Beeb

Note the very of-its-time pun. Alternative suggestions include "Take a byte out of our chips!" or "Micro prices for micro computers!".

America had the Apple 2. But Britain had the BBC Micro. America's loss. Both machines were roughly the same price in the UK, and both occupied similar market slots, way above the Sinclair Spectrum and C64 but below the Osbornes and Epsons of the word in 1983 - the high end of the low end, as it were. The BBC Micro was a proper computer, albeit not as proper as the now-forgotten generation of CP/M business machines that were swept away by the IBM PC.

The BBC Micro was actually made by Acorn, creators of the Atom and, nowadays, the RISC-based CPUs. The BBC wanted a computer of their own, to feature on television and sell to schools, and both Acorn and Sinclair made a stab at creating such a machine. There wasn't really any doubt that Acorn would win, if only because Sinclair's machines would have fallen to bits in the hands of schoolchildren. And they would have been stolen, because they were tiny. The BBC Micro was not tiny. It was huge, and built to last. The keyboard was tough. You could put objects on the case, and it wouldn't complain. It used analogue joysticks, perfect for robotics. It had masses and masses of connectors. It had a proper disc drive, not the weird tape microdrive of the Spectrum or the perverse Commodore 1541. It had Econet, so you could play MUDs with your friends and send them text messages whilst in the same room.

A certain generation grew up with a BBC Micro at school. They were much too expensive for all but the most middle-class of kids to own personally, and there were very few games for them, at least compared to the Spectrum/C64. Having said that, Elite, Sentinel, Repton and Exile originated on the BBC, and Acornsoft's version of Defender was as good as any on a home computer.

The price list with the advert highlights the BBC's capacity for a extra CPU - another 6502 for extra speed or a Z80 for running CP/M. This latter costs 200 in the advert and was surely an extravagance, but even today it sounds awe-inspiring. The BBC's only Achilles heel was a lack of memory -16kb in the original, 32kb in the Model B, something solved with the BBC Master 128 a few years later. Unfortunately, by the time it came out, 16-bit machines were in the ascendancy, and the 399.99 asking price was extravagant.

And on what better note to finish? Except, perhaps, a better note.

...Back
No more...
(c) Ashley Pomeroy 2001