Computing History Displays: Fourth Floor - Computers Made in New Zealand
Between the time of introduction of microprocessors (about 1975) and the time that personal computers became a commodity (around 1986) it made business sense to consider manufacturing computers in New Zealand. Of at least four locally-made computers there were two machines designed by recent graduates of the University of Auckland, the Aamber Pegasus (from Physics) and the Decade (Electrical Engineering.) More substantial developments were by the companies Microprocessor Developments Ltd. (MDL), also from Auckland, and Poly Computers from Wellington
The fate of these NZ computer companies varied. The Aamber was for hobbyists and had but a short life. MDL and Poly were very successful but both were brought down by the collapse of the Bank of NZ in 1987. The Decade designers kept operating but moved away from computers and are now the company Compuspec Industries.
When IBM-compatible computers became standard in the late 1980s there were also many NZ companies involved in their assembly, few still surviving.
A more-detailed description of NZ-made computers is available in volume 4 of The Rutherford Journal.
We have on display examples of the Poly and MDL computers.
The Poly was initially developed by Neil Scott and Paul Bryant who taught EE at Wellington Polytechnic. Their design was commercialised by Polycorp, a company created by Development Finance Corporation and Progeni Ltd. The Poly was intended for use in education, hence the rugged packaging of this first model. The Poly had as customers many NZ high schools and the Australian Defence Department – it was even sold to the Government of China.
This Poly computer on display was donated by Andrew Trotman of Otago University.
Some pamphlets describing the Poly computers are here.
Microprocessor Development Systems was founded in 1978 by Jack Lovelock, a 1950s graduate in Civil Engineering from the University of Auckland. MDL computers were, fairly standardly for the time, designed around the S100 bus and the CP/M operating system using a Z80 processor. There were different versions made - ultimately a multi-user computer, the MX, which used one Z80 processor per user terminal with all processors sharing a Winchester disk – one MX customer was Auckland Grammar.
The machine that we have on display is an earlier model, donated by the estate of Paul MacDiarmid of Rotorua.