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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The MicroBee Series



Microbee Systems (Australia)
(Previously Applied Technology)


Various, MicroBee 32 was commonest.

Date Launched

June 1982


Not known

Microprocessor type

Zilog Z80A @ 2 MHz
Increased to 3.375 MHz in June 1983

ROM size

16 kilobytes
An extra 12 KB could be added containing a word processor or communications software.

Standard RAM

16 or 32 kilobytes.

Maximum RAM

Depended on model — up to 128 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style

Supplied language

Microworld BASIC

Text resolution

64 x 16 characters
80 x 24 characters with 1983 model.

Graphics resolution

128 x 48 or 512 x 256 pixels

Colours available

Original MicroBee was monochrome.
1983 model added 16 colours, but limited to two different colours in each character position.


Single channel through internal speaker.

Cassette load speed

300 or 1200 baud
Later MicroBee 56, 64 and 128 models were supplied with disk drives and ran CP/M.

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

355 x 230 x 55

Special features

In versions not supplied with a disk drive, the RAM was battery-backed CMOS.

Good points

High graphics resolution.
Designed to be upgradable.
Could easily be networked.

Bad points

Few obvious faults once version with colour was available. Perhaps biggest limitation was a shortage of software compared to higher-selling computers.

How successful?

Sold well to schools in Australia, and many were exported to Sweden and Russia.
Probably approaching 100,000 were sold in total.
Apparently never marketed in the UK.
Microbee Systems lost out to the shift to IBM PC-compatibles in the late 1980s and went out of business.


In 1978 Owen Hill and the electronic components company Applied Technology joined up to market Hill's design for a small computer. It was initially sold as a self-assembly kit, with instructions published in the Magazine Your Computer. Once sales to schools started it was sold pre-assembled.
Microbee Systems' policy was to allow machines to be continuously upgraded as new features became available, hence there were several other models. One of the most popular was known as the Computer-in-a-Book because the disk drives and power supply were in A4 box-file style cases which could be placed on a bookshelf (though they reportedly tended to overheat due to lack of ventilation.)
Read an interview with Owen Hill.

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