The BBC Micro

We had something of a love/hate relationship with Acorn Computers. Stephen wrote Atomic Pencil in a couple of weeks and saw it ship in volume. I had spent hours on the phone trying to secure Acorn Atoms for customers. Then, in the same week, the microcomputers arrived, our customers cancelled their orders because Acorn was selling direct at a discount. That was two years earlier and now there was the BBC Model A, but little else had changed as far as supply was concerned; few Model As existed outside schools. So, when we got a call from Lawrence Hardwick one Friday afternoon asking if we could interface the MicroEye to Acorn’s latest computer, the BBC Model B, I said, ‘Yes, if we ever find a shop with one in stock.’

An hour later, there was a knock at the door and there stood Lawrence in the pouring rain, clutching a BBC Model B (serial number 32) and looking much like someone who had found an abandoned dog. Lawrence wanted the MicroEye working with it by Monday.

The BBC was making a TV series called Making the Most of the Micro based around the Acorn computer. Whilst filming Episode 9, which featured graphics, the producer couldn’t track down any video input software or hardware that ran on the Model B. The penultimate episode of the series was in danger of becoming ‘Making the Most of the Apple’. The software was no problem as, like the Commodore PET, the Model B was 6502 based and the I/O was driven by a 6522. Unfortunately, we were only partway through solving the MicroEye’s heating problem. Luckily, rationing the time the unit stayed switched on under the studio lights got us through the recording. A well-timed press release and advertisements in Practical Computing and PCW to coincide with the programme’s first showing saw sales leap to thirty units a month and then keep rising. The problem now was building them …


... (An extract from The Ghost in the Labyrinth by Peter Kruger)



Interview with Author

Still far from maturity, the microcomputer market was dominated by a host of devices of varying standards and quality – with the odd ones that tended to explode. IBM’s decision to delay the launch of its PC in Europe provided UK manufacturers such as ACT with a window of opportunity as the market moved from 8 bit to 16 bit computing. Peripheral manufactures were also given a breathing space before PC compatible devices arrived from the US. Hair raising, quite literally, and then there was that ‘Making the Most of the Micro' program which provided a boost for Acorn and its BBC Model B


Next chapter ...