Feeds

The BBC Micro turns 30

The 8-bit 1980s dream machine

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Archaeologic The BBC Micro – the machine which, along with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, epitomised the British home computer boom of the early 1980s – was launched 30 years ago tomorrow.

Unveiled on 1 December 1981 as the Model A and Model B, the BBC Micro would go on to sell over 1.5 million units before the last of the line was discontinued in 1994.

The BBC Micro was designed and manufactured by Acorn, a Cambridge-based computer company founded by Chris Curry and Herman Hauser on 5 December 1978 as Cambridge Processor Unit (CPU).

Acorn's founders: Herman Hauser and Chris Curry

Acorn's founders: Herman Hauser and Chris Curry
Source: Gazstone.com

Curry had quit working for Clive Sinclair's Science of Cambridge (SoC), where he had developed the MK14 microcomputer kit. Sinclair was less enthusiastic about the project than Curry, who came to believed that the only way to take the product to the next stage – to build and sell a computer for home use – was to do so outside of SoC.

Hauser, a physics researcher at Cambridge University, agreed. He was aware of the many young, talented computer scientists and engineers working at the university and was able to help CPU quickly tap into this resource.

Acorn Series 1

The Acorn Series 1
Source: Chris's Acorns

CPU first developed a controller for Ace Coin Equipment's one-armed bandits, funding the work on the Acorn Microcomputer – later called the Acorn System 1 – which was launched in March 1979.

During the following months, Sinclair began work on the ZX80. Unlike the motherboard-and-not-much-else MK14 and System 1, the ZX80, although sold primarily as a kit the user would assemble, was designed as a cased product with the potential to appeal to a much broader audience than electronics hobbyists.

Acorn's Atom

No touch-keys, thank you: Acorn's first cased computer, the Atom
Source: Archivus

That move, in turn, may well have inspired Curry to drive the development of the next Acorn machine, the Atom. Seeing the possibilities, Curry and Hauser recast CPU as Acorn. And, a year later, in March 1980, the Atom was launched as the first Acorn Computers machine, combining a case with an integrated keyboard – with moving keys, unlike the ZX80's flat ones – and what was essentially a System 3 motherboard within.

And with the Atom's launch, Acorn's development team began work on its successor, codenamed Proton, a machine they hoped would be a more serious machine than the one-up-on-Sinclair Atom.

Acorn advertises the Atom

Acorn advertises the Atom
Source: The Home Computer Hall of Fame

Meanwhile, the state broadcaster was taking an interest in the world of microcomputers...

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Next page: Corporation Street

More from The Register

next story
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
DARPA-backed jetpack prototype built to make soldiers run faster
4 Minute Mile project hatched to speed up tired troops
Hey, Mac fanbois. HGST wants you drooling over its HUGE desktop RACK
What vast digital media repository could possibly need 64 TERABYTES?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.