MITS ltair 8800bt

Towards the end of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) existance the company built on the success of their Altair line of computers with their first "turnkey" machine.

The Altair 8800BT was a traditional Altair 8800B model with the front panel blocked off and most of the switches removed. Instead of the full suite of programmer switches for data entry and control, there were two. One for run/stop and the other to "Start" the system. There was also a key to power the computer on. Turnkey meant just that - you turned the key and the machine started automatically. No longer did users have to enter addresses and run code from ROM to start their machines.

The 8800BT, unlike the rest of the Altair line, required at least one disk drive to run. When turned on the machine automatically jumped to a predefined address in memory and ran the code stored there on a 1702 EPROM. Unless the machine was modified, this code was designed to boot a disk drive, usually an 88-DCDD (a single 8" disk drive based on the Pertec FD400 or FD500 line of drives). A dual disk enclosure was also available.

MITS Altair 8800BT boxed for shipment (on arrival)

My 8800BT came well packaged from an eBay purchase (it's nearly impossible to package items well enough to protect them from the ravages of UPS. I go with bullet-proof packaging and FedEx ground for safety). The boxes contain the two drives, the mainframe and the documents. All of the electronics were double boxed and wrapped in bubble wrap, not peanuts.

Unlike my luck with other acquisitions, this machine was an absolute dream. After I unpacked it and gave it a quick checkout, I plugged everything in and booted up the first disk in the included software. Less then 30 seconds later I saw a prompt on my terminal!

The machine came with various manuals and disks including the 8800BT users manual, the 88-DCDD documents and the Altair BASIC manual. Disks include BASIC and various utilities and business programs. The software I have for my other Altair machines also works including Altair DOS 1.0 and FORTRAN.