Australia and New Zealand are somewhat unique among large, developed, economies because they bridge the culture of (mostly) the West with the geography of the East. I am curious how this may have influenced mass-adoption of 8-bit and 16-bit micros in the 1980s.

Which manufacturers and models of early home/office computers dominated the market in Australia and New Zealand? Assuming there were 1 or 2 dominant "players", what were the main drivers for their success?

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    One popular Australian computer brand in the 1980s was the Microbee. I don't know enough to answer your question but there's something you could read up on if you want. – Wilson May 31 '17 at 14:56
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    Dick Smith was retail chain who resold VideoGenies (TRS-80 clones) but I don't know a huge lot more than that. – PeterI Jun 1 '17 at 8:23

As far as the School market in Australia, the locally made Microbee was dominant in the 80's together with the Apple 2e and BBC. The Microbee was mainly sold in Australia (zero to USA) but also sold into Sweden and its neighbours, New Zealand and a few to Israel & Russia. As a result, the USA, UK, etc know very little to nothing about the Microbee.

Microbee also sold well On the home domestic market but never dominant there. The various Commodore's/Amiga's ruled because of their price. The Apple & BBC were to expensive. Then came all the rest of the Spectrums, Ataris, Amstrads, etc. The Exidy Sorcerer and System 80 (TRS-80 clone from Dick Smith Electronics) were also well supported in the domestic market.

All eventually killed off by the cheap IBM Clones of the late 80's/90's.


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    looks like MicroBee is planning a comeback: microbeetechnology.com.au/classic-plus-kit-computer.htm – scruss Jun 2 '17 at 15:13
  • The Microbee has already "come back" when Microbeetechnology launched the Microbee Premium Plus+ in 2012 as a kit. These units are fully compatible with the originally released Premium units of 1985 but using modern components and able to boot from an SD card, boot uCLinux, ethernet port, etc. The soon to be released Classic Plus I believe will also be fully compatible with the 1980's units, cant wait for it to be available :) – Alan Laughton Jun 3 '17 at 1:04

I had a quick browse of the archive.org computer magazines section, searching for 'Australia' and 'Australian'. The sampling is unlikely to be fair, since I believe archive.org carries only what users happens to have kept and uploaded, but from this I found:

  • a long-running line of Commodore magazines: Australian Commodore Amiga Review, Workbench Magazine, OZAmiga;
  • a decent representation of Micro-80, concerned with the TRS-80;
  • several issues of Softgold, "THE magazine for InterTAN Computer Users!", with InterTAN being the name used in places including Australia by Tandy for the equivalent of the US Radio Shack, though by 1987 it seems to be a lot more about the CoCo 3 than the TRS-80;
  • a few issues of Australian Apple Review and a 1982 edition of APC with only the Apple bits retained (including a review of the Apple III) but also has solitary adverts for the Atari 400 & 800, and a bunch of CP/M machines.

I'm confident a former Commodore user has been disproportionately active but that at least suggests that the American companies — Apple, Commodore and Tandy — had a decent impact.

Addendum: having broadened my search also to include New Zealand, I've found quite a few copies of the NZ Bits and Bytes magazine, which includes a strong showing for the British micros. Leafing through the issue with "The Amstrad Arrives" as a cover story I see separate columns related to:

  • the Apple II;
  • the Atari 8-bit series;
  • the BBC Micro;
  • the Commodore 64 (with the C16 and Plus 4 being discussed therein);
  • the Sega SC3000;
  • the ZX Spectrum;
  • the TRS-80; and
  • the ZX81.

The Amstrad review notes that it "has been designed as competition to the BBC and Commodore 64 ... [i]t is also hoped to attract Spectrum users wanting to upgrade". That issue also contains positive reviews of a couple of PC clones, so it's possible New Zealand adapted more quickly to those than Europe did.

Flipping forward to 1985 (cover story: the Spectravideo X'press), columns now exist for the Amstrad, Apple, BBC, Sega, a Sanyo PC clone, the Spectravideo SV328 (the almost MSX, even more so than the Sega), Commodore, Spectrum and Atari.

An article titled "The Z-80's Finale?" notes with an exclamation mark that Amstrad ensured the new 6128 was available in NZ only ten days after the UK. Given that Amstrad were making an effort, it's likely that the market was competitive. These probably weren't various spotty grey imports.

But I think possibly your thesis is correct. A lot of major European names like Acorn, Sinclair, Amstrad intermingle with the American Commodore, Atari and Spectravideo but there's also room for the Japanese Sega and Sanyo.

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    The Commodore 128 was also somewhat popular here (Australia.) I remember playing that late into the night as a kid, after loading from tape or typing in the BASIC commands listing for a game. – Andrakis Jun 2 '17 at 0:22
  • Nice coverage of NZ. Growing up there (I was 10 to 19 in '80 to '89) I saw a VIC-20, a couple of BBCs, a couple of PCs a few ZX-81s, a few C-64s and even more Apple IIs - going from early to mid '80s. Then more Macs and even more PCs in the late 80's. The Apple IIs stayed strong in education, and I even ported educational software to them in the early 90's. – Nick Westgate Jun 7 '17 at 10:13

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