If you attended a NSW public school in the mid-1980s, there's a good chance you tinkered around with a Microbee computer.
These Australian-made Micros debuted in 1982 and soon made their way into classrooms around New South Wales. Boasting an 8-bit Zilog Z80 processor, 2KB of PCG RAM and MicroWorld BASIC, they were tailor-made for educational use and came with a keyboard and monitor. In 1987 the company released its final computer - the suitably antipodean-sounding 'Matilda', which added a 3.5in floppy disk drive, colour graphics and more memory.
Now brace yourself - after close to 25 years, the Microbee is staging a comeback. Really.
"As Australian as ever, Microbee is back with a mixture of old and new to put the buzz back into computing," states the Microebee web site. "...We are very excited to be able to offer some great technology [and] offer up a new kit computer to encourage and support new I.T. careers in the making."
The new Microbee 'Premium Plus' in all its glory.
At this stage we only have the information on the Microbee web site to go on - credit to Zgeek for tipping us off to it. To be perfectly honest, we'd like to verify all this. We've contacted the new owner of Microbee to find out more and will update the article as soon as they get back to us.
Menatime, the web site claims the new Microbee, dubbed the Premium Plus, comes in kit form "with comprehensive assembly instructions" for $399.
Unlike most 'retro' hardware revivals which often slap a logo on a regular PC, the new Microbee model boasts genuine components from the era. This includes a Z80 microprocessor, a built-in keyswitch keyboard, 6545 screen controller and the original video circuits. Other system highlights include 2MB RAM, 2K of Color Ram, a DB25 Serial port and support for up to two external floppy disk drives.
"We have put a lot of goodies into the new coreboard design, including floppy disk emulation and storage via SDcard," states the Microbee website. "The best bit is that there is also another microprocessor on the new coreboard [an 80Mhz Coldfire V2 (MCF52259)] and it has been configured to make the Premium Plus a true dual processor computer."
The Premium Plus fuses old and new technology.
Although it isn't as fondly remembered as other micro computers of the era, the MicroBee still enjoys something of a cult following. Indeed, the first limited-edition run of 100 units has already been exhausted via pre-order. (For the time being, you'll have to try your luck on eBay or a car boot sale.)
At $399, it does seem a lot to pay for a dose of nostalgia - especially in the face of the $25, Quake-playing Rasberry Pi.
Here is a video of the new MicroBee Premium Plus in action below: