1975/6 Cramerkit Intel 8080A Microcomputer

Larry and Janet Yeager sitting with their “cramerkit” 8080 microcomputer designed by Microcomputer Technique Inc. and distributed by Cramer Electronics, Inc.

Cramerkit? Never heard of it.

In late 1975 the first advertisements for the Cramer Kit were run in the leading industry journals. I found an ad from late 1975 where Cramer Electronics, Inc. claimed that assembly of the not-yet-available computer would take minutes, meaning most of the kit including the wirewrapping was assembled at the factory. Think IKEA furnitue. Not a bad deal for $495 (or did they mean $1495?), but still expensive in today’s dollars. The ad is incomplete and seems to have errors. See for yourself, I need to find a better version. We should have at least one mag with this ad in our library.

The initial response to the advertising was far greater than any one at Cramer would have believed possible. Some 55,000 people sent in the response card included with the ad. Albert Dinicola (VP Sales at the time) decided to follow up each response card with a visit by a field salesperson. The sales force suddenly found itself dealing with professional engineers rather than purchasing agents, who asked technical questions that went far beyond the ability of the salesperson to answer. In addition, a sales call often lasted several hours, resulted in no Cramer Kit sales, and caused the sales force to fall behind in its regular activity. The follow-up calls were terminated very shortly after they began. The 55,000 responses resulted in sales of only 500 Cramer Kits.1

If you were lucky enough to get one, the kit was supposedly priced to sell at just under $1,000 (not $495 or $1495). Cramer Electronics claimed this was a bargain compared with a cost of $1,750 if all the pieces were purchased separately.

Larry Yeager, whose machine is pictured in this article, did not purchase the retail kit. Insted, he built one himself from plans and schematics he acquired. “..Keep in mind I built mine from scrounged parts.  The wire panel was from my days at AEL in Colmar, PA.  In 1976 I changed employers and went to Medcraft, Inc. in Skippack, PA.  I used a scrapped base plate from one of their products.  The front and rear panels were made in their machine shop.  Medcraft paid for the Intel parts.  The OEM linear supply was excess equipment, while the +/-12VDC supply was from a scrapped Medcraft product.  The other parts were scrounged or I purchased.  I spray painted the case in my apartment; not the best place to do it.

The Kit, as I recall did not come with any cassettes; only the EPROM which I duplicated.  I don’t have any cassettes which I used. ..”

A side view of the “cramerkit” motherboard and front panel. Note the wirewrap posts used in lieu of soldering the system together. The “cramerkit” was not an S-100 bus microcomputer like contemporary 8080 systems at the time, although on first impression it looks a lot like a MITS Altair 8080. Expansion would be added directly to the motherboard (including an S-100 bus if one wanted to add this).
Close up view of the “cramerkit” front panel. The front panel was used to set memory values, operate the on-board ROM monitor program and the cassette interface used to load and save programs.

Larry built his “cramerkit” as a hardware exercise he never actually used it other than loading and running a few test programs to make sure it was functioning correctly.

If you’re interested in learning more about the technical details and more photos of this machine, visit my post on vintagecomputer.net which will be updated as progress is made. It is possible to add a terminal which could be used to interface with the ROM monitor program. That’s probably what I’d like to work to achieve to make this machine more usable.

1Smith, Lynne. Harvard Business School. “Cramer Electronics, Inc.” page 14.