The BBC Micro: Star of Television and Radio
By James Grahame
Let's hitchhike back in time to 1981. Ignore my really bad Flock of Seagulls hair and the Human League LPs, and check out this awesome new computer from the BBC.
Determined not to be left out of the coming “computer revolution,” the British Broadcasting Corporation decided to produce a series of television and radio shows focused on microcomputers. They published a list of specifications and set about looking for a company to design and produce a reference platform. A tiny company called Acorn won the design competition and the BBC Micro was introduced in early 1982 at a price of £235. It was based on the 6502 microprocessor and came with 16K of RAM (later expanded to 32K). It could display color graphics at up to 640 x 256 pixels, and the built-in BASIC interpreter was excellent.
With the support and credibility of the BBC behind the little company, they went on to sell more than one million systems. The BBC Micro became the standard educational computer in the UK and was supported by a broad range of software titles.
Acorn produced a lower cost version called the Acorn Electron in 1983. They underestimated demand and it was in short supply throughout the 1983 Christmas season. Time marched on, and Acorn introduced several good computers in the late 1980s – the BBC Master (1986), and the brilliant 32-bit ARM RISC-processor equipped Acorn Archimedes (1987). Neither achieved the runaway success of Acorn’s early machines.