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Preserving our IT Heritage: Computers Designed+Assembled in NZ

11:30am 16 September 2010

Bob Doran
Bob Doran HFNZCS & Andrew Trotman

Emeritus Professor / Senior Lecturer

This presentation will outline some of the history of NZ-built computers, focusing primarily on the MDL from Microprocessor Developments Ltd, a Z80 based CP/M machine with 8 inch floppy disk drives, and Poly-1 and Poly-2 (from Progeni), plus the efforts to preserve this history.

In this paper we discuss what we know about the MDL.  This includes information we have collected by dismantling the machine, inspecting the hardware, interviewing one of the designers, and from user anecdotes (we are not aware of any functioning software).

We also outline the Poly, including information collected from discussions with the hardware designers, management of the now defunct Progeni, anecdotal evidence from users, and other artifacts we have collected from various sources.  We discuss the unique design of the Poly Operating System, information we have gathered from our efforts disassembling the ROMs, the Operating System, some of the system tool set, and design documents.

The presentation will also outline the further preservation work being carried out by the University of Otago Poly Preservation Project and the University of Auckland Computer Preservation Project.  This includes the systems put in place to copy and archive the contents of ROMs, of 8 inch floppy disks, and of 5.25 inch floppy disks.  The presentation concludes with a discussion of the problems of preserving digital media for prosperity.

About Bob Doran and Andrew Trotman

Bob Doran is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at Auckland University. He has worked with computers since 1963 and has had research interests in Computer Architecture and Computer History. He looks after displays on computer history in the Computer Science Department.

Andrew Trotman is Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Otago. His  research interests include Information Retrieval, search engines, and Software Engineering. He is responsible for the “Poly Preservation Project” which is intended to preserve and document the Poly computers.