Author Topic: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!  (Read 7277 times)

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Offline 00WReX

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Not sure if anyone has seen or is interested in the Microbee, an Australian 80's Z80 based computer.
 
Anyway, the Microbee was recently resurrected...
 
New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
 
The New Microbee : I am delighted to be able to re-launch the famous Microbee brand. Having first been
an enthusiast & later working for the company in sales, service and R & D, Microbee has been a large
part of my life. Like so many others, the microbee computer helped launch my I.T. and electronics career.
With the full encouragement & support (which I am very thankful for) from Joe & Serafino DeSimone and
also Owen Hill, the microbee name lives once again as Microbee Technology Pty Ltd, a wholely Australian
& privately owned entity.
 
When I purchased the remnants of the old company, along with the name & intellectual property, there was
an amount of stock that had been put into storage. In amongst the stock was 105 sets of Premium cases
with PCBs just as they had come from the factory, still in their original packaging.  This seemed like
an ideal place to start to bring out a new product targeting the retro-computing market and test market
support for the revival of the company. And so the Premium Plus Kit was born.  As a result though, the
Premium Plus has had to be a limited edition because of the availability of the cases.  While we could
get the cases re-done with new injection moulding dies being made, it is cost prohibitive in the
(comparatively) small quantities that we are talking about.
 
Australia’s own computer The Premium Plus is a hybrid kit computer - that is, the baseboard (which has
the keyboard, Z80 CPU, PIO, 6545 screen controller and video circuits) is supplied in kit form with
comprehensive assembly instructions, and the coreboard is pre-assembled & tested as it is mostly
surface mount technology.  We have put a lot of goodies into the new coreboard design, including
floppy disk emulation and storage via SDcard.  There is also an ethernet port and high speed serial
(RS232) port.  The best bit is that there is also another microprocessor on the new coreboard and it
has been configured to make the Premium Plus a true dual processor computer.
 
Here are the specifications :
Dual Microprocessors* Z80 microprocessor @ 3.375Mhz     * Coldfire V2 (MCF52259) @ 80Mhz
2 Megabytes Ram (1Mbyte shared space, 1Mbyte exclusive to the Coldfire processor )
32k PCG Ram, 2K Color Ram, 2K Attribute ram, 2K Screen ram 4K font rom
Original Premium Series Case,Full 64 Key Keyboard with newly sourced keyswitches & keytops.
Microbee standard DB15 Parallel port, Microbee standard DB25 Serial port, Second serial port for up to 115k baud,
Physical Floppy disk interface supporting up to 2 external floppy drives (option),
SD Card interface for file storage, with Floppy Disk emulation in ‘Z80’ mode - status indicator LED for SD activity,
Ethernet Network port (10/100) including status indicator LEDs for Link Valid & Speed
Monochrome composite Video out, Color composite Video out (option), Color TTL video out (DB9 to monitor),
Full, new release Microbee Shell / CCP / INIT / TRANSFER / BACKUP software supplied on SDcard.
Built in software : Disk boot prom, Self Test, Machine Langauge Monitor.
Other software on SDcard : uCLinux, Z80 mode Microbee Shell etc.

All of the normal Microbee functionality has been retained and it still uses a Z80 processor but now we’ve added
a Freescale Coldfire processor into the mix which allows it to run uClinux!
 
It is a limited edition and only 100 units will be available in total.
 
Ewan J. Wordsworth
Director.

These kits were all sold via pre-order, but it appears that another 5 have been made available.
This is very cool and very tempting....
 
Some more Microbee info...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MicroBee
http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/298412,the-microbee-stages-a-comeback.aspx
Microbee Technology - Home page
The Microbee MSPP (Microbee microcomputer Software, documentation and ROMs)
 
A Microbee online emulator...
NanoWasp - A MicroBee Emulator

Cheers,
Shane
 
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Offline 00WReX

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #1 on: 12:00, 03 November 12 »
[attachimg=1]
 
Pictured is the block diagram for the Premium Plus Coreboard.
When first powered on, or at a reset, the Coldfire processor starts and
initialises the basics of the system and the Z80 (which is on the Premium
baseboard) remains in a reset state - doing nothing.
The Coldfire processor programs the gate array (seen in the middle), checks
the SDcard availability and initialising memory.  After these things are done,
the Coldfire processor decides which mode to ‘boot’ into - Z80 ‘bee’ mode or
remain in Coldfire mode and boot its operating system off the SDcard.
If the Z80 mode is chosen, registers within the gate array are modified to
let the Z80 start executing code & boot as a normal Premium model.
 
 
[attachimg=2][attachimg=3]
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Offline Gryzor

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #2 on: 20:59, 03 November 12 »
Would love to have one, a nice project for someone not named Bryce, but the price... :(

Offline rpalmer

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #3 on: 22:15, 03 November 12 »
While i was in tertiary education in the mid 80's I was taught simple programming on the microbee!

Online Bryce

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #4 on: 22:41, 03 November 12 »
Would love to have one, a nice project for someone not named Bryce, but the price... :(

I actually rather like this project, but the fact that everything is already soldered onto the PCB kind of makes it boring for me :(

Bryce.

Offline ivarf

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #5 on: 22:54, 03 November 12 »
I remember reading reviews of the Microbee in old norwegian computer magazines, 1984 I think. Maybe 16 kB, definitely not 128 kB at the time

Offline AMSDOS

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #6 on: 23:09, 03 November 12 »
I don't actually know a lot about these machines which I guess is a surprise given I'm an Aussie. I seem to recall seeing an Advertisement somewhere which showed how expensive these machines were, and I have a magazine somewhere with a Microbee type-in in it called "Sheepdog Trails".  :D Though I've noticed that game has got around, even the Amstrad I think had a version. Not sure where the original "Sheepdog Trails" game came from, though I think there was a version of it written for the IBM BASIC in the early 80s.
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Offline 00WReX

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #7 on: 01:43, 04 November 12 »
I actually rather like this project, but the fact that everything is already soldered onto the PCB kind of makes it boring for me :(

Bryce.

 
The original Microbee board...(which has the keyboard, Z80 CPU, PIO, 6545 screen controller and video circuits) is supplied in kit form so nothing is pre soldered to this.
The second board (coreboard) with the Coldfire V2 (MCF52259) is pre assembled as this board is the modern board using surface mount comonents.
Also you have to assemble all the keybaord including all the key switches and even the power supply is a kit.

But like CP/M user I do not now much about these machines, in the late eighties I did bump into a guy that was using one...but these machines
seemed a bit obscure even then, although they did win an education department contract in the state of New south Wales so I'm sure if you went
to school there in the eighties you may remember them.

I just think the concept is quite cool, and the fact the the cases & original main board is left over (brand new) stock from the eighties is pretty cool.
This is why they only have 105 total available.

Here is a nice retro Promotional video put together in 1986 for the Hannover Fair / CeBIT trade show.
 
Microbee - "The Evolutionary Computers" (c.1986)
 
Microbee - "The Evolutionary Computers" (c.1986)
Microbee - "The Evolutionary Computers" (c.1986)
 
If nothing else it's worth jumping to 3:15 just to check out what the school teacher is wearing...

Cheers,
Shane
« Last Edit: 02:12, 04 November 12 by 00WReX »
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Offline TFM

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #8 on: 03:12, 04 November 12 »
A major drawback is the limitation of 100 pieces. Only 100 users mean... nearly nobody creating software for it.
 
 
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Offline AMSDOS

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #9 on: 05:03, 04 November 12 »

Microbee - "The Evolutionary Computers" (c.1986)
 
Microbee - "The Evolutionary Computers" (c.1986)
Microbee - "The Evolutionary Computers" (c.1986)
 


I thought that Doco was quite enlightening, and somewhat surprising what those machines could do in 1986, had no idea there was a 32-bit Microbee Gamma. I guess upon reflection to what I said earlier about the cost of the machines, the cost could easily reflect which system your dealing with. Just reading this Wikipedia page about it though was saying that the Microbee Gamma never made it onto the market.


Wonder what happened to the Viatel System? I had no idea it could hook you up to some of the big companies - e.g. Qantas.  :o
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Offline AMSDOS

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #10 on: 08:42, 04 November 12 »
I don't actually know a lot about these machines which I guess is a surprise given I'm an Aussie. I seem to recall seeing an Advertisement somewhere which showed how expensive these machines were, and I have a magazine somewhere with a Microbee type-in in it called "Sheepdog Trails".  :D Though I've noticed that game has got around, even the Amstrad I think had a version. Not sure where the original "Sheepdog Trails" game came from, though I think there was a version of it written for the IBM BASIC in the early 80s.


Well the good news with that game was I was able to track it down and type it in, into a Java based Emulator called Nanowasp. Unfortunately I wasn't able to save it, though have sent an email to the author just to see how I can upload it. It was a joy playing the game while I had it in Memory, I guess part of the pain and agony is having a large type-in for another computer you don't know too much about, and not being able to check it out, perhaps that was part of the reason why people have a couple of computer systems to check things out.  :D
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Offline Gryzor

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #11 on: 21:13, 04 November 12 »
The promo video is actually quite cool, and rather impressive.

As for the teaching part, more interesting than the teacher's choice of colour is the turtle - so the thing had LOGO?

Offline AMSDOS

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #12 on: 23:38, 04 November 12 »
The promo video is actually quite cool, and rather impressive.

As for the teaching part, more interesting than the teacher's choice of colour is the turtle - so the thing had LOGO?


No doubt, it would of been in Competition with the Apple ][ based computers and those Apples had a few things on them including LOGO. All the schools I went to though had Apple ][e's.  :o
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Online Bryce

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #13 on: 12:24, 05 November 12 »
The video is cool. Was there anybody in Australia NOT using a Microbee (other than CP/M User who seems to have slept through the entire Evolution :D). When did they find time to buy all those blue jumpsuits, over-sized glasses and square looking Holdens? :D

Bryce.

Offline 00WReX

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #14 on: 13:13, 05 November 12 »
The video is cool. Was there anybody in Australia NOT using a Microbee (other than CP/M User who seems to have slept through the entire Evolution :D ). When did they find time to buy all those blue jumpsuits, over-sized glasses and square looking Holdens? :D

Bryce.


 
I don't know what you're talking about.
That video is current, only filmed last month... ;D
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Offline AMSDOS

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #15 on: 14:20, 05 November 12 »
I think it's very safe to say that in Australia, we have a history of investing in overseas rather than looking locally. Much of our resources which were invented here have being brought out cause Governments or Companies were looking for the Quick Buck rather than benefit from the opportunity and if Australia had a chance to benefit from something, nothing was done cause the country is being managed by a bunch of bludgers.


So in terms of 8bit Computing, I haven't seen a good deal of different computers, the dominant ones I knew through the 80s and 90s were Apple ][ based or C64s. I never knew anyone here (in Aust.) who had a Spectrum, and there was probably just one other kid I knew in Secondary School who had an Amstrad.
It might of been different if I was in New South Wales, which I think is where they had the schools using MicroBees, so it might of just been a question being in a different state might of determined what the popular system might have been used in schools.  :D 


Though it's always good to put into perspective that looking to other places overseas is something which frequently happens here, probably because we're a country made up of people from different parts of the world, and we had a history of neglecting something to the point a product is either brought out overseas or it's gone for good and by that time it's too late.  :(
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Online Bryce

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Re: New Microbee Premium Plus Kit computer - Build it yourself!
« Reply #16 on: 14:41, 05 November 12 »
Difficult place to understand Australia. Years back, the English "exported" all the Irish "Entrepreneurs" (known then as "thieves") to Australia. Now when you read the papers the Australians seem to be sending them all back home when they display unsavoury characteristics.

Bryce.