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.

[flickr video=”6173367704″]

[flickr video=”6173359238″]

11 thoughts on “Recreating The First PC

      1. Arduino App..Hmm? Used AVR Studio 4 with avrgcc under Win$. So I see no project file, no makefile..
        Maybe one can compile it and supply a hex file ready to be flashed into ATmega328 for 16MHz xtal.

        Thanks, Peter

  1. Awesome!

    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).

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