2 posts • joined 3 Dec 2011
Some comments from the Project Manager.....
HI. I thought I would provide a bit of feedback having been in the middle of it all at the time at Acorn. First a great article and factually pretty near the mark. Yes, Arthur 0.2 was in EPROM and we thought we would have them back as they were expensive and possibly re-useable. We set a very firm date for the launch, June 1987 if I remember and hence the OS was whatever state it had reached; not an ideal approach but it would have been sad to have left the superb hardware waiting for too long. Were Acorn products over-priced? No, the profit margin was reasonable bearing in mind the high level of R&D and the high technology. PC clones at the time were sold at very tight margins and made in the Far East or under railway arches in the UK with virtually no R&D spend as a result of the vast volumes. When I look back at Acorn Marketing it was some of the best I have ever come across in my career both before and after. Acorn made the best of being a niche player and inevitably struggled just as Apple did for a long time. Someone comments that Archimedes had 'Windows emulation'. No it didn't, it had genuine MS-DOS licences provided by Microsoft. It was the hardware that needed some emulation as many PC applications at the time wrote directly to the PC hardware bypassing MS-DOS much of the time (it was just a Disk Operating System after all not a Machine Operating System as in Acorn products). Finally as someone else has commented acronyms should always be in upper-case so it should be ROM not Rom etc. Why UK journalism insists on treating acronyms in this way when the USA gets it right is beyond me; it makes speed scanning of technical articles more difficult as I always scan for the techno words. So when RISC-OS was developed and launched it was all upper-case and never anything else; rant over :-)
As project Manager of the BBC Micro at Acorn and working with the BBC during the project perhaps I can clarify the actual position with some of the points made by Jim 59.
The BBC Computer Literacy Project was squarely targetted at the home user not schools. The schools aspect came about through some far-sighted people at the DES who saw the additional schools potential around the time of the BBC Literacy project and launched the DTI schools schemes. The subsidy for each machine went to the schools not to Acorn, although, of course, Acorn got the sales. The DTI provided no direct subsidy to Acorn.
Although the BBC in one sense 'advertised' via it's Computer Literacy programs, it never had specific adverts and took great care to avoid mentioning Acorn's name. This indirect advertising obviously did help machine sales but Acorn, the manufactuer, was largely unknown. Acorn always paid a royalty to BBC Enterprises for each machine sold bearing the BBC name. You could argue this helped offset licence fees or other BBC program expenditure.
The BBC Micro had a high price as it was a 'premium' product. Few people have any idea how much the product cost to design, tool-up, manufacture and support and provide profit to support the design of future products. Other products may have been cheaper but you get what you pay for. To imply that other much cheaper products had an equivalent specification isn't supported by the facts.
BTW, Locomotive Software's BASIC was not available at the time of the BBC Micro's development. It was subsequently made available as part of the Z80 Second Procesor software bundle. What the BBC Micro had was a real operating system, the MOS, and superb filing systems better than any other desktop computer at the time targetted at the home or business user. It is also not correct to imply that the home user was mainly interested in programming. I can assure Jim 59 that this is not what I found talking to customers at Acorn shows and seeing their correspondence into Acorn.