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BBC Micro Creators Reunite In London 213

Posted by Zonk
from the getting-the-band-back-together dept.
mustrum_ridcully writes "This week some of the original creators from Acorn Computers who developed the BBC Micro home computer are coming together again at the Science Museum in London to discuss the legacy of the computer fondly known in the UK as 'the Beeb'. This news is being carried, of course, on the BBC. The BBC Micro sold some 1.5 million units and helped fund Acorn's development work on the Acorn RISC Machine processor — also known as the ARM processor used today in countless mobile and embedded devices."
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BBC Micro Creators Reunite In London

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  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:41AM (#22805250) Journal

    10 PRINT "FIRST POST!"
    20 GOTO 10

    (stupid lameness filter objecting to my caps)
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:46AM (#22805276) Homepage Journal
      GOTO? If you had a BBC Micro, you didn't need GOTO or GOSUB. BBC BASIC had support for named procedures, pointers, structured IF/THEN/ELSE, and inline assembler. Quite advanced for its day, really.
      • by h4rm0ny (722443)

        Hey - I was eight, okay? :) There was a way of disabling the Break key as well so that the teacher couldn't stop it without flipping the power switch, but I can't remember how you did that. Mainly we used it for playing "Kingdom" when we could smuggle the floppy disk in. And let me tell you back then, when we bought a floppy disk, it really was floppy!
      • by jimicus (737525)
        BBC BASIC had support for named procedures

        Only after version 2, IIRC. Mind you, I've never seen a BBC micro with version 1 fitted.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ed Avis (5917)
          My BBC had BASIC 1.0 and it supports named procedures fine. It lacks EQUB and similar assembler directives, which makes it a pain to include literal byte values or strings in your assembly language programs. These were added in BASIC 2.0.
          • by PReDiToR (687141)
            My Beeb (Master) had an 8086 daughterboard inside.
            512MB RAM was enough to run DR-DOS.

            Remember the days ... *configure tube
            That was all it took to get DOS to load up from the big-ass 5.25" floppies that didn't really have a lot on them. Better than the C/PM that I was using on my Amstrad PCW8256, but not quite as snazzy as playing Firetrack on the Beeb itself.

            For historical purposes, I think the youngsters amongst us should be aware that even in those days we had porn. One of the kids at college gave m
            • >big-ass 5.25" floppies
              Pah! 8" floppies were big-ass. 5.25" were nice and neat, until the 3.5 ones came along and confused everybody ("Why is this a floppy disk? it doesn't bend?")
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ajs318 (655362)
          No, BASIC 1 had named PROCs. BASIC 2 introduced OSCLI -- a command for issuing MOS commands through BASIC without resorting to low-level hackery -- and OPENUP -- a new file mode (update). (Actually, it introduced OPENIN, an input-only file mode, but BASIC 1 already had an OPENIN which actually, in defiance of documentation, opened files for update: the token for OPENIN on BASIC 1 became OPENUP on BASIC 2, and OPENIN got a new token of its own.)

          Anyway, a backward GOTO addressed to a destination line wh
  • While I was always a Spectrum guy at heart, I do have fond memories of my school's BBC "B"s. You always got the feeling that they were _real_ computers. I mean, they had operating systems and everything...
  • Good but Dull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gsslay (807818) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:48AM (#22805290)
    IMHO, the Beeb always seemed a bit dull. It was what you used at school, when you had to peck through dull basic programs under the watchful eye of teacher.

    At home is where you had a ZX Spectrum, and where you had free reign and did the real inventive programming.

    The Beeb was probably the better machine, but the speccy was where the real fun was.
    • Re:Good but Dull (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mccalli (323026) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:56AM (#22805342) Homepage
      IMHO, the Beeb always seemed a bit dull. It was what you used at schoo...At home is where you had a ZX Spectrum, and where you had free reign and did the real inventive programming.

      Extrapolation: the machine you had at home was the fun one. True whether Beeb, Spectrum, C64...whatever.

      I had friends with Beebs and enjoyed messing around with them. I had a Spectrum 48k myself and enjoyed messing with that (wireframe vector graphics in Spectrum BASIC anyone? Anyone? No, didn't think so...). I also moved to the C64 and enjoyed messing with that.

      It's whatever you got free reign on, not what the specific platform was.

      Cheers,
      Ian
      • by h4rm0ny (722443)

        Well there might be some truth to that... but the Spectrum had RUBBER KEYS!!!! Compete with *that* BBC Micro.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Mike McTernan (260224)

        wireframe vector graphics in Spectrum BASIC anyone? Anyone? No, didn't think so...

        Uh? Don't you remember the CIRCLE, PLOT and DRAW commands? Sure they were slow (I can remember watching as large circles were drawn clockwise to the screen), but they were there.

        Examples are here: http://www.1000bit.net/support/manuali/zxspectrum/chapter_17.htm [1000bit.net]

        • by mccalli (323026)
          Uh? Don't you remember the CIRCLE, PLOT and DRAW commands? Sure they were slow (I can remember watching as large circles were drawn clockwise to the screen), but they were there.

          I certainly do - I actually wrote a vector graphics game in BASIC on the Spectrum. Wrote it the day after being taught vectors and matrices at school - it was a reakky, really simple plane racing game where you raced around two towers.

          And it was awful. Terrible. Appalling. Speed? I'd heard of it...

          Not knocking the Spectrum,
        • by PReDiToR (687141)
          Having a Spectrum+ was the biggie. No rubber keys, but the same (to all intents and purposes) machine.

          Every time I turned it on I used to 'POKE 23609, 190' to make the keypresses beep.

          Long live Chuckie Egg 2!
      • Extrapolation: the machine you had at home was the fun one. True whether Beeb, Spectrum, C64...whatever.
        I'd have to second that. When I was in (American) grade school, we had Macintoshes which would obviously kick the ass of our Packard-Bell IBM clone at home; yet I always remember the "fun" stuff (QBASIC, Wolf3D, Warcraft) happening on the 386 at home.

        Ah, the days when GOTO made sense...
      • by chthon (580889)

        I wrote a small CAD(rafting) program on my Spectrum (in 1986 or 1987). It used an array to hold a list of objects, and you had to position the pointer using the cursor keys, and there were commands to begin or stop lines, and you created polygons by issuing a key press which made the last point of the previous line the starting point of the next line.

        I did never really use it, because I had no possibilities to print or plot my results, and frankly drawing on a 256x192 screen is very coarse. But it was a ni

      • by Mindwarp (15738)
        The best thing about the Beeb was the amazing number of expansion ports on it. The number of electronic circuits I built and hooked up to the User port... Now THAT'S entertainment!

        Yes, I was that sad kid.

        Cue *Kids nowadays don't know...* and *Get of my lawn* comments in 3.... 2.... 1....
      • by lenski (96498)
        Yup. I started with a Digital Equipment PDP-8/L and it will always be my first.

        Beginning with FOCAL, no less! It's where I learned the value of "interrupt service". Wonderful experience. The results are, literally, history. I am sure that machine and nearly all others like it are long gone now.

        I don't really miss it much, surprisingly. Life moves on, and technical life moves on ever more quickly.
    • Re:Good but Dull (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:00AM (#22805382) Journal
      When the BBC was launched (did anyone really call it a 'Beeb'? That's always meant the corporation, not the computer to me), they allocated a part of the teletext space late at night for transmitting programs. One of the optional things you could plug in let it read these and store them on disk or tape.

      The real power of the BBC was the I/O capability. We used to plug all sorts of things into the 'user port,' and 8-bit I/O interface. You wrote an 8-bit value to a specific address and it would set the line voltages up or down for 8 wires, and you could get 8 one-bit inputs by reading from another address. My school had a 7-segment display connected to one, with each segment controlled by a different line. I remember spending a lunch break getting it to display 'nerry christnass' (you couldn't do an m with a 7-segment display). I also took one home to play with over one holiday and used it to control a scalextric set. The output was digital, so it would just toggle the power between 0 and full very fast, and it used light gates to know where the car was. It used a very simple algorithm where it would start the car going slowly and then try driving it faster in each track segment until it crashed.

      • by mccalli (323026)
        When the BBC was launched (did anyone really call it a 'Beeb'? That's always meant the corporation, not the computer to me)

        Yep, I did. And so did Beebug magazine [freeserve.co.uk].

        Cheers,
        Ian
        • Wow, Beebug brings back memories! Between Beebug, the old family Model B, and assisting at school with various computer problems - I don't think I'd have my current career if it weren't for the Beeb.

          (Nostalgia ahead!)

          My Dad worked at a 6th form college (17-18, pre-University for Americans), and brought home a Model B about the time they were released. It had a cassette drive, a black/white monitor, and the old Acorn 'Welcome' tape. He also purchased a subscription to Beebug magazine. At first (I was around
      • by Alioth (221270)
        All of us called it the Beeb. I didn't know anyone who called it a 'BBC' in casual conversation. Typically, Beeb meant a model B. A BBC Master was just known as a 'Master'.
    • Re:Good but Dull (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jimicus (737525) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:04AM (#22805414)
      IMHO, the Beeb always seemed a bit dull. It was what you used at school, when you had to peck through dull basic programs under the watchful eye of teacher.

      That was probably more the schools' fault than anything else. Back then your teacher was often a maths teacher who didn't really understand the computers so they did all they could - which generally amounted to "have the children type in this program line by line, they must get it all typed in right and must be punished for attempting to learn anything outside of what this program does" - and generally the program was something pretty simple like a 20-line guess the number game.

      There was a thriving games industry back in the day, with much more than just the educational stuff available. Repton (similar programs existed on other platforms - Boulder Dash springs to mind) and Elite both started out on the BBC.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by montyzooooma (853414)
        I had the distinction of getting chucked out of the computer room at school by a prefect because I wanted to program one of the BBC B computers when there was a Defender tournament going on.
      • by mikael (484)
        Very true. At this time our schools computing facilities consisted of two Apple ]['s. One up at one end of the school with a printer for word processing, while the other was in the school library (of all places) with another printer. Only at the end of the year did they get a roomful of BBC model A's.

        But all the BASIC programming tutorials were based on database processing, batch processing and basic arithmetic. Other schools taught Pascal or used BBC BASIC with procedures.

        Out in the your local newsagents,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579)
      With the exception of Elite, most BBC games were pretty crap too. It probably had something to do with the trade offs between resolution and colours. Most arcade games had to drop into mode 2 but the poor horizontal resolution made them look squashed like the sprites had been sat on. The Spectrum wasn't exactly great for graphics but it was good enough, and more importantly it was much cheaper than the BBC and had more games. Acorn's own efforts to produce a home computer weren't exactly great either. The
      • Any of those games were perfectly good fun - and Stryker's Run even had a very decent musical score coming out of the 4 channel (3 melodic, 1 percussion) synth on a BBC Master 512k.

        Not to mention that you could get BBC Micro magazine and write new games by copying them from the pages and experiment with them. open source games as far back as then. I remember when they added a CRC routine and CRC codes in front of each line so you could easily spot where you made a typo. Or if something didn't work, you c
      • by Alioth (221270)
        Actually, most games on all plaforms were pretty crap if the truth be known - which is a constant that continues to this very day.

        There were many excellent games for the BBC Micro. Many were also available for other platforms. My favorites are Thrust (multi platform, but runs by far the smoothest on the Beeb), of course Elite (again, smoothest on the BBC), Starship Command (BBC only), Chuckie Egg (pretty much identical on all platforms, very playable platformer), Zalaga (runs as fast and smooth as the arcad
      • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
        We had 'Frak!' on the BBC at school.

        It was the closest we could get to swearing being teenagers in the pre-internet days :p
        • by ajs318 (655362)
          I saw a modified version of that game ..... where, amongst other visual alterations, the caveman didn't quite fit entirely into his loincloth, and the "R" and "A" of the "FRAK!" speech balloon were replaced by other letters.

          With only 32KB of RAM which had to be shared between system variables, code and the unfeasibly large frame buffer, absence of source code frankly was not a showstopper for anyone wanting to modify games. Patching binaries was common, and there were tools readily available especially
      • by Comboman (895500)
        I recall our school actually had a file server and a network for its BBC micros. This is something hard to even imagine for an 8-bit micro.

        It was not that uncommon in a school or business environment (though home networks were certainly unheard of; it would be many years before any home had more than one computer). My school had a network of Commodore PETs and CBMs (precursors to VIC20 & C64) that allowed the 20 or so computers in the lab to share the printer and floppy drives (most early PETs had cas

      • by hoggy (10971)
        The coolest thing about Elite was the trick of using a timer triggered off the vertical sync to re-program the video controller 3/4 of the way through the screen refresh so that the top part of the screen (the external view) was in a black and white mode and the bottom part (the ship's displays) were in a lower resolution 4-colour mode. (Original Elite, the later co-processor version used 4- and 8-colour modes respectively.)

        Frickin' brilliant. I spent ages carefully re-implementing the idea in my own code.
        • Should have bought an Atari then. They had display list interrupts that allowed you to reprogram the video to whatever mode/character set/palette you wanted scanline by scanline. The Amiga had something similar many years later.
        • by jimicus (737525)
          I wondered how they did that.

          Mad. I doubt there are many people left today who could abuse the systems they're given quite so creatively.

          Whether this is a good or a bad thing I leave to the imagination.
    • Re:Good but Dull (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:23AM (#22805554) Journal
      That was just an issue with your teachers!

      The BBC for us was an exciting machine. We had an Econet network of them, with the SJ Research fileserver.

      We wrote a MUD. It became so popular that we were restricted to 3 days a week only! Things like the inline assembler, and the best BASIC for its day made it fun to write. Other great things that the BBC had was that all the system calls were vectored through RAM, so you could easily add your own extensions. Oh, the mischief I used to have with that feature. It was so funny to watch the kid next to me get random spelling mistakes because a little hook I wrote was occasionally adding an extra keystroke here or there :-)

      We couldn't afford a Beeb at home, I too had a Spectrum, and learned Z80 asm on that machine. The Spectrum was also fun, but in different ways. I now own 6 Spectrums (two rubber 48K, a plus, a toast rack 128K, an Amstrad made +3, and a bare Issue 4S 48k motherboard awaiting repairs) and 2 BBC Micros (one tricked out with sideways RAM, an internal IDE hard disc, adfs formatted, and a double density disc controller, the other rather more standard with just the intel single density disc controller).
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      Funny but when I first saw one on the Computer Chronicles I really wanted one. I had an early C64 and that was during the first few months when software was in short supply. The BBC micro seemed to have a great basic compared to the C64 and had that cool user port.
      Of course today we have massive computers on our desks that can do so much more. The problem is they are so massive that I don't think anybody knows them at the level they could know a BBC, Spectrum, Atari 400/800, or Apple.
      • >I don't think anybody knows them at the level they could know a BBC, Spectrum, Atari 400/800, or Apple.
        Yep. I was an Atari 400/800 user and had the OS source code listing, DOS source listing, hardware manuals, basic manuals and bought every mag going that over time had all sorts of neat tricks and ways to push the envelope. I really knew that machine inside out and then some. These days you can have a single language with an API of 5000 calls so the chances of ever being in that position on any sort of
    • The Beeb was a better machine, but if memory serves it cost twice as much.
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:50AM (#22805298) Homepage
    mainly for the games. Codename: Droid, Citadel, Labyrinth...

    I got nostalgic a few months ago and made some longplay movies on YouTube

    Codename: Droid [youtube.com]
    Citadel [youtube.com]
    Labyrinth [youtube.com]

    I really should just remake some of these games...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Winders (784885)
      Don't forget Elite. Probably one of the best games ever made, and still well-loved. The Acorn port was damn good too...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by IceFreak2000 (564869)
        The BBC Micro version was the original - it was ported to virtually every other platform under the sun afterwards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elite_%28video_game%29 [wikipedia.org]
      • by 15Bit (940730)
        Still the best game i ever played. I remember thinking when i was a kid that it would be amazing if you could connect up loads of computers and play it as a real universe. Took them 20 years, but Eve is that game.
      • While I agree that Elite was (is) a fantastic game, I'm amazed no-one else has mentioned Exile yet.

        A huge world to explore, artificial intelligence, realistic physics; a truly great game.
        • by alyosha1 (581809)
          And absolutely impossible to finish, even with cheats, if I recall correctly. Granted, it wasn't obvious what the goal of the game even was. But yes, I remember spending many hours throwing Coronium boulders around...
          • by RupW (515653) *

            And absolutely impossible to finish, even with cheats, if I recall correctly. Granted, it wasn't obvious what the goal of the game even was.

            No, I think it was (though I never completed it properly).

            The goal of the game was to get your ship navigation unit back, the one that Triax teleported in and stole at the very start of the game. I remember having a cheat that let you spawn arbitrary items so I made one of those, plugged it in and my ship flew away with a victory chime. I think that was it for an ending.

    • The best game of all on the BBC Micro was Repton - a great Boulderdash clone that was a damn sight harder to play. Mind you, I'm biased [edcourtenay.co.uk]
  • For the Record (Score:3, Informative)

    by Toreo asesino (951231) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:54AM (#22805326) Journal
    "Beeb" is a name for the whole BBC, not just the machines....

    And yes, i had one too, bought for me by my father....said it was "chipped", whatever that meant; it was probablly supposed to convince me it had superpowers or something, but anyway, this machine was my foundation of everyone's first program....

    10 print "hello world bum bum willy willy weeeeeeeee!"
    20 goto 10

    Ok ok, so I was 8-9 - give me some credit...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cordsie (565171)
      This always leads to the inevitable Version 2.0:

      10 print "Please input your name:"
      20 input A$
      30 print "A$ is a wanker!"
      40 goto 30
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        Turn in your geek card when you leave.

        What did you mean in line 30? Shell-style variable substitution? You can't do that in BASIC!

        At least not in any BASIC I know of.
  • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @08:59AM (#22805370)
    Co designer of the what is probably the most popular Instruction Set Architecture in the world the ARM. She also designed the Acorn Atom microcomputer, forerunner of the BBC Micro and wrote the improved version of Basic which caused the BBC to sign the contract

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Wilson [wikipedia.org]
    • by mustafap (452510)
      Sophie first designed the Acorn System 1, which was my first computer. And a damn fine thing it was too. I still have mine.

      I exchanged emails with Sophie last year; she is very modest about the work, but I still have fond memories of programming the system 1 in assembler, and trying to get the 'correct' volume control on the cassette interface. Ah, those were the days!
      • Ada Countess of Lovelace (programming the Difference Engine) - died tragically
      • Jocelyn Bell (Pulsar researcher)- still with us fortunately
      • Rosalind Franklin (DNA structure)- died tragically
      • Sophie Wilson (Microcomputer pioneer) - AFAIK still with us

      Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (Early computer designer and COBOL originator) had the good sense to be a North American and so didn't have to watch the men steal all the credit.

      Scientific American always carefully credits Jocelyn Bell for pulsars, although Hewish g

      • by sane? (179855)
        You do realise that the person who's recognised for all the BBC and ARM work was Roger Wilson? Which probably explains why he/she was not at the event - not wanting to call attention to the sex change...
        • I was going to say that given her past Sophie keeps her head down now-a-days.
        • It obviously wasn't a very good joke, unfortunately. Is it a troll if you just try to find out how many politically correct people weren't around at the time?
  • Go check out the Listening Post, also at the Science Museum. Sit through its whole cycle (~30 minutes)

    Hands down the coolest, most impactful, art installation I've ever seen.

    (And yes, this is sort of on topic because it has to do with the Science Museum)
  • Multi user (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:15AM (#22805492) Journal
    I have two BBC Micros (one with an internal IDE hard disc and double density floppy controller, sideways RAM banks, and another fairly standard one with the Intel single density disc controller).

    Back 'in the day', a friend and I wrote a MUD (multi user dungeon) for the BBC Micro, on Econet, since our school had quite a few of them connected together via econet.

    It was an ungodly mish-mash of 6502 asm and BBC BASIC. It's a wonder that it worked at all, let alone reasonably well. Since we couldn't get the game into one machine, we made it client/server before either of us had actually heard the term client/server! The server was an almost unused Torch BBC compatible machine, donated to the school - no one wanted to use it because it had a rather odd keyboard layout and a few other non-standard things, but otherwise, worked like a BBC Micro and had a Z80 second processor (unused by our server). Clients displayed things like location descriptions, item descriptions etc. while the server kept track of game state.

    Some things were also peer-to-peer, if a player 'shouted' a message, it went peer-to-peer. But if a player used 'tell' to privately tell someone else something, it was routed via the server which only sent it to the right econet station. The server kept track of what was allowed, so people couldn't cheat by loading a different exits file into the client.

    We could only run it three days a week because it was pretty popular. We were only allowed to run it at all because the head of computing obviously saw that we were learning from the experience of writing and maintaining the monstrosity we had created. It taught me many valuable lessons about software that communicates.

    I only had a Spectrum at home (couldn't afford a Beeb!), but it's another 8 bitter I really like. I have six of those now, and I'm designing an ethernet card for the Speccy. Once the Spectrum one's done, I'll do the same for the Beeb (which should be electronically far simpler, because the BBC has much better support for adding new ROMs, and a proper formal way of telling the MOS that you've done it).

    Good times.
    • Ah yes ... econet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <rich AT annexia DOT org> on Thursday March 20, 2008 @10:23AM (#22806106) Homepage

      Econet ... a good example of why you shouldn't design a network with zero security for use by schoolchildren.

      Amongst its many flaws: You could spoof any machine on the network just by POKE-ing a single address (the machine's address was a single byte, I guess they never expected more than 256 machines on a single shared segment). I think the command was ?3362 = <node>

      You could send text messages to anyone on the network. But get this: the messages were injected into the remote system via the keyboard driver. That's right: You could TYPE REMOTELY ON ANYONE'S KEYBOARD over the network! What finally got me thrown out of the computing labs at school at age 14 was writing a program which typed on all the keyboards in the lab at the same time, controlling the whole lab from a single machine.

      Another good one was the quota system used by the file server. It didn't store total/available, as any sensible system would. Instead each user had a single quota value (free space). The only problem was you could also write to anyone else's file, eg. appending data to a file owned by another user. When you did the append, your own quota would be diminished. But when the other user deleted the file, *their* quota would be increased. I wrote several trojan games which other people ran that surreptitiously appended to a file owned by me. Then by deleting this file, I could steal other people's quota and sell it back to them later.

      Ah, misspent youth ...

      Rich.

      • by Alioth (221270)
        I guess no one told you about *PROT

        *PROT would stop anyone else causing mischief to your econet station (including poking stuff into your keyboard, reading the screen, remote rebooting the computer etc.) Most of us had *PROT as the first line of our login scripts, as well as *FX 201,1 which made sure memory was cleared out when you pressed break.

        The SJ Research fileservers had a better way of managing quota (other users couldn't steal your quota in the way you say). Still had a few drawbacks and you could s
        • I guess no one told you about *PROT

          (Happy memories flood back ...) I knew about *PROT, it was the other people who didn't :-)

          In those pre-internet days there was so little sharing of information that each school probably learned the hacking and the protection techniques separately, or the latter by carefully reading manuals.

          Rich.

  • by hoggy (10971) on Thursday March 20, 2008 @09:18AM (#22805512) Journal
    I had a BBC B and then later a BBC Master 128 (which I upgraded to a BBC Master Turbo). I learned BASIC, Forth, Lisp, Pascal, C and 8502 assembler on the BBC Micro before I even got to University. I learned most of the 1st year CS algorithms and data structures course from Beebug (the BBC Users Group) magazine.

    The BBC had what, at the time, was a "proper" operating system on a home computer and you could patch all of the system calls so that you could inspect and modify the behaviour. With the excellent Exmon machine monitor and the BBC Advanced User Guide, the machine was a treasure trove for an aspiring programmer.

    I don't think there's anything comparable that a 12 year old kid can really get a chance to understand anymore.
    • by hoggy (10971)
      Or 6502 assembler even... *looks sheepish*

      Another thing to add about how cool the Beeb was though is asymmetric multi-processing thanks to the Tube co-processor interface. How cool was that in an 8-bit machine!
      • Plus the Teletext adaptor - that was cool too. You could have BBC Basic progs use it to get your stock/shares prices daily for you or to check the TV listings for your favourite progs - not bad for 1983/4 or whenever.
    • >you could patch all of the system calls
      You could do that with the Atari 400/800 and those hailed from the late 70's. Most OS calls were made by vectoring thru pointers in RAM to the ROM. You could add your own code then continue on or write complete replacements.
    • by Alioth (221270)
      Plenty of working BBC Micros exist. They are still fun to play with, I have two. If you're into hobby electronics, a BBC is a much better machine to have around than a PC, because the user port and 1MHz bus is so much trivially easier to hook a breadboard up to for some experiments than a PCI slot or USB port.
  • Who can remember what was at memory address 0x3CA?

    Hint: think tapes, the vertical blank interupt and the *load command.

    Answer in rot13:
    Vg pbagnvarq gur syntf jura ybnqvat n svyr naq yrg lbh *ybnq tnzrf gung jrer 'cebgrpgrq' gb bayl nyybj *eha vs lbh znfxrq bhg gur zbfg fvtavsvpnag ovg. Guvf jnf hfrq ol cerggl zhpu rirel purng jevggra sbe OOP tnzrf.
  • I can recall my school being given a prototype to test - this must have been around 1979-80 and I was about 14.

    Up to then we had been using a couple of green-screen Commodore PETs, then one day this large colour TV appeared in the corner of the 'computer room'; it had a large, grey 'keyboard-in-a box' hard-wired to it via a cable about as thick as a vacuum cleaner hose! Test programs were supplied on micro cassettes and we could also download software over-the-air from CEEFAX.

    I used to open up the computer
  • 1. Sir Arthur dies;
    2. The reason for my chosen career and hobby gets a story on Slashdot. I owned a Model 'B', then a couple of 128s. I helped (as a pupil) to run the Econet-based system at Oundle School in 1986-87, which I believe got some of its kit early due to links with Cambridge. By the time I left, we'd got a 20MB drive on the network. Quite an upgrade, since we'd previously depended on a couple of double-sided floppy drives as storage for the classroom.

    Notable projects included an abortive attempt t
    • by ratbag (65209)
      Order all wrong, my Amiga was before my BBCs. PC followed Archimedes. You're not interested anyway. Oh well.
  • PHB: The smell of fresh ficus-- It transports me back to my youth. Summers in the Catskill Mountains. Ah...we'd all go to Turtle Pond to swim and laugh and play games amongst the wild ficus. One day, tragedy struck. A turtle made off with my trunks. I stayed in the water as long as I could but the water was cold.

    Soon...
    A crowd formed.

    They gave me a nickname on the spot--

    One that still haunts me.

    Acorn.

    My awful, non-French parents even named their dry cleaning store Acorn. But that's all in the past. What do
  • So anyone can now get a BBC Micror unning on their PC thanks to emulators. Anyone recommend a particular BBC Micro emulator? There's a whole bunch here:

    http://bbc.nvg.org/emulators.php3 [nvg.org]

    heck, there are BBC Micro emulators for the PSP now!
  • I remember Input magazine had a competition to write a program for the BBC in 1 line of code (255 characters). The winner wrote a rotating ball program.

    255 CHARACTERS!!! That was the Beeb alright. Best machine for learning coding. Also allowed you to try out assembly.

  • I have never heard this computer described as "a beeb". It was always described as "one of those expensive BBC Acorns that only the children of the wealthy and schools have." This sounds like something invented by a Public Relations person from "The Beeb". I can quite easily imagine that all those 18 year-old ipod-wearing-skateboarding-dudes employed as executives by "Auntie BBC" or plain old "Auntie" would come up with something like this.

    I do remember a colleague of ours at Glasgow University D
  • Oh god they had to bring up the Acorns. Horrible horrible machines that were forced on kids nationwide. May be interesting from a tech POV for having a RISC OS but these things were incredibly slow to use (the way you loaded programs into the memory was a pain). At least that's my memory of them as a kid.
    • What are you comparing to? RISC PCs when they first came out blew away PCs of the day. Similarly the earlier machines beat the competition performance wise at the time they were released. Loading a program in to memory makes it run *faster* than continually having to access the disk. PCs did the latter because their apps were far larger for the same functionality and wouldn't fit in memory.
      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        They were pretty powerful but they were incredibly slow to use. You had to put in the disk for the Word processor, load it into memory, change the disk for the printer software and load that into memory before you could work. The time it took to load some programs was pretty long. It'd usually be between 5-10 minutes before you were able to start doing stuff.
  • In the 80s I was studying for my Physics degree. I wasted a lot of one year playing Elite but my Beeb redeemed itself when it came to my final year project. I computerised a first year lab practical experiment. I designed sensors, hardware to connect the sensors to my Beeb. I designed hardware to connect my Beeb to drive the equipment. I wrote the software in a mash of BASIC and assembler using interrupts and events. It even had a real time read out and scope (custom pixel plotting routines FTW). I g
  • Fond memories of rd90,fwd100... directing a `turtle`(?) round teachers legs. Struggling to her feet it appears her legs have been tied to the chair.

    And then, behold! The Doomsday Project! Out comes teacher with a shiny disc bigger than Rolf Harris's wobble board. This thing holds the greatest collection of knowledge known to man - and it's scratched. ...getting to a higher level of Stig of the Dumb because I was the only one who could spell Clime correctly.

    Seriously, this was the highlight of my whole educa
  • I had a BBC Micro, model B, with 32KiB of memory. I started off with a tape drive and the fiddling of the volume on the tape player, before discovering the joys of the floppy disk. Certain applications were installed by adding a new ROM and hoping you didn't break any legs while doing it. My favourite games at that point were Elite [wikipedia.org], Frak [wikipedia.org] and Repton [wikipedia.org].

    Move forward to the next century and my 1GiB of memory is still not enough :)
  • That's only partly true. I'm going from memory here, but it booted in to Teletext mode (mode 7) which had 40x25 chars. Pixels weren't addressable, though there were characters which woked like 3x2 pixel blocks. The characters were quite a lot higher resolution than in the other modes, but weren't programmable. It was stored as one byte per cell, so formatting characters made a blank space. The teletext mode was the same as the one used on TV, and specially equipped BBCs could pick up broadcast teletext.

    Then

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

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