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Happy 40th Birthday, the BBC Micro


Vimster
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I think Tom Scott was probably too young to remember the BBC properly, but this is a good look back at the BBC B from the Centre For Computing History. That noise when you turn it on brings back so many memories. And we had AMX Art and an AMX mouse at school. Spent hours messing about with that. 

 

 

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Oh man, I have so many fond memories of the BBC. It was the only computer we had for a very long time, and while I was super-jealous of people with Commodore 64s and Spectrums, deep down I knew that it was something pretty special - it had the best version of Elite, it had Revs and Aviator, and it had Exile. Plus, that two-tone beep when you turned it on, the scary power of the forbidden 'break' key, hacking games written in basic by pressing escape, LISTing it, and replacing the text with obscene equivalents. What blows my mind about it years later is just how expensive it was - I looked up how expensive the disk drive we had was, and adjusted for inflation, it cost the equivalent of about a thousand pounds, which is insane. Paying MacBook money for a disk drive is bonkers, I can't believe my dad managed to get that past my mum.

 

I've dipped a toe into collecting a few BBC games over the past few years. Most games came on very disposable cassette boxes, but some of the Acornsoft games are beautifully packaged. Elite and Revs in particular feel like luxury items, as befits the fact they cost a bank-breaking £15 - both are stuffed with thick, nicely illustrated manuals, pretend racing programmes, stickers, posters, keyboard inlays, reference cards, novellas etc. Acorn had a gift for that solid, reliable eighties design - I found an Acornsoft catalogue from 1983 on eBay a while back, and it's full of lovely airbrushed artwork that is clearly trying to pitch the system as something for the aspirational middle-class family, that appealed to men and women, rather than the usual marketing aimed at kids and young men. It's an interesting curio from a time when the world of computers was wide open, and nobody really knew where to take them or who to sell them to.

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3 minutes ago, spanky debrest said:

 

Like others of a certain age I remember this computer at school too - but I only ever played Granny's Garden on it; something I'm happy never to experience again.

I was a bit old for Granny's Garden, but a mate of mine who was made of money had this Superior Software compilation that got a lot of use. 

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The only things the ones we had at primary school were to run Podd and LOGO with the turtle. A friend did bring in a few Reptons that we played on one occasion though. 

 

The science labs at secondary school had a couple, but I'm not sure they were ever used for anything.

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6 hours ago, Kevvy Metal said:

The BBC Micro was the computer for basic computing eduction up to and including standard grade level and it was still the case when I did it in like 1996.


Yeah was gonna say that I used these in early secondary around 95 or so when I first started. What’s mad is that when I was at uni in 2002, I had to use them for some digital course working with Motorola chips. Seem to remember them being used to program a robot we had to make.

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Yes the old BBC computers that where in every primary school going in the 80s, ended up having to play quite a few of those game like Granny's Garden, there was a crime one as well which I can't remember the name of. I do remember figuring out that quite a few of those puzzle games had the wrong answers for some of them. These days there are a few web browser emulators as well for it. It's not a system I really want to revisit I will admit, unless I want to be reminded of school.

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I found this the other day, and thought it was worth a look. Revs played on a BBC emulator with a modern steering wheel:

 

 

 

The video is phenomenally boring to be totally honest, but the footage of Revs working perfectly well with a modern controller is pretty amazing, and demonstrates what an remarkable achievement it was. It seems to be a much more complete simulation than it needed to be.

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The first computer I ever encountered.

 

It wasn’t long before the teacher was asking my advice on using it, and I was finding reasons to get to the library to play on it. One lesson I worked out how to do a dual display - one on the monitor, the other on the TV trolley - as the other pupils ran “programs” using the Turtle to solve a maze (R90, F100, L90). And I may have skipped a couple of football practices to stay in the warm playing games...

 

At secondary school there were more BBCs, until the arrival of a suite of Amstrad PCWs and then an incredibly generous donation from Acorn of a dozen new Archimedes. I used to swap prefect duty so I was in the computer room, and of course my experience of programming in BBC BASIC let me write some fun things on the Archimedes.

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We had a BBC B, my first computer - this would be 1984 or so?

 

I’ve no idea where it came from, as there’s zero chance my parents bought it new. We had quite a few games on cassette (no disk drive), with Killer Gorilla, Gorf, Firebug, Acid Drops, Centipede, Chuckie Egg, Repton 3, Thrust, Stryker’s Run and Citadel being some notable highlights.

 

It got difficult to find BBC games in our local model shop though, leading to an unfortunate brief dalliance with the rip-off that was the Home Computer Club. Then one day a few years later my dad found a rubber-key ZX Spectrum, held together with duct tape, at a car boot sale. Suddenly the door opened on £1.99 and £2.99 budget games, cover tapes, and copying games onto D60 on my friend’s twin-deck Amstrad midi-system. We didn’t really look back after that, despite the Beeb looking and sounding worlds better.

 

I still miss its big chunky switch and “booo-beeep!” startup sound. 
 

I met plenty of BBC Masters at school of course, but their floppy drives, monitors and lack of non-educational games almost made them feel like a different system. My mum was a teacher and used to sometimes get to bring one home in the holidays, so I was the king of Droom (and learnt the cheat for the driving level from the teacher’s notes). 
 

On 01/12/2021 at 16:14, Vimster said:

I also recall watching a couple of other kids playing Elite when it came out, it blew my mind. Probably the biggest thing to originate on the BBC.


I’d argue the biggest thing to originate on the BBC was the ARM chipset! The Beeb used a 6502 of course, but the ARM1 was initially a BBC Master add-on, and that platform was used for development, evaluation and testing. I absolutely love that the phone I’m typing on right now is a descendant of my first ever computer. 

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I'm sure I have told this story on here before. But my one experience of being the school hero came when I was the first person to manage to get to the end of Granny's Garden - by telling the giant "Yes" when he asked if I wanted him to eat me. We were about 8 and no one else thought of trying it, everyone said "No" every time, which leads to you losing the game. Even the teacher didn't think of trying "Yes* as the response ! :lol:

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On 04/12/2021 at 23:18, Anne Summers said:

I'm sure I have told this story on here before. But my one experience of being the school hero came when I was the first person to manage to get to the end of Granny's Garden - by telling the giant "Yes" when he asked if I wanted him to eat me. We were about 8 and no one else thought of trying it, everyone said "No" every time, which leads to you losing the game. Even the teacher didn't think of trying "Yes* as the response ! :lol:

You did indeed, gets a mention in the playthrough I did, to lay the ghost of never finishing Granny’s Bloody Garden back when I was a nipper :)

 

 

 

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I used to have a Beeb! My dad got some kind of special offer at his work for one - this must've been around 1984 I think. He bought it for himself to try to learn some computing skills, but naturally it rapidly ended up in my bedroom where I was the only one to ever use it. We never had that many games, though I have fond memories of playing my dad at a Galaxian clone called Swoop. I also had a lot of fun with Hostages, Life of Repton, Spycat and my dad even went and bought me a joystick so I could play The Empire Strikes Back properly on it. I didn't learn about things like Elite and Exile till much later in life, and it's also a real shame I never knew it had decent ports of the Jet Set Willy games as that might've helped stave off the jealousy I had for my mate with his Commodore 64.

 

Sadly, one day I left it on for a while as I'd been trying to program in my own little text adventure in BASIC and our tape recorder had stopped working. Dad was convinced leaving it on for a few days until we could buy a new tape recorder wouldn't be a problem. He was wrong. Something went pop in it. I'm sure it would've been repairable, but by then I'd moved on to the Sega Master System at home and we were using Archimedes computers at school.

 

I'm going to spoiler this because I don't wish to cause any upset, but my dad still has our old Beeb. It was in the shed, last time I saw it.

 

Spoiler

I doubt it's repairable now though:

 

IMG_1055.thumb.jpg.6c57e0b07dc4eea16f904ea6e591310d.jpg

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 06/12/2021 at 17:48, Zio said:

I used to have a Beeb! My dad got some kind of special offer at his work for one - this must've been around 1984 I think. He bought it for himself to try to learn some computing skills, but naturally it rapidly ended up in my bedroom where I was the only one to ever use it. We never had that many games, though I have fond memories of playing my dad at a Galaxian clone called Swoop. I also had a lot of fun with Hostages, Life of Repton, Spycat and my dad even went and bought me a joystick so I could play The Empire Strikes Back properly on it. I didn't learn about things like Elite and Exile till much later in life, and it's also a real shame I never knew it had decent ports of the Jet Set Willy games as that might've helped stave off the jealousy I had for my mate with his Commodore 64.

 

Sadly, one day I left it on for a while as I'd been trying to program in my own little text adventure in BASIC and our tape recorder had stopped working. Dad was convinced leaving it on for a few days until we could buy a new tape recorder wouldn't be a problem. He was wrong. Something went pop in it. I'm sure it would've been repairable, but by then I'd moved on to the Sega Master System at home and we were using Archimedes computers at school.

 

I'm going to spoiler this because I don't wish to cause any upset, but my dad still has our old Beeb. It was in the shed, last time I saw it.

 

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I doubt it's repairable now though:

 

IMG_1055.thumb.jpg.6c57e0b07dc4eea16f904ea6e591310d.jpg

 

Yeah, there's a good chance that can be fixed

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wonder what happened to all the Beebs in schools? Teachers took them home? Ended up in the bin?

 

im trying to think of an adventure game we had around 87 at school - was a kinda maze/ mostly text adventure, but there was one puzzle which wanted you to cut a key which fit 4 different locks which were showed on screen (just out of textured block character squares)

 

Suburban Fox was one we played loads - think we presumed there would be an “end” if you managed to uncover the whole map, when obviously it was supposed to be a life sim where you’re trying to stay alive as long as possible but any random encounter may kill you.

 

 

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1 hour ago, luth714 said:

Wonder what happened to all the Beebs in schools? Teachers took them home? Ended up in the bin?

 

im trying to think of an adventure game we had around 87 at school - was a kinda maze/ mostly text adventure, but there was one puzzle which wanted you to cut a key which fit 4 different locks which were showed on screen (just out of textured block character squares)

 

 

There's a great archive of BBC educational software here if you want to try to find it:

 

http://www.flaxcottage.com/Educational/Default.asp

 

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On 03/01/2022 at 18:32, luth714 said:

Wonder what happened to all the Beebs in schools? Teachers took them home? Ended up in the bin?

 

im trying to think of an adventure game we had around 87 at school - was a kinda maze/ mostly text adventure, but there was one puzzle which wanted you to cut a key which fit 4 different locks which were showed on screen (just out of textured block character squares)

 

Suburban Fox was one we played loads - think we presumed there would be an “end” if you managed to uncover the whole map, when obviously it was supposed to be a life sim where you’re trying to stay alive as long as possible but any random encounter may kill you.

 

 


You are thinking of L: A Mathemagical Adventure.

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