BBC Micro (model B)

Much-beloved computer used in British schools back in the day.  Many people of a certain age will remember this as the computer responsible for getting them in to computing.

Published , updated by Richard GoodwinFiled under Computers

This is my Acorn Computers BBC Micro Model B, complete with 5.25" 40 track floppy disc drive. The drive is not in terribly good shape (case missing, scary Jerry-rigged wiring), and the Beeb is minus any case screws1, but it is a working machine I was given for free.

At the time they came out however I (or rather, my parents as I was still at secondary school) couldn't afford the real deal so I got the Electron, the Beeb's little brother. As far as I can tell the BBC Model A was identical to the Model B, except it had half the memory (16K and 32K RAM respectively). The Beeb was much more upgradeable than my Electron, and had things such as a user port, disc interface, printer port etc. already built in.

Here's the story I heard about how it got it's BBC moniker, which may or may not be true: the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation wanted to get down with this new computer stuff and looked around for a machine it could feature in a series of TV programmes. The prototype machine - called the Proton, the previous series being the Atom and a later cut-down version being called the Electron - was shown to the BBC but they said it wasn't what they were looking for. Then one bright spark at Acorn decided to spray paint the function keys the distinctive orange-red we see today to make it look more cool and dynamic. They took this machine back to the BBC - with no other changes - and Auntie Beeb loved it, took it on as their machine of choice.

There was one of these things in pretty much every primary school in the UK, and most secondary schools had more than one, but Acorn didn't want to share its technology with anyone else so more open systems like the IBM PC clones grew to dominance.

As BBC Micros were hard wearing and very upgradeable, it's sometimes said that if it still has all the screws and the cover on the "ash tray" upgrade slot, it's not a real BBC Micro.