Microsoft Returns To The Altair

The Altair 8800 arguably launched Microsoft. Now [Dave Glover] from Microsoft offers an emulated and potentially cloud-based Altair emulation with CP/M and Microsoft Basic. You can see a video of the project below. One thing that makes it a bit odd compared to other Altair clones we’ve seen is that the emulator runs in a Docker environment and is fully cloud-enabled. You can interact with it via a PCB front panel, or a terminal running in a web browser.

The core emulator is MIT-licensed and seems like it would run nearly everywhere. We were a little surprised there wasn’t an instance in the Azure cloud that you could spin up to test drive. Surely a few hundred Altairs running at once wouldn’t even make a dent in a modern CPU.

There are plenty of Altair emulators and even replicas with authentic CPUs out there. But we have to admit the Wiki documentation on this one is uncommonly well done. Even if you don’t want to use this emulator, you might find the collection of data about the Altair useful.

Don’t know how to use a computer front panel? Learn on the Altair or a PDP/8, even if you don’t have a real one. For simulated hardware, the project that turns an Arduino Due into an Altair works well. If you just want to play Zork, you can do that in your browser, for sure.

25 thoughts on “Microsoft Returns To The Altair

    1. Even just off the top of my head, the fact that it’s MIT-licensed is nothing special; the entire core of MAME and a significant number of machine drivers are all MIT/3-clause BSD, which includes the Intel 8080A core that one would need to spin up an Altair 8800 emulator as well.

      1. fortunately i read here, so i re-read witho more attention the initial post, so I avoid to lose some minutes of my life looking at another-not-wanted-at-all-cliclbite video. Thanks yo you, dude!

    2. What’s also kind of forgotten:
      CP/M was thoroughly understood.
      It was cloned and derived a dozen times, if not more.

      People who worked with assembly language could literally “read” how CP/M worked and flowed through the system.

      My father, among many others, wrote his own floppy controller routines for CP/M.

      It’s kind of sad to see how incompetent the matter is being handled these days. Such a blunder. *sigh*

      Back in the 70s and 80s, it was just natural to know about the internals of the Z-80 and/or CP/M.

      There were hundreds of books being written about all the deepest mechanisms of them.

    3. Hey I’m Dave Glover, the guy in the vid, yup, the video was made as a teaser and a bit of fun. Opps, I was thinking Altair BASIC, rather than CP/M. I think there is decompile of Altair BASIC on the web, but I’m pretty sure the original source is no longer available.

      Cheers Dave

    1. You must not have been involved in the hobby “back in the day” – the copying of commercial products like Microsoft BASIC was rampant, almost celebrated in the community.

      This was before Microsoft had even started licensing ROM BASIC to the major home/personal computer manufacturers, so stolen paper tapes were a serious hit to MS revenues.

    2. Out of context.

      I’m no expert of American copyright law, but as far as I understand:

      Material released before 1977 was considered Public Domain, unless the copyright is/was explicitly expressed.

      I assume this covers material/works of engineers, students, universities etc. which didn’t mention the copyright in their papers.

      Go double check yourself, if you wish. I’m lazy right now. 😁

  1. Neat project, I too am impressed by the level of documentation. While I’m not too interested in running weather/climate change analysis programs on an emulated 50 year-old system, I realize it was important to inject some cloud activity to jazz up the project.

    Interesting to note that you need to install Linux on a windows machine to run the code.

    Neat how the sense hat reduces the need for ‘blinkin lights’ to its most basic elements, like the computer prop in the bat cave or any 1960s sci-fi movie/tv show…

    1. hey thanks, I’m the Dave, the author of the project. Ta re docs:) The projects C code base targets POSIX compatible systems hence WSL on Windows, and I wanted one code base. Cheers Dave

  2. Hey all, I’m Dave Glover, the author of the project, thanks for the post.

    The project was interesting/fun/challenging. The Altair projected started life on Azure Sphere, a security focused IoT microcontroller platform, but I wanted to make more general purpose, so migrated to POSIX compatible systems such as Raspberry Pi, Linux, and macOS.

    Thanks for the compliments on the docs, I wanted to make it easy for someone to try out the project and learn a few new tricks.

    If you have any questions, fire away.

    Cheers Dave

  3. Lest we not forget the ATR000 running with dual Percom double-sided, dual density 5 1/4 floppy drives, 8080 CPU using an Atari 800 as a terminal for video, audio and keyboard and a US Robotics 300 baud modem for Wordstar and Western Union Easylink. OMG! I’m that old!

  4. I still have a Cromemco Z80 S-100(Zero or Z1) CDOS (enhanced CP/M for Z80) luggable which would, of course, run CP/M. I also still have a Kaypro 2 luggable Z80 CP/M, both of which i used for my business in the 80s. I used to have a Cromemco Z2D with 8″ Shugart floppies, but it had to find a new home when i moved to smaller quarters. My phone outruns any desktop machine I ever had, but i miss using the old clunkers. There was something about having to know DOS systems that put you in intimate contact with the machine.

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