BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy
IF .. THEN .. ELSE
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.