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A > ACORN COMPUTER  > BBC Model A / B / B+   

Acorn Computer
BBC Model A / B / B+

The Acorn BBC model A was the successor of the Acorn Atom and its first name was Acorn Proton. It was a very popular computer in the UK and was widely used in schools, but it didn't have great success elsewhere (even though it did have great features, it was too expensive).

The Model A lacked some of the connectors of the Model B/B+ (User port, Tube, ...) on the underside.

This computer got its name because in 1980, the BBC decided to start a computer literacy television series. The network realized that, with more powerful and increasingly inexpensive microcomputers, it would soon be possible to create them with enough computing power to offer their owners personal hands-on experience with microcomputers at an affordable price.
The BBC considered the NewBrain computer and rejected it. Acorn and Sinclair Research, along with other companies, then submitted designs, and Acorn won. The BBC model B was then used almost universally in British schools from its birth into the 90's.

It was followed in 1982 by the Acorn BBC model B. The Model B had the same features but had 32 KB RAM (expandable to 64K).

The "Tube" was an expansion port which was designed to connect other processors to the BBC (6502, Z80, 68000 or ARM 1 RISC). An interface card was specially designed for the tube. It used another 6502 and a Z80.

One of its most popular peripherals was the "Torch" floppy disk unit, a 5.25" floppy disk drive with a Z80 which allowed the BBC to use CP/M software.

Acorn also made a "cheap" version of the BBC (fewer connectors & video modes) called Acorn Electron.

In 1985, the Acorn BBC Model B+ was released. The Model B+ had new features : 64K of RAM instead of 32 KB and internal circuitry for the Econet and Disk Drive as standard (both available as an upgrade in the models A and B). The later models included disk support as standard, using either an 8271 or a 1770 disk controller. There was also a B+ 128KB model (with and extra 4x16KB banks of "sideways RAM"). The B+ models had 48KB of ROM because they had an extra 16KB with the DFS. They used a MOS 6512A processor, but at the same 2MHz that the A and B models used.

It was then followed by the BBC Master.


Contributors: Gabriel Graça

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I couldn''t resist a trip down memory lane. First, a long overdue "Thank you" to Mr Hume.

His whole Math''s class was caught up in his enthusiasm, excitedly awaiting the day when his Micro Computer would arrive. It was late.

When it did, a small cadre of boys and girls gathered around the keyboard and monitor to watch as he loaded a few worthy but dull games. I seem to recall, only one or two got hands-on because they took so long to load.

The following week, everyone else was rehearsing for the school play. That evening, he changed the course of my life.

All I''d ever seen a computer do was play a few simple games. When asked what I wanted to do, I was too naive to know better.

I asked if we could "type-in a game". And to my amazement, he did just that. For years after, "typing-in a game" meant copying from a magazine. I knew differently.

Writing BBC BASIC in real time, Mr Hume crafted one of the few games I''d seen before ... "Bomber". Life. As I watched. We didn''t finish it in one night, nor ever as I recall. but I''d seen enough. I was hooked. I was consumed with the desire to do the same. I had to speak "fluent computer".

Within 6 months, I''d able to do the game. Taking a simple idea and turning it into code.

Within a year, I was coding in fluent machine code (hex, not assembler). Within a year, I was in high school and coding passionately. Along with a couple of mates, we wrote most of the senior schools'' computing assignments during our first term. LOL. Stopped us being bullied, oddly enough. Being able to write games made us geeks tolerable, even useful. We were awarded special privileges by the tougher kids and the teachers. It could have been so much worse.

My own first computer was a VIC-20. An amazing gift, that my single mum couldn''t really afford. Later on, I managed to snag my BBC (an old model A) ... and loved it with a passion. Then the ST, my beloved Amiga and then the wilderness of MS-DOS until Linux and for the last decade, my Mac''s.

It''s 30 years since the ZX Spectrum was released. A machine that I loved and loathed (fan-bois are not new). Nothing will ever compare to the BBC. (Arch, if you ever read this ... the Z80 was definitely better :-)

How good was BBC Basic? And lightening fast. Procedures, wow. And the assembler. Econet. And of course, Elite.

Thank you to Acorn, the BBC, Mr Hume. Arch and Beef. It''s 29 years later, I''m awake at 3am still coding furiously. Good night.

Monday 23rd April 2012
Dox (Australia)

I was responsible for equiping a teaching lab. at Newcastle Polytechnic, and natrually I chose the BBC micro (a controversial decision when everyone else was buying original IBM PC's). 16 model B (suitable for a class of 32), networked together with ECONET to a server with a 20MB hard disk. I was given a free hand to buy 'demonstrative' hardware to show what computers could do. We ended up with robotic arms, 2 different speach synths, graphic tablets, 2 different camera systems, a speach recognition system, a BITSTICK (great for playing Elite), touch sensitive screens, light pens, pen plotter, Teletext adapter, 6502 second processor. The systems were used for Basic and Pascal programming, word processing (view), spreadsheets (viewsheet). With all of the 'toys' out, it really was something to see. All this connected to the 'standard' ports of the BBC. What a wonderful machine. I know from experience that it was a great system for teaching. I still have two running today!

Sunday 7th May 2006
Peter Gathercole (Somerset, United Kingdom)

Let's face it; everyone has used a BBC. Schools loved 'em...and rightly so. The real draw, though, was seeing "Elite" running on it. I started coding 3d vector routines as a result, whilst I got my 'o' level in computer studies with three programs I made for fun (a crude music sequencer, a bug-ridden 3d graphical adventure game and a simple word processor). Biggest surprise the old girl gave me was when I slammed in my new copy of Superior Software's "Citadel" and she started TALKING to me! "Whatch owt for speeeech!", she said, "Ower new program, coming soooon!".

I dropped my sandwich!

Wednesday 8th September 2004
Alan Goodwin (UK)


NAME  BBC Model A / B / B+
MANUFACTURER  Acorn Computer
TYPE  Home Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  1981
KEYBOARD  Full-stroke QWERTY keyboard, 64 keys, 10 function keys, arrow keys
CPU  MOS 6502
SPEED  1.8 MHz
RAM  Model 1 : 16 kb
Model B : 32 kb
Model B+ : 64 kb
ROM  32 kb
TEXT MODES  80 x 32/25 (2 colors) / 40 x 32/25 (2 or 4 colors) / 20 x 32 (16 colors) / 40 x 25 (Teletext display)
GRAPHIC MODES  640 x 256 (2 colors) / 320 x 256 (4 colors) / 160 x 256 (16 colors)
COLORS  16 (8 colors + flashing option)
SOUND  3 channels + 1 noise channel, 7 octaves
SIZE / WEIGHT  41 (W) x 34.5 (D) x 6.5 (H) cm / 3700 g
I/O PORTS  UHF TV out, BNC video out, RGB vide out, RS423, Cassette, Analogue In (DB15), Econet port, TUBE interface, 1Mhz BUS, User port, Printer port, Disk-drive connector
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in switching PSU
PERIPHERALS  Controler card for 1 to 4 5''1/4 F.D. drives (1 400 F.F)
Floppy disk unit 5''1/4 250 Ko. (3 900 F.F.)
Numerical cassette recorder 100 Ko. (3 000 F.F.)
Second 6502 microprocessor with card (3
PRICE  £399 (UK 1983) - 1181 (France, February 1984)

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