Recreating the first PC

If you’re looking for a simple Ardunio project, why not replicate the first personal computer?

After discovering the Arduino, [Mark] realized recreating really old computers would be a fun project. An Altair 8800 was on the table, but the sheer number of blinkenlights, switches and the Intel 8080 CPU made that a fairly difficult project. After a bit of searching, [Mark] discovered the Kenbak-1, widely regarded as the first personal computer. The Kenbak also had the added bonus of having a very minimal I/O compliment and was built entirely with TTL components.

Since the Kenbak-1 is an extremely simple computer, [Mark]‘s build ended up being fairly minimal. The schematic is only an ATmega328, a few shift registers and a real-time clock for a few added features the OG computer didn’t have. The completed build is programmed by pushing buttons to enter machine code into the mega’s RAM and then executed. [Mark] has a few programs already figured out – a program that counts in binary, a ‘Cylon eye’ and a BCD and binary clock. While the Kenbak-uno doesn’t have the awesome vintage case of the original, it’s still a remarkable build.

Check out the videos after the break for a walk through.


  1. dana says:

    Arguably the Scelbi-8H was the first hobbiest PC, but the hobby really took off after the Altair was introduced.

  2. Neolith100 says:

    Very cool! Glad to see documentation and such! Great job in my opinion.

  3. Bob Roswell says:

    I would love to commission you to make another Kenbeck replica for our computer museum

    Bob Roswell
    (410) 771-5544 ext 4336

  4. biozz says:

    can it run CS:S or do i have to settle for CS?

  5. blue carbuncle says:

    Do I need an Arduino to run the Ardunio?

  6. Peter Sieg says:

    Which compiler was used, since there es no compiled HEX file in the zip?


  7. Jac Goudsmit says:


    Even though this project doesn’t really have much of a home page, it’s all there! Photos from the build, videos with demos, documentation… When I first read about the Kenbak-1 a while ago I was wondering how it would work, but this should give everyone a good idea of how to operate an early computer that didn’t even have a CPU. It makes me want to ask: when are you going to design a PCB and make it into a kit?

    PS I wonder how this would look in a blue acrylic case (hexagonal of course, like the original — if that’s even possible).

  8. Tom says:

    This is by far my favorite non-hack in years.

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