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Build Your Own Altair 8800 Personal Computer

Go back to 1974 and the dawn of home computing with this Arduino-based kit

4 min read
The Altair 8800 Computer.
Photo: Randi Klett

Altair 8800 ComputerGif: Randi Klett

The MITS Altair 8800 was the first commercially successful personal computer. Created by Ed Roberts in 1974, it was purchased by the thousands via mail order, proving there was a huge demand for computers outside universities and large corporations. Its influence was immense: For example, after seeing the Altair featured on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft (then Micro-Soft) in order to write a Basic interpreter for the new machine.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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