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Back in the day, no one actually wanted a BBC, and the only people who had them were the rich kids who’s mummies and daddies thought that by buying them a computer, their children would blossom into accountants and stockbrokers. Looking back, we were all arses. Although the BBC was hideously expensive compared with the competition, it was fast, had excellent sound, neat graphics and was the best home machine at shifting polygons this side of the Vectrex.

The Games

The BBC’s high price meant that it had a rather unfair reputation as a ‘serious’ computer (god forbid…) useful only in the classroom. In fact, the Beeb had a stack of cool games; most famously Elite, but also a brace of near perfect arcade clones from Acornsoft as well as the classic Orlando games.

The BBC Micro’s influence is still strong with many former BBC programmers developing cutting edge software for the PC.

Trivia

During development (and before the BBC decided to choose the machine as its supported computer), the BBC was known as the Acorn Proton.

The cases for the Acorn Atom and BBC Micro were designed by Allen Boothroyd, also responsible for the sylish Meridian range of hi-fi equipment.

People

David Braben and Ian Bell

OK, they looked like the kind of people who had their sweet money nicked at school, but that didn’t stop them standing astride the British games industry like goads, having created one of the greatest and most influential games of all time.

Elite (1984/Acornsoft)

The classic space trading game. Later converted to a variety of formats by Firebird, including the Commodore 64 and Spectrum.

Visit Ian Bell’s web pages, where you can read up on Elite, as well as download several versions of the seminal game.

Geoff Crammond

Geoff is responsible for the superb Formula 1 Grand Prix 1 and 2 for the PC, Stunt Car Racer for the Amiga and ST and The Sentinel which was released on a variety of formats. For the BBC, he wrote the following:

Aviator – Flight simulator

Hey.. who needs texture mapping? And who needs colour come to that..? Aviator allowed you to pilot your Spitfire under bridges and fly upside-down – and, obviously dealing with previously unreported events during the Battle of Britain, even shoot some invading aliens.

Revs

Geoff getting limbered up to write Formula 1 Grand Prix? Revs was a very realistic racing game, and it was just as well recieved as it’s big brother, F1GP. Revs was later converted to the Commodore 64.

Rev 4 Tracks

Possibly the first commercial add-on for games software (unless you know better), this allowed Revs owners to race round other tracks.

Nick Pelling, AKA Orlando (otherwise known as Orlando M Pilchard)

Nick later turned to Amiga development, working on a number of conversions (including Wing Commander) and coding the original 3D Pool.

Arcadians

Acornsoft’s Galaxian clone

Zalaga

An excellent Galaga clone, released through Nick’s company Aardvark Software

Firetrack

Vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up

Frak! (1984/Aardvark)

Ace prehistoric platformer, later converted to the Commodore 64 by Statesoft

Chris Roberts

One of the first games to make dedicated game-heads take a serious look at the PC was the very pretty, but rather simplistic, space shoot ‘em up Wing Commander. Up until then, the PC had struggled to compete with prettier games on cheaper home computers and consoles. Chris Roberts, the man behind the Wing Commander series, cut his teeth on Acorn’s machine.

Stryker’s Run

Not unlike Wing Commander in that it had great graphics but only limited gameplay, Stryker’s Run was a sideways scrolling shoot ‘em up where your character could also take control of planes and helicopters. The game was also the first to take advantage of the extra memory in Acorn’s beefed up Master 128, allowing owners of the newer machine to also drive cars, enjoy new music and have the dubious pleasure of reading a scrolly message listing the amount of pizzas Chris ate while writing the game.

Martin Edmondson

Before being swallowed by Sony, Psygnosys were one of the most successful British software publishers in the 1990s. Martin Edmondson has worked on some of their biggest hits, including the Shadow of the Beast series on the Amiga, and the best selling Destruction Derby I and II on the PlayStation.

Ravenskull

A top-down arcade adventure

Codename Droid: Stryker’s Run II

Codename Droid was in many was a pre-runner to Shadow of the Beast – a side on arcade adventure with a strong puzzle element.

Ultimate Play The Game

(link coming soon)
Ultimate converted a number of their Spectrum classics to the BBC.

Imagine: The Name of the Game

(link coming soon)
Liverpool’s Imagine Software probably had the highest profile of all the early 8-bit games publishers. Unfortunately for them, all the hype and tabloid articles weren’t enough to save them from bankrupcy when the videogames crash happened. The Imagine brand was later bought by Ocean Software who used it to market their line of arcade conversions.

Romik Software

(link coming soon)
When you look back, it’s all too easy to focus on the big names software scene and forget about some of the smaller players. Romik were never going to win any awards for quality, but they supported a wide range of 8-bit computer formats and were a well-known name during the early-to-mid 1980s.

Links

Stairway to Hell
Comprehensive archive of BBC and Electron games, as well as scans of cover art, instructions magazine reviews and other goodies.

8-Bit Software
Library of public domain software for the BBC Micro and BBC Master.

Binary Dinosaurs’ Acorn section
The Acorn pages on Binary Dinosaurs features a history of the company as well as photos of many Acorn bits and bobs.

Thanks

Many thanks to Chris Jordan, Tom Seddon and Rob King for their help and advice on Beeb games.

Major events

December 1981
launch prices:
Model ‘A’ £235
Model ‘B’ £335
Almost immediately put up to £299 and £399 inc. VAT respectively
1985
BBC Model B+ launch price £499
1986
BBC Master range launched

Emulators

Mac OS X

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iOS

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OUYA/Android

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Features

BBC Micro

Model ‘A': 16K RAM, Model ‘B': 32K RAM
2.0MHz 6502 processor
8 colour
Advanced internal 4 voice sound
Built-in BBC BASIC
BBC B+ featured either 64K or 128K RAM

BBC Master 128

Enhanced version of the BBC Micro
128K RAM
128k ROM
Built-in spreadsheet and word processing software
Two cartridge ports
The BBC Master Turbo also featured a 65C02 co-processor

BBC Master ET

Designed for use on a network, the Master ET had no tape or disk interfaces.

BBC Master 512

As with the Master 128, except:
512K RAM, upgradable to 1MB
Second processor: 80186 processor
Capable of running DOS+ and the GEM windowing system

BBC Master Compact

The Master Compact was an odd looking thing. At first glance, the machine looks like a regular PC, with separate keyboard, monitor and CPU. Look more closely, however, and you realise that the computer itself is built into the keyboard, and the bit you thought was the CPU was in fact an oversized case for the 3.5″ disk drive and power supply.