Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

on-topic Acorn-related news and discussions not covered by the other forums
Coeus
Posts: 466
Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2016 11:05 am

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

Postby Coeus » Fri May 05, 2017 1:12 pm

Elminster wrote:
Commie_User wrote: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.


Intersting. I remember IBMs advertising around the PC which centred on the library of available software for it, a bit like how, these days, just about anything you can think there's a mobile phone app for. ICL produced a machine based around parts of the QL, though, called the One Per Desk. Clearly their take was a bit more like where have got to today where most people's computing needs are taken care of with a web browser, a video player and an office suite and this combination is available on various different platforms - Windows, MacOS, Linux, ChomeOS, even tablets. Their idea seemed to be that the PISON suite of office applications plugs connectivity would be enough because custom software, specific to your business, would presumably run on the mainframe, perferably one of theirs.

User avatar
Elminster
Posts: 1632
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:09 am
Location: Essex, UK

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

Postby Elminster » Fri May 05, 2017 1:57 pm

I dont think the IBM PC started stealing market share from the home 8bit markey until the 286 (1986) flavoured intel machines with EGA (1984), that was when I really thought that they started looking interesting (to me anyway), but as a teenager they were just madly expensive, I seem to remember around £2000. And of course then the Atari St and Amiga came out. I remember my friend defecting from Amiga to PC around the 486 DX2 time. I stuck with Amiga A1200 and did all my university assignments on it and a STAR 24 pins colour printer.

Andrew_Waite
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:58 pm

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

Postby Andrew_Waite » Fri May 05, 2017 2:20 pm

Another point about an Electron built around 8 x 64kx1bit memory chips is that to my mind the the extra chips would make the design of the ULA simpler.

The Electron's 4-bit wide data bus between the ULA and DRAM requires the CPU clock to be gated from 2MHz to 1MHz (or stopped altogether for Modes 0-3), then for a read, two 4 bit nibbles are fetched from DRAM during different clock cycles and joined together to form a 8-bit byte to be feed to the CPU, the process being repeated in reverse for a write.

Would the Electron ULA have been easier to debug and the machine brought to market sooner if the CPU ran at 2MHz all the time with the ULA simply switching the address and now 8-bit wide data buses to multiplex the CPU and video systems access to the DRAM?

paulb
Posts: 784
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:02 pm

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

Postby paulb » Fri May 05, 2017 2:56 pm

Andrew_Waite wrote:Another point about an Electron built around 8 x 64kx1bit memory chips is that to my mind the the extra chips would make the design of the ULA simpler.


Indeed. I do also wonder about board size and complexity in the considerations. Problems were apparently experienced during manufacturing - the Malaysian operation couldn't produce machines quickly or reliably enough - and maybe it wasn't just the ULA complexity that had been a consideration, although trading off board complexity against ULA complexity probably wasn't a great idea.

Andrew_Waite wrote:The Electron's 4-bit wide data bus between the ULA and DRAM requires the CPU clock to be gated from 2MHz to 1MHz (or stopped altogether for Modes 0-3), then for a read, two 4 bit nibbles are fetched from DRAM during different clock cycles and joined together to form a 8-bit byte to be feed to the CPU, the process being repeated in reverse for a write.


Yes, I've tried to document this, although that's a work in progress as I figure out more things all the time.

Andrew_Waite wrote:Would the Electron ULA have been easier to debug and the machine brought to market sooner if the CPU ran at 2MHz all the time with the ULA simply switching the address and now 8-bit wide data buses to multiplex the CPU and video systems access to the DRAM?


I would say so. The ULA effectively has to multiplex two sets of four bits, and it also has to have RAM that is quick enough to be accessed twice within a 2MHz cycle, even though this capability cannot be used by the CPU to achieve 2MHz access: it's only used to provide fast-enough interleaved access involving the CPU and ULA.

Commie_User
Posts: 916
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 12:50 am

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

Postby Commie_User » Fri May 05, 2017 6:05 pm

Elminster wrote:
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).



So which machine would Sir Topham Hatt have picked? I scoffed at the QL, certainly, but from what you say, it's the really useful engine. Something I was unsure the Electron was, fun as I had on it when I got a hand-me-down. (However, expansion owners may be quick to put me right.)

Image

paulb
Posts: 784
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:02 pm

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

Postby paulb » Fri May 05, 2017 7:23 pm

Commie_User wrote:So which machine would Sir Topham Hatt have picked?


No idea. Sounds like a Member of Parliament from the 1800s.

Commie_User wrote:I scoffed at the QL, certainly, but from what you say, it's the really useful engine.


As people said, the Psion involvement might have saved Sinclair from a complete disaster. I remember seeing probably an earlier incarnation of that suite on a Sirius 1 in the early 1980s, and it arguably delivered exactly what people were talking about when it came to computers doing useful things and why you should buy one.

Obviously, Sinclair made some of his usual crazy decisions: odd keyboard technology, Microdrives, cut-price variant of the 68000, and so on. And with the C5 being his obsession (if you believe popular culture) plus a lack of technology roadmap, I guess, confidence probably wasn't that high in it being a sustainable choice. Of course, Acorn's roadmap wasn't exactly coherent when the QL came out, what with the Acorn Business Computer being the supposed way forward.

Commie_User wrote:Something I was unsure the Electron was, fun as I had on it when I got a hand-me-down. (However, expansion owners may be quick to put me right.)


This is where we're almost on-topic again. The Electron could have been a reasonable "productivity" machine had the unexpanded unit had some kind of cartridge support for plugging in Acorn's ROMs. Instead, you had to buy a Plus 1, which wasn't so expensive, but it was merely one step on the way to getting where you wanted to be with the machine. And everyone will remember it being said rather often that you might as well buy a Beeb if you're otherwise going to spend hundreds of pounds on expansions making it like a Beeb. (It's similar with that Integra-B board and Beeb owners wanting their Beebs to be like Masters, too.)

I guess we saw a glimpse of other strategies with the Merlin-branded Interflora product, where the Electron was expanded in a specific direction for a specific application. That strategy was similar to what Sinclair (and ICL) did with the QL, leading to the One Per Desk, as already mentioned.

Zarchos
Posts: 2355
Joined: Sun May 19, 2013 8:19 am
Location: FRANCE

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

Postby Zarchos » Fri May 05, 2017 7:26 pm

What was the ' Merlin-branded Interflora product' ?

User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 6791
Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:46 pm
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...

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

Postby 1024MAK » Fri May 05, 2017 7:35 pm

While we are chatting about the QL, it should be said that with a nice keyboard and disk drives, it's a nice machine.

Right, back to bashing - sorry, praising Acorn about their successful small and wonderful Electron computer...

Mark
For a "Complete BBC Games Archive" visit www.bbcmicro.co.uk NOW!
BeebWiki‬ - for answers to many questions...

User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 6791
Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:46 pm
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...

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

Postby 1024MAK » Fri May 05, 2017 7:37 pm

Zarchos wrote:What was the ' Merlin-branded Interflora product' ?

http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org ... M2105.html

Mark
For a "Complete BBC Games Archive" visit www.bbcmicro.co.uk NOW!
BeebWiki‬ - for answers to many questions...

Andrew_Waite
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:58 pm

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

Postby Andrew_Waite » Fri May 05, 2017 7:53 pm

"So which machine would Sir Topham Hatt have picked?"

British Rail brought IBM System/360 mainframes to operate TOPS.

Commie_User
Posts: 916
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2016 12:50 am

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

Postby Commie_User » Fri May 05, 2017 8:13 pm

Ah, you should see how hi-tech the railways were in the 70s. The control room was one large kind-of train set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkTDFu44XsA

B3_B3_B3
Posts: 67
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2017 9:42 pm

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

Postby B3_B3_B3 » Fri May 05, 2017 9:59 pm

Richard Russell wrote:.... 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. ....

Thanks:
it seems a bit strange that not even the Amstrad CPC bothered with BBC-style parameter taking Procedures in its BASIC: so much nicer than GOSUB <number>. Local vars, Integer vars (CPC had those it seems), REPEAT UNTIL loops etc all would seem worthwhile and I presume not too hard to implement (for clever coding people :) ) so its is interesting that the Electron competitors felt no need to add them in order claim similar-ness to BBC BASIC for school work and a similar but cheaper tool to teach good programming habits.


Return to “general”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests