In 1986, the 900th Anniversary of the Norman Domesday Book, the BBC and
the National Curriculum, amongst other UK bodies, endeavoured to
produced a 20th Century equivalent. Recently the Domesday project has
had renewed interest, as the sense of producing such an ambitious
undertaking then storing the results on a strange, and now forgotten,
format has been called into question many times since!
For old-computers.com readers, the interesting bits are not terribly
interesting - but they are scarce. The presentation was viewable on one
of two platforms - the main, and the one most associated with it, was
the BBC Master AIV (Advanced Interactive Video). This isn't an
'official' term - as far as Acorn and the BBC were concerned, they
wanted schools to purchase the system in the belief that it was
essentially what they were used to. The BBC Master was an off the shelf
Master Turbo, with an additional SCSI interface (possibly
electronically derived from the SCSI interface built into the ACW), and
an additional filing system to access the LV-ROM.
The VP415 LV-ROM was an industrial Philips Laservision player, already
'programmable' according to the Laservision standards. The storage was
broken down into volumes, with data encoded along with the video
content (which can be played separately). The SCSI interface allowed
data retrieval but this was also possible via the RS-232 interface -
and a module to allow the other machine popular in schools at the time
access - the RM Nimbus. The actual data format on the disc was
controlled by LV-DOS in the player, and VFS in the BBC series computer.
Whilst the Master AIV was most definitely marketed for this
application, the documentation is quite vague about whether a BBC B
could be used, implying that merely the VFS ROM is required!
Video from the laserdisc was mixed using a genlock incorporated in the
base of the VP415 with data generated by the Domesday applications and
displayed on a SCART monitor.
Applications allowed searching of film content, further exploration of
the information, such as going into a house pictured (within
limitations, of course!), and statistical analysis of data gathered in
a project that involved schools all over the UK. It's quite likely that
many people of my generation contributed, in some small part, to the
Additional discs were produced for educational purposes, hoping to
expand the applications of the AIV system, but the late 80s was to see
the advent of Microsoft's "Multimedia PC" standard, Philips' own CDi,
and many other CD (rather than LD) based systems. LV-ROM, in addition
to the video and still frames, could store just under 400Mb of data on
a 12" optical disc - whilst the video would take up more space on CD,
the media was physically fragile and was eventually to be rendered
obsolete with the end of the VP415.
Projects to restore the Domesday project are hampered by copyright law
and the restrictions of accessing the data, The most successful is
Leeds University's CAMeLION project, an emulated system, with some
PC-based applications. I am undertaking my own 'accessible' project, to
attempt to make the material useable in a wide range of consumer
friendly appliances, but like everyone else, am tied by the fragility
of the hardware (if anyone has parts for the VP415 I need spares!) and
of course, copyright law.
Thanks A LOT to Richard Kilpatrick for all this info.
We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system,
please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.
Please consider donating your old computer / videogame system to Old-Computers.com or one of our partners from anywhere in the world (Europe, America, Asia, etc.).
Chris Whytehead''s Acorn collection, and his website with details of the BBC AIV, is now looked after by the Center for Computing History: https://www.computinghistory.org.uk/news/34175/Acorn-Collection-Donated/
Friday 16th June 2023
Jack (United Kingdom)
More info and pictures of the AIV system can be found at http://acorn.chriswhy.co.uk/Computers/Domesday.html plus pictures of the machine internals.