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Advertisement for the disk-based System 8813


Poly-88 system with cassette recorder and video monitor


BYTE ad, May 1976

Welcome to PolyMorphic!

In the mid-seventies, small computers were starting to appear on magazine covers and at hobby club meetings. Many of those computers could only interact with you using numbers, lights, and switches.

And then, there was the PolyMorphic. One light, one switch (well, two counting the power switch) and some incredible software. It had subdirectories and long filenames, years before MS-DOS. It had full-featured business applications, and languages such as BASIC if you wanted to write your own.

The Poly-88, with its signature "orange toaster" look, loaded programs from cassette tape. The System 8813 had as many as three floppy disk drives, each holding 90K bytes, about the equivalent of a three-page PDF file today.

In current ads we read about processor speeds of 2 GHz and higher. Poly CPU cards contained a 1.8 MHz (not GHz) processor, more than 1,000 times slower. They had at most 56 kilobytes (not megabytes, not gigabytes) of memory.

And still, we loved them.

So please explore this site, and fondly remember your first computer.

(Even if it wasn't a Poly.)

PolyLetter newsletters available now

We now have all back issues of PolyLetter, a newsletter which was published from 1980 through 1993. Click here to browse through the library.

We also have a Quick Reference Guide to Poly commands.

A bit of company history

PolyMorphic Systems was a manufacturer of microcomputer products based on the S100 bus, a popular way of plugging boards into a computer's backplane. The company was incorporated in California in 1976 as Interactive Products Corporation d/b/a PolyMorphic Systems. It was initially based in Goleta, then Santa Barbara, California.

PolyMorphic began by producing boards which could be used in other vendors' systems. One of those other systems was called the Altair. So, perhaps naturally (but not wisely), when PolyMorphic released their first complete system, they named it the Micro-Altair (see advertisement at left).

After objections from MITS, manufacturers of the Altair, the small Poly system was quickly renamed as the Poly-88. It sold for $575 in kit form, about $2,200 in today's dollars. Pretty steep for a system with no disk storage, no monitor and no keyboard!

Run Before The Wind, a Stuart Woods novel And some trivia

Stuart Woods wrote his second novel, Run Before the Wind, using WordMaster on a PolyMorphic 8813 system.

He ended the book with a page entitled A Technical Note, describing how the text was transmitted to his publisher electronically, using communication software written by your webmaster, Bob Bybee. Stuart's note ended with "I believe that in the future, books will be routinely transmitted in this manner."

Jef Raskin, an early employee of Apple Computer, also used the word processing features of the 8813 to write the Apple II documentation.

The Apple itself did not yet have word-processing software or a video display with lower-case letters.