Feeds

Microbee flies again

Oz Z80: Back with extra Linux

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Australia’s answer to the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro, the Microbee, is back.

Former Microbee employee Ewan Wordsworth has acquired the company’s intellectual property, stock and trademarks, started his own outfit called Microbee Technology, and is hard at work preparing 100 new-generation assemble-it-yourself Microbee kits. All have been pre-purchased by eager hobbyists.

The computers will ship with original cases Wordsworth purchased from Microbee’s last owners.

The Premium Plus model Wordsworth will sell used two circuit boards. The bottom board housed the CPU and screen controller and Wordsworth’s creation will use original Microbee components that are still in their original packaging and which Wordsworth says “have never been exposed to light” and are therefore all-but pristine.

The top board housed memory, but Wordsworth is building a new version of this board to add Ethernet, an SD card, RS-232 interface and a Coldfire processor. The extra CPU will let the machines dual boot between Microbee’s CP/M, and Shell user interface, or uCLinux.

Microbee debuted in February 1982 with a 30-page insert in long-dead magazine Your PC explaining how to build the computer, then sold only as a kit. Launched at a time when then-popular microcomputers like the BBC Micro or Sinclair Spectrum were imported by speciality retailers or small distributors who offered enthusiastic-but-limited support to Australian buyers. Thanks in part to local staff, later pre-assembled versions of the Microbee quickly found their way into businesses and schools (where they were often denigrated as the 'Microbe'). MicroBee Systems was even briefly listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Wordsworth was an early employee. "I started at MicroBee as a casual sales guy and very quickly moved into the service department doing repairs," he reminisced to The Register. "I eventually managed the Victorian service department when I was 17 or 18 and still at school."

The decision to revive Microbee was fuelled by Wordsworth's undying passion for the brand, plus positive feedback on electronics forums about the idea of a Microbee revival. The company's most recent owners liked the idea of bringing the brand back to life and shipped Wordsworth an archive of software that consumes two cubic metres of 5.25 inch floppy disks.

Wordsworth hopes the new venture will attract electronics enthusiasts who want more than a very simple machine. "I think we target a different type of market than things like Arduino or Raspberry Pi," he said. "Over the last decade the electronics industry has not been very friendly to those who want to learn about how basic microprocessor systems work" and Wordsworth hopes to fill this Microbee-shaped hole.

Wordsworth has also taken possession of 1200 original cases for the Microbee TeleComputer (TC), one of the last models the company produced. No original components for that model are available, but Wordsworth says he plans to "do something similar to the Premium Plus." ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Chipmaker FTDI bricking counterfeit kit
USB-serial imitators whacked by driver update
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.