PolyMorphic Systems S-100 docs list

This document copyright Herbert R. Johnson 2012 updated Dec 15 2012.
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PolyMorphic history

PolyMorphic Systems of Santa Barbara, California, produced the Poly 88 system in 1976, a slim "orange toaster" cabinet which held several cards of their design. It was cassette based, as were many early S-100 systems; with a video card and external keyboard, to be used with a TV monitor. They later offered systems with 8-inch and 5.25-inch floppy drives, and then a hard drive. They ended business in 1988 while transitioning to the IBM-PC market.

Marvin Johnston told me this story in late 2007: "Poly was manufactured here in Santa Barbara....When Polymorphic had trouble paying their bills, their production manager, Roger ???, started Lobo and was supplying drives to Polymorphic. Roger was still around about 10 years ago when he worked for Applied Magnetics (now defunct.)"

...Long after [Poly] went out of business, a friend of mine got most of the stuff that had been put into a storage locker and passed a great deal of that along to me. One of my other projects is to get together all the Polymorphic documentation, etc. and then get it online. So much to do, so little time!"

"Something else that I need to get scanned, is the business plan for Polymorphics when they got in trouble and the management changed. There are a number of friends still around here that can help fill in the details including Dana Trout (of Pickles & Trout), Frank Anderson (Poly software manager), and a few others. If you have any specific questions, I'd be more than happy to ask them. One of *my* questions is whether or not the orange toaster (Poly 88) was ever built with the name "Micro Altair." I think it was in Stan Veit's book that I read it was originally named the Micro Altair, but Ed Roberts objected and the name was changed." - Marvin Johnston

PolyMorphic owners and restoration & recovery work

Years ago, there was a PolyMorphic user's group and newsletter. Check this new and revived Poly Web site of Bob Bybee, Poly owner and one of the editors of the PolyLetter which ran from 1980 to 1993(!). He has some PolyMorphic history there and plans more support for Polymorphics. He has provided a Poly MS-DOS based emulator for many years.

I recieved an email in Nov 2003 from Marcus Lewis, about several computers of the 1970's he used. One of them was a Polymorphic, as follows below. See his comments on other systems on my S-100 owner's page.

"My first machine was a PolyMorphics Systems Poly-88 model 12 (I think it was). It was a business-clas machine, and proprietary in a lot of ways. It put 1.8432 MHz onthe system clock pin, rather than 2 MHz, and that blew any serial port add-on cards. I used and modified the 2 on-board serial ports. It had a 300/2400 baud cassette interface, 16x64 text and 48x128 graphics resolution on a 1K memory-mapped video card that only worked with the Poly-88 (based on the 1.8432 MHz clock). The BASIC interpreter that came with it was extraordinary for the time, but based solely on cassettes. They had a real business class machine (models 8810 and 8820) with one or two floppies and 5 or 10-slot MBs in a wood-trimmed case. The system had 3K of 2708 EPROM based at 0000H, 512 bytes of scratch RAM at about 1000H, and user RAM started at 2000H, which made it difficult to get software for. I put a Micropolis dual disk drive on it because they provided MDOS based at 2000H as well as at 0000H."

"I eventually got CP/M working on this box, but it required extensive mods to the CPU card. At least they designed the mods into it. I added a jumper to enable a latch triggered by an I/O instruction to shift RAM down to 0000H and overlay the EPROM. I learned a lot from that machine, and eventually built a new box (with a Godbout 20-slot MB) to put it all in. The original box was the "orange toaster", 6"x4"x17" and bright orange. It had a 5-slot MB and card fingers on the sides so you could plug two chassis together."

In May 2011 I acquired a Poly 88 from David Director. Here's a Web page about it, as shown at VCF-East 7.0.

After the May 2011 VCF-E 7.0 festival, I discussed Polymorphic tapes with Bill Degnan, and Dwight Elvey. Dwight Elvey discussed his recovery of Poly data from cassette tapes, and provides some files, on this Web page of mine.

Polymorphic manuals

In 2011 I acquired a Polymorphic 88 system with a number of original manuals, copies of manuals, and original cassettes. See my Poly 88 restoration Web page for a list of manuals and cassettes. Manual copies are available for a modest per-page fee. I'll consider making audio copies of the cassettes, but due to age they are fragile. See if you can find other images or copies from other owners, contact me if I have something unique. - Herb Johnson

Herb Johnson
New Jersey, USA
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Copyright © 2012 Herb Johnson