The IMSAI 8080
List Price: US $931 assembled, US $599 as a kit
Release Date: August 1975
Built by IMS Associates, Inc. of San Leandro, California, the IMSAI 8080 is one of the first consumer computers available.
True, there were other, earlier computers, but most were available in kit-form only, requiring long and complicated assembly. The IMSAI was certainly the best-looking of the early micro-computers, and was sold as both a kit or already-assembled and tested. The kit version was hundreds of dollars cheaper, but it took many long days of careful soldering and assembly to create a (hopefully) working IMSAI.
In its simplest configuration with only a CPU (Central Processing Unit) card, you enter your program using the front panel switches, while reading the results on the LED indicator lights. No keyboard or other display is necessary. This type of programming is very slow and tedious – any mistake could corrupt the system and you’d have to start over again. Only true hackers were successful at efficiently operating an IMSAI 8080.