Wednesday, 2 April 2008

8bit nostalgia

Over the last few days I've been browsing sites dedicated to the old 8bit BBC micro made by Acorn computers in the 1980s. I was first exposed to the BBC at primary school where I think they had two of them (for the entire school!). When I reached secondary school, I joined the break and lunchtime "Computer Club".

At home we had an Acorn Electron. This was a cut down version of the BBC that ran at a slower speed (1Mhz vs 2Mhz), only a single channel for sound and missed the memory efficient Mode 7 screen mode. This did not deter me from adding a printer, disc drive and some ROM cartridges (for word processing and spreadsheets). My Dad then used the machine to write up notes and sermons.

At school I used the Acorn Archimedes (the first RISC computer available to the masses) but for home use I eventually got a 286 PC and he upgraded to a BBC Master - the pinnacle of BBC 8bit computing.

This would have been in about 1993. So why blog about it now?

I'm realising in my browsing just how well designed the BBC was. No other machine had the potential for expansion or the fantastic BBC BASIC. The implementation of BASIC was beyond all other 8bit micros and had named procedures and an inbuilt assembler. The operating system (16k!) provided access to the hardware in a very simple way.

The BBC could have benefited from some better graphics (say 16 colours at a 320x256?) and a beefed up sound chip (it's not bad, but not as powerful as the SID in the C64), but it remains to this day a classic machine that can stand proudly among its peers.

I must visit my parents and hunt down the BBC Master...

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