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Old 20-March-2008, 18:20
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Cool BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

From The Register
BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

By Tony Smith 20th March 2008 12:28 GMT

Forgotten Tech The brains behind the must-have home computer of the early 1980s, the BBC Micro, will gather today to catch up and reminisce about a time when Britain led the way in the domestic computing revolution.
Acorn Computers co-founder Hermann Hauser and Acorn hardware designer Steve Furber - now ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester - will be joined by erstwhile BBC staffers John Radcliffe and David Allen at the Science Museum.
Furber was the BBC Micro's principal designer. Allen was Producer of the BBC TV show Micro Live, part of the Corporation's Computer Literacy Project, itself an attempt to get Britons up to speed with the silicon revolution and the raison d'etre of the BBC Micro itself. Radcliffe was Executive Producer overseeing the Project as a whole.
Acorn's BBC Micro: 32KB memory lane

Acorn developed the machine that would become the BBC Micro as the successor to its Atom home computer. Dubbed the Proton, the prototype was show to Radcliffe and other BBC executives who were looking for a machine on which to found the Computer Literacy Project. They had approached other UK computer makers, including Sinclair Research and Dragon Data, but found the Proton more to their liking.
The BBC Micro made it to market in late 1981 in two forms the Model A and the Model B. The B was the most desirable but more expensive of the two, with 32KB of memory to the A's 16KB, and a wider range of graphics modes, making it better for games.
That cemented its popularity among hordes of schoolboys of the time, who quickly cottoned on to the pleasures of zapping aliens or accruing wealth in Elite in preference to programming. So while the BBC's Project may not have engendered computer literacy in the way the Corporation originally hoped, it nonetheless had the desired effect of creating a new generation of computer nerds.
The BBC Model B was markedly more sophisticated than its early rivals, thanks to its capabilities, powerful version of the Basic language, port array and full-size keyboard. But the BBC logo carried a lot of weight with purchasing parents hoping the machine would prove more educational to their offspring than a source of entertainment.
Selling the BBC Micro
Click for full-size image
Scan courtesy 80s Actual Technology

Those of us with folks who couldn't see it - or couldn't afford it - got Sinclair ZX-81s or Spectrums, Commodore Vic-20s or C-64s, or Dragon 32s for Christmas instead.
Both BBC Micros were powered by a CMOS 6502A processor clocked at 2MHz. Later models used the 6512A at the same clock frequency. The units had a modulator to allow them to be connected to a TV, though the Model B also had an RGB monitor port - the machine was often seen in UK schools sat beneath a Microvitec Cub monitor.
The graphics modes ran from 160 x 256 up to 320 x 256 640 x 256, with two to eight colours depending on the mode, some of which were text-only.
The computers used cassette tapes for storage - as all other home computers of the time did - but Acorn offered an optional floppy drive adaptor, and the truly wealthy could purchase a hard drive adaptor, connectable to a choice of 5MB, 10MB and 20MB drives.
Also optional was Econet, Acorn's 100Kb/s networking technology.
Ah, those were the days... when my-computer-is-better-than-your-computer fights were far more interesting than they are today. Taking the mickey out of Apple fanboys? How tough is that?
Acorn revamped the Model B as the B+64 in mid-1985, taking the memory to 64KB and adding the aforementioned 6512A CPU. It was followed by the 128KB B+128, but this was overshadowed in February 1986 by the introduction of the chunkier BBC Master, which also contained 128KB of memory and was the start of a line that ran for three more years, until 1989 when it was effectively superseded by the Acorn Archimedes, which had been launched in 1987.
The BBC B was my first home computer (I nearly bought an Electron!). I later upgraded it with a floppy drive (from cassette tape!) and added a Teletext box.

Ah, memories!
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Old 20-March-2008, 18:25
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I only ever had the tape drive, my cousins had the dual 5 1/4" fdd version.
fdd's where so fast in those days (well compared to tape!)
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Old 20-March-2008, 18:28
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

Oh yes, that's right, I forgot! I had the duel 5 1/4 too! I THINK it was double density too.
Oh, and a word processing eprom(?)
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Last edited by gem; 20-March-2008 at 18:36. Reason: Second thoughts - added more!
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Old 20-March-2008, 18:51
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

Don't think we had that.
I do remember typing in code from magazines to try and make programs / games.
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Old 20-March-2008, 20:00
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Talking Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

What mag was it? I can't remember. Like you I remember typing them in and initially saving it all onto cassette.

The Teletext adapter allowed you to download all the Teletext pages (I made my own daily newspaper) and you could also download a few shortish programmes, can't remember what they were though but it did save having to type them in!

I can hear violins!
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Old 23-March-2008, 11:22
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I remeber using these in school. Even when I left secondary school we had 3 of these in active service.
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Old 23-March-2008, 11:54
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Wink Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

You are making me feel old(er)!
You saying school has reminded me that I used to look after the BBC Micro's at the Primary school my wife was teaching at. They had two I recall.
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Old 23-March-2008, 12:11
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I used to spray the bugs on the old Speccy.

Breakout too.
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Old 23-March-2008, 21:02
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I think when I left one of them was actually a BBC Master ?? Was a lot bigger than the B and A versions we had, it was like a full sized keyboard.

I also remeber when leaving primary school that they got rid of the BBC stuff, and started importing the RM Nimbus things in.
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Old 29-March-2008, 16:20
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

Here is the BBC emulator I use http://www.mikebuk.dsl.pipex.com/beebem/

it also has some links or google "BBC lives"
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Old 29-March-2008, 16:34
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Cool Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

......it also has some links or google "BBC lives"
Originally Posted by moog View Post
The BBC B (and A and Master) do indeed still lives - if only in memory

Thanks for the link.
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Old 03-April-2008, 02:07
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

These things were so expensive!

I remember my school buying loads of them, what a waste of money!

The basic was good for vector graphics (A bit like simon's basic for the c64)

Even when the cheaper 'acorn electron' came out, I wasn't convinced.

I'd already tasted the pleasures of the zx81 and vic20

One thing I remember is that you had to be in the top set of maths to get anywhere near a computer at school in the early 80s.

So while there was a class full of number heads wanting to calculate math problems at school. The more imaginative of us learnt to code at home on our zx81/specy/vic20/dragon32/c64.
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Old 03-April-2008, 11:31
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

These things were so expensive!

I remember my school buying loads of them, what a waste of money!

The basic was good for vector graphics (A bit like simon's basic for the c64)

Even when the cheaper 'acorn electron' came out, I wasn't convinced.

I'd already tasted the pleasures of the zx81 and vic20

One thing I remember is that you had to be in the top set of maths to get anywhere near a computer at school in the early 80s.

So while there was a class full of number heads wanting to calculate math problems at school. The more imaginative of us learnt to code at home on our zx81/specy/vic20/dragon32/c64.
Originally Posted by MAN WHO View Post
People keep going on about how expensive they were, however there was a good reason for the high price relative to the other machines you mentioned.

The BBC was a complete enthusiast machine, it was complete in virtually every way. Complete keyboard, user expansion IO buses, BASIC, everything was as good as you could get. The only things that were limited were due to either the BBC (8+8 flashing rather than 16 colours) and the CPU/FDC which became obselete during the lifetime of the machine. This hardware vendor's (commodore indirectly and intel) control made the machine expensive to make and because of the contract with the BBC they couldn't just redesign for quite a while.

I had a ZX81, Spectrum and a vic20 and they were vastly inferior in terms of developement, general design and build quality. You couldn't breath to hard near your ZX81 or the rampak would fall out, the general reliance on edgecard connection rather than IDC for all the comparable machines was cheap and dodgy.

This was what you were paying for a machine designed by engineers for enthusiasts without cutting corners just to make it cheap.

You want to play games then the spectrum and 64 was your best choice, you want to design/build projects then the BBC was king.

You want to run unix, CPM, DOS etc then you can with a BBC how about the others, nope. The BBC was almost infinately expandable as standard, just plug it in and away you go.

You want an example of the expansion cababilities just look at the commodore floppy drive, ha, the tape record from was faster this was how short sighted the other micro designer were.

Last edited by moog; 03-April-2008 at 11:40.
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Old 03-April-2008, 18:56
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

People keep going on about how expensive they were, however there was a good reason for the high price relative to the other machines you mentioned.

The BBC was a complete enthusiast machine, it was complete in virtually every way. Complete keyboard, user expansion IO buses, BASIC, everything was as good as you could get. The only things that were limited were due to either the BBC (8+8 flashing rather than 16 colours) and the CPU/FDC which became obselete during the lifetime of the machine. This hardware vendor's (commodore indirectly and intel) control made the machine expensive to make and because of the contract with the BBC they couldn't just redesign for quite a while.

I had a ZX81, Spectrum and a vic20 and they were vastly inferior in terms of developement, general design and build quality. You couldn't breath to hard near your ZX81 or the rampak would fall out, the general reliance on edgecard connection rather than IDC for all the comparable machines was cheap and dodgy.

This was what you were paying for a machine designed by engineers for enthusiasts without cutting corners just to make it cheap.

You want to play games then the spectrum and 64 was your best choice, you want to design/build projects then the BBC was king.

You want to run unix, CPM, DOS etc then you can with a BBC how about the others, nope. The BBC was almost infinately expandable as standard, just plug it in and away you go.

You want an example of the expansion cababilities just look at the commodore floppy drive, ha, the tape record from was faster this was how short sighted the other micro designer were.
Originally Posted by moog View Post
Ouch!

It's awful to hear someone dissing the old 1541 disk drive! Its like watching someone punch your grandad!

Yes the bbc was definately a high quality machine, but I never had much of a chance to get near one!

I was mainly commenting on the fact that most people had no choice but to learn on other machines. And the bbc micro felt (at the time) a computer for the 'Elite'

Excuse the pun
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Old 03-April-2008, 20:45
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I certainly did (do) not consider myself 'Elite'! I just bought a computer I could just afford etc.
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Old 03-April-2008, 23:45
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I'm sorry I am not Elite either, I just wanted a machine to develope rather than just play games. here follow this link to b3ta it should bring it all backhttp://www2.b3ta.com/heyhey16k/
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Old 06-April-2008, 23:01
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Default Re: BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

I'm sorry I am not Elite either, I just wanted a machine to develope rather than just play games. here follow this link to b3ta it should bring it all backhttp://www2.b3ta.com/heyhey16k/
Originally Posted by moog View Post
I know! Its not your fault! I'm just jealous

I can still remember that maths teacher who was the boss of the bbc micros!

This is some childhood issue I have to work out
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