentary film, the narrator (Robert Cringley/Mark Stephens) pulls an Altair off the shelf in his garage and announces that it was the second Altair built and has serial #2. The front panel appears to be an Altair 8800 but the back does not. The power cord is in the far left corner and it has a removable fuse. As "leiy" commented, it looks like the back of an Altair 8800b. Also, switches on the front have colored plastic covers. So, is this really Altair #2? I would be interested to hear what other Altair experts think about Cringley's claim.

Here is a link to a You Tube video showing this segment at about the 18:25 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuBXbvl1Sg4
 

simplex

Experienced Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2014
Messages
171
Very interesting, hope someone knows. Also, if Altair #1 ever turned up, would the original owner still be able to claim it? :)

How do you lose something so big and heavy!
 

TJ_Mossman

Experienced Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2013
Messages
368
Location
Bristol, England
If you look closely you'll see that the serial number sticker is actually from Pertec.

My guess is that he's lying, or the unit was upgraded. FWIW MITS did offer an upgrade kit (8800b-PS), which I beleive my 8800 has, but whether or not they still offered it after the Pertec acquisition is anyone's guess. (mine has a mits sticker)

Here's a page with a 8800bt, showing the pertec sticker: http://www.computercloset.org/MITSAltair8800bt.htm
 

DDS

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2013
Messages
533
Very interesting, hope someone knows. Also, if Altair #1 ever turned up, would the original owner still be able to claim it? :)

How do you lose something so big and heavy!

If it does, it could start a can of worms as big as this one:

https://jimsgarage.wordpress.com/2007/01/14/the-missing-daytona-coupe-mystery/

http://www.caranddriver.com/features/death-deception-and-the-4-million-cobra-feature

http://www.caranddriver.com/news/multimillion-dollar-cobra-lawsuit-settled-car-news
 

leiy

Experienced Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
247
The #2 in this documentary film maybe an actual #2 with back penal swapped and power supply upgraded to 8800b, or maybe not a #2, who knows?

The "#1" in popular electronics cover I strongly believe is a prototype, so I suppose the real look outside and inside of #1 is as the same as early 1974 Altair rev.0 production batch, both of #1 and #2 maybe exist, or both of them were damaged or lost.

So I suppose the real Altair rev.0 with lowest serial ever exist is #3, and the biggest serial with light-yellow pillar board holder inside Altair I can find on internet so far is #47.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 16, 2003
Messages
46
Location
Minnesota
Your comment about Altair #2 being lost might be supported by a claim made by the lady that sold Altair #3 on eBay a few years back. Altair #3 was bought by someone in England and it was donated to the "Centre of Computing History" in Cambridge, UK. Here is her description as it appeared on eBay:

"The Altair 8800 - the first machine to run the Microsoft Software!

This machine belonged to my father, who knew Les Solomon, and was able to purchase the 2nd and 3rd machines made. Somehow the 2nd one has been lost, but this one has been stored rather well for these many years. It is in apparent working condition, although since the manuals are missing, I don't really know how to test it beyond verifying that it does light up.

I know my father upgraded it as much as was possible when he had it. I am not sure how much of it is actually original other than the box itself. I did poke around a bit and was surprised to discover what appears to be a western digital hard drive and hdd controller card in it. What I wouldn't give to know what is stored on that drive! But without the time or resources to find out, I will leave it up to the lucky winning bidder to find that out! Also, it appears that the power supply has either been upgraded or added to.

The exterior of the box does have some markings on it. They appear to be stains of some sort, but are not extremely noticeable. The insides appear to be in good condition, but a bit dusty. "

Here is a link to the museum's site and the Altair display: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/d...S-Altair-8800/

In their photos, it appears that Altair #3 was heavily modified and the serial number tag had obviously been removed and replaced a few times. Also, it has blue pillars to hold the boards rather than the typical yellow ones seen in other early Rev. 0 Altairs. She does not say that her father got these from Les Solomon, but I assume that was the case since he would have had the first one of two Altairs available. Here are some photos:

attachment.php
 

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leiy

Experienced Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
247
Your comment about Altair #2 being lost might be supported by a claim made by the lady that sold Altair #3 on eBay a few years back. Altair #3 was bought by someone in England and it was donated to the "Centre of Computing History" in Cambridge, UK. Here is her description as it appeared on eBay:

"The Altair 8800 - the first machine to run the Microsoft Software!

This machine belonged to my father, who knew Les Solomon, and was able to purchase the 2nd and 3rd machines made. Somehow the 2nd one has been lost, but this one has been stored rather well for these many years. It is in apparent working condition, although since the manuals are missing, I don't really know how to test it beyond verifying that it does light up.

I know my father upgraded it as much as was possible when he had it. I am not sure how much of it is actually original other than the box itself. I did poke around a bit and was surprised to discover what appears to be a western digital hard drive and hdd controller card in it. What I wouldn't give to know what is stored on that drive! But without the time or resources to find out, I will leave it up to the lucky winning bidder to find that out! Also, it appears that the power supply has either been upgraded or added to.

The exterior of the box does have some markings on it. They appear to be stains of some sort, but are not extremely noticeable. The insides appear to be in good condition, but a bit dusty. "

Here is a link to the museum's site and the Altair display: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/d...S-Altair-8800/

In their photos, it appears that Altair #3 was heavily modified and the serial number tag had obviously been removed and replaced a few times. Also, it has blue pillars to hold the boards rather than the typical yellow ones seen in other early Rev. 0 Altairs. She does not say that her father got these from Les Solomon, but I assume that was the case since he would have had the first one of two Altairs available. Here are some photos:

attachment.php



Great information!

I'm also acquire an Altair 8800 recent with trimmed SN221940 sticker without "A" or "K" suffix like the #3

I look the #3 photos carefully, the inside machine is heavily modified, looks like none MITS board inside. Since it has been heavily modified, I suppose the light-yellow pillar was broken during the repeating insert or pullout s-100 boards on previous testing process.

Thank you, Leiy.
 

smp

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
1,676
Location
Bedford, NH, USA
Hi all,

I've been following this thread with great interest.

I am wondering about all these Altairs with very low serial numbers, and the claim about one of these actually being Altair #2, after the one that got lost in the mail to Popular Electronics for the article. If the picture on the cover of the January 1975 Popular Electronics magazine is the actual Altair #2, then why are we fretting about these Altairs in Optima cases? Was Altair #2 re-manufactured into an Optima case after the PE photo shoot? I have never heard that.

Might it be possible that there was an Altair #1 (lost in the US Mail) and an Altair #2 (as shown on the cover of PE), and then, when MITS started making the actual kits and assembled units for sale, they changed over to the Optima case version with the 4 slot motherboards, and they started *again* with #1, 2, 3, ... ?

If this were to be the case, then we are talking about the Altair #2 in the Optima case, and we have not seen the actual Altair #2 as photographed for PE.

Just my random thoughts...

smp
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2003
Messages
46
Location
Minnesota
The Altair pictured on the cover of Popular Electronics (Jan. 1975) is just a mocked-up model put together for a cover photo. The unit lost in the mail was shipped in October and would have been used for the cover photo--had it arrived! But since the January issue was actually published in late November of 1974, they needed something and this is what they came up with on short notice.

Here is a link to a site showing that original photo and the actual article: http://www.vintagecomputer.net/altair-poptronics.cfm
 

smp

Veteran Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2011
Messages
1,676
Location
Bedford, NH, USA
The Altair pictured on the cover of Popular Electronics (Jan. 1975) is just a mocked-up model put together for a cover photo. The unit lost in the mail was shipped in October and would have been used for the cover photo--had it arrived! But since the January issue was actually published in late November of 1974, they needed something and this is what they came up with on short notice.

Ah! Got it. Thanks for setting me straight.

smp
 

mnbvcxz

Experienced Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2011
Messages
279
Location
Portsmouth, England
Altair #1 "got lost in the post" but it did not disappear into an alternate dimension, it existed and may still exist somewhere, it may turn up one day.
 

Corey986

Administrator
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
821
Location
East Coast USA
So I suppose the real Altair rev.0 with lowest serial ever exist is #3, and the biggest serial with light-yellow pillar board holder inside Altair I can find on internet so far is #47.

I can safely say serial number 201 has the light yellow pillar board guides on the first couple of cards, the later added cards moved to the blue ones.

Cheers,
Corey
 

leiy

Experienced Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
247
I can safely say serial number 201 has the light yellow pillar board guides on the first couple of cards, the later added cards moved to the blue ones.

Cheers,
Corey


Great info! Any photos? Thank you.
 
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