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Acorn Computer
BBC Master AIV

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 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 Domesday project.

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 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:

Friday 16th June 2023
Jack (United Kingdom)

More info and pictures of the AIV system can be found at plus pictures of the machine internals.

Monday 23rd May 2011
Malcolm Ramage (United Kingdon)
Atari Music Network


MANUFACTURER  Acorn Computer
TYPE  Home Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  1986
END OF PRODUCTION  1986-7? Very small run.
BUILT IN LANGUAGE  BBC BASIC. BCPL provided with package.
KEYBOARD  Standard QWERTY, 10 function keys + arrows, plus numeric keypad
CPU  65C02
SPEED  Unknown
CO-PROCESSOR  MOS 65C102 at 4MHz, Turbo co-processor model
RAM  128 KB
VRAM  Taken from main RAM, up to 44K?
ROM  48K-128K, expandable, includes LVFS (Laservision Filing
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), True colour from the video data on LV-ROM
SOUND  3 channels + noise & envelope control, 7 octaves
SIZE / WEIGHT  Complete set - heavy ;)
I/O PORTS  1MHz BUS, Analogue, RGB, Disk, RS423, User port, Econet, Tape, Parallel printer. Captive SCSI lead.
OS  Master Operating System (MOS)
PERIPHERALS  Philips VP415 LV-ROM, Acorn AKF-11 monitor (SCART), Acorn Trackerball (Marconi RB2).
PRICE  £4,000+ (UK, 1986)

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