Early Kit Computers reviews

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#vintagecomputer #kitcomputer #technology

The development of the microprocessor brought the opportunity to have a personal computer for the first time. However in the mid-1970s the industry was still in its infancy. There weren’t any large personal computer manufacturers and the facilities to build things in mass volumes didn’t exist; the market was too small. Since the market for a home computer tended to be engineering types and those with an interest in electronics, it made sense to outsource assembly to them and thereby keep costs low.

This video will cover the ins and outs of kit computing and will show off some very rare, unbuilt vintage computer kits.

00:00 – Silly Intro
02:33 – Digital Group 8080 Motherboard
03:39 – JR Components Memory Board for Dream 6800
04:43 – Applied Technology DG680 CPU Card
07:13 – Electronic Systems S100 Video Terminal Board
08:22 – Byte Shop BYT-8 MPU Card
09:08 – Altair 680 Case and Rev 0 Board
10:32 – Don Lancaster TVT 6-5/8″ Kit
12:20 – Central Data 2650 Kit
14:39 – SWTPC PPG-J Joystick Kit
17:09 – Netronics Explorer 85 Computer Kit
20:45 – Jon Titus Mark-8 Minicomputer Kit
32:41 – Not so silly Outro

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  1. Tech Time Traveller

    Thank you to everyone who took a chance, clicked on my Ad and came to watch this video. I created this channel after the inadvertent demise of my original channel, BradH. BradH was one of those 'channels' that just got autocreated because I wanted to comment on something, or share videos of the kids with my Mom, etc. I also shared videos of my vintage computers there, basically home videos… no editing. I'd always wanted to create more 'formal' videos – videos with decentish lighting, maybe a few special effects. Particularly documentaries as I've been in love with those my whole life. My first attempt at this was the Digital Group Z80 video – shot with a handy cam and minimally edited. Several years later, I decided to really go for it and did my first 'documentary-style' video featuring the OSI 300 trainer board. That video earned the notice of hackaday and did pretty well, which was really exciting as a new 'creator'. I followed up with this Unbuilt Kits video and so on.

    Eventually I decided I wanted to separate the 'formal' videos from the home videos, choose a more descriptive channel name and such, so I set up a branding account. Unfortunately in the process, I managed to delete the original channel, which was unrecoverable. So I set this one up, hastily reuploaded (which is why many videos are within weeks of each other) and took the huge penalty in exposure that comes with starting all over again. Since then I've created some small 'tour' videos (8BitBites) and have been working on a bunch of projects soon to come.

    Anyway, I sincerely appreciate everyone who took a risk and clicked on that Ad, not knowing if they were going to be sucker punched into buying something, or Rickrolled, or worse. But that was never the intent – this channel is produced for the joy of it. There is no Patreon, no tshirts to sell, none of that for the forseeable future. It's like Biff said in Back to the Future II, relating what his future self told him about the Sports Almanac: "No catch." I've so enjoyed the learning process – probably my favorite thing was messing around with the green screen – and the joy of seeing it all come to life onscreen. I decided to go the Ad route for two reasons – one was to put some skin in the game and push myself to keep going, and the other was to try and recover from the loss of the old channel. Youtube is a hard place for small, 'new' channels to get noticed.

    It is deeply moving to have even one person compliment your work, let alone a whole bunch, let alone, as of this writing, 171 people who actually took the time and the extra step to click Subscribe. Thank you so much for the kind words and those votes of confidence. It means the world to me and motivates me to keep doing, keep learning, and hopefully, keep entertaining. Thank you, thank you, thank you – BradH.

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  2. ropersonline

    I like this video, but its background music got on my nerves after a while.`

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  3. Sarah Watt

    Did you ever build that Mark-8?

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  4. arjovenzia

    Aussie Lad here. Yeah, Al-foil on polystyrene was the standard for me growing up. There was some chips stored on good antistatic foam, but most of the time it just crumbled into a gross dust. Im not sure if it was the climate or they just sent the junk out to the colonies. I’ve found huge panels of chips done this way when digging through storage at work, obviously not original packaging, but re-packed for storage (in the 80’s, I found this in about 2015). But dad had a few boxes of parts from when he worked as a photocopier tech, hes more of a mechanic, but I found enough opamps and 74xx chips to get into mischief.

    Electronics Australia has a long and colourful history, but I can blame/thank them for a lot, I got my first copy in ‘95. I could wax lyrical, but to keep on topic, they also got me into the hardware of computing. They had a series of articles, The $100 PC, which pointed out if you didnt need the top of the line $3000 Pentium, a very capable machine could be built from parts for bugger all. A bit of scrounging, troubleshooting, fleamarkets n hand-me-downs. This is pre-internet, so a bunch of articles telling you what to look for and the obvious Gotchya’s was priceless. As a pre-teen, that became my mission. Christmas and birthday money, dumpster diving at my Dad and Uncles work, picking the brain of the local computer shop, I had *MY* pc. There was the family computer, but I was forbidden to take the lid of that. So I built my own. My mates had a Nintendo or a Sega. I had a Computer.

    I now collect old electronics magazines, and had I been born a generation before, I 100% would have built myself a S100 system. Im half tempted to now, just for shits and giggles.

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  5. Parks Audio LLC

    I can get you in contact with Jeff Roloff – founder of Central Data and the designer of the Central Data 2650 (in his teens aka Woz brilliant). I'm sure he'd be happy to fill in every detail. My dad worked there for many years after Central Data evolved into a SCSI systems company.

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  6. Jacob Lipke Studios

    This channel is a hidden gem! You’re way more in depth than the 8-Bit Guy, and you’ve discuss BBS which he has yet to do.

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  7. Liberty Cave WS7PB

    Basic in ROM, I kind of miss that feature. This is a cool look at kits!

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  8. snaplash

    I still have my Imsai 8080. Every connection hand soldered. Total spent on it for chassis, boards, 70KB floppy drives, teletype, was about $7000..

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  9. MrGoatflakes

    0:53 wait hole up. "Altair Cyclops Camera". "Camera Controller Card". What the?

    Edit: Holy crap! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cromemco_Cyclops

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  10. MrGoatflakes

    Back in the day most people had a TV, yes, but most people also had an assortment of radios, a cassette player, and/or phonographs. A hifi set containing all of the above was extremely common, then people often had portable cassette players, radios, etc.

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  11. rlui123

    31:44 How come those 8800s have a nice font?
    I hated that giant, weird font on the typical Altair 8800.
    Did people fix that messy logo or was that the original look?

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  12. Paul Frederick

    It all looks pretty hokey today but back in the day this stuff was science fiction.

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  13. Garry Grierson

    It's interesting that the same type of people who bought these kits in the late seventies and early eighties are now buying things like FPGA test boards or actual 'retro' 8bit type kits. There always will be a market for something you build yourself. It's just that compared to the computer and console markets nowadays it's still (and probably always will be) minuscule.

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  14. Patrick Smith

    My dad built a Heath H88/89 back when I was in elementary school (around '79). He still has it and says it should still run if he replaced the power supply in it. I can remember learning BASIC on it and my dad upgrading it from a H88 w/16k to a H89 with 2 floppy drives.

    Even though the second drive isn't around anymore, I'd love to get ahold of some hard sector floppies and the OS for that beast and see if I could relive some of my childhood days on it.

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  15. Haweater

    27:25 I'm afraid to ask: do you mean $15.50 or $1550 ?

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  16. Haweater

    16:20 The analog joystick pot must have been inspired by a 4-way audio mixer gadget used in Pink Floyd live shows:

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  17. DeadKoby

    Be nice to "estate vultures"…….. I've used this technique…. dead people don't need their stuff, but someone across the world wants it more than someone locally.

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  18. macelius


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  19. Marshmellowpops

    Those pcb boards are so pretty…🤤

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  20. 1944GPW

    4:44 My brother and I built a number of Applied Tech's S100 boards (actually 'S-100' back then) and also the black cardframe. It was a good system and the DGOS ("dee-goss") monitor with hex editor on 2716 was pretty easy to use and could save to tape.

    It was all fine until one Saturday we went to Applied Tech's shop in a northern suburb of Sydney only to find not a trace of their S100 machines anymore. They had all gone and been replaced by the Microbee. The CEO of AT told us it was backwards compatible with the S100 system and that Microbee software would run on our machine.

    Well of course it wasn't that simple. The Microbee had a different keyboard setup which IIRC used the light pen input on the 6845 and any Microbee software needed patching to use the DGOS calls. I did do it for a few programs. Needless to say we were very annoyed about it all, after having spent a lot of money on building the computer.

    I modified the DG680 with a rocker switch on the top edge of the board to switch a 4MHx crystal, and replaced the CPU with a Z80A and it ran really well. Sometimes I could even switch from 2 to 4 MHz and it would continue to run but more often it needed a reset. I think the DG640 VDU was based on the SOL-20 video circuitry, certainly AT sold games such as Missile Defence that displayed 'Processor Technology' on the start screen.

    As the supplied MicroWorld BASIC was not very good, I ported TRS-80 LII BASIC to the machine by typing in the 12K of hex digits from the BASIC Decoded book over a few weeks, patched the keyboard and (I think) video start location. I made a replica TRS80 graphics character set for the PCG card and got MS Flight Simulator to run, made a 4 voice music synth speaker for it (from a BYTE article), also started writing a DOS for a Versafloppy II based on another BYTE article. I still have some of these bits of software, the rest went with the machine a long time ago.

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  21. Socky Noob

    I've always wanted to know about early kit computers and how they compared to later computers you could buy, plus how they compare to today's kit computers.

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  22. Kyle Havelka

    Hey. Reseller here. We used to do storage units. We found a partial Altair 8800 kit. It was in a storage unit for nearly a decade.

    The storage facility would have likely disposed of it. But we put it up for auction. The market decided a price of $1800.

    Resellers provide a service. I guarantee many collectors would not deal with what you may come across in abandoned storage units. It's incredibly hard work. But sometimes it pays off.

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  23. Chile Bike

    Oh lordy, it makes me feel so oooold, all that stuff was just coming up when I started work in microprocessors.
    Anyone want a z80 CP/M machine rotting in my garage? With a hard disk – whoa…

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  24. Brightstarlivesteam

    I spenr hundreds of hours building S100 boards and designing optically isolated serial interface cards, There was no standard interface available. I have a Cromemco computer sitting in the floor next to my desk; Unfinished and non working! I also have a number of unassembled card kits, including a music synthesiser. A Fairchild F8 development board and a book on how to use an F8 Microprocessor to make a Microcomputer!

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  25. Sonny Moorehouse

    Wow !!!!!! im blown away !!!! such awesome stuff !!!!!!

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  26. Paula Willamina Chandler – Ren’py GamerGirl

    Forgive me, because I really don't want to come off a being vitriol [__] That said; I have to ask: Priceless, Museum, Family heirloom, not gonna build a Kit? My question is; who in that future will end up with the what you and I, Feel right now about these sort of what you call them 'Gems?' {These guys are pushing mid to late 40's. Clint from LGR, 8-but Guy, Nostalgia Nerd, RMC… etc.}
    I am certain that 99% of everyone that had a part in the development and manufacture of these kits have all sadly passed by now, or will soon be. What future are you thinking of, or what past are you holding on to?

    Let me tell you about the Future — But first let's start with the Past. Less than 15 years ago like YouTube and their ads all over the blasted web for 5 years [broadcast yourself and make money] touch screens and camera phones were just starting to become just idle talk. 15 years later here we are.

    In less than twenty years the Mark 1 fully capable humanoid robot for household help with be available for purchase by at least the middle class household, all remotely controlled by acres of quantum super computers [what did you think the 5G spectrum was about] not to mention, they will readily be able to determine what waste of space and resources are, they will not be sentient like you and I are but will know the difference between, useless and archaic.

    And how many museums on vintage machines do you think will there be? Hint: In the future the museums are all holographic, and that just 40 years from now. Remember when you once believed that there was nothing you could not learn about without the library – What are you thoughts about that now?

    The is only so much we can pass to our kids, and the world is changing faster, and faster every passing day, and every day the is a new break through, and that is just the tech you and I know about, actually… it's you alone.
    And speaking of kids just look around, look just hand a psp 1 or a gameboy color to a five year old, and watch what happens. On second thought better not, they may break a finger.

    Sorry, I thought all of this in one minute, and took two minutes to type it, and less than a minute to check for errors.
    But my point is, most of us I am sure; are dying to see some of these kits built if not the originals, get the pcbs made and build the damn thing, and forget being period correct with parts. those pics you've shown in the video, are so fascinating to me, and others I am sure. I really enjoy you videos and narrations. Thanks for the hard work you put into these videos for sharing.

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  27. Benjamin Nolan

    I love the little skits that intersperse your videos 😀

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  28. Forgotten Machines

    SO impressed by this. I'm honored to be your 1000th "like" on this video, and you have most decidedly won me over! This mirrors so well what I like to do on my channel "Forgotten Machines". Thank you for preserving and documenting these systems so well!

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  29. Ashi

    Thank you youtube for recommending this to me

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  30. Blake

    Hit me up if you ever want to replicate those PCBs. It's something I'd love to play with and these days professional PCBs are cheap.

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  31. Mike Barushok

    Now I wish I had kept my Mark-8. It had a separate octal keypad and 2 digit, 7 segment display for inputting a program. I had about 2 years of the users group newsletter as well.

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  32. Jen =]

    I absolutely adore your skits, sir~! It gets so old watching all these kids on yt using the same stock footage over and over while doing monologues.. Your Style is Remarkably Refreshing and You put out such Fun content!!! I'm learning so much! Thank You!

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  33. P R

    In order to align the jigs for a double sided board you simply have to put one side down before etching then drill a few holes and use them for alignment of the second side.

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  34. Adrian Graham

    I'm so pleased I found this channel, content that's right up my street produced in an enjoyable way. Splendid stuff!

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  35. Justyn Zachariou

    Man. That bit about the difficulty of producing two layer pcbs really highlights how we're living in a different era. Nowadays there are fabs that'll make your custom 6-layer pcbs and ship them to your doorstep in days for a couple bucks.

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  36. Derek Christenson

    What a fascinating collection! I started building (mostly) retro kit computers last year, and I just finished a slightly-updated reproduction of the "78up5" Signetics 2650 Mini System (also published in Electronics Australia as an update to the slightly older one you showed, I believe) a couple days ago. Having proved that it works as advertised (I can enter machine code into the PIPBUG system monitor via serial terminal, then execute that code and see the output), I'm please with the result but not sure what else to do with it now, hehe. Documentation I've found suggests that, at one time, there was commercial software available for it, as well as upgrade projects, but I haven't found the binaries for any of the software yet, and the old magazine articles that describe projects are not in the greatest, most readable state. Oh, well. It was fun, just the same, and there's always the future!

    Other kits I've built use the RCA COSMAC 1802, Zilog Z80 and Z180, Intel 8080A and 8085, MOS 65C02, and Rockwell 6501Q. I even just today looked at websites offering kits of boards to build your own reproduction Schelbi-8H or 8B and Mark 8, but the prices, just for the boards, are a little eye watering, so I think I'll have to skip those. :-O

    Thank you so much for showing us your fine collection of original, vintage kits! 🙂

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  37. sote ful

    if you read this, you are so funny

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  38. Francois Dastardly

    Wonderful nerd-p0rn !!

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  39. Dennis Jacobs

    I worked for Midwest Scientific Instruments in Olathe Ks back in the late 70's, they developed a business system based on the SWTPC 'standard' with the Motorola 6800. I have a link to their catalog here… I also have an unbuilt SWTPC system, cassette interface and an open frame monitor that I will probably put on eBay eventually. Hard to do, because one of the original boxes is addressed to MSI from SWTPC, and another is from SWTPC to Computer Workshop of North KCMO. My experience with Computer Workshop involved fixing Polymorphic 8812/3 computers, since I already had experience with Poly 88 systems at Cyborg Computer Gaming Center in Westport (Kansas City, Missouri) back about that time too!

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  40. JJ74Q Formerly Jailbreak

    I’m waiting to find an old box in an old barn or attic filled with New Old Stock. It’s already happened just waiting on time to catch up.
    Nice informative Video.
    Even Nicer “Junk”.
    As my wife says.

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  41. JJ74Q Formerly Jailbreak

    My ultimate completed goal. Building a PDP. My j11 looks good in a glass case, but I want to build a breakout for it. I love 60 Pin Dips. I want to uses it as the heart of a diy synth.

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  42. ismael Abdul Wadud

    1 k SRAM ~98$ ::-{}

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  43. Seamus Quain

    If thou' cannot run Zork 1,2,&3 on your home computer, THY' PC SUCKS! No computer should run without one!

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  44. diggraph

    Hi. I am the David Griffiths who designed the DG680. Thanks for the nice review.
    In answer to your question about the numbering, the VDU was first described in Electronics Today magazine and they assigned it project number 640. When I wrote the article about the CPU they called it 680. I am not sure whether that was the next number in their sequence or whether they jumped to 680 in a nod to the Z80. Applied Technology, the company that sold the kits, tended to brand it as DG-Z80.
    I don't remember what the selling price was but I think you are in the right ball park.
    You are right about the DG initials but I later formed a company called Digital Graphics Pty Ltd – what an amazing co-incidence about the initials 😉

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