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I > IMSAI  > 8080   


After seeing the instant success of the MITS ALTAIR 8800 computer, the first "home computer" ever made, others soon tried their luck in this new business space. One of the first to do so was Bill Millard who founded IMS Associates.

The computer they designed, the IMSAI 8080, was very similar to the Altair 8800 and was designed to run the same software. However, it was a much better design, with a higher specification power supply, an anodized aluminum chassis, 22 slots on the S-100 bus, and a great front panel design.

The IMSAI 8080 aimed to take advantage of the Altair's popularity, the inability of MITS to meet a growing demand for the product, and the need to improve on some of the internal components. Like the Altair, the IMSAI came either in kit form, or preassembled at the factory.

At the production starting, the IMSAI was shipped deliberately missing many parts in the kit version, because the company hadn't received them yet. But since IMSAI promised delivery by a certain date, they shipped them anyway!

Like the Altair system, there were no keyboard but a front panel and switches used to program the system. The LED's blinked, depending of the values found on the address and data buses. One could manually stop the CPU, single step the CPU, and read and write to memory locations.

In the end, the IMSAI outlasted the Altair by several years. Owners were delighted to see it featured in the 1984 movie "War Games", with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. Through the years, it has remained a much-beloved design amongst vintage computer collectors, and newly-manufactured parts and documentation are still available! (see Web links)

Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).


I was lucky enough to buy the IMSAI 8080C computer at a computer business that had an auction after the owner passed away for $14. ! It works great but I couldn''t bid on the two 8"floppy drives because the $14. was all I had! I begged the auctioneer afterwards for the drives as they didn''t sell, but he wouldn''t relent... My unit needs 3 switch covers(orange/blue) as I accidentally knocked them off... I have them somewhere. The computer is immaculate and works as if new,(love the robustness of older technology electronics). One big TO-3 voltage regulator(5V?) on the back wall on a aluminum 90 degree fin in front of the fan and two big capacitors(electrolytic) in the front in the voltage supply area on the right, walled off by aluminum shield from the S-100 bus slots on the left. The CPU is white w/gold cap. Such a joy to see it operate on the front panel as I load address and data registers(8 bit)using the switches in single step load/review mode. Then I flip then switch for Run and toggle the start switch and watch the digital light show as it computes, branches, adds and moves REAL Binary Data around before I hit the start/stop toggle switch or it reaches a halt in the program. I need to make a digital video of it in action someday. It is still a joy to operate, setup, run and observe the data in red Light Emitting Diodes(LEDs). This was one of the first times we could SEE our data bits and computing in action.

I was a programmer in the Air Force on 64-bit machines in the early 70''s... COBOL, PL/1, RPG, FORTRAN and assembly.

This machine is a museum piece that STILLl functions as it was designed. I had a few Timex Sinclair''s as well. Also great inexpensive machines for their day. Clive Sinclair was a mathmatician and it is reflected in the tight byte codes of his BASIC language computers for the masses. They are great as 8/16 bit scientific BASIC computers, not just for gaming, which is fun, and drove the computing industry to where it is today.

Steve Ingham 9-19-2018

Wednesday 19th September 2018
GOplayer (USA)

Years ago, around the late 90s, I seen one of these in the Thrift store for $20.00. I immediately recognized it from ''War Games''. Something told me to buy it, but I had to agree with the wife - I had a lot of computer junk lying around already. In the late 90s, so much old computer stuff was just rotting away. Wish I would have kept more. I did keep the Atari 1200XL of my aunt''s though - all kinds of goodies with it too. Love just browsing this site. That was the only thrift store purchase I really regret not making!!

Tuesday 29th August 2023
Robert E (USA)

I bought my IMSAI 8080 as a kit back in 1976. By 1979 I had it feeding a Heathkit H9 terminal and was running Northstar Basic. Writing and running Basic Code LOL. Everything is still downstairs in my basement in boxes, although I havent fired them up since 1983.

Saturday 12th November 2022
Lorno (Calgary, Canada)


NAME  8080
TYPE  Home Computer
YEAR  Start of 1976
KEYBOARD  None, front panel switches are used to program the system
CPU  Intel 8080A (rarely 8080)
SPEED  2 MHz (each instruction takes 4 clock cycles)
RAM  256 bytes
ROM  Unknown
TEXT MODES  Depending on the video terminal used (optional 64 x 12 card)
SOUND  No speaker in the case
SIZE / WEIGHT  Unknown
I/O PORTS  I/O port
OS  Unknown
POWER SUPPLY  Buit-in power supply unit
PERIPHERALS  S-100 cards
PRICE  $439 kit, $621 assembled (1976) - $599 kit, $931 assembled (1977)

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