Altair 8800 name Was: Re: Altair 680 Expansion Boards?

allison ajp166 at
Fri Dec 23 10:00:05 CST 2016

On 12/23/2016 10:16 AM, Liam Proven wrote:
> On 23 December 2016 at 10:59, Peter Corlett <abuse at> wrote:
>> The "at least in the US" caveat is important :)
> Absolutely.
>> Sinclair's Z80-based ZX Spectrum was outrageously successful in the UK. Every
>> teenage bedroom seemed to have one by the late 1980s. The various 6502-based
>> machines from Acorn and Commodore were relatively uncommon, and I've seen
>> exactly one Apple II.
> Pretty much, yes. The VIC-20 did OK, and the C-64 later, as the price
> came down. However, back then, around '81-'82-'83, a working Spectrum
> setup cost about a quarter of what a C-64 cost. It was the premium
> games machine for the children of fairly rich folks.
> The BBC Micro, at another quarter or third over the price of a C-64
> but with a superb BASIC instead of CBM's abomination, was what the
> unfortunate children of very serious, very wealthy people bought. Not
> nearly so many games and not very good.
> Whereas the Apple ][ cost more than 2 BBC Micros -- as much as a small
> car. And it wasn't all that good anyway, because by then, it was a 5YO
> design. So only misguided millionaires owned them.
> Some unlucky kids got the Oric-1, a not-common but not-all-that-bad
> 6502 machine, around '83 or '84.
> The US world was profoundly different from, well, the rest of the
> planet. As usual. Americans got amazing-sounding fancy machines that
> cost from as much as a car to as much as a house, with stuff like
> *expansion slots* and *professional OSes* that could run business
> software that [a] cost as much for a single copy as a well-specified
> complete Sinclair setup with monitor and disk interface and drives,
> and [b] was utterly uninteresting to schoolkids.
> Cheap British computer: £100. 
Back then about 200$ US??
> Cheap American computer: $1000.
Depends on when.

The average Kim-1 here was 300$
Motorola 6800D1 was 289$ in 1977.
The RCA cosmac (Quest kit) was still over 100$ at introduction
(the board and by the parts your self would cost me 45$ quantity 2).

NS*Horizon S100 with Z80, MDS, 2 floppies and 32K ram and DOS was about
$2000 in 1978 and a year later about $1700 as the price of ram dropped.
BY 1979 a Horizon with 32K and 2 drives was about $1500.

The biggest thing was ram.  In the 1975 time frame 4K was about 300$, by
that would be 16K at maybe $300 and by 1980 64K was under $300 and going
down fast.  

The other was mass storage where floppies at intro were 350-450 for the
bare drive
and a controller was a few hundred more.   The first break was $599 for
a complete
NS* (Thats Northstar Computers inc) had the MDS drive and controller
package with DOS
and Extended basic and that was mid 1977.  Two years later two drives in
a box with
power supply was about 199$.  There were others pushing prices down
too.  it was
the innovation, production volume curve at work.

When the timex/sinclair with membrane keys got her eit was around 99$
and immensely unpopular the later chicklet keyboard version was  better
BY then people wanted printer and mass storage and that machine was 2-4
behind the expectations curve.

> Even though back then £1=$2 or something, still, the American kit was
> all ludicrously expensive and as rare as rocking-horse droppings
> outside North America.
I will not argue that, nothing was cheap but I also was buying raw chips
the prices for one or two were not always cheap.  Boards especially two
were not cheap either.

The problem ooutside US for US products was import VAT.  I was told back
a 2000$ NS system was easily 3000$ over there.  Also getting systems here
from there was equally hard(and expensive transport).   Some of the beebs
were interesting.

Oddly it was similar in Canada for the same reason VAT/Import Duty. They
a few cool systems there too.  However much of the US hardware was known
found there or they did S100 with local designs.   Then again a few
Canadian companies
like Matrox made a good presence here in the USA.  As did Epson who I
one of the first japanse.

I'm fortunate to have two views,  that of the hobby small systems
market, and that
of being inside DEC during the 80s.  The big vendor (DEC, DG, Prime,
IBM) machine
world was a bit different.  If I can associate a factor in that its DEC
internal had a
world wide computer network such that I could talk to Palo Alto via
Email just as
easy as Valbonne or Galway and as fast even in the early 80s.  That
didn't happen
till the 90s for those not inside a company network.   The internet was
a killer ap!


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