Hardware hackers of a certain age likely got started with microcontrollers via the RCA 1802 — a relatively easy-to-use processor that was the subject of several excellent articles in Popular Electronics magazine back in the late 1970s. [Al’s Geek Lab] has an interview with [Hugh Anderson], who saw the articles and eventually designed the HUG1802, which may be the first microcontroller kit designed and sold in New Zealand.
The 1802 was very attractive at the time since it was inexpensive, static, didn’t require exotic voltages, and had a DMA system that allowed you to load software without complex ROMs. He initially marketed a kit unsuccessfully until an Australian company convinced him to create a proper PC board — the resulting kit was sold to about 100 customers.
The HUG1802 reminded us somewhat of the Quest Super Elf since it had a keypad, a cassette interface, and even a TV output. The 1802 had a DMA-enabled chip that made crude memory-mapped video output. The computer eventually morphed into the ETI 660, which they talk about at the end of the interview.
A lot of people built 1802 computers back in those days. If you don’t have an 1802, but you have an Arduino… ell, there’s always emulation.
Continue reading “New Zealand’s First Microcomputer May Be This 1802”
Nikola Tesla wanted to beam power without wires. NASA talked about building power-generating satellites that would do the same thing. But now New Zealand’s second-largest power utility — Powerco — is working with a start-up company to beam energy to remote locations. There have been several news releases, but possibly the most technical detail is from an interview [Loz Blain] did with the founder of the startup company.
It isn’t really news that you can send radio waves somewhere and convert the signal back into power. Every antenna does that routinely. The question is how efficient is the power transmission and — when the power levels are high — how safe is it? According to [Greg Kushnir], the founder of Emrod, the technology is about 70% efficient and uses ISM frequencies.
Continue reading “New Zealand To Test Wireless Power Transmission”
1980s American teenagers, if they were lucky enough to attend a school with a computer lab, would have sat down in front of Apple IIs or maybe Commodore VIC20s. Similarly, their British cousins had BBC Micros. Solid and educational machines with all sorts of wholesome software, which of course the kids absolutely preferred to run in preference to playing computer games.
New Zealanders, at least a few of them, had the Poly-1. A footnote in the 8-bit microcomputer story, this was a home-grown computer with a built-in monitor clad in a futuristic one-piece plastic shell. Non-Kiwis never had the chance to encounter its 6809 processor and 64k of RAM, the global computer business being too great a challenge for a small New Zealand technology company, especially one whose government support had evaporated.
Decades after the end of Poly-1 production, some survive in the hands of enthusiasts. [Terry Stewart] has two of them, and has posted details of how he brought life back to one that was dead on arrival. It’s a story first of a failed electrolytic capacitor and tricky-to-dismantle PSU design, then of an almost-working computer whose random crashes were eventually traced to a faulty RAM chip. It seems swapping out that quantity of DIL RAM chips is rather tedious, and of course it had to be the final chip in the final bank that exhibited the problem.
Meanwhile it’s interesting to see the design of this unusual machine. A linear power supply contrasts with the switcher you’d have found in an Apple II at the time, and the motherboard is a huge affair. it’s easy to see why this was a relatively expensive machine.
We brought you [Terry]’s first Poly-1 last year, but so far he’s the only owner whose machine we’ve seen. More mainstream 8-bit machines are a common sight here, so for something else a bit esoteric read our coverage of home computers behind the Iron Curtain, and its companion piece on peripherals behind the Iron Curtain.
[via Hacker News]
[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.
It takes strong and determined population to build a lasting civilization. If the civilization includes electricity and the inhabitants live in a hilly place with an often-unforgiving climate, the required strength and determination increases proportionally. Such is the case of the gentlemen who strung up the first half-million VDC transmission line across New Zealand, connecting the country’s two main islands.
Construction for the line known as the HVDC Inter-Island link began in 1961. It starts at the Benmore hydroelectric plant on the south island and runs north to Cook Strait via overhead cables. Then it travels 40km underwater to the north island and ends near Wellington. This is the kind of infrastructure project that required smaller, preliminary infrastructure projects. Hundreds of miles of New Zealand countryside had to be surveyed before breaking ground for the first tower support hole. In order to transport the materials and maintain the towers, some 270 miles of road were laid and ten bridges were built. Fifteen camps were set up to house the workers.
The country’s hilly terrain and high winds made the project even more challenging. But as you’ll see, these men were practically unfazed. They sent bundles of steel across steep canyons on zip lines and hand-walked wire haulage rope across gullies because they couldn’t otherwise do their job. Six of these men could erect a tower within a few hours, which the filmmakers prove with a cool time-lapse sequence.
Splicing the mile-long conductors is done with 100-ton compressors. Each connection is covered with steel sleeve that must be centered across the joint for optimum transmission. How did they check this? By taking a bunch of x-rays with a portable cesium-137 source.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: One Does Not Simply String Up A Half-Million VDC Transmission Line”