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March 19, 2010 AT 1:30 am

BBC Micro

800Px-Bbc Micro
We learned about this today in the Arduino meeting(s)… BBC Micro – like a UK Apple II…

The BBC Microcomputer System, or BBC Micro, was a series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Designed with an emphasis on education it was notable for its ruggedness, expandability and the quality of its operating system.

The Acorn Proton was a pre-existing project at Acorn to succeed the Atom home computer. It was then submitted for, and won, the Literacy Project tender for a computer to accompany the TV programmes and literature. Renamed the BBC Micro, the platform was chosen by most schools and became a cornerstone of computing in British education in the 1980s, changing Acorn’s fortunes. It was also moderately successful as a home computer in the United Kingdom despite its high cost. The machine was directly involved in the development of the ARM architecture which sees widespread use in embedded systems as of 2009.

While nine models were eventually produced with the BBC brand, the term “BBC Micro” is usually colloquially used to refer to the first six (Model A, B, B+64 and B+128, Master 128, Master compact), with the later models considered as part of the Archimedes series.

Any Adafruits’ out there use one?


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22 Comments

  1. I used one – http://twitter.com/pytey/status/10710285076

  2. The BBC Model B was my first computer. It used 16K ROMs for some of it’s software including the word processor and spreadsheet. It had physical space for something like 5 ROMs, but could address 8 or 16. I had an expansion board that let you use all of the addressable ROMs and also had a RAM chip so you could store extra ROMs on disk.

    I still remember it fondly. It certainly had a large impact on my life as I’ve been developing software ever since.

  3. I used to play Planetoid (a Defender clone) on one c.1982 🙂

  4. I absolutely have one 🙂 I got mine when I was a young-un in 1983 and I’ve had it ever since. It’s 27 years old now.

    The only things that seem to suffer with time are the power supplies (I re-soldered mine to prevent dry joint issues) and the key switches which suffer with internal corrosion. I have spare keyboards for that and have to replace switches from time to time.

    I took mine to Makerfaire UK this year with the ethernet controller I built for it. Based on the WIZ812MJ ethernet module it has some support logic and hangs off of the parallel port with bit-banged I2C. (See my blog. Also I’ll be posting full schematics, code, etc. on a projects page on my site very soon).

    The Beeb (as the BBC Micro is known) taught me programming, low level programming (interrupts etc) and digital hardware since you could so easily hang things off of it. It did teach a generation to code!

  5. Oh someone seems to have photographed me and it and put them on flickr.

    http:[email protected]/4443656767/in/photostream/

  6. I had one of the very first, serial number 000072. I adored it. I started off with a 16K model, but later added almost every hardware add on you could imagine. I installed an extra 16k of RAM and some additional ROMS, which held applications like debuggers and word processors. Eventually I added a pair of double sided floppy disc drives; for a grand total of 400k of storage.

    The BBC micro was the original home of Elite, the space fighting/trading game. One of the best games ever made and granddad to many of today’s games.

    The sophisticated BASIC was easily the best in its class, with procedures and functions built in. Eventually I sold mine (it breaks my heart to think of that moment, I loved it so much). However there are a number of emulators available on the web. Dig one out and recreate the early 80s all over again.

  7. From the age of 8 i used one all the time and its the reason why I am a geek today. I even ended up working for Acorn whilst at university just before they went bust. Happy days.

  8. I spent many happy hours playing games on this bad boy, I guess between 6 and 11 years old? I even managed to run some simple programs after reading the enormous BASIC manual that came with it (with an owl on the front cover). Same applies to me. Still coding, it totally inspired me.

  9. I grew up on Beeb micros. They were really designed for educational settings (they were more or less indestructible beasts) so they were common in schools.

    They were only “upgraded” away in my school when I was about 13 and I’m the same age as the beeb micro. All still in working order after 13 years in a school!

    Seeing Cyberspice’s ethernet beeb at Maker Faire took me right back to my youth!

  10. Don’t know if it was for the BBC Micro, but there was a computer programme on british TV, which, instead of end title music, broadcast software one could record on cassette.

  11. I had a machine that ran on the same 6502 processor as the BBC Micro, but was a few years earlier, the Compukit UK101. It’s now 30 years old, and I’ve taken my original machine plus two others to the UK Maker Faire. Of course, I now have a small collection of BBC Micro and BBC Master machines, plus a couple of examples of the next generation, the Acorn Archimedes. The Archimedes machines introduced the ARM processor, initially at 8MHz, and with 512kb of RAM.

    PS. I’ll be taking the Compukit UK101 exhibit to Bletchley Park in June for the UK Vintage Computer Festival — there will be lots of BBCs there, too, no doubt!

  12. I saw both Cyberspice’s BBC and John’s UK101 at the recent Maker Faire @ Newcastle. It’s great to see old work horses still going after all these years 🙂

    Seeing the BBC micro again brings back my memories of school days. The last time I used one was at College in the 80’s using them as 6809 and 68K development platform for an embedded product. We used a ROM based cross assembler from Crash Barrier (what ever happen to them?)and EPROM emulator. Great stuff 🙂

  13. This was my second computer (after the Sinclair ZX-81). The BBC had a much cleaner implementation of BASIC than, say, the Commodore 64. The latter made you do PEEK and POKE to mess with colours, for example. The C64 was a better gaming system but the BBC was a better educational machine IMHO (depending on what you’re trying to learn, I suppose). The BBC also had a Mode 7 that let you do teletext-style graphics and colours. This is how I learned what colours magenta and cyan were 🙂 Combined with the 5 1/4 floppy drive this thing was great.

    I have fond memories of playing Chuckie Egg on it too. Thanks for making me think of it!

  14. The beeb was brilliant, ADC’s, socket’s. Cool startup noise, great keyboard. Very popular with the EE’s, shame i couldn’t afford one, had to use the schools.

    “The computer programme” with ian mcnaught-davis back when TV used to show intersting stuff about computers.

    Like using a photocell to download software from the TV.

  15. sounds kinda loud
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UfOIfuYJT8

    then later on the bbc micro live, amiga launch
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS-NYK-8KL0

    awesome graphics, not requiring machine code!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlOytA6C_hg

  16. A bit of trivia – way back in the late 80’s I worked at the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment in the South of England. One of my jobs was to look after a big test rig that was used to check various “secret” things about submarines at the time. Basically the rig moved very large models of things through a very large room while various other things happened. Anyway – all of this hardware was controlled by a single BBC micro with some fancy added hardware to interface with the various stepper motors etc. And when the rig wasn’t in use I also got to play the wonderful game ‘Elite’. Nice.

  17. My first computer was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. There’s a fantastic flickr photo stream from one of the original developer/designers on the development evolution:

    http:[email protected]/sets/72157600607571866/

    Lots of hand drawn sketches and prototypes. Note that this computer was a fraction of the cost of the BBC Micro at the time (~£125 in 1982), and represented a brilliantly efficient design.

  18. I would say almost everyone at school in the UK in the late eighties has used one of these, myself included!

  19. Absolutely, this was my first computer. 6502 is the precursor (in my mind) to every RISC chip that followed, and kids who learned assembly on one are two steps ahead in learning any RISC chip that follow. Everything was memory mapped and available to the hacker, e.g. !&fe64=14 turned off sound. Interrupts, futzing with the video chip, all memory accesses were a single cycle, floating point was unavailable so you had to roll your own.

    When I met the Atmel 8-bit RISC platforms with 16K of RAM, it reminds me so much of this machine. So now we can have practically the same architecture in a much faster chip for $2.16 each. Got to love progress.

  20. Oh yeah, I programmed the BBC Micro. It was too expensive for my parents to buy me one at home but I used one at school. It is kind of weird to think that the BBC Micro I programmed 25 years ago can essentially be thought of as a progenitor of the ARM CPUs that now power almost every cell phone in the world!

  21. We couldn’t afford a BBC Micro, but I did get hundreds of hours on them during my time at school. A large portion of this was spent playing Elite (when I should have been outside playing football or rugby). I did manage to persuade my dad to get me an Acorn Electron, which was almost as good.

  22. MJ Hibbett’s Hey Hey 16K mentions them.

    http://www.mjhibbett.net/songs/lyrics/heyhey16k.htm

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