MITS Altair 8800 Jukebox Exhibit

MITS 8800b RF Music System
The MITS Altair 8800b Jukebox System

Newly installed, we have a fun little demo exhibit called the MITS Altair 8800 Jukebox that has been designed to play musical tunes over the AM radio. The Altair does this by executing instructions that through trial and error have been found to produce musical notes that can be picked up by an AM radio.

Altair Music Code Listing
The first page of the Altair Jukebox Code.

Steve Dompier’s May 1975 People’s Computer Company newsletter article Music of a Sort (republished in Dr. Dobbs Feb 1976) describes how one would generate music with a MITS Altair by using the front panel to generate tones that could be received over an AM radio. Starting with this program I wanted to experiment with ways to automate the use of this program by creating a “jukebox” interface that can be used from a period-appropriate terminal to play various musical selections.

It’s clumsy and somewhat limited but I was able to transpose a number of songs for the Altair to play using Dompier’s program. Next I installed the instructions on Intel 1702 ROM chips so that they can be recalled easily using a serial terminal connected to the computer.

MITS 8800b with Jukebox code
The MITS Altair 8800b model with code listing perched on top.

If you’d like to read more about the technical aspects of this project, click here