Acorn BBC Model A/B - 1981

The following year, the BBC decided that the impact of computers were going to be huge and decided to run a series on TV. To go along with the series they wanted to offer a BBC computer and invited computer manufacturers to tender. Who actually tendered is subject to considerable doubt. The Newbrain is often mentioned but as it did not offer colour then it looked an unlikely contender when colour was always thought to have been a requirement. I was waiting for delivery of a fictitious Newbrain at that time and the equipment did not really seem to exist. What is certain is that Acorn had been working on the successor to the Atom, provisionally named the Proton, which they offered to the BBC. One story has it that in one week the Acorn team built and tested the computer which was still in pieces as little as 48 hours before. Whatever the truth, the BBC, when it came out, was a masterpiece.

Based on the 6502 processor like the Atom, the BBC came with 32KB of ROM and either 16 or 32KB or RAM. The former was the initial BBC Model A and was missing a lot of external connection options though was cheaper than the model B by some way and was expected to be the best seller. How wrong they were! The BBC B (as it soon became known) came with loads of goodies and, at just £100 dearer was the choice of nearly everyone. A genuine BBC Model A is now a rare beast indeed and certainly the computer in my collection is a Model B.

In terms of specification, where to start? A superb BASIC, 8 screen modes from 40 x 25 lines through 80x25 lines up to full high-res colour graphics. The ability to connect to disk drives, the ability to add other ROMs internally, a wonderful sound chip, this computer had everything. Schools bought them by the thousands. Their reliability was astonishing, mine still works as well as the day it was built.

Of course, the machine code within BASIC was continued and there was little you could not do with a Beeb. Even its BASIC program itself was far faster than most. There is little more you can say about this superb computer. If you want to try out 8 bit computing at its finest then go no further than a BBC B.