WHS' BBC micro

If after reading my web pages and after seeing the pictures of BBC micro goodies you wonder what I use, read on:

I mainly use a single machine: BBC B (issue 4 PCB, standard type 1 keyboard) with Watford Mk2 ROM/RAM board, with 16K sideway RAM, and an Opus Challenger diskdrive/RAM disk (512KB). This is the machine I bought in 1995 to replace things I'd lost (advanced user guide, various software) and which I used to start the BBC software archive (at that time there was no commercial BBC micro software available for download on the internet, and hardly any utilities to transfer from BBC to PC and vice versa, so my website was the first BBC micro website with old commercial software + transfer utilities etc. (Robert Schmidt's website which later became 'The BBC lives' duplicated the software/utilities I put up, and was expanded with other material Robert found interesting/useful).

I've got 2 EPROM programmers attached, a Morley Mk2 and a HCR 128K. Sometimes one will program an EPROM that the other doesn't handle properly for some reason, and I need the HCR for programming special EPROMs such as 2716 and 2532. Otherwise I prefer the Morley as it programs faster. I could of course opt for an even faster PC EPROM programmer, but I prefer to do that on the BBC micro side as I don't want to use windoze to program an EPROM (they usually come with windoze-only software). I transfer software to/from a PC running FreeBSD with my bbccom program using a serial cable.

I've got a few more BBC micro's (with 8271 disc interface) that I use for backup. This is also a good idea for trouble shooting. If you have a problem with one, use another to see if it's a problem in the micro or elsewhere. If there is a problem in a BBC micro, it's easy to swap ICs with another one and I can usually determine the problem pretty quickly this way.

Software: I've got most of the early Acornsoft games on tape, some on disc, a lot of programming languages and utilities in ROM and on tape (BCPL, FORTH, LISP, MicroProlog, some graphics packages). I'd like to find all the early Acornsoft games (up to the ones listed in the Acornsoft Autumn 1983 catalogue) on disk because of the coolness factor and because it was unaffordable for me in the 80s.

Books: I've got about 30 now (I once had over a 100...), such as "The advanced user guide" (essential for serious programming), also some books on graphics (esp. "Advanced graphics with the BBC model B microcomputer" that I bought in 1984 and is very useful for assembler too, and "Creative graphics" which is full of very nice programs) and on hardware/ROMs etc (e.g. "The BBC micro compendium" and "A hardware guide for the BBC microcomputer").

Magazines: All Acorn users from 1982-1985, All micro users from 1983-1985, All A&B computings from 1983-1987.

So, my setup is not extensive compared to many other people's. I'm trying to make it smaller still... I'm not into collecting, so what I keep has to be one of the following:

  1. Nostalgic (something I used to have and liked or for some reason I still have an attachment to)
  2. Things I really wanted ca. 1983-1985 but couldn't afford. It those things turn out to be rubbish, I won't keep them though!
  3. Useful (probably not enough, see the section below)
  4. Very cool (probably not enough, see the section below)

For all of the things above: Preferably made before 1985. Stuff from 1985 or 1986 has to be outstanding to keep.

For example, I didn't keep a Soldisk 128K 2MEG board, mainly because it was made in 1987 (too late). I do keep the Solidisk 4MHz boards because they're very cool (will probably change, see below). I also have an original of the game Imogen, which although from 1986 is a very nice game.

I have some other esoteric hardware (e.g. PET and FIT testers), and standard stuff such as joysticks, but I hardly use those.

Newer hardware

I don't use new hardware such as IDE drives with ADFS via the 1MHz bus, MMC cards via the user port or the alternative GoMMC. The latter really because I don't want to use any new hardware that comes without source code but there are other reasons not to use GoMMC. I used GoMMC briefly to install for a friend, and I didn't like it very much (too much hassle to transfer software, ROM corruption etc.). So, I keep using my Opus Challenger drive+RAM disk which is still working perfectly...

Changes in setup (2007)

Ok, so the above gives a pretty good idea of what I have and it seems to be a pretty sensible setup, but I find that I still gathered a huge amount of crap, eh, valuable items :), and sometimes wonder "what's the point?". I really only use a small portion of it all, so I've gone through the mags and software, and a few of the reasons to keep something are getting more important: What I keep has to have some emotional importance, i.e. something I always wanted (and that doesn't turn out to be rubbish), or something I used to have. I never had any A&B mags in the 80s for example, so I'm getting rid of those as well as the Beebug mags. Most MU and Acorn user mags from 1985 too. Ditto for PCW and Practical computing. This even goes for the Solidisk 4MHz boards. For some reason they don't appeal much any more even though they're technically interesting. But, I never knew these existed until ca. 2000-2001 when I started buying old BBC micro stuff and magazines. So they're not nostalgic and they are not things I wanted in the 80s. Also, date wise I try to restrict myself to the time of 1984 as that year is the one I really enjoyed playing with the BBC, after that I wanted a faster machine for e.g. simulations but couldn't afford one (and there weren't good ones at all to be honest), so I really wasn't interested in any BBC stuff from that moment on.

Update for 2008 about the result of those changes in setup

Books reduced to just 11.

The only EPROM programmer I still have is the Morley V2 (which programs 2764,27128,27256, none of the more exotic versions that the HCR128K can do, but I don't need to program 2532s and 2732s any more which is what I used it for most of all).

Software reduced to about 38 packages, mostly games, a few program languages (LISP ROM, S-Pascal tape, 6502 development package) and utilities.

Magazines: A couple of Acorn users (only those I used to have in 1984/1985; I realised later that I got rid of one from 1985 that I had in my youth; aaargh! It's the one with various circle drawing routines. I'd like to get it back!), and micro user from December 1983 - March 1985.

I don't miss the stuff I sold...

I still don't use any newer hardware, but I am considering getting a MMC user port system (and modified/simplified version) just to play around with (and these do come with complete source code and are much more reliable than gommc).

Update for 2009

More bits and pieces gone, but I did get one new thing, a user port MMC system. I'm going to rewrite the interface software for it and I'm considering patching DNFS, or to just write a MMC filing system ROM from scratch...

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