Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

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Commie_User
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Commie_User » Sun Apr 30, 2017 9:22 pm

The Hit Squad and Codemasters were offenders on the Commodore 64, as I remember. You did see 'Amiga version screenshots' clear enough when everything else was so small, at least.

B3_B3_B3
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:42 pm

paulb wrote:Well, it's been a good discussion, but I don't see any reason why people shouldn't analyse the sequence of events that led to certain things being done in a certain way. ...

Neither do I, I have edited my earlier post for clarity. :)

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby 1024MAK » Mon May 01, 2017 4:38 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:Why fit monitor outputs and sockets to a computer most of which will only be attached to a TV: why bring RGB lines out on an edge connector and spend money saved from fitting those components on more RAM.

The oldest Maplin catalogue that I have found (so far), dated 1993, has the following prices:-

PCB mounting DIN Sockets
5 pin type A 180o - £0.45
5 pin type B 240o - £0.48
6 pin - £0.60
7 pin - £0.68

PCB mounting Phono socket - £0.45

Resistors and transistors
Low power 1/8w carbon film resistors were 3p each.
Metal film 0.25W resistors were £1.98 for a pack of 100.

Maplin did not stock BC309 transistors, but a similar transistor, a BC558 was 8p each.

So using these 1993 prices, the cost of the RGB output in extra components is £0.66 (assumes LK3 is a PCB track). Note that the other sections of IC14 (the 74LS86) are used in the TV UHF circuitry.

Schematic extract:
IMG_4480.JPG
Elk schematic of the RGB and Composite Video outputs

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby vanpeebles » Tue May 02, 2017 11:31 am

I wonder what the total costs were for the Electron, it might of just been cheaper and easier to give a discount on a normal beeb :lol:

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby paulb » Tue May 02, 2017 11:54 am

vanpeebles wrote:I wonder what the total costs were for the Electron, it might of just been cheaper and easier to give a discount on a normal beeb :lol:


Maybe there were contractual difficulties with that. Those articles incorporating Acorn adverts provide some discussion of such matters. Also, it would appear that Acorn's discounting practices made the company very unpopular with dealers.

One thing that has been mentioned before but maybe not in this thread is that the exercise of making the Electron ULA was presumably a step towards a rationalisation of Acorn's 8-bit technology platform (and to prevent cloning of their machines, as was admitted by Chris Curry, I think), and it may well have also been a step towards acquiring the expertise to do other silicon design work.

The ULA may well have been used in the Communicator. Although a bit of an odd product for Acorn, maybe even made by Torch for Acorn, the intention might have been to deploy it in other products, too. If you look at the size constraints of things like the Acorn Business Computer, there are benefits in reducing the chip count and board size in that way.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Tue May 02, 2017 12:01 pm

1024MAK wrote:...The oldest Maplin catalogue that I have found (so far), dated 1993, has the following prices:-...

You forgot the price of inserting connectors manually rather than with a machine. :) Plus I still think at the low end you only fit what is necessary. But the above savings do look disapointing (unless those connectors are Maplin rubbish specials (some of their 'value' stuff was rubbish)).

Perhaps Acorn should have left the low end to others and found an alternative way to allow BBC BASIC /cassette compatibility to those who could only afford lower end computers (eg cartridges / licensing for free/very low cost). To me, IMHO., it undermines the BBCs original purpose a little bit if its BASIC was only available to the well off: I always thought that was the point of the Electron otherwise why bother with the risk of the low end.

If there Electron had used only components used by other Acorn products (eg Beeb or Atom case) or stuff easily bought in on demand like wall wart PSUs, perhaps it would have been less risky....

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby paulb » Tue May 02, 2017 12:55 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:If there Electron had used only components used by other Acorn products (eg Beeb or Atom case) or stuff easily bought in on demand like wall wart PSUs, perhaps it would have been less risky....


It did use a "wall wart" PSU, though. Given the smoking Beeb war cry issued frequently on these forums, that's one thing that we can surely agree was a good idea. :wink:

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby 1024MAK » Tue May 02, 2017 1:06 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:
1024MAK wrote:...The oldest Maplin catalogue that I have found (so far), dated 1993, has the following prices:-...

You forgot the price of inserting connectors manually rather than with a machine. :) Plus I still think at the low end you only fit what is necessary. But the above savings do look disapointing (unless those connectors are Maplin rubbish specials (some of their 'value' stuff was rubbish)).

In 1993 Maplin was still mainly a mail order company, I don't think they had a 'value' range as such then. The only 6 pin PCB DIN connector in that 1993 catalog is what I have listed above.

Prices of connectors has risen, meanwhile, in general, today you get a lot more semiconductor functionality for a lot less money.

Even now 6 pin DIN sockets are not that expensive, this 6 pin one from Farnell is £0.923 + VAT each, or £0.747 + VAT for 500.

And I did not forget the cost of manually inserting connectors. In my post above, I specifically said that the 66p was only the cost of components. I have no way to know, let alone quote how much it would have cost to manufacture a board and fit them.

However, back in the early 1980s, the levels of automation in factories fitting components to PCBs was low. Some manufacturering was completely manual done by people inserting components and then either manual soldering everything, or flow soldering. Or a combination. So three extra resistors and one extra 6 pin DIN socket to a board that already has countless resistors and a DIN socket for the cassette tape interface would not have made any significant difference.

In this case, the sales pitch "can be connected to a high resolution professional colour monitor" would have been worth much more than, say the extra £1 of including the RGB monitor output.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Tue May 02, 2017 1:09 pm

1024MAK wrote:.... I don't think they had a 'value' range as such then. The only 6 pin PCB DIN connector in that 1993 catalog is what I have listed above.....

OK. :) but some of their own brand stuff was rubbish eg The Tape :(

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Tue May 02, 2017 1:12 pm

NB I saw some youtube videos of Elk games with small game 'moving' areas:
some quite impressive scrolling/3D effects: an presumably all software generated (just like on a Spectrum)... :)

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby davidb » Tue May 02, 2017 1:38 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:NB I saw some youtube videos of Elk games with small game 'moving' areas:
some quite impressive scrolling/3D effects: an presumably all software generated (just like on a Spectrum)... :)

I did a brief survey of those in this document. One game I hadn't checked out at the time is Clogger which manages full-screen scrolling reasonably well. Though not "smooth" by many people's definition, it compares quite well to the BBC version. :)

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Tue May 02, 2017 7:10 pm

Very impressive.

NB after reading this thread I wonder how the Dragon 32 managed to be sold at 200 pounds when launched in Aug 1982 before the Elk.. Did Motorola give them a good deal on ICs (they apparently gave a lot of design help with usage of chipset )?

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue May 02, 2017 8:03 pm

davidb wrote:One game I hadn't checked out at the time is Clogger which manages full-screen scrolling reasonably well. Though not "smooth" by many people's definition, it compares quite well to the BBC version. :)

Did you ever look into it to see how it achieves the scrolling? It's a pretty amazing effort for the Electron!

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby davidb » Tue May 02, 2017 9:50 pm

Rich Talbot-Watkins wrote:
davidb wrote:One game I hadn't checked out at the time is Clogger which manages full-screen scrolling reasonably well. Though not "smooth" by many people's definition, it compares quite well to the BBC version. :)

Did you ever look into it to see how it achieves the scrolling? It's a pretty amazing effort for the Electron!

Sadly not. I assume that it only repaints the "edges": the transitions between subtiles that are different, which are 4 x 8 pixels. Feel free to look at the code! :D I actually wonder if it doesn't use the same technique on the BBC...

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Commie_User » Wed May 03, 2017 12:52 pm

Is it applicable to butt in at this point? Is it even viable to compare the Elk to the BBC after all? It seems to me that the Elk is halfway only emulating the BBC anyway, as the architecture is different.

Is it possible to write an Elk emulator for the BBC, as it was to have a PET emulator for the Commodore 64? And if it isn't, should this be the end of the Elk-full Beeb debate?

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Andrew_Waite » Wed May 03, 2017 4:24 pm

Can the Commodore 64 emulate a PET? I thought the PET had a more advanced Commodore BASIC 4.0, Jack Tramiel using the older Commodore BASIC 2.0 for the C64 to avoid paying royalties to Microsoft and to use a smaller ROM.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Commie_User » Wed May 03, 2017 4:55 pm

I do have a copy: http://www.pcmuseum.ca/Brochures/MANC64PetEmulator.pdf

The 2001 model seems a better fit because the C64 text resolution matches it better, so an ancient BASIC was in it by default. I had no cause to really use it, so only crappy little games I once made for an old school one were tested.

The Commodore PET EMULATOR software package
execute programs that were originally designed for
PET computer on the new Commodore 64.
allows you to
the Commodore
The PET EMULATOR modifies the CBM Model 64 so that it will
operate identically to the 2.0 Basic PET 2001 in most respects.
Th i s mod if i cat i on cons i sts of two parts: memory re-conf i gurat i on
and system interaction interpretation. The exact technical
spec if i cat ions of jus t how the PET EMULATOR operates are we II
outs i de the scope of th i s documen t, however the more importan t
conceptual information of its operation are presented.
It is recommended that you
trying to use the EMULATOR to
wi II be a successful one.
read the entire
ensure that your
document before
first experience


OK, copy facility, whatever.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Thu May 04, 2017 4:52 pm

What if Acorn had waited till 64K by 8 RAM was affordable then released the Electron and B+ simultaneously (possibly using a modified OS to avoid Aries Patent trouble?).

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danielj
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby danielj » Thu May 04, 2017 8:32 pm

Then history would have been different. And the present: would have probably been very moderately different (in that more people would have had computers in the 80s that worked marginally faster).

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Richard Russell » Thu May 04, 2017 9:33 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:Did the BBC itself own BBC BASIC?

The name 'BBC BASIC' certainly; I am only allowed to call my products BBC BASIC because I have the BBC's permission to do so (and of course it's not "did" but "does"). But one cannot protect, e.g. copyright or patent, the language itself (i.e. its syntax and semantics); anybody can create their own implementation of a programming language, which may be as compatible with the original (or not) as you like. So for example we have Brandy and Owl BASIC which are both 'BBC BASIC' in everything but name.

Richard.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Coeus » Thu May 04, 2017 10:36 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:What if Acorn had waited till 64K by 8 RAM was affordable then released the Electron and B+ simultaneously (possibly using a modified OS to avoid Aries Patent trouble?).


I don't think waiting was an option commerically - they targetted that Christmas for a good reason.

Interesting point about the Aries patent, though. Am I right in thinking the was for some clever address decoding such that when the unmodified OS was executing its VDU driver code the screen shadow memory was automatically selected and when executing other code, ordinary user RAM was selected and this was all possible because Acorn has conveniently put all the VDU code at the start of the ROM followed by the rest?

If so, presumably the alternative would be to modify the OS so it writes to a selection latch to enable the shadow memory before doing any VDU operation and then write the latch again before going back to doing normal use operations. I suppose, at a minimu, this would have made the VDU code slighly bigger and I am not sure there was any spare space in the OS ROM. But there presumably were changes to the OS anyway because the version number was bumpted to 2.00. Maybe to have made the particular changes necessary the OS would have had to have spilled over into a paged ROM as it did on the master - there are bits of OS in the spare space at the end of some of the "bundled" ROMS in the 1Mbit chip on the master. That wou;dn't necessarily have been a bad thing - in fact it would have made sense to implement the OSWORD calls for reading and writing sideways RAM in the OS ROM, so it that code could run direct from ROM rather than have to copy itself into DFS workspace even if that meant putting, for example, some of the more complex plotting routines into a paged ROM - maybe they could have been augmented with some extra VDU extensions like the graphics extension ROM.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Commie_User » Thu May 04, 2017 11:03 pm

Coeus wrote:
I don't think waiting was an option commerically - they targetted that Christmas for a good reason.


I suppose it's interesting to speculate that had Acorn followed Jack Tramiel's intuition, a 64K Elk could easily have come out at the same price. Commodore knew 64K chips would crumble in price, so the company made piles of cash in the long term with their C64.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Andrew_Waite » Fri May 05, 2017 2:34 am

Commie_User wrote:
Coeus wrote:
I don't think waiting was an option commerically - they targetted that Christmas for a good reason.


I suppose it's interesting to speculate that had Acorn followed Jack Tramiel's intuition, a 64K Elk could easily have come out at the same price. Commodore knew 64K chips would crumble in price, so the company made piles of cash in the long term with their C64.


That is one scenario. An Electron with 8 instead of 4 64kbitx1 chips would have 64kbytes RAM with the full 8 bit wide datapath between the 6502A processor and RAM. Acorn would have gone to market with a machine with more memory than the Spectrum and essentially the same processor as the C64 running at twice the clock speed when accessing RAM as well as ROM! This in addition to the Electrons existing strengths of the BBC's OS, BBC Basic, 320x256 and 640x256 high resolution video modes etc. It would have been a pretty cool machine :D .

I think the most interesting what-if though is what if Sinclair had of spent some of the fortune he blew on the C5 fixing the QL. The machine already had great Psion productivity software, the excellent SuperBasic and a community that produced the improved Minerva operating system and faster processor cards with more memory. If Sir Clive (or maybe even Amstrad) had ditched the microdrives in favour of floppy disks and fixed the machines other faults the QL would have been the British Atari ST or, given Motorola were making competitive 680x0 chips into the early 2000s, maybe even the British IBM PC.
Last edited by Andrew_Waite on Fri May 05, 2017 12:24 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby 1024MAK » Fri May 05, 2017 9:04 am

Commie_User wrote:
Coeus wrote:
I don't think waiting was an option commerically - they targetted that Christmas for a good reason.


I suppose it's interesting to speculate that had Acorn followed Jack Tramiel's intuition, a 64K Elk could easily have come out at the same price. Commodore knew 64K chips would crumble in price, so the company made piles of cash in the long term with their C64.

That's a bold statement. I'm not sure anyone in the industry knew that 64k bit DRAM chips would crumble in price. Having bought MOS, Commodore may have had a better understanding of the situation with regards to the current yield of good chips vs. rejects from the fabrication plants that it owned. But Commodore would not know what orders other computer manufacturers were negotiating with other memory producers. And demand affects prices as well as the cost of production.

A big part of the reduction of the price of VLSI chips is the improvements in the technology and in the production. So Commodore would know that the price of the memory (as well as the other VLSI chips) would reduce over time.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Commie_User » Fri May 05, 2017 11:51 am

As I understand it, industry rumours would have been receptive at Acorn HQ. Now with Acorn's Electron, the motivation seemed driven by optimistic educated guesses anyway, so if the 64K computer rumours were picked up by Curry and Hauser, it may have been considered possible to see to the far distance and plump for a larger RAM.

I can't say I know much but this whole early micro stuff seems like the stocks and shares market anyway - as much about confidence and betting as hardware reality.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Commie_User » Fri May 05, 2017 11:54 am

Andrew_Waite wrote:
I think the most interesting what-if though is what if Sinclair had of spent the fortune he blew on the C5 fixing the QL. The machine already had great Psion productivity software, the excellent SuperBasic and a community that produced the improved Minerva operating system and faster processor cards with more memory. If Sir Clive (or maybe even Amstrad) had ditched the microdrives in favour of floppy disks and fixed the machines other faults the QL could have been the British Atari ST or, given Motorola were making competitive 680x0 chips into the early 2000s, maybe even the British IBM PC.


I heard the QL was just too flimsy and unreliable anyway. It didn't have that battle tank feel, nor was it IBM compatible. By 1985, even Atari programmers and Commodore felt they should have a punt at PC emulation to hedge some bets.

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby vanpeebles » Fri May 05, 2017 12:23 pm

Then you heard wrong!

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Elminster » Fri May 05, 2017 12:32 pm

Commie_User wrote:
I heard the QL was just too flimsy and unreliable anyway. It didn't have that battle tank feel, nor was it IBM compatible. By 1985, even Atari programmers and Commodore felt they should have a punt at PC emulation to hedge some bets.


Not sure I agree. The first QL were a bit rubbish due to being rushed out before ready, but after the kinks were ironed out they weren't bad. My dad had one, I had Electron, and the Psion business software and demos were amazing, and they always seem to be bring gadgets out, he had a twin cumana 3.5 disk drive and a monitor. All at a fraction of the cost of an IBM PC.

He did all his accounts on it, written in a custom database, and letters etc. Even though he worked in IT and had access to CPM and then late DOS machines at work.

I think if only the QL was able to read the spectrum back catalogue of games it would have sold better, I would have certainly defected to spectrum years early than I did (when I went from Electron to Spectrum +2).

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby Elminster » Fri May 05, 2017 12:33 pm

vanpeebles wrote:Then you heard wrong!


Your reply while shorter is probably better :D

=D>

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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby vanpeebles » Fri May 05, 2017 12:41 pm

Elminster wrote:
vanpeebles wrote:Then you heard wrong!


Your reply while shorter is probably better :D

=D>


Hehe :lol:


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