The POLY 88 is as versatile a tool as has ever existed. How would you start? Unpack the POLY 88 from a small box or suitcase. Plug the keyboard, video monitor, and cassette deck into the POLY 88 and turn them on. Now you have a decision to make. Should you load a home financing tape, a programmed learning tape, a graph plotting routine, a scientific simulation, or a favorite game? Place your chosen tape in the recorder and tell the computer to read it by typing a simple command. In a few moments the system is ready to use — the tool’s application has been defined. To redefine the application, simply load another tape.
To develop your own application for the POLY 88, you will want to write your own programs. If you are new to programming, then plan to spend an evening with the computer to learn a language called BASIC, which is remarkably similar to English. BASIC allows you to write your own home financing programs, appointment calendar/billing programs, simulations, and games.
This versatility is possible because of the unique POLY 88 hardware. The POLY 88 represents an integration of the latest in microcomputer technology with the lowest-cost mass-produced peripherals available — a video monitor and a cassette tape deck. The interfacing electronics to these peripherals are built-in to the POLY 88 in such a way that a program written on any POLY 88 will run on any other POLY 88 without modification. Thus every POLY 88 owner can exchange applications with any other owner, and the software library is constantly expanding.
Software is the collection of computer programs that transform a computer from just hardware into a useful problem solving tool. A powerful and fundamental form of software for any system is a high level language which allows the description and solution of problems in a form that is easy for the operator, rather than in the form actually processed by the hardware.
In the POLY 88 System, the primary high level language is the popular BASIC, available in several versions of differing size and capability. The full version of BASIC for the POLY 88 System requires 11K of memory, and offers capabilities such as strings, formatted output, multidimensioned arrays, and scientific functions. This BASIC also contains features for the direct use of the POLY 88 System such as access to the real-time clock, point-plotting and graphics using the video display, and the ability to load and save programs as named files on tape. A subset of this BASIC is available which works in only 8K bytes of memory: all programs written for this subset will run without change on the full sized BASIC.
Firmware is special software contained in a permanent memory device and so is immediately usable when the computer is powered-up. The POLY 88 firmware monitor contains the tape input routines allowing programs to be loaded with a simple command from the keyboard. In addition, it contains “front panel” and “single step” features, which allow the user to monitor and debug programs at a glance. All the CPU register contents plus the instructions, stack, and data are displayed in convenient hexadecimal format while the program is single stepped with a simple keyboard command. Since the same firmware is present in every POLY 88 System, all programs and users have this software foundation with which to work.
The Central Processor is the heart of the POLY 88 System, but that heart consists of far more than just the 8080A processor chip itself. The POLY 88 processor board contains the firmware. Read-write memory is also included on the processor board for system use, as is a clock for use by programs such as BASIC. An important part of the processor is the communications interface and the interrupt system. Where other machines require separate boards for these functions, the integration of technology in the POLY 88 System includes these with the processor so that these vital functions are present in the same fashion in every POLY 88.
It’s rugged chassis is the foundation of the POLY 88 System. Thanks to the firmware monitor the front panel consists of but two switches — one for power, the other for resetting the system. The rear panel has connectors for the cables to the keyboard, video monitor, cassette unit, and other accessories. Inside the chassis is the backplane and power supply. All the components for the power supply are mounted on the backplane board, which is conservatively rated at 6A for any five boards that you may wish to plug into the S-100 industry standard bus. Optional edge connectors allow more than one POLY 88 chassis to be plugged together for expansion, with each set of five slots having its own power supply.
Video Terminal Interface. The versatility of the video terminal increases the value of the POLY 88 as a tool by enhancing the communication between the system and the user. The user supplies information through the keyboard interface on the video board for processing by the system, and the system displays the resulting data on the monitor screen in character or graphic form. The video interface provides a window into the computer system, and allows the user to display rapidly changing information in the form of upper and lower case characters, special symbols and graphics.
The Cassette Interface mini-card is the basis for information exchange between all POLY 88 systems. By using the communications functions on the processor board all the work of interfacing to a cassette recorder may be accomplished on one small board. The cassette interface deals with information in one of two switch-selectable modes. For program interchange, the well known BYTE standard format may be used, and when higher speeds are desired, the PolyPhase format allows you to load the entire 11K BASIC system in under two minutes.
When PCs Were Micros - Bits and pieces of history about the "good" old days