The Kenbak-1 is little-known, but still considered the first "personal" computer! This is a re-creation of this 1971 computer.Designed by Adwater & Stir, Ships from United States of America
New Version - The updated version of the kit includes more historically accurate LED colors (white and yellow), as well as a real time clock: display the current time in binary or BCD. John Blanken...Read More…
New Version - The updated version of the kit includes more historically accurate LED colors (white and yellow), as well as a real time clock: display the current time in binary or BCD.
John Blankenbaker was a visionary. Long before many, he understood that computers were the future. While attending the University of Oregon in 1951 he gave a talk on computers to the mathematics club. That doesn’t sound like so much today, but in 1951 it’s estimated there were fewer than 100 computers world-wide. John set out to create a computer in 1949, but soon discovered it would be too expensive for an individual to build.
In July of 1971 John finally did it: he created the Kenbak-1, the world’s first personal computer. He understood that the capabilities of this computer were limited, but it would fill a niche – to provide a fun and educational method to introduce students to the concepts of computers and programming.
Since the Kenbak-1 was invented before the first microprocessor, the machine didn't have a one-chip CPU but instead was based purely on small-scale integration TTL chips. It was an 8-bit machine with 256 bytes of memory and an equivalent instruction clock speed of 1 MHz, but actual execution speed averaged below 1000 instructions per second due to architectural constraints such as slow access to serial memory.
Unfortunately, the timing and the target market (education) was not quite right. The price was $750 (about $4500 in today’s dollars.) Only 50 units were produced, and the design was sold. But nothing could erase the fact that John Blankenbaker had created the first personal computer.
The Original Kenbak-1 at the Computer History Museum
After the success of my Altair-Duino kit, I knew my next project would be something more esoteric. It needed blinking lights of course, and had to have a great history. The Kenbak-1 fit that bill. I studied all information I could find on the Kenbak-1, but I knew I could never actually use one (it’s estimated there are 17 still in existence, with a minimum price of $25k!)
I came up with a plan and started working on it. I ran into some roadblocks and while Googling, I found the work of Mark Wilson of Christchurch, New Zealand. I sent a few questions to Mark, to which he responded that he had just been to my Altair-Duino website after seeing an article in IEEE Spectrum, and would love to see people have more access to his design and programming through a kit.
This kit is Mark’s brain-child, and is a relatively quick build. I’d even say this kit could serve as a good introduction to both electronic construction and computer operation for a young person.
And that’s why I wanted to make this kit available: as a living testimony to the birth of the computer revolution.
You will receive a professionally-made printed circuit board, all components, a 3D-printed case and laser-engraved front panel, and a spiral bound assembly/instruction manual.
Assembly is easy, even with beginner soldering skills. This kit uses all through-hole components.
BCD Time Display
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I'm a life-long creator, entrepreneur, and tinkerer. When I was very young, I got more enjoyment out of taking my toys apart than playing with them. Now that my kids are growing up, it was time to expose them to the pleasure I got from building, designing, and creating. I'm making a few kits that recreate the early days of computers. These kits are fun and educational, and just a bit nostalgic.