10

The BBC's Computer Literacy Project was launched in 1982, and saw the public service broadcaster seek to raise awareness and educate the general public about the growing field of computing. They famously commissioned a microcomputer to their own specification, to tie in with the TV programmes they made (such as The Computer Programme and Making the Most of the Micro). This was of course the BBC Microcomputer, or the Beeb.

After the original Models A and B, Acorn manufactured further models which continued to carry the BBC name. The BBC's Domesday Project, a crowd-sourced survey of life in the 1980s (to mark the 900th anniversary of the original census of England in 1986), made use of an expanded BBC Master to display the information gathered.

In 1987 Acorn launched their range of Archimedes computers, based on their new 32-bit ARM processor. Some low-end models, including the A305, A310 and A3000 were branded as BBC machines (e.g. BBC A3000), had the same red function keys as the earlier 8-bit machines, and carried the owl logo of the Computer Literacy Project. But after the release of the A3000 in 1989, all new models were branded as Acorn machines.

The BBC's page on the Computer Literacy Project describes it thus:

The Computer Literacy Project, a bold, multimedia initiative was planned between 1979 and 1982 and launched in March 1982. It continued in various forms until 1989.

I suspect that the 1989 date corresponds to the release of the A3000, but after the "high water mark" of BBC-Acorn co-operation with the Domesday Project in 1986, I find myself wondering how involved the BBC were with the Archimedes line in the late 1980s.

Did the BBC have any direct involvement with the development of the Archimedes machines (or the software used on them), or was their involvement limited to a BBC badge on a few of the models?

3

The Stairway To Hell history site seems to indicate that the BBC did indeed get involved officially with the nascent A500.

Sophie Wilson, the designer (then known as Roger):

"Because the original ideas for an ARM-based computer had been for a business machine, Acorn's traditional partner, the BBC, hadn't been involved in the project (neither had new owner Olivetti). However, Acorn eventually took the idea for the new micro to the BBC, saying it was the true successor to the BBC micro. 'The BBC said it was interested, so we put some red function keys on it and changed the case colour. Our original research for the office automation machine had said it had to be grey,' says Wilson mischievously.

The BBC's decision caused a storm when the Archimedes was released. Acorn's competitors were furious that such a new and untried piece of technology was getting BBC approval."

So it would appear from that there was at least some initial branding. Also worth noting is that BBC Enterprises ended up owning Redwood Publishing and 'BBC Acorn Magazine' which featured the Electron, BBC Micro, Archimedes and RISC PC. So I would say that the Archie was seen as the de facto successor to the BBC Micro and UK schools treated it as such.

0

Because the BBC Micro was, for lack of a better term, sponsored by the BBC to get computers in schools, the Archimedes got similar experience from runoff from the micro. Even though it came out later.

  • Yes, the Archimedes followed the Micro. But was the BBC involved in the design of the Archimedes at all? They wrote the whole (initial) specification for their Micro, after all. And in what way was the BBC sponsoring the use of Archimedes machines in schools? The "Microcomputers in Education Programme" was funded by Government, and the later "Computers for Schools" scheme was run by the supermarket chain Tesco. – Kaz May 3 at 10:35
  • The aim of the BBC was to bring computing to schools. The latest BBC project - the BBC microbit is again very basic and simple. The specification of the Archimedes is pretty complex, if you've seen the hardware interface documents. I don't have any evidence but I have doubts as to whether the BBC had a hand in this other than the sales of the BBC micro increasing the revenues which enabled the research and development of the Archimedes. – cup May 3 at 13:07
  • @cup The BBC's Computer Literacy Project was initially aimed at adults, though they later targeted schoolchildren too. See computinghistory.org.uk/det/7182/BBC-Computer-Literacy-Project – Kaz May 4 at 6:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.