Well, it isn't a Mac hack but I thought I'd post here to get opinions on my idea. I call it the AltairPC. It is a custom PC case made to look and function like the Altair 8800. The front panel is a functional panel with a microcontroller that emulates the Altair front panel. It has 256 bytes of RAM that you can program and examine with the switches. It's kind of a retro-emulation meets modern PC type thing. It will even have a USB port to connect to the computer inside or another computer giving control of the panel to an emulator.
Standard ATX form factor for your Pentium 4 system
Desktop style case with hidden CD/DVD and floppy access
Front panel opens via hinge to expose drives behind panel
Color style to look like Altair 8800
Tripple case fans for smooth cooling without a lot of noise
Front Panel features:
Emulates front panel of Altair 8800 with 256bytes of RAM
Has several demo modes to display light patterns or play games
ISP programming adapter so that you can program AVR with your own program
USB connector with virtual serial port driver to be controlled by emulation software
RESET actual reset switch for system
ON/OFF actual on/off switch for system (switch only works flipping up to avoid accidental shut off)
Extra I/O pins to program your own input/output control with the AVR microcontroller.
There is a USB connection to connect to the PC that gives control of the panel to emulators. Right now the USB interface is finished but no emulator has been modified to work with the front panel. I'll probably need help with the programming end of the emulator if somebody wants to help out. If there is enough interest in this project I will go into production before summer. I'll update the website with more pictures and more information as it is available.
Front panel circuit board prototype
The case is a modified Silverstone Desktop A/V style case. I consider the case a high quality well built case. The AltairPC is still in early prototype stage and this means that there is plenty of time to make changes if/when it goes into production.
What I really need is some feedback from everybody on this project. I'd like to get plenty of feedback on this or even questions so I can judge what changes should be made. I get my prototype overlay panel which will make the front black section look exactly like the real Altair 8800 tomorrow.
Personally, this is an awesome idea. Are you planning on developing this into kits or pre-assembled units? I think building a much more simple computer, like the Altair might be a nice start before launching into a larger project like the Replica I. Plus, with your functional case design, the project can be front-and-center to an everyday user and not stuck "over on the end table" somewhere outta the way until you get the urge to play again. This design seems to be ready for easier spare time playing/hacking while you are already using the modern system inside.
Believe it or not, a kit might be harder than the replica 1. There is a lot more involved with the AltairPC than I thought. Right now, I'm working on getting the prototype ready for more pics. I just got the overlay panel on and it is really starting to look like an Altair. I need to add a lot more demo modes and functions to the front panel. I agree this is going to be more than a build it and shove it aside project. I'm trying to make the AltairPC with room for additional features, so it can be hacked or modified.
I'm quite fond of this myself. Nicely done.
Thanks. I'm still trying to work on the logistics of having the front frame on the panel manufactured. I live in a state where all they do is play with Steel and aluminum and yet I can't find a low volume machine shop to do the work. The overlay panel arrived and it looks great! The more that gets done on the prototype, the more it really looks like an Altair 8800.
will be any way for not to turn on/off or reset always that pentium computer inside with switches? maybe people would like to run programs at front panel and do nothing with computer inside...
this project is great, for those who can't or couldn't have a real altair
(I want one!)
i think vbriel was working on a way to make the front panel like a usb prehiperal to use on an altair emulator running on the pc.
Actually I'm doing both. The front panel will emulate the altair and with the built on microcontroller you will be able to store and run programs. With the USB you can choose to use the front panel to control an emulator and have the emulator control the lights. I'm also adding a ISP connector so if the owner wants, they can write their own programs for the microcontroller.
That's pretty awesome. Is there an existing Altair emulator that can work/be made to work with your panel?