I read an interesting article by David Braben (co-creator of Elite) on the BBC website. It got me thinking…
In the early 198os, my parents decided to buy a computer; my dad believed that computing would be a very important skill in the future (was he right?) Because we lived in the UK, the choice of computers included Acorn, Apple, Apricot, BBC, Commodore, Dragon, IBM, Sinclair, Tandy, Vic and so on. The likes of Apple and IBM were way too expensive (as I recall, the IBM compatibles were all “business computers” and were priced accordingly). My parents had clear ideas about what they wanted — something that was educational — we did look at a Tandy, but things like Commodores and Sinclair Spectrums were cast by the wayside. By and by, the choice fell on a BBC Micro Model B.
This computer — a co-production of the BBC and Acorn — was to my mind vastly expensive, butI was under ten, so anything over a pound was vastly expensive. It was a huge slab of a computer in cream, with a built in keyboard in brown/black with some interesting orange function keys at the top. It was exciting to get it home (we had to buy a TV/Monitor too, which was also really expensive, and a data tape recorder).
When you turned this computer on, you got a black screen with a prompt. Above the prompt it said “BBC Basic”. From there you could type in commands to do things. Things like chain “Elite” would load the game Elite from its tape. You could write programs like
10 PRINT “My name is Bob”
20 GOTO 10
Would produce minutes of amusement. This was my first experience of computers and computing, and it explains why I have an extracurricular interest in programming. I never thought about it in that way.
Anyway, there is an event at the London Science Museum today on precisely this topic…with the original BBC-Acorn team.
If you’re interested in learning more about this particularly British computer, see the following links:
- Wikipedia: BBC Micro
- Low End Mac: From Education to Obscurity
- Emulators for Acorn computers (including the BBC Micro)
- [Edit] If you’re interested in the BBC Micro, you’ll want to read this!