back to article BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

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 …

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  1. b166er

    Dogfight

    was a great game on the BBC B.

    I seem to recall that sending 'call!-4' to network machines was great fun too!

  2. Paul Naylor
    Boffin

    Ah!

    I remember those days, during the early 80s, when instead of hanging around street corners and being rowdy I would spend my Friday evenings round at a friend's house playing Elite* all night. He had a Model B with the standard cassette drive and it would take about fifteen or twenty minutes for the game to load.

    Because of the frankly weird place to put the Break key, our alloted 1 hour at a time play would be forfeited if we accidentally hit it, as the game would have be loaded again. Then my friend got a disk drive and we marvelled at the ultra short load times of about 10 seconds!

    I never had my own "Beeb" but would still spend hours making Repton 3 maps on bits of graph paper before taking them round and "programming" them.

    Last I heard, the friend's Beeb was still going strong up until a few years ago, when someone spilt red wine over it.

    A very very great computer!

    (*I never made it to "Elite", only "Deadly", though I did do the Constrictor mission!)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    It was never a "home" computer

    It was a school computer. Real people couldn't afford to actually buy one of those. And an extra telly for it to run against as well.

  4. Marc Lawrence
    Happy

    long for the days of old

    I remember the days at school spent loading early versions of cad software... printing dot-matrix versions... rattle rattle whizzz... rattle rattle whizz... turn over the floppy for the 'other side'... sigh

    rooms full of networked BBC's which we used to programme turtle devices... sending naughty messages via the echo commands and wondering at the geek power which did fancy things with assembler. Hey I even remember writing some assembler... for some fancy function or two.

    Then along came the Achimedes... doing my 'GCSE Business Studies' course on the nice devices and spending more time helping as a techie than actually doing my trivial boring work. Three button mice... nice software installations and wow music! (popcorn was popular back then)... The poor Business studies teacher had no clue... she was the old school 'Typewritters are best' variety. I certainly remember some nice DTP packages; and can put myself back into the computer room at Corfe Hills... That must be what... '89 -91... and Mr Cornick the BBC Master Guru.

  5. Cornholio
    Heart

    Mode 0

    "The graphics modes ran from 160 x 256 up to 320 x 256, with two to eight colours depending on the mode, some of which were text-only."

    Nah, Mode 0 had 640x256 for graphics. Mode 3 was the 640x200 text mode. 2 colours! Great days!

  6. Ash

    Ha!

    I remember using these at school! Not cutting edge graphics, but still pretty awesome for the time...

    By the way, i'm 24. The time was 1997.

    *Sigh*

  7. Norm DePlume
    Thumb Down

    Pedantic, I may be

    But the highest resolution for the two colour mode 0 was 640 by 256.

  8. Darren B

    Still have one - how retro am i?

    As above.

  9. Arnold Lieberman

    Graphics modes

    The Beeb could do up to 640x256, giving a true 80 column mode for text, as could the *cough* Acorn Electron... which I bought for said reason.

  10. Neil

    I was crap at Elite

    But the BBC did kick-start my entire career, as that's what I learned to first program on.

    Our school still had them in 1994 and that's what I did my GCSE Computer Science project on. It helped that my mum worked at a school and could "borrow" one for me to have at home.

    <Runs off to search Ebay for one>

  11. Richard Lloyd

    Best 8-bit machine ever?

    In my opinion, the BBC Micro Model B was probably the best 8-bit machine ever made. It had a very good keyboard (virtually every other rival machine of the day had a far worse keyboard), tightly written OS, a good sound system, a superb BASIC for the day (far better than the Spectrum or C64) and ran faster than pretty well any other 8-bit machine of its time. The US 8-bit equivalents (Commodore 64 and Apple II) were quite poor in comparison really.

    It's only downer - and one Acorn never fixed in its lifetime - was the price. It just never budged from 399 pounds for the Model B (yes, 399 pounds can buy you a quad core 64-bit monster desktop nowadays). The UK market was very price sensitive and Acorn just put the blinkers on and never dropped the price, not even when sales began to fall. It's why it was never as popular as the vastly inferior Spectrum (which was a pitiful machine really, but it was very cheap, which attracted a lot of users and hence a lot of games for it - a virtuous circle indeed and one Acorn never cottoned onto).

    Yes, I moved onto the Archimedes afterwards and that, again, was a stunning machine for the late 80's (the first mass-produced 32-bit RISC-based machine in the world) - again a superbly written OS, but yet again overpriced and ultimately unable to compete on both price and speed once the PC world caught onto 32-bits in a big way a few years after the Archimedes launched. The Archimedes did have one lasting innovation though - the ARM chip, which is now ubiquitous in mobile gadgets everywhere. A great RISC chip to program on, IMHO.

  12. The Other Steve
    Happy

    Oh the memories...

    The days when I wandered around with a school bag full of boxes of 5.25" floppy disks, a stack of fanfold printout, and a copy of the BBC Mater (Next after the model B, with software in ROM and numeric keypad) manual, and probably an Usbourne coding book or two.

    Picking the locks on teachers desk to get the NetNurse disk, judiciously *unproting, watching the keyboard buffer remotely to get the admin password, getting super user status. Getting caught. Getting kicked out of school. Oh yes indeed my friend, those were indeed the days.

    Being allowed back in, abusing the modem to dial into MicroNet over premium rate gateways, getting kicked out again...

    Fond fond memories.

  13. Pete Smith
    Boffin

    Terriby geeky, but...

    At the risk of sounding like a total nerd/geek, the BBC B would actually support a resolution of 640*256 (monochrome), "Mode 0".

    It took a completely scary 16k of your 32k RAM.

  14. Ian Ferguson
    Heart

    Memory lane

    My brother and I convinced my parents to buy a Model B as an 'educational' tool... amazingly enough, looking back, it probably was highly beneficial to our education, as disappointed by the lack of games we were allowed to buy, we turned our hands to creating our own.

    The BASIC programming language was easy to pick up and powerful in teen's hands... I probably learnt more crouching over that flickering screen than I did in ten years of Computer Science.

    A special mention should be made to the excellent manual that came with it - I still have it on my bookshelf, highly dog-eared but I can't bring myself to bin it (much to the annoyance of successive girlfriends!). The simple concept of pixel graphics (and sprites) opened my mind in ways that my friends could not understand... geeky perhaps, but such a good education!

    Elite and Repton 3 were truly astonishing games - expanding the possibilities of computer games beyond the quick five minute alien-bash to the concept of exploring fictional worlds, and user generated content, respectively.

    Admittedly the BBC Micro holds a special place in my heart because for many years it was the only computer I had access to - I envied my friends with more games-orientated machines (or even, wonder of wonders, an Archimedes with the beautiful graphics and music of Lemmings...)

  15. Matt

    I was Elite!

    Great machine and fun times. I started on a friends ZX-80, then I got a B.

    I thought Mode 0 offered greater resolution than that and Mode 2 offered 32 colours, but it has been some years since I used one.

    I remember learning to use interrupt programming to get it to ply music while the tape loaded.

    I don't know kids today, they've got it all.......

  16. Test Man
    Thumb Up

    Ah... classic!

    My second computer (the first was a Vic-20) was the BBC Master 128. I used to laugh at my mere mortal friends and their puny 32K or 64K memory! Not sure where it is now... but I suspect it's still underneath the stairs in my parent's house.

  17. Geoff Johnson

    Chuckie Egg!

    The best version of Chuckie egg was (and still is from all the versions I've played) the BBC Micro version.

    On a slightly more serious note, I bet there are one or two BBCs still in use controlling things with the User Port.

  18. JonDoe
    Happy

    Video resolution

    The maximum resolution was not 320 x 256, but 640 x 256 in 2 colours.

    Also, the 6845 CRTC video chip could be made to do various fancy tricks with interlaced scans, high res gap modes and so on - I know, I programmed it.

  19. Adam Onesti
    Thumb Up

    Games

    Don't forget the fantastic Exile or Revs. Dogfight though was great fun, I personally liked flying into the valley at the bottom of the screen to come out at the top...

    I still have my Beeb somewhere, with the floppy drive, it still works as well :)

  20. James Campbell Andrew
    Thumb Up

    Better resolution than that...

    The maximum resolution on the Beeb was 640x256x2 colours (MODE 0), not 320x256 (MODEs 1 & 4)

    Fabulous machine. I still use one, for games mostly

  21. Robert Harrison
    Flame

    BBC model B

    Great piece of kit. We even wired in a 5.25 floppy disc drive which I recall required you to make modifications to the BBC mainboard itself. Sadly (I'll get flamed for this) I sold my BBC Micro on Ebay several years ago now. Despite being stored in less than optimal conditions (some of the plastic chassis had gone mouldy) for 20 years the beast still fired up a treat, including discs. I'd like to see a current generation desktop PC do that[1].

    [1] obviously 20 years from now of course.

  22. Anton Channing
    Happy

    Fond memories...

    I still have my BBC Model B micro, a tape drive and all the casettes. Still, I rarely actually use it these days due to having discovered BBC emulators that let me play what I want on Linux. Citadel was one of my faves, in addition to Elite.

    Although for multiplayer entertainment, 'Way of the Exploding Fist' and a couple of joysticks...

  23. Sean Purdy
    Alien

    Forgotten Tech?

    Just how is this Forgotten Tech? :-)

    We had a whole room of BBCs at school - everyone was playing Elite and whenever you were about to dock with a spacestation you'd have to find whoever had the floppy disk last and put it in your drive.

    Oh and that's "British Broadcasting Corporation" microcomputer - IIRC some Swedish firm had BBC as a trademark and our BBC hadn't bothered trademarking its own acronym, so they had to rename the machine.

    PS for those suffering Elite withdrawal symptoms, Oolite for Mac/Linux is the next best thing.

    Aliens, because that's who we were zapping in our Cobra Mk IIIs.

  24. Matthew
    Thumb Down

    BEEB=fail

    C64 4TW.

  25. Sam Green
    Thumb Up

    Elite

    Brings a nostalgic tear to my aging eye...

    <smug>

    When you achieved it, your status was '- - - E L I T E - - -'

    </smug>

  26. Richard
    Stop

    Pedant Mode On

    I hate to be the pedant here, but it never ceases to amaze me how even professionals fail to get the system specs of BBC Micros correct.

    The original CPU in the Model A and B was a 6502A, but it was not a CMOS version. It was the standard version, complete with undocumented instructions as used by so many games. The CMOS version wasn't used until the B+ and the Master series wherein compatibility issues arose as said instructions didnt do anything in the CMOS version.

    The CPU used in the B+ and Master series is a 65C12, not a 6512A. This differs very slightly from the 6502 by a minor instruction set addition and the CMOS issues as noted.

    A second processor option was made that used a 65C02 or 65C102 processor that is essentially the same, but this was never fitted as standard.

    The maximum graphics resolution is 640x256 not 320x256. Though this was only in 2 colours (mode 0).

    I will say El Reg have managed to avoid the usual mistake of claiming the vast array of wierd clock speeds that usually claimed with the BBC Micros. I've seen claims of 3, 3.5 and even 4Mhz for various different models. No BBC Micro's main CPU clock speed ever went above 2Mhz.

    /Pedant.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled pre-Good-Friday Thursday lunchtime.

    Ta.

  27. Chika
    Gates Horns

    Ok, so the beeb wasn't my first...

    ...but you could only loosely call the ZX81 a computer!

    I still have my Beeb, which was a Model A which I upgraded myself except for the Solidisk DFS which was done by some idiot in Hornchurch. Haven't used it in 10 years, but it was the reason why I became such an Acorn enthusiast in the first place. A real shame it all went the way it did.

  28. Dave
    Thumb Up

    The national museum of computing

    All yuo sad geeks (myself included) who are finding the naotalgia welling up inside them would do well to visit the national Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park http://www.tnmoc.org/

    Last time i visited they had a room full of 'old' computers which were all powered up and open to the public to fiddle with! needless to say i went straight to the BBC and found myself, almost automatically, tapping in the wonderfully useful 'Hello World' program... and then naturally went around all the other machines trying the same...

    I remember Micro Live, in fact it gave me the basis for one of the programs i submitted for my Computer Studies O level - (remember O levels? back when you had to actually learn stuff!) It was a simple game involving a series of platforms and ladders and some dropping bombs.. or something like that...

  29. Sampler
    Happy

    Still have one and a bag full of tapes

    Hours spent writing code out of a magazine to have you're own modded maze of pacman *cough* sorry, snapper :D

    Or custom space invaders - those were the days, game mods were written from the code up, not in some app. =p

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @ Richard Lloyd

    "It's why it was never as popular as the vastly inferior Spectrum (which was a pitiful machine really, but it was very cheap, which attracted a lot of users and hence a lot of games for it - a virtuous circle indeed and one Acorn never cottoned onto)."

    Oooi! Lay-off the Speccy. That 'pitiful' machine launched more careers in computing than Aunties elitist and outrageously overpriced box ever did.

    That said, the BBC was a very-very good machine. I certainly wouldn't have said no to one at the time.

    Best games on the Beeb? Elite and Castle Quest.

    Hey El-Reg, how about a Forgotten Tech feature on *best ever* 8-bit - the Sam Coupe?

  31. Dave

    Fantastic machines

    One of my schoolmates had a BBC B with cassette drive. We dreamed of elite with a disk drive - all those extra ships you could see....

    If memory serves me the Met Office were still using BBC Masters to display rainfall radar pictures in some of their out-stations in 1996. Anyone know when they were retired ?

    Shows what you can do with only a little memory and processing power. These days you need a gig just to create a word doc.

  32. TeeCee Gold badge

    I remember....

    One evening a college mate showed off his new BBC micro to us. But he had no games for it. A quick trip to the newsagent's supplied a mag with a type-it-yourself copy of the "star trek" classic for BBC Basic, printed in very tiny print over six pages. Six of us stayed up all night taking turns at the keyboard to type the bloody thing in, finishing at around 6 AM. Then an hour's debugging to find the typos and we were GO.

    Some hours later, having exhausted the novelty value and with the pubs being open we asked him for his cassette drive to back up the nice, shiny program we'd worked so hard typing in.................!!

    Never since in the field of IT have I heard so much invective directed at one person.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the beeb

    My BBC Master 128, with metalbox Microvitec CUB monitor, 5.25" AND 3.5" FDDs, and an Acorn Music 500 (one of the rare ones that actually worked on the master) is still pride of palce in my old computers collection. I still fire up the music 500 every once in a while, because one of my mates is into his electronic music and likes sampling it.

    The other day I managed to hook it up to my windows box via a serial lead and can upload and download disk images. This means that I can use the music 5000 software, rather than AMPLE.

    I sometimes feel I need to get out more...

  34. Adam

    School computers

    The BBC Micro was ace, though admittedly it does say something about my Primary school that I was still using them in 1997, and when the new Acorn came in I had to teach all the teachers how to use the damn thing.

    I still remember running about the school trying to find a formatted disk so I could save this program I'd spent most of the day typing (the rest of my class were not so good at maths, so the few of us that were could go and play "educational" games with the computers), and I couldn't find a disk anywhere. Then when I got one it corrupted overnight, damn old technology.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    BBC Master version of Elite FTW !

    Oh the hours of my life well spent playing Elite <sniff>

    Other fond memories:

    - Replacing the CMOS batteries in BBC Masters, 4 x AA Duracell batteries strapped together and plugged into the motherboard.

    - Un-soldering the return key(s) switch and swapping it with a more useless key as I'd bashed it to pieces playing Positron

    - Putting in volume control & headphone socket as the game noises used to drive my parents insane

    - Using my Control IT box to rig my bedroom with boobie traps

    - Howling with laughter at my friends C64 disc drive taking nearly as long as a cassette tape to load

    - The teachers at school not having a clue how to use the suite of IT equipment we had

    Oh and the games....

    Elite

    Mr Eee

    Frank !

    Repton

    Manic Miner

    Chucky Egg

    Elixer

    Imogen

    Pole Postion

    Positron

    Still remember my setup:

    BBC Master 128k

    5 1/2" FDD

    3 3/4" FDD

    RGB Monitor

    Espon FX-90 Dot Matrix Printer

    Co-Processor (that I never used)

    AMX Mouse

    Control IT Box

    Interword ROM Chip

    The stuff dreams are made of....

    << leaves work to raid loft and find it all >>

  36. Gareth Morgan

    Bigger and Better

    I used to have a Torch. CP/M with a BBC hidden inside it and switchable. I even had a 20mb HD as well as 2 5.25 floppies. After that I had a Torch XXX Unix box which was wonderful, even the GUI. Shame there was no software to run on it.

  37. Mark Ashworth
    Happy

    Those were the days when I was Elite

    I remember getting my BBC BD and playing elite, chuckie egg and revs... I even soldered the dip switch next to the keyboard which allowed you to speed up the stepper motor on the disc drive so you could load games faster... alas about 15 years ago my BBC's PSU bit the dust... I think I might check ebay and see if someone is selling one :-)

  38. Simon Millard
    Coat

    Hacking the User Port

    In 1984, whilst attending Portsmouth ITeC, I built an interface to connect a BBC to a Commodore PET - how sad is that.

    It worked though and allowed me to print from the BBC to the printer attached to the PET via the IEEE-488 bus. Crikey, how the memories flood back.

  39. Steve Evans

    @Rich Bryant

    Errr, I am a real person, and I managed to beg a BBC from my parents (who are also real people who lived in a 3 bed semi).

    I took great please in upgrading it to a 'B' myself, soldering iron in hand...

    Ahhh... fond memories... The 6522 I/O controller, the 8271 disc controller chip which was almost impossible to find at times... Making funny shapes in mode7 with teletext graphics...

    You know what, I'm gonna have to plug it in tonight!

    (Anyone know the life expectancy of an 80 track 5.25" floppy?)

    I assume this Science museum thing is the reason I couldn't get to the computer section on Saturday when I was up there... Grrrr!

  40. Michael Jolly
    Boffin

    we used them..

    .. in my primary school most fun as a kid and really liked the clucky keyboard, now oddly i wanted for as long as i can remeber, one wonder where I can get one. (it can go with my collection of old and obsolete tech)

  41. Duncan
    Thumb Up

    I loved the BBC B.

    It made me the geek I am today! .. I visited the Bletchley Park museum recently where they have such a beast.... I could not help but type 10 print "hello", 20 goto 10... ah that was the first "program" I ever wrote.. I got better fortunately!. - I only made "Deadly" on Elite... still trying to make it to "Elite" on my PDA though!

    Another joy of Econet, as discovered in my college in the late 1980's.. was the ability to Remote other BBC's... you could remotely load a simple program toa bbc without going near it, we had a whole classroom with "singing snowmen" ringing their bells to the bleepy tune version of jingle bells. It was awesome at the time, honest... we got much grief though.

    Ah.... takes me back... good Old BBC Basic (and learning Pascal).

    Btw, whatever happened to "Mack" of the bbc live computer program.. and did anyone ever get the "program" played at the end of some of the shows to ever load on their bbc? - they did do that.. 5 minuts of tv's screaming in bleeps and groans that you could record and load on your bbc (or like me Acorn Electron) at home.

  42. William Towle
    Thumb Up

    Re: BBC model B (Robert Harrison)

    "Great piece of kit. We even wired in a 5.25 floppy disc drive which I recall required you to make modifications to the BBC mainboard itself"

    I remember a friend having an Amiga with a BBC emulator, and being prompted (perhaps reminded) to take an interest in his Dad's real Beeb because of it.

    At my suggestion, we swapped the 5.25" drive with a 3.5" to see if a) it worked as a direct replacement on real kit, and b) it could then be read via the real floppy on the emulator. A(corn)DFS didn't mind, but A(riadne)DFS on the emulator wouldn't read the disks :(

    ...not put off in the slightest, we printed lots of source code to things and ported it all (although not to the emulated machine) by hand. Hih! Good Times!! :)

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Domesday

    BBC Micro machine ahead of it's time and gave birth to many a career. Including mine.

    As I sit here writing the I have on my office floor, an original domesday laserdisc player (actually have 3 of em here, but only one BBC Broadcasting Corporation one). One day I'll find a use for it.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC B, Z80 2nd CPU, Speech Syn, Expansion board

    I had my BEEB max'ed out with a 15 ROM expansion board from Watford electronics, AMX Art, Spreadsheet, Wordprocessor, Speller and then venture to add a second CPU to run CP/M stuff too. This machine ran a small business and had some excellent games, Elite of course, Pole Position, Snapper, Chuckle Egg, just to mention a few.

    So what were the machine code registers called again ? Sheila, Oscar?

    Unfortunately my BEEB started to show it ages with random characters and overheating. It simply ran for 10 years nearly everyday so to be expected.

    BeebEm on the Mac is actually pretty good but still it doesn't compare

  45. Steve Evans

    @Pete Smith

    Terribly geeky... Except mode 0-2 all used 20k of your 32, not 16...

    Mode0 640x256 (2 colour) used 1 byte to store 8 pixels, so that's 640x256/8=20480

    The clever bit about Elite is it ran the screen in two modes and actually switched the video controller (6845 I think) mid screen scan!

    The wireframe space view was mode0 (640x256 2 colour), the radar at the bottom that needed colours was mode1 (320x256 4 colour).

    VDU23,230,24,60,90,255,24,36,66,36

    :-)

  46. Thomas Silver badge

    @ Richard Lloyd & Anonymous Coward

    "It's why it was never as popular as the vastly inferior Spectrum (which was a pitiful machine really, but it was very cheap, which attracted a lot of users and hence a lot of games for it - a virtuous circle indeed and one Acorn never cottoned onto)."

    On the contrary, the ROM reserved most of the lowest 3.5 kb for itself, then the graphics modes (the joined up ones, not the two dedicated to text mode or the special teletext mode) took a further 10 kb if you were happy with a maximum of 4 colours, or 20 kb if you wanted to use all 8 available colour (TTL logic pervaded — even in "16 colour" mode you only actually had 8 to choose from, the other 8 palette entries alternated between two colours, ala the Spectrum's flash attribute). That could conceivably leave you with as little as 8.5 kb for your actual program, maximum 18.5 kb if you used one of the worse graphics modes.

    Conversely, the Spectrum quickly standardised on a total of 48 kb RAM, with just less than 7 kb for the display — giving you a bit more than 41 kb for your program. That and the 3.5 Mhz Z80 was close enough in speed to the BBC's 2 Mhz 6502 (6502s being more clock efficient, though you really have to plan your program around the CPU addressing modes to quite a degree) to mean no significant difference in speed. The Spectrum succeeded because it was cheap and because the power of its CPU versus the complexity of manipulating its display (fewer kilobytes = less work) with its quantity of RAM produced a more powerful system. Youtube for Starstrike 2 or the Spectrum Chase HQ if you want to see the evidence.

    The SAM Coupe is at the other end of the scale — it's CPU was far too puny compared to its framebuffer and it wasn't really possible to do any sort of smooth scrolling games particularly well. With the exception of Lemmings, which has a terrible frame rate, I don't think any exist.

    There is one thing worth being nostalgic about on the BBC though — the RAM was clocked at 4 Mhz, i.e. twice the speed of the CPU (so that display fetches could be interleaved). It's hard to imagine that now.

  47. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Coat

    No better machine

    The BEEB was clearly the most useful teaching computer, possibly of all time.

    It was accessible to people who were only prepared to learn Basic, and also to those who were prepared to use assembler. You could teach structured programming on it without any modification, but it also had languages like Forth, Pascal, Logo, and LISP available. Although the networking was rudamentry (and fantastically insecure), it allowed network file and print servers to be set up very easily and cheaply (proto-Ethernet CSMA/CD for PC's at the time cam in at hundreds of pounds per PC plus the fileserver). Although it did not run Visicalc or Wordstar (the business apps of the time), it was still possible to use View or WordWise, and ViewSheet, or ViewBase to teach office concepts. And it was possible to have the apps in ROM for instant startup.

    I ran a lab of 16 BBCs to teach computer appreciation, and we had a network with a fileserver (and 10MB hard disk!), robot arms, cameras, graphic tablets, speech synths. speech recognition units, touch screens, pen plotters, mice and more. This was around 1983. Show me another machine of that time that could do all of this. And all for a cost of less than £25K (which included building custom furniture).

    I wish that schools still used systems that empowered their staff to develop custom written software to teach their students. Nope. Only PC's.

    I know many people (me included) who were prepared to pay for one of these machines at home. A classic.

  48. TimM
    Thumb Up

    Inspirational machine

    Elite - Still the best game in the world... ever! And inspired so many others.

    Revs - Crammond's forerunner to the hit GP series on the PC.

    Teletext - Well it didn't invent it, but the Beeb's cracking 1K of memory mode 7 'text' mode was basically a result of the BBC's development of Teletext. Great for text only programs and games as it left a lot of spare memory. Possibly helped Teletext adoption in UK TVs.

    Arm - Well, not in the Beeb, but the Beeb inspired Acorn to develop the Arm for the Archimedes, and we know what success the Arm has been.

    Not to mention the amount of BBC TV shows that used BBC Micro graphics! (Doctor Who especially - lol!)

    The Beeb had it's failures and was never a successful games machine (though had it's share of cracking games). As said it was sold as an educational machine, it was expensive, and it also was a bit too truthful about memory. i.e. The Beeb had 32k of RAM, free to use (the rest of the 64k of addressable memory was ROM). C64 also had similar free memory. One was sold on the amount of free memory, the other was sold more like most PCs are today. Obviously 64k sounded more attractive, even if you only got half of that to use just like the BBC ;-)

    Other memories...

    Aviator (another from Crammond).

    Castle Quest

    Citadel

    The Sentinel - Crazy puzzle game, again from Crammond. Like Elite, proved to be a hit on other machines when ported.

  49. Richard Newall
    Thumb Up

    Re:Elite

    I became Elite,but only after typing the cheat program out of Micro User,you could max all your weapons and make yourself Elite just by putting FF in the correct place.I also had a Music 500 which some kind soul upgraded to a Music 5000 by flashing the EEprom.

    My BBC tended to lock up after being used for a while,and I had to keep a can of freeze-It around to spray on the ULA chip (I think).

    Best Games for me were:-

    Repton,Elite,Aviator, and a Fav of mine Cholo.

    I also used to have an array of sideways roms,and also a a Replay board installed where you could press a button to freeze the action and could put cheats in that where printed in magazines - Ah Happy Days..

  50. Mike Richards

    Isn't the BBC Micro just a synonym

    for 'middle class'?

    Yeah after all these years I'm still embittered and jealous of the owners of these lovely machines.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    try this one

    pod can pop

  52. Simon Greenwood
    Pirate

    Vince Clarke as celebrity endorsee

    I remember seeing Erasure at my alma mater just before they got famous, and Vince's arsenal was a pair of BBC Bs and the UMI sequencer and three or four expanders on stands across the back of the stage. The old setup still lives in his studio and I seem to recall it has been used on a tune or two on recent LPs. He used to swear by its timekeeping.

  53. Paul

    Command prompt

    At least it had a command prompt so you could see when something had loaded. Only way to tell on my old acorn atom was that the screen flickering stopped.

  54. Richard Newall
    Thumb Up

    Re:Elite

    I became Elite,but only by typing the cheat program in from Micro User,you could max your weapons and get everything by just putting FF in the correct boxes.

    I used to also have a Music 500 that some kind soul upgraded to a 5000 by flashing the EEPROM for me,I built a keyboard for that sourced from watford I think.

    Also had a replay chip in mine that allowed you to pause a game at any point and also you could input cheat codes that were provided and were also printed in magazines.

    Mine also used to lock up when it got warm,and I had to keep the lid unscrewed so I could spray the ULA chip with Freeze-It to make it work again.

    Best Games - Elite,Repton,Aviator and my Fav Chollo

    Ah Happy days

  55. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Best machine? why?

    Why does one machine have to be the best? there were many computers around during its lifetime.

    People were still using them in the mid 80s and at that time the Amiga A1000 was around and that seriously blew away all of the 8-bit machines around at the time.

    The Beeb was okay, ideal for education and people who liked to write programs and make hardware as their hobby. There were some good games for it, but ultimately it was too expensive for home users and it lost out in the playground as none of your peers owned one.

    I never met anyone who had a beeb at home, if anyone had an Acorn then it was the electron.

    For the younger generation the Spectrums and Commodores were much more fun. Commodore having better hardware on the whole.

    The C64 had a great demo scene and people pushed the hardware to the limits.

  56. John L Ward
    Happy

    I'll never forget...

    ...the rocket I got from falling asleep at the Christmas table between courses, mainly because I had stayed up all the previous night playing Elite.

    Ah, happy days...

  57. David Neil
    Happy

    Memories

    I remember my headmaster at primary school allowing me to spend lunch breaks on my own with the schools BBC B.

    Eventually some of my frends cottoned on, but they soon lost interest when they realsied I wasnt playing games but actually programming it.

    Sadly I moved schools in P7 and at my new one you would have thought the thing was made of pixie dust - I swear in the year I was there I saw it come out of a cupboard once.

    I certainly haven't been near one in well over 20 years, and despair at the thought that my kids won't know the joys of typing up a program and moving the asterisk through a wall of dashes.

  58. Jeremy
    Heart

    Pod can...

    ...jump!

    ...run!

    ...fly!

    ...swim!

    Of course 'pop' was always the class favourite. IIRC, 'explode' worked too.

    Anyone else remember Suburban Fox? "You were shot by a farmer" Not these days!

    /drowns in nostalgia drool...

  59. Patrick Hogan
    Thumb Up

    Happy memories

    Great computer and definitely responsible for my IT-based choice of career.

    Check out Chris Whytehead's museum of just about everything that Acorn ever released at http://acorn.chriswhy.co.uk/

    Random stuff that was cool at the time:

    AMX Mouse and AMX Super Art: The BBC micro's answer to MacPaint. Not a bad effort, very Mac-like GUI, although only four colours, small canvas and a painfully slow software pan/scroll. Some spin-offs such as the MAX mouse-based desktop which seemed to be useful for just about nothing.

    Music 500 and Music 5000: Both used the same external 8-voice synth hardware (in the ubiquitous yellow/beige box) but the 5000 had ROM-based software and used loadable modules to implement a mixing desk, notation editor and program editor. All based on a FORTH-like language which was the bee's knees, allowing control of music events, definition of sound envelopes and waveforms and even system level memory poking and data structures.

    Exile: For me the best game released for the BBC. Smooth multi-directional scrolling, sampled speech, physics engine. Cor!

    Overheating ULA chip in the original model B. The heatsink on it seemed to only just manage the job and occasionally didn't.

    Bug in the tape handling routines in the initial OS release which meant that sometimes your programs didn't save. You had to remember to load a patch before saving, or save at 300 baud rather than 1200. Forgetting to do either of those was common...

    Mike Cook's hardware projects in the Micro User Magazine, e.g. foot-operated joystick made out of mercury switches, half a ballcock and a piece of board.

    Granny's Garden! "That was not a good idea..." Aieeeee!

  60. Jeremy
    Heart

    Oh I forgot...

    Pod Can't Fart!

    Finding out what he couldn't do was more fun than the stuff he wouldn't do because he would always faithfully reprint what you entered :)

  61. mad clarinet
    Coat

    Good memories

    I remember spending days typing in programmes from magazines - then spending weeks debuging them. Good fun, excellent machines and had a lot of excellent games.

    I made it to 'Elite' on both the BBC B and the 'cut down BBC' (Electron). Not managed to beat Repton 2 though.

    I have still a working BBC B and a BBC Master (rescued from a skip) at work as well as 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 disk drives and a 6502 tube... (yes, sad geek but oh well).

    If you want the 'retro' you can get 'BeebEm' for free as well as a lot of games too.

    Anyone remember 'Magic Mushrooms' or designed any fun levels for it?

    Okay okay - mines the one beige one with the red lapel.

  62. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up

    Middle class Micro?

    Not when it was in your school, then it was accessable to any creed or class.

    I was sub-poverty line when I first started playing Chuckie Egg, er, I mean, using LOGO to draw three foot pentragrams and swear words to put on the classroom wall - great times. me and my mate Chris were the only ones who could 'complete' chuckie egg.

    It was what got me into computers - shortly afterwards a [middle class ;-)] mate got a 486 and was pretty feckless at using it, so I would get called down a couple of times a week...

    I now do desktop support, imaging, rollouts, hardware teching, and am currently applying for a tasty looking hardware/systems testing job for a nice round £30k.

    And it's all the BBC Micro's fault.

    W00t for the M1cr0 LOLZ OMFG R0><0RZ!!11!!!eleventy etc.

  63. Guy
    Happy

    The BBC at last, I wouldn't call it forgotten though

    "So while the BBC's Project may not have engendered computer literacy in the way the Corporation originally hoped"

    I disagree - I say the BBC machines engendered a great deal of computer literacy. Just about all the geeks of my age can point to a BBC somewhere in their past that taught them the basic fundamentals they still refer to today. They were so easy to use that they encouraged playing on them to see what you could do (Which is of course the best way to learn)

    BASIC - Was, well, basic, but it taught the use of variables, memory, even modules (if you abused the often maligned GOTO command)

    Oh and yes, there was definitely an element of hacking involved as well, which only helped keep us playing with them, nothing peeks the interest like trying to do something you shouldn't (For fun of course, never malicious)

    Oh and Elite - I made deadly and Repton was excellent.

  64. Paul

    Memories!

    "the beast still fired up a treat, including discs. I'd like to see a current generation desktop PC do that (obviously 20 years from now of course)"

    Heh, actually some of them have trouble "firing up a treat" from the moment you first take them out of the box. OS name omitted to protect the guilty...

    I had a Speccy at home of course, but my school had networked Beebs (your login id was an 8-bit hexadecimal number, and the password was 4 characters long! Oddly enough I don't remember mine, but I do remember one of my classmates login details). We had a "big" Winchester disk and an Epson LX-80 printer in the corner, shared across the network, all terribly high-tech when you were used to loading stuff from audio tapes.

    Had great fun with them on morning break and lunchtime, loved the (somewhat structured) BASIC and different graphics modes, even had a program set up so that hitting CTRL-BREAK (or was it SHIFT-BREAK?) would autoboot it, setting MODE 3 and configuring all the F-keys to my liking, ready for a bit of coding. (At the time I didn't realize that I was losing over half my available RAM by going into MODE 3, I just preferred the 80-column mode for programming.)

    Our GCSE projects were done in ISO Pascal (in ROM, the extra ROM sockets you could install software into being another neat Beeb feature). I still remember being able to provoke it into throwing more compile errors than there were lines of code to compile!

    The BBC-A's screen modes: it wasn't that it couldn't do modes 0-3, so much as it could if only it had enough RAM. Those modes all took up more than 16k in memory, kind of a problem when you only *have* 16k to start with...

  65. Damian Skeeles
    Heart

    We saved up for a 40/80 Drive

    It took us 2 years to save up for the BBC B that we eventually bought as a family Christmas Present - no bikes or dolls houses that year!

    I never really got past some moderate basic programs, but it brings back some fond memories:

    - Made it to Deadly in Elite - you needed some serious dedication to get to "Elite" (dedication I eventually found on the Arc)

    - Hitting Escape in "Bismarck!" to find it was actually all in uncompiled BASIC, and hacking it so that using a particular password for my turn would give me super-duper ships. And writing the hack in 150 bytes, as that was all the RAM that was left available

    - Writing BASIC out of Beebug magazine,and then running the checksum program to check for typos.

    - Saving/copying games using my Watford Electronics Replay ROM, and drilling a hole in the back of the case for the CPU interrupt switch

    - Filling all but one of my ROM slots

    - Aviator - landing upside down, and flying between the buildings and under the bridge

    - Finding who could do all three stunts in the quickest time.

    - Racing against Hugh Jengine in Revs

    - Writing some training software in MODE 7 using 'SPEECH', for my 6th form project

    I still have mine in my parents' loft, next to my Archimedes A410; I think they've both been waiting for a moment like this.....

  66. Ben Cooper

    I've still got one...

    Picked up a BBC Master for free from Glasgow University when they were chucking them out - and with it came the stupidly-expensive-at-the-time hard drive - all of 2 megabytes capacity!

  67. Darren Forster
    Alert

    MSX

    Nice list of other computers that people had who couldn't afford the BBC B, I settled for one not on the list - the Japanese MSX, this was for those who couldn't even afford the C-64's/Spectrums, later on I went up to a C64 which electrocuted me with a dodgy plug, and then went over to the ZX Spectrum +2 and finally came back to Commodore with the Amiga (after seeing an ST emulator I'm really glad I evaded that one!). I also ended up with the BBC smaller brother - The Acorn Electron!

  68. Michael Compton

    Ah the 6502

    Most fun you can have with your clothes on....and maybe off umm :p

    I had my first taste of programming on that puppy in 1997 would u believe. Though I also had to do COBOL as well, damn you millenium bug, though at the time it didn't seem bad its working with it since thats peeved me off :|

  69. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    Can I just say...

    ... Right on Commander!

  70. Channing Walton
    Thumb Up

    The engine of Physics labs

    Physics experiments everywhere were (and probably still are) powered by BBC model B's. They were extremely reliable machines and a doddle to interface hardware to.

    Good ol' days :-)

  71. Colin Wilson
    Happy

    FAO: Richard (and references to ELITE)

    Richard - I believe you're thinking of Frak! (not Frank!)

    I too only got as far as Deadly on Elite, but, and I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere in the comments, everyone go google RIGHT NOW for this little gem (now "officially" removed following a complaint* by David Braben - yes, THAT David Braben)

    Elite TNK (The New Kind) by Christian Pinder

    It's Elite as you knew and loved it on the BBC, fully ported (bugs and all) to the modern PC.

    Seriously, go - now - and find an illicit download :-)

    *David Braben was "forced" to act to protect his rights after someone used the source for TNG to compile a PDA version, and stupidly included a copyright notice - which they had no right to do.

    Damn, I *so* wanted a thargoid or cargo logo for this comment !

  72. Highlander

    Memories....

    Elite, Revs, Aviator, Sentinel, Citadel, etc....

    Magic Mushrooms ruled, especially that effect where they somehow managed to make the screen shake when you fell to your doom.

    For all those 'remembering' BBC Basic, many seem to be forgetting things. Someone talked of using gotos for modular programming. IIRC BBC Basic was pretty advanced for BASIC mostly on account of using Functions and Procedures rather than abusing the GOTO or the GOSUB.

    I still have one, Model B, with a 2nd processor (6502) and dual disk drives and a music 500. Got the ROM board, though I can't remember all the ROMS i have. The DFS for the 2nd processor loads off a disc image into Sideways RAM, and Elite runs great with that second 6502 and it's memory to play with. Analog joysticks too! Woo hoo!

    The Beeb Micro was responsible for my interest in computers, I learned programming using BBC Basic, Pascal, BCPL and even a touch of assembly. By the time I hit university I was ready for more. Great days.

  73. Michael Emerton

    Still Have One, Still use the newer versions

    I remember programming this little beastie (the real BeeB BBC Model B) when I was about 5 or 6 mostly hello world!

    Favorite games POD and Oil RIG a "teletext game" downloaded using our Teletext Decoder!

    Then you had the solid state disc (not sure on manufacturer) which would come loose (causing a familiar never ending beep) and a good old bashing / pressing down on the case fixed it to boot up again!

    Even a famous software house (Computer Concepts now Xara Ltd) was just down the road from me.

    I loved the old Interword ROM

    CH."Interword"....ah those were the days!

    I still remain to use its younger cousin RiscPC (StrongARM) at work where I use remote desktoping to control various Servers / Creating documents, and technical diagrams, while my PC Laptop is loading / busy crashing. I have even used BBC BASIC on it to code a music player (MP3/OGG) which lives in/out of the desktop environment and can be booted from cold in under 5 seconds!

    I wonder how many of you realize the BBC was used to develop the original ARM chip that is in so many different things these days (Mobile Phones, Apple Newton, PACE boxes, RAID interfaces ect)?

    Plug: www.virtualacorn.co.uk

    Plug: http://acorn.cybervillage.co.uk/emulation/bbc/

  74. Mark York
    Heart

    Scrapheap

    I had a Acorn Electron (bought at my first trade show while working for Modem House in Sunderland), work had Beeb's with 3" (Amstrad PCW) floppies.

    Fond memories, bought & used a works Beeb for my HNC in electronics in Swindon.

    Now contracting in IT for Somerset CC, seen a few Beeb's thrown out for disposal & about 5 (still in original packing & in one complete hit) Masters.

    I would have rescued them, but THO would have divorced me & not very practical to export to Canada in the next year or so (& theres enough crap (as she calls it) floating about to junk already).

  75. Anymouse
    Go

    Warm fuzzy memories - *I AM .. & !BOOT

    Fuzzy - well it was over 25 years ago that I got to play with all that kit. I can still remember 75159 was the code for the Econet line driver chips a.k.a. on-board lightning surge protection.

    I loved writing in 6502 assembly code, smaller, neater & faster than BASIC but the ability to call "machine code" sub routines from the BBC's BASIC was brilliant.

    Elite (in colour with a 2nd processor) - probably one of the best personal teaching aids there was... game? No Sir!, it's educational - trading economics, spatial awareness(3D scanner was brilliant), hand/eye co-ordination, strategic and real-time tactical decision making.

    Ouch moment - brand new "B+" just setup, not even on 30s when a full cup of coffee went all over it.

  76. paul clarke

    Better Programmers?

    I think that anyone in the industry that started out using the built in Assembly Compiler on the BBC can stand up and say thats real programming.

    Far too many of today's programs are written by bad programmers who do not care about code optimisation and are content on delivering even more bloat ware that is full of bugs and needs patches galore. I once had a word processor, spreadsheet and database package that also allowed 8 pages of text in RAM before it created a file on the floppy to store "pages". Some might of called it a "Page File" strange how that term has now come to mean something different.

    The ADC was superb, loads of home made projects, a true inventors dream. I made pressure sensitive doormats that changed the TV to AV and displayed a picture of the person stood at the door. All for fun.

  77. Jon Leighton

    Telesoftware

    I had a Teletext adapter and submitted several programs for transmission over CEEFAX. One of my most popular was a share downloading program which allowed you to automatically download your selection of share prices, daily and plot them out as time series. I had many letters sent on to me from The BBC to make changes to the software.

    I was --- E L I T E--- too. Total geek.

    There is even to this day some software I wrote in assembler, flying around the skies in a weather research aircraft, controlling an air sampling instrument.

  78. Gareth Doe
    Thumb Up

    RE Dogfight

    Dogfight was a fantastic game, I never managed to get a BBC, I had the Acorn Electron but that just meant I had to use side "B" on half the tapes. By fair means or foul is still my favorite boxing game. Wait for the ref to turn his head and then start cheating like mad...

  79. Jasmine Strong

    They were called

    FRED, JIM and SHEILA. Also, the second processor was called PARASITE and the main one would then become HOST. My favourite though was OSBYTE. There were so many nice system calls; you could do almost anything.

    I miss my Beeb.

    I need to get out more.

  80. Bill Norrie
    Happy

    Not just a 'Home' Computer

    .......Fond Memories............

    I used the BBC B computer and later, the Master, for some quite serious applications, including North Sea diver monitoring programs, process control applications, mini and micro fermenter control and monitoring, pressure vessel control and monitoring etc. The computer was connected via the 1Mhz bus to custom designed interfaces, based on the 6520 PIA, 6522 VIA and Analog Devices 12 bit ADC / DAC chips. Some of the systems used networking and also connected to other types of monitoring instruments, via the RS432 port. The software was a hybrid of assembler and BBC Basic.

    The 6502 and later 65C12, had a super instruction set and were a joy to program in assembler. Calling discrete machine code routines, from BBC Basic was so easy, when operations were time critical or easier to control, using low level routines. The machine code routines were burned into an EPROM and inserted in one of the ROM expansion sockets, to save program space in the RAM.

    Most systems also used a 5 1/4 Floppy disk and the Microvitec monitor.

    I also used a BBC B+ at home with a custom built MIDI interface, to control a Yamaha musical keyboard - endless fun..................

  81. Mike Davies
    Thumb Up

    It ain't dead yet!

    I grew up with BBC Micros and even swapped my Atari ST for a BBC Micro model B+ 64K. My parents we NOT impressed - until I started actually learning programming on it (remember 6502 assembly language? :D). They forgave me about 5 years later.

    But keep in mind that there are emulators out there. Try Beebem (type it in to google) which is almost 100% accurate (no I don't work for them: just a BBC nut :) ). Wish I still had my BBC but it gave up the ghost after the TV modulator went wonky.

    Does anyone else remember the flippy-floppies you could make? Turn a 40 Track single sided disc into a double sided 40 track disc - just cut out a peice of plastic on the disc and then turn the disc over to access the second side (*FORM 40).

    Oh, someone mentioned Portsmouth ITeC. Yeah I remember the place too :)

  82. Bruce Leyden
    Paris Hilton

    Glad it wasn't just me

    My friend: "What's Geeky Mark doing?"

    Me: "He's studying the circuit diagram for his SAM Coupé, trying to see if he can improve it in any way"

    My friend: "Ah, so he wants to see if he can make it subtract as well?"

    I seem to remember a lot of the old my-computer's-better-than-yours fights used to revolve around how many colours one's machine could render. The spoilt-brat Amiga boys always wheeled that one out.

    Paris because she can't subtract either (er, probably)

  83. Rob

    Excting to be part of it

    I was lucky enough to be part of the whole Beeb craze, working for Computer Concepts who did games in the early days (Snake?) and many of the ROM applications like WordWise, InterWord, InterSheet, etc.

    Many of the people working in those early days of the Micro computer industry are still active in it today. Anyone remember books by Dave Atherton and Bruce Smith? Well, Dave certainly did well for himself when he sold DABS to BT a couple of years ago! Someone mentioned BEEBUG (Beeb User Group) - one of the founders helps out at the Bletchley computer museum. Watford Electronics went out of business a couple of years ago, but it's amazing how many of those early companies are still around and thriving today.

  84. Stuart Halliday
    Heart

    no we didn't...

    If we couldn't afford to buy the BBC B, we bought an Acorn Electron...

    Just in case we forget - the millions of ARM processors that current direct the Internet, our mobiles and mp3 players are the direct descendants of the Acorn BBC Micro.

    Bill Gates Quote: "What's an network?", when shown a collection of BBC Micros networked back in the Eighties.

    He had popped over to try to sell Acorn a version of his BASIC. He'd never seen the vastly superior BBC BASIC before...

  85. Sheridan Williams

    Bletchley Park

    As Rob says, I founded BEEBUG together with Lee Calcraft in 1982. Amazingly from a single small advertisement in Personal Computer World ( a magazine I contributed to for many years) over 10,000 people joined Beebug in just 2 months. Many had not even got the BBC Micro they ordered yet. Beebug grew to over 30,000 subscribers and lobbied Acorn to improve its service to its customers.

    I have since retired and am helping out at the National Museum of Computers (http://www.tnmoc.co.uk) at Bletchley Park. I urge people to visit the museum not only to see working BBC Micros, Apples, ZX80, Amstrads Superbrains etc. but also the amazing Colossus rebuild. Colossus was the world’s first electronic computers, beating the American’s ENIAC by several years.

    Sheridan Williams

  86. Henry Budgett
    Happy

    Shame the rest of the team weren't there...

    I'm not sure whether the Computer Programme's Paul Kriwaczek is still with us, he would have been a worthy attendee - I first met him at the launch of the ZX80 and subsequently helped out on the first two series and the 2-hour Live show. Absolutely wonderful guy - wrote his own DOS, a spreadsheet programme in 2k and was also both a talented musician and a qualified dentist...

    I also dug out for amusement a couple of reports I wrote for Allen and Radcliffe on the contenders for the BBC Micro - Acorn was not the first choice to provide the hardware. Fun days!

    Anyone remember Computing Today? ...

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    alas poor oric...

    the mighty beeb was way above our price range, when i was a kid. in fact we were so feckin' poor, even the spectrum, the commodore, the acorn and the dragon were beyond my folks' means. so i ended up with an 'oric 48k'. named after the computer in 'blake's seven'. beat that for obscurity!

    [ just on the off-chance *anyone* else on the planet remembers the oric, you can find some info at http://www.48katmos.freeuk.com/oric1.htm ]

    funnily enough, in all my years involved in computing, i've never so much as tapped the keyboard of a BBC micro. i wasn't allowed near the couple we had at school, as they were reserved for the mathematically gifted kids, and not the great unwashed rest of us.

  88. Andrew Wigglesworth

    Aah, dinner times

    going up to the school computer room (this was 1982 or so) and playing Elite.

    Our school also had a Cambridge Machines computer with a z80 chip and a FLOPPY DISK DRIVE!!!

    It was all black, on it's own trolly, we thought it the coolest thing we'd ever seen :-D

    We used to play around with it using turtle.

  89. Andrew Wigglesworth
    Happy

    Aah, dinner times

    going up to the school computer room (this was 1982 or so) and playing Elite.

    Our school also had a Cambridge Machines computer with a z80 chip and a FLOPPY DISK DRIVE!!!

    It was all black, on it's own trolly, we thought it the coolest thing we'd ever seen :-D

    We used to play around with it using turtle.

  90. Dick Pountain

    Hi Henry

    I knew Paul Kriwaczec, visited him in Ladbroke Grove several times to discuss TV programs that never happened. According to Google he's still around and still writing and producing (http://www.kriv.demon.co.uk/)

    And how could I ever forget Computnig Toady?

  91. Duckorange
    Dead Vulture

    My finest hour...

    ... was not achieving --- E L I T E --- status (which I managed on no less than three occasions), but hacking Samantha Fox Strip Poker so I could get to the money shot without all that boring gambling business.

    Those were the days, and far from being educational, the Beeb was entirely responsible for failing my A-levels in 1984. And again in 1985.

  92. Dave Driver
    Paris Hilton

    New fangled gizmo

    The BBC Micro was one of the later home computers to hit the market.

    I cut my teeth doing machine code on a PET, then bought a Tangerine Microtan 65. My friends had other 6502 machines such as Ohio Superboards and UK101s, and the other stream was Z80 machines such as Tandy TRS-80s, Nascom 1 and 2s, and Sharp MZ80Ks.

    Later came the crappy ZX-80 and after that anything must have seemed sophisticated, particularly the limo of 6502 machines described in this article.

    Paris cos she was just about to be conceived.

  93. Rich

    Middle class machine

    The BBC was GBP400 or so, compared to a C64 at around the GBP200 mark.

    It had a much more sophisticated Basic and the aforementioned 80 character display. But the C64 had hardware sprites and sound to offload the somewhat wimpy CPU and was a whole lot better for games.

    Hence little Nigel got a BBC and Kevin in the caancil aaass got a C64.

  94. William Morton

    I thought it was that Tony Smith from AcornUser

    Yes, I love my beeb, still got it and the torch z80/68000 2nd processor with CPM never had the UNIX running as tube card was 2nd hand. Also I seem to remember that mode0/2 used 20k of RAM not 16k &3000-&8000. God that is sad haven't had it switched on for over a decade and I can still remember the memory map and most of the OS addresses.

    The best thing about 8bit programming was you had to really think how to do something efficently, now'er days you just bung your code in your PC, no style or beauty. Hence the current inability of programmers to produce bug free code

  95. David Bell

    but some of the rest of the team were there...

    Henry Budgett (that's a name I remember!) was asking about Paul Kriwaczek? He was in fact in attendance at the Science Museum event and presented one of the papers. Although it was impossible for all the Computer Literacy team to be there for various reasons it did include the majority of those associated with the programme series; sadly Steve Lowry wasn't able to attend.

    Good to see Dick Pountain contributing - he did some great reviews for Acorn products during those heady days!

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