The BBC Micro was a microcomputer platform, first introduced in 1981, with Acorn Computers winning the contract for the BBC's Computer Literacy Project ahead of Sir Clive Sinclair and the ZX Spectrum. It was a way for Acorn to quickly make money thanks to the BBC name. Initially code-named "Proton" it became a great success in the UK, with every secondary school and primary school soon having access to one. At the time, the success of the BBC Micro made the UK the most computer-literate country in the world. Two revisions were released in November, 1981 the entry-level Model A at £235 and standard Model B at £335. Model B's included additional RAM a second processor. Later the BBC Master was released with more RAM and OS enhancements. The BBC B+ was released in 1984 which featured double the RAM found in the BBC B.
The BBC Micro is powered by a 6502 processor, the same one found in the Commodore PET and VIC-20 as well as the Atari 400 and 800.
Perhaps the best remembered game for the system was Acornsoft's Elite, the first fully 3D space trading and combat game. It was developed by Ian Bell and David Braben. Musician Martin Galway and director Chris Roberts also started out on the system, collaborating on the Superior Software game, Stryker's Run. Game adaptations of popular BBC TV shows like Doctor Who were also produced.
BBC Micro in dates
The BBC is looking for a microcomputer platform for their show The Computer Programme. It must be a platform that has graphics and is able to show text.
Acorn upgrades its Atom system as to be on par with what the BBC was asking for. Acorn wins the contract and starts building machines for the BBC. The BBC Microcomputer System is born.
The BBC Micro gets some competition ( ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64) and Acorn has trouble answering customer demand.
Despite releasing multiple versions of the BBC, Acorn Computers is almost bankrupt and is bought by Olivetti.
The final model of the BBC is released but is already technically inferior to other machines such as the Amiga. This is the end of the BBC Micro.
Technical Specifications (Model B)
RAM: 32K (expandable to 128K)
ROM: 32K as standard, expandable to 272K with paged ROMs
CPU: MOS Technology 6502A at 2MHz, second processors (Z80, ARM, 68000, 80186) could be attached over the Acorn Tube(R) interface.
Graphics: Up to 8 physical colours, 16 logical colours (8 flashing), resolution up to 640x256 pixels. Additional Teletext mode with anti-aliased fonts.
Sound: 3 tone channels, 1 noise channel, SN76489 chip.
Data storage: Tape or floppy disk as standard, hard disk drive with additional ADFS ROM.
Interfaces: Serial (RS-423), Parallel (Centronics), floppy disk, tape, RGB video, RF video, 1MHz bus (for third party expansion hardware), "User" port (general purpose digital I/O), Analogue Interface (analogue joysticks, mouse, light pen), The Tube (second processor support), Econet (network support).