ID: 
1063
Maker's Name: 
Microworld Pty Ltd.
Dimensions: 
35 × 24 × 5 cm

This object is a Microbee Computer Keyboard. Made by Microworld Pty Ltd in Australia in 1982. The plastic black and white case contains a keyboard and mini computer. The technology is based off a Zilog Z80, an 8 bit microprocessor that was designed in in 1976. This keyboard computer could be connected to a small screen which could display 16 lines, each 64 characters long. These computers were often sold in kits and were called ‘computer-in-a-book’, and later the company sold the kits pre made, in their distinctive two tone casings. This keyboard unit was known as the ‘main board’. A second board, the ‘core board’, contains the memory and sometimes a floppy disk controller could also be attached.

This Microbee computer supports BASIC, an algorithmic programming language. BASIC, an acronym of Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, was designed in 1964 by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz to allow students who were not studying science or maths to use computers. At the time of BASIC’s design, almost all computers required the user to write custom software which was something that was only learned by maths and science students. From the mid-1970s to the 1980s versions of BASIC became widely used on microcomputers such as this Microbee. Having an easily learnt programming language on personal computers allowed a variety of people to develop custom software on affordable computers. Today BASIC is still popular in some dialects and has influenced the development of other programming languages such as Microsoft's’ Visual Basic.

Several hundred thousand Microbees were made and sold all over Australia and overseas during the 1980s. They were the first computers to make significant inroads into Australian schools. The first Microbee computer was designed by an Australian team including Owen Hill and Matthew Star.

This item is part of the UQ Physics Museum ‘Paper Tape and Punched Cards’ Tour
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