PA SITE: An Archaeological Simulation for New Zealand Schools
(for the Apple II)


We all come across old software from time to time. Usually these are commercial programs already on the web and have little interest from a preservation perspective. Occasionally though, you get passed something rather rare and unique which seems worthy of saving for posterity. This is one.

PA SITE Software package

Figure 1. PA Site folder and disks

The Software

The package is PA SITE, an educational program ranked at the top of its category in the 1988 New Zealand Software Awards. It was written by a leading New Zealand Educationalist, the late Dr Vince Ham and published by Terrasoft, Christchurch, NZ.

This copy was given to me by an educationist who knew my passion for vintage computers and their use in education (thanks Fiona!). The bundle consisted of six-double sided 5.25 inch "flippy" disks, an A5-sized teachers manual and some worksheet masters (designed to be photocopied) for pupils.

So what does it do? The overview on the first page of the teacher's manual states:

PA SITE has been designed for use as a cooperative class project for Primary, Intermediate, and Secondary Schools. It could be used as part of a unit on Maori culture in Social Studies or Maori Studies (eg: as preparation/follow-up for a museum/Marae visit); or as an introduction to archaeological techniques in Sixth Form Certificate Liberal Studies; or as part of a Maori Language programme. By means of the EDITOR included in the program, teachers may adapt the language level and complexity of the Sites to suit the learning abilities of different age groups, different classes, or even different ability groups within a class.

PA SITE is a simulation of an archaeological dig. The class becomes a team of archaeologists with groups 'excavating' different parts of an ancient Pa Site. By 'finding' artifacts they can explore and draw conclusions about pre-European Maori history and culture.

"Finds" are displayed as Hi-res graphics, and a "Research" option is included to allow students to find out more about particular sites or artifacts or to stimulate further research off the computer.

Figure 2. PA SITE opening screen

This blog post is is not a review, although the software seems well-written. My feel for the program is limited to flicking through the manual and working through some screens in an emulator. No, my aim with this page is to save the software from oblivion. Given it is uniquely New Zealand, award-winning and doesn't appear to be anywhere else on the web, I felt it should be recorded and shared so it's not lost forever. To that end, I captured the physical disks as disk images and scanned the teaching materials. The disk images are preserved as *.DO files and can be used in common Apple II emulators. The documentation is scanned as PDFs.

The whole package is available here (1.43 MB).

The program is copy protected by requiring the licensee school to enter their name in the first screen. The legal owner prior to myself was Palmerston North College of Education, a teacher training institution (now part of Massey University). The program obviously understands that's quite a mouthful for a screen entry field so it's fine with just "Palmerston North".

Final thoughts

Educational software often flies under the radar, and many creative works of yesteryear can easily be lost forever. Hopefully future historians looking back at the early days of New Zealand educational software will be able to find this one.


25th February, 2017

Note: One of the "flippy" disks was a demo disk which seems to have been included as an extra to be copied and shown to other schools. I don't think this was a standard part of the package so it hasn't been included in the Zip.

comments powered by Disqus