May 23, 2009 AT 11:00 pm

Why the Arduino matters…

Altair
Arduino
Why the Arduino Matters – Ideas For Dozens

n January 1975, Popular Electronics ran a cover story about a new computer for hobbyists. The Altair 8800 came as a kit and cost $439 (the equivalent of $1,778.58 in today’s dollars). It came with no on-board memory. You programmed it by entering Intel 8080 opcodes by hand via a series of switches on the front panel. Buying 4k of memory, the ability to read in programs from paper tape, and a teletype interface would increase the price 6 fold. You had to solder the thing together by hand. By comparison with the big university and corporate mainframes it was basically useless.

But Popular Electronics was the Make Magazine of its day and engineering schools had begun to require their graduates to learn some programming, so Forest Mims and Ed Roberts, the two guys in Albuquerque who’d put the Altair together, figured they could probably sell a few hundred in the first year to this emerging group of hackers avant la lettre…


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3 Comments

  1. David Lockwood

    I was in graduate school when the Altair hit the streets. It would take the resources of three or four or more people to collectively put a machine together but when we did it was great. No more waiting to get time on the school’s mainframe and no log-time bills!
    The Arduino has a running start on the Altair. I believe that just as the Altair led the way for the PC the Arduino will open the doors of embedded computing to everyone.
    We really do live in a golden age. So many possibilities and opportunities to grab onto. What are you waiting for? Make something! It doesn’t get any better than this.

  2. The beauty of the Arduino is its accessibility. I had tried playing around with microcontrollers and physical computing but as a person who hadn’t ever written a single line of code it didn’t really all come together for me until the Arduino (and Tom Igoe’s book Physical Computing.)

    An inexpensive device with such ease of use and staggering versatility, an Arduino is a wonderful aid for people who want to create electronic devices to interact with but don’t necessarily have a huge base of electronic knowledge. For people like me it’s a wonder to behold.

  3. Why the Arduino matters……

    Via a post on Adafruit:  (Original post on Ideas for Dozens)
    Today, the world of physical computing closely resembles the personal computer industry circa 1975. We’ve been around for a few years struggling around the edges with tools and product….

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