Resurrecting the Retro-futuristic Poly-1


[Tez] has acquired and resurrected a piece of New Zealand computing history, the Poly-1. To anyone who went to school in 1980s Britain, the Poly-1 appears to be a cooler, mirror universe version of Acorn’s BBC Micro. Like the humble Beeb, the Poly-1 was designed primarily for educational use. It also used a related, but superior, microprocessor (the Motorola 6809).

However while the legacy of Acorn lives on in the ARM architecture, only a few thousand Poly-1s were ever sold and it appears to have been largely forgotten.


The Poly-1’s demise was likely in part due to its high price tag — around $5,000 USD — its lack of support within New Zealand, and the difficulty that the small New Zealand company had breaking into international markets: issues which eventually killed off many similar 1980s computer companies in the UK, Japan and elsewhere.

But it’s still fascinating to look back, not just in nostalgia, but in admiration of the intrepid 1980s hackers who created these beautiful machines and the dream of a world that might have been.

10 thoughts on “Resurrecting the Retro-futuristic Poly-1

  1. I remember playing with one in the early 80s, in one of the Hutt Valley Memorial College’s maths classroom one night in winter when they had the computers for a few weeks (yes, you only had computers in the classrooms for a week or two at the time).

    They were there for only a short time, and they were awesome compared with others like the ZX80/ZX81 – but then they cost many times the price of a Sinclair.

    1. That would suck, having them carted away just as you were getting into programming. I loved my ZX81 (still have it as the Air Force thought it was a great idea to engrave your SSN on all your valuables). I even have the Memotek 32k memory module.

  2. Awesome trip down memory lane. My high school got 4 trial units in about ’82. Sadly, they were only used during typing class :(

    At the time I had a TRS-80 Color Computer, which had the same OS as those machines, so instead of typing, I got to show of my programming skills!

  3. I like the shell design and The MC6809 was the best 8 bits CPU of its time.
    The enclosed CRT, keyboard and the handle qualify it as portable computer, maybe the first portable computer.

  4. We had those for a few weeks at the Nelson College library back in about 1982 I think. They were pretty cool (I remember the traffic light simulation game) but the Apple ][ was already getting a lot more attention and thanks to Apple’s education push, it was cheaper.

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