IMSAI 8080


The IMSAI 8080 is an early microcomputer released in 1975 by IMS Associates, Inc. It is based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor and is considered one of the first personal computers in the market. The IMSAI 8080 popularized the S-100 bus architecture, contributing to the growth of the personal computer industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


I-M-S-A-I Eight-Zero-Eight-ZeroHere’s the phonetic breakdown:I – IndiaM – MikeS – SierraA – AlphaI – IndiaSpace8 – Eight0 – Zero8 – Eight0 – Zero

Key Takeaways

  1. The IMSAI 8080 was an early microcomputer released in 1975, and it was based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor.
  2. It played a significant role in the popularization of personal computers, offering users a powerful machine with an expandable design at an affordable price.
  3. The IMSAI 8080 was featured prominently in the 1983 movie “WarGames,” showcasing its widely recognized blue front panel with red switches.


The IMSAI 8080 is a historically significant early microcomputer, first introduced in 1975.

This groundbreaking device played a pivotal role in the evolution of personal computing by making the technology accessible to consumers and hobbyists.

Based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor, the IMSAI 8080 provided users with a powerful and versatile platform for programming and hardware interfacing.

It also competed with the likes of the Altair 8800, contributing to a rapidly emerging microcomputer market and fostering innovation in software development and hardware design.

Thus, the IMSAI 8080 represents a key milestone in the proliferation of personal computers and their eventual ubiquity in modern life.


The IMSAI 8080 was a pioneering microcomputer released in 1975, serving as a crucial piece of technology in the early stages of personal computing. Its primary purpose was to offer users the means to take advantage of cutting-edge microprocessor technology for both recreational and professional tasks. Aimed at hobbyists and technology enthusiasts, the IMSAI 8080 provided a platform for learning programming and hardware interfacing, with its open architecture design enabling unprecedented access to its underlying components.

As a result, it played a critical role in the emergence of computing clubs, where individuals could share their knowledge and experiences while fostering innovation and collaborative learning in the tech era. In addition to its educational and recreational uses, the IMSAI 8080 found applications in a wide array of professional domains. It was utilized by businesses and scientific communities for data processing, automation, and research purposes.

The IMSAI 8080’s flexible hardware allowed for the addition of external peripherals such as printers, cassette storage devices, and other input/output devices that substantially expanded its capabilities. With its accessible design and powerful Intel 8080 microprocessor, the IMSAI 8080 embodied a paradigm shift in computing. It enabled a generation of tinkerers, developers, and visionaries to harness the immense potential of microcomputers, setting the foundation for the widespread adoption of personal computers in the decades to come.

Examples of IMSAI 8080

The IMSAI 8080 was an early microcomputer released in 1975, popular during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor and was one of the first personal computers available for purchase by consumers and businesses. Here are three real-world examples of its use and impact:

Use in Home Computing: The IMSAI 8080 played a significant role in introducing personal computing to the general public. Hobbyists and enthusiasts purchased the microcomputers to explore programming, develop early software applications, and set up home control systems for tasks such as automating lights or adjusting thermostats.

Education and Training: Educational institutions, particularly universities and technical schools, used the IMSAI 8080 to teach students about computer programming, hardware architecture, and system design. The microcomputer provided hands-on experience for the students who would later become the pioneers of the computer age, forming the foundation of many early computer science curricula.

Movie Appearance: The IMSAI 8080 was featured prominently in the 1983 film “WarGames,” starring Matthew Broderick. In the movie, Broderick’s character, a teenage hacker, uses an IMSAI 8080 to access a military supercomputer and unwittingly set off a potentially catastrophic chain of events. The film raised public awareness about the potential risks associated with computer hacking and showcased the IMSAI 8080 to a broader audience. The movie also reinforced the perception of the IMSAI 8080 as an iconic computer of that era.

FAQs about IMSAI 8080

What is IMSAI 8080?

The IMSAI 8080 was an early microcomputer released in 1975 by IMS Associates, Inc. It utilized the Intel 8080 microprocessor and was one of the first computers available for consumers in the form of a kit or pre-assembled.

What was the significance of IMSAI 8080?

As one of the earliest consumer microcomputers, the IMSAI 8080 played a significant role in the development of personal computing. Its success helped inspire many other computer companies and the hobbyist computer movement, leading the way for the computers to become a ubiquitous part of everyday life.

What were the specifications of the IMSAI 8080?

The IMSAI 8080 featured a 2 MHz Intel 8080 CPU, 256 bytes of RAM, an S-100 bus for expansion, and a front panel with switches and LEDs for control and debugging. It was typically paired with a teletype or CRT terminal for user input and output, as well as an optional paper tape reader and cassette tape storage.

How much did the IMSAI 8080 cost?

At its release, the IMSAI 8080 was priced at $439 for the kit version and $621 for the assembled version, not including the cost of peripherals like a keyboard or monitor. In today’s money, these prices are roughly equivalent to $2,000 and $2,800, respectively.

Was the IMSAI 8080 featured in any popular media?

Yes, the IMSAI 8080 gained some notoriety when it appeared in the 1983 film “WarGames.” In the movie, the computer was used by the main character, played by Matthew Broderick, to hack into the NORAD missile control system and almost accidentally cause a global thermonuclear war.

Related Technology Terms

  • Microcomputer
  • CP/M Operating System
  • Intel 8080 CPU
  • S-100 Bus
  • Altair 8800

Sources for More Information


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