Author Topic: The Microbee computer is back!  (Read 7710 times)

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Online EEVblog

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The Microbee computer is back!
« on: December 11, 2011, 04:58:44 am »
Yes, the title is correct, and it's available as a DIY kit as it originally was back in the 80's
http://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/

Non-Australian's will likely have no idea what I'm talking about!

Dave.
 

Offline McMonster

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2011, 05:07:35 am »
It seems that curiosity spared the cat and killed the site this time. :P
 

Uncle Vernon

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2011, 05:12:26 am »
Yes, the title is correct, and it's available as a DIY kit as it originally was back in the 80's
http://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/

Non-Australian's will likely have no idea what I'm talking about!

Dave.
The question is, why?  I can understand doing basic in stuff like Maximite. But why spend most of cost of a decent notebook on yesterdays dream? I don't get it, the form factor is all wrong for it actually being useful and to top it off there is a floppy drive in development. why would you even consider that when USB offers Gigabytes for a fraction of the cost?

Maybe I should get the chassis punch out and a bag of old toggles and whip up some retro Altairs.
 

Offline slateraptor

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2011, 05:14:14 am »
http://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/premiumpluskit.htm

"The fantastic new Premium Plus Limited Edition kit will be available at $399.00 (the same as the original 16K kit bee!)"

LMFAO! On the other hand, it'd be kinda cool to tinker with.
 

Offline slateraptor

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2011, 05:17:28 am »
The question is, why?

In a word: nostalgia.

Just imagine the looks you'd get whipping that bad boy out of your backpack in the middle of a university.

EDIT:

"It is a limited edition and only 100 units will be available in total."

Well, I guess we can definitively factor out profit as a motivating factor.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 05:25:15 am by slateraptor »
 

Uncle Vernon

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2011, 05:24:11 am »
Just imagine the looks you'd get whipping that bad boy out of your backpack in the middle of a university.
I'd imagine similar to the looks you'd get turning up at  Nascar qualifying in a Nissan Cedric!


« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 05:31:48 am by Uncle Vernon »
 

Offline slateraptor

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2011, 05:26:26 am »
I'd imagine similar to the looks you'd get turning up at  Nascar qualifying in a Nissan Cedric!

We definitely don't have those in the US. LOL!

EDIT: Yeah, did some searching and it turns out the Nissan Cedric was replaced by the Fuga, which is equivalent to the US Infiniti G35 and G37.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 05:33:20 am by slateraptor »
 

Online amspire

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2011, 05:32:08 am »
I used to have one.

It was brilliant at the time - it had a very good built-in Basic interpreter.

But at the time, I couldn't upgrade to a "real" CP/M 2.2  computer fast enough and I never touched it again.

Richard.
 

Offline don.r

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2011, 05:34:29 am »
I'm sure my cell phone has an emulator of that.
 

Offline johnboxall

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2011, 06:11:33 am »
Yes, the title is correct, and it's available as a DIY kit as it originally was back in the 80's
http://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/

Non-Australian's will likely have no idea what I'm talking about!

Dave.
The question is, why?  I can understand doing basic in stuff like Maximite. But why spend most of cost of a decent notebook on yesterdays dream? I don't get it, the form factor is all wrong for it actually being useful and to top it off there is a floppy drive in development. why would you even consider that when USB offers Gigabytes for a fraction of the cost?

Maybe I should get the chassis punch out and a bag of old toggles and whip up some retro Altairs.

Someone's beat you to it - http://www.brielcomputers.com/store.html :)

Online EEVblog

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2011, 07:40:06 am »
The question is, why?  I can understand doing basic in stuff like Maximite. But why spend most of cost of a decent notebook on yesterdays dream? I don't get it, the form factor is all wrong for it actually being useful and to top it off there is a floppy drive in development. why would you even consider that when USB offers Gigabytes for a fraction of the cost?

There is always a niche nostalgia market for popular old computers. It's been done with the Apple I, Altair, C64, Amiga, and a raft of others.
He'll sell his 100 units, but to get a much bigger market outside of the Bee nostalgia buffs, it's gotta be:
a) Open source hardware and software
b) In a more modern useful form factor like the Maximite et.al.
And of course, that's not really possible in a Microbee form factor.
Stick the Microbee code into a Maximite/Arduino type thing and you's have something.

Personally, I wouldn't have bothered with the coldfire and the extra stuff, a straight clone would have sold just as many. Possibly with a simple PIC/AVR to handle the SD card storage emulation, and keep it all through-hole. The "hybrid" SMD kit kinda takes the luster off it.

Dave.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2011, 07:44:29 am »
"The fantastic new Premium Plus Limited Edition kit will be available at $399.00 (the same as the original 16K kit bee!)"
LMFAO! On the other hand, it'd be kinda cool to tinker with.

Yeah, I'd buy and build one, for old time sakes, but not at $399.
But the people in the microbee/vintage computer community have money.
I once sold an issue of Your Computer magazine that had the original Microbee liftout in it for over $100!

Dave.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2011, 08:41:02 am »
Ewan who is behind the new Microbee sent me and email and gave permission to post it, shedding some light on the project:

Quote
I’m the director of Microbee Technology Pty Ltd and I’d like to give you a run down on what
we are about.
 
I have thought for some time that the interest in getting involved in electronics within Australia
has been lost to a great degree for newcomers to the hobby / industry.  Having grown up in that
golden time of the late 70’s and early 80’s where there were so many opportunities for getting
into electronics and computing I see nothing like it today & find that it is rather sad.
Like many others found, the Microbee computer (for me) was a great seed that grew into very
rewarding electronics career.  An enthusiast first, and then an employee later, Microbee has been
a big part of my life.
 
In bringing Microbee back it is my aim to relive some of the past, but more importantly to encourage
a future in electronics for others. I must also say that along the way I have been encouraged and
inspired to go down this path by the clips I have seen of the ‘State of Electronics’ video where it seems
that I’m not the only one who has concerns about the lack of new electronics enthusiasts.
People may still be choosing electronics engineering as a career path, but I wonder how many of
those people are doing it because they are enthusiasts to start with and not just going down that
path because it might be a good thing to do?
 
The Premium Plus kit is an attempt to marry the old and new together.  To support the people that
want to get their hands on a bee again (and there is a quite a number of them) and to encourage
people to get stuck into some hardware as well.  While there are some fantastic microcontrollers around
(PICs, Atmels, STM’s..  the list goes on) I feel that a lot of the boards that people ‘play’ with
are single chip solutions with a power supply and a few connectors attached that don’t really teach
anything about electronics from the ground up and are more ‘learn to program’ tools.
While there is certainly a big place for those boards I still think its valid to learn from basic principles
to start with.
 
Although it is not clear on the Premium Plus pages (and this is something I will attend to) it is stated
on the main (index) page that the kit is in fact a hybrid kit.  That is, that the baseboard which has the
Z80 CPU, PIO, Screen controller & display memory, and the keyboard is the kit part that you
assemble – all through-hole components of the original (Premium Microbee) design.
The new coreboard is surface mount and pre-assembled and tested and while we could have brought
out the machine with its normal coreboard that had the floppy controller, boot rom and 128K ram on it,
that seemed a backwards step..  Floppy disks are hard to find these days and many people asked
for some method of solid state removable storage.
To support that, it was decided to include Floppy disk emulation storage with an SDcard so that
you could get files and disk images off the web on your PC, put them on the SDcard and run them
on your bee, fully compatible with the bee’s original CP/M.  This is also good for archiving older
floppy disks as there is an option for the physical floppy interface as well.
The coldfire processor was originally put into the design just to support the floppy disk emulation
but with a few extra bits it was determined that it could be much more functional and be used as
a second processor that would support a port of uClinux.
So, it is a cross-over machine – allowing people to run their old bee software but also introducing
them to more current technology at the same time.  And for those not particularly familiar with the
old Microbees that actually want to build some hardware, it gives them a platform that already has a great
amount of software available for it.
Perhaps I’ll leave it at that for now, but I hope you get the idea.
 
Obviously, what I’m attempting to do is not going to be everyone's cup of tea and I
expect some criticism, but so far the response has been very encouraging.  I have had lots of
enthusiastic comments sent to me since going live with the website 2 weeks ago.
At this point there is already 70 out of the 100 units total allocated to people who have registered
to purchase them when they are available.
 
I hope this gives you more of an idea as to what we are about & I’d love to hear from you
with any questions or comments you might have.
 
Best regards,
 
 
Ewan J. Wordsworth
Director,
Microbee Technology Pty Ltd.
 

Offline johnwa

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2011, 11:50:10 am »
Cool, we had one of these at primary school. Unfortunately, I never really got a chance to use it much, but I remember some of the other kids drawing various geometric patterns using Logo. It was eventually pushed aside in favour of the "new" Amiga 500s.
 

Offline johnboxall

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2011, 12:03:53 pm »
This brings back fond memories of Microbee networking attempts. Our school started with the 32k cassette-based models. They rigged up a really long cable down one side of the school block, which would run in and out of the computer rooms, where each computer was tapped into it... the teacher would press 'play' on the tape deck and we would all hit load at the same time!

A couple of years later the funding came in for the Beenet and Starnet file servers. You could have 16 (?) basic 'bees request a file from the Beenet server which would transmit them one at a time... it could take 20 minutes before the whole class had their software. The Starnet server with the 10 MB hard drive was much better, and had an awesome display screen. Except it would crash in hot weather, generally the last few minutes before the end of class. If there was one thing that Applied Technology never really nailed it was controlling heat in Microbees.

Offline johnboxall

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2011, 12:24:28 pm »
here's a pretty smooth emulator - http://www.nanowasp.org/

Online amspire

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2011, 12:45:41 pm »
A couple of years later the funding came in for the Beenet and Starnet file servers. You could have 16 (?) basic 'bees request a file from the Beenet server which would transmit them one at a time... it could take 20 minutes before the whole class had their software.

Networking MicroBees! You are scaring me now.
 

Offline Zad

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2011, 11:08:18 pm »
It sounds like the Aussie equivalent of the BBC Micro, only less elegant. It is hard to explain the influence of the BBC Micro to non-UK people, but it is one of the reasons the UK has such a strong software industry. The OS, Basic and integrated assembler were superb. Coincidentally, it had it's 30th birthday the other day:

http://www.reghardware.com/2011/11/30/bbc_micro_model_b_30th_anniversary/

The user guides were utterly brilliant, I have yet to see a product manual since then that  even approached the quality. Eventually, of course, it gave birth to the ubiquitous ARM architecture.

Offline Halcyon

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2017, 11:13:13 am »
How on earth did I miss this thread before?! I remember the Microbee! It was not PC-compatible though so it made installing stuff a bit of a pain.
 

Offline johnboxall

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2017, 11:21:46 am »
If you find yourself in the eastern end of what is Melbourne, you can visit the Microbee office and check out a few working examples - along with a working Gamma. Best to call in advance. Two minutes walk from Mooroolbark railway station.
https://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/
 
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Offline Halcyon

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2017, 11:30:40 am »
If you find yourself in the eastern end of what is Melbourne, you can visit the Microbee office and check out a few working examples - along with a working Gamma. Best to call in advance. Two minutes walk from Mooroolbark railway station.
https://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/

I wish I knew this before! I was in Melbourne earlier in the year for The Book of Mormon musical (well worth seeing if you haven't already!). Stopped by Bartronica, had a blast!
 

Offline djos

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Re: The Microbee computer is back!
« Reply #21 on: August 30, 2017, 09:22:53 am »
Yes, the title is correct, and it's available as a DIY kit as it originally was back in the 80's
http://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/

Non-Australian's will likely have no idea what I'm talking about!

Dave.

I live a suburb away from Ewan's shop in Mooroolbark (outer east of Melbourne) and have popped in for a chat on the way home from work, he's a super nice bloke and his collection of Microbee's is really worth checking out for vintage computer nerds (like me).
« Last Edit: August 30, 2017, 09:27:34 am by djos »
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