52 votes

How did Elite (BBC Micro) compress resources?

Elite used procedural generation. There's a good description of the algorithm on the Elite Wiki and although the original 6502 source code archives are available on Ian Bell's Elite site he also ...
43 votes

Was it possible to write a novel on a BBC Micro 16kb/32kb memory era computer without expansions?

You just made a file for each chapter, like sensible people do with current word processing! It is very unusual to write something lengthy in a single document.
38 votes

BBC/Acorn BASIC, what made it so fast?

There are a number of optimisations which, in aggregate, will improve performance somewhat: There are multiple linked lists for the variables, one per first letter of the variable name. This makes ...
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36 votes
Accepted

Why was IBM BASIC so Huge?

The early versions of Microsoft BASIC required 4KB of ROM The 4k versions lacked a number of major features, including string variables. These were added in the 8k versions. The equivalent 6502 ...
32 votes
Accepted

Was the first ARM "processor" a BBC BASIC program?

Per Sophie Wilson: To prove that [Steve had] designed the microarchitecture correctly, he wrote, in BBC BASIC, a model of the microarchitecture. To prove that I'd designed the architecture ...
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32 votes
Accepted

How did the BBC Micro stay cool?

First of all, though the vast majority of BBC Micros were supplied with a switch mode power supply, anecdotal evidence suggests that the few that did have linear power supplies are actually more ...
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27 votes
Accepted

How did the Sideways address space work?

Sideways ROM (also RAM in later models) was paged into the processor's address space. Sideways memory sat in the address range from $8000 to $BFFF. The BBC Model B had four slots on the motherboard ...
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25 votes
Accepted

Was it possible to write a novel on a BBC Micro 16kb/32kb memory era computer without expansions?

It was common to install word processing software as a ROM into one of the spare "sideways ROM" sockets on the BBC Micro, in the same way as the DFS ROM needed to operate a floppy drive. ...
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24 votes
Accepted

Did any early RISC OS precursor run on the BBC Micro?

This page describes one of the prototype A500s used by Paul Fellows (who led the team in charge of developing Arthur, the operating system which eventually became RISC OS). Paul Fellows himself said ...
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20 votes
Accepted

What's the TUBE interface of the BBC micro all about?

The Tube interface was intended to enable the addition of what was known as a Second Processor. Although this was something of a misnomer as the additional processor became the main CPU of the system ...
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20 votes

How did the BBC Micro stay cool?

The chips on the motherboard were quite widely spaced. This is still a design consideration when making boards more heat tolerant. Also, the chips didn't generate the sort of heat that more modern, ...
  • 7,824
20 votes
Accepted

What is this diskette drive?

Akhter was a home computer dealer, based in Harlow. The company still exists at a new address, now called Akhter Group plc (but probably not still selling BBC Micros!). They were the largest sellers ...
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18 votes
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Reading the BBC Domesday Project

Reading up on various preservation efforts, including the Center for Computing History's, and information collected on Andy Finney's and Adrian Graham's sites, it appears that the most difficult part ...
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18 votes
Accepted

BBC/Acorn BASIC, what made it so fast?

Most of BBC BASIC's speed advantage came from Acorn's use of a 2 MHz 6502 with fast 4816A RAM chips. It's a good interpreter, but it's the hardware that makes it near-mythically fast. To confirm this, ...
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17 votes
Accepted

What was the 1 MHz bus used for on the BBC micro series?

The so-called "1MHz bus" is not actually a separate bus. It is just the set of devices which were too slow to run at the full 2MHz in the original BBC Micro, and which therefore incur a ...
  • 16.1k
16 votes

What's the TUBE interface of the BBC micro all about?

Devices connected to the Tube weren't terribly common because they added further expense to an already rather expensive computer in the first place. The 6502 second processor was £200 and the Z80 was £...
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16 votes
Accepted

Why is the BBC Micro's Mode 7 so different to the other display Modes?

The BBC Micro's specification was drawn up by the BBC (with some subsequent modifications). Computer manufacturers were invited to design a computer system that would meet that specification, and ...
  • 7,719
15 votes

What BBC Microcomputer features were requested specifically by BBC engineers?

Linear power supply was not a BBC engineering requirement by the time I joined Designs Dept in late 1981. Perhaps it was dropped well before actual production; I don't know if that was pushback from ...
15 votes
Accepted

Could the BBC micro's analogue input be used to sample sound?

No, it can not be used to sample audio. As the link you provided says, in 12-bit mode it takes 10 milliseconds to convert a sample, and even in 8-bit mode it takes 4 milliseconds. That results into ...
  • 19.6k
14 votes

Why was IBM BASIC so Huge?

[Maury Markowitz' answer already nails it, so this is just to add some numbers for comparison] The Cassette BASIC 1.0/1.1 in the IBM PC ROM is a Microsoft BASIC V5.x (*1). It's usually marketed as ...
  • 177k
14 votes

Was it possible to write a novel on a BBC Micro 16kb/32kb memory era computer without expansions?

BBC Micro model B has 32k memory. An average book, like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, has about 350,000 characters in it. So you'd need over 10 times the memory to load it in, plus the software to edit ...
  • 177k
14 votes
Accepted

What really prevented PC games from using hardware scrolling on CGA

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptive_tile_refresh: CGA (the previous generation of PC graphics hardware) lacks features for scrolling in hardware so PC games started featuring ...
  • 177k
14 votes

What really prevented PC games from using hardware scrolling on CGA

I did it for a game, but it was a mess. It was a port of a 2-way fine scroller... by making it a 1-way scroller, we trashed the game pretty badly... it was definitely not faithful to the original. ...
13 votes
Accepted

What was the title safe area on PAL TV sets?

According to EBU R95, the title-safe area for 576i format (corresponding to PAL SDTV) is 258 lines tall in each field. This is just large enough to accommodate the 256 lines per field that the BBC ...
  • 16.1k
12 votes

How did Elite (BBC Micro) compress resources?

The descriptions are computed via the method goat_soup which works recursively. The system description is set by mySystem.description = goat_soup("\x8F is \x97.",&mySys); The description string ...
  • 221
12 votes

BBC model B, 20 pinouts port on keyboard below speaker used for what?

Most hobbyists put a ZIF socket onto those pins. This then was connected through to the sideways ROM sockets on the motherboard. The socket enabled you to insert language ROMs as required, thus ...
  • 7,824
12 votes
Accepted

Did the original BBC Micro computer come with a mouse?

No, the original BBC Micro came with no peripherals at all. It came in a box with room for the computer itself: and a cable and introductory material: The cut-out in the lower part that seems to be ...
  • 98.2k
12 votes
Accepted

Why was the Microvitec Cub monitor made of metal?

What was that prior application that caused Microvitec to design the monitor the way they did? Not sure if there needs to be any. Professional monitors always have been made with metal housing - back ...
  • 177k
11 votes
Accepted

Can the BBC be programmed to a half-size mode 1 screen mode with 16 colours instead of 4?

With all these 'or' in between and jumping between various points, requirements and conclusions, it's a bit unclear what your're looking for. If this is about most colour with least memory, then the (...
  • 177k
11 votes

Was it possible to write a novel on a BBC Micro 16kb/32kb memory era computer without expansions?

Since you're asking not (just) about the BBC Micro, but about computers of that era in general: More sophisticated word processors like WordStar, running on CP/M, were able to swap both code and text ...
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Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible