[Dirk] posted a video (you can see below) titled, “Mystery Retro Project Start.” That turned out to be the first of a multipart series on his Altair 8800 Again simulator. The front panel appears to be laser cut and in some future video episodes, we expect to see him simulate the CPU with a Teensy.
There have been plenty of 8800 clones ranging from projects that recreate the original PCBs, to those that just run a Raspberry Pi inside. The middle ground will use an Arduino or some other small CPU to simulate the 8080 CPU.
The switches are multiplexed which isn’t uncommon. However, the LEDs are actually an addressable LED strip. We’ve built a similar panel with discrete LEDs and we can attest that using the strip is going to be easier. Besides that, it allows you to change the LED color to suit your decor, something the old 8800 could not do without a soldering iron.
The downside, of course, is that you can update the LEDs at exactly the same time. For most things that’s probably not going to matter much, but it is still a little bit of a departure from the original computer.
Even without emulation, this would be a good start for a panel to connect to SIMH running on a PC. The use of the LED strips and the laser cutter make this a lot easier than most other builds we’ve seen.
We always think about the Altair around the end of the year since the original showed up in the January 1975 edition of Popular Electronics (which would be on newsstands in December).
If you don’t have the patience to build a full front panel, you can put it on a PCB instead. In fact, we’d be tempted to build a series of PCBs to mount behind the panel. We’ve seen that approach a few times before.