The Romance of Early Computing

Visit BoingBoingI was stopped dead in my tracks this morning by this recreation of the IMSAI 8080 microcomputer by the original dudes who created it. You can buy a IMSAI Series Two with a USB connection for programming. The enclosure it comes in is big enough to accept an S-100 card cage AND an ATX-sized PC motherboard…you can have both old and new in one system!

Seeing that image reminded me of many a day staying after-school for the heck of it, hanging with friends or killing time in the air-conditioned Taipei American School library. We used to look through the issues of Byte magazine and gape at the many S-100 bus computers out there with awesomely expensive video graphics boards. We were using Apple IIs and TRS-80s at the time, with had very limited color graphics, and we would dream of more color and more pixels. If only we had $10,000 and knew what the heck an S-100 bus was! The IMSAI was an earlier generation machine, but with its “IBM blue” enclosure and industrial front panel switches, looked the way a “serious computer” should to my young eyes.

And I still love the way it looks. For $995 you can get one, stuff your PC in it, and remember why you got into this all in the first place, if you are old enough to remember seeing Star Wars in 1977. I want one oh so very badly now. It would be kind of neat for demonstrating microcomputer theory, but I suppose no one really cares anymore in this day and age.

You can read about the IMSAI and other pre-PC computers at PC History, a collection of the rememberances of Popular Electronics former computer editor Stan Veit. Back when the microcomputer industry was young and full of promise!