Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

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

Postby paulb » Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:53 pm

SarahWalker wrote:I did used to think that the Electron could have been more of a long-term success with a few changes - faster RAM, proper sound chip, etc.


I think it's fair to say that the Electron targeted a narrow market zone that needed to be filled within a very short window of time. Maybe a change in feature priorities might have helped, but we've discussed this over and over already. :wink:

SarahWalker wrote:But I'm increasingly coming to the view that the Electron and other BBC spinoffs (eg ABC, Communicator etc) were a misstep overall; rather than try to spread the BBC architecture into every market they could think of, it would have been best for Acorn to focus solely on the 'next big thing', whether that's what became the Archimedes, a 32016 (or more likely 68000) based machine, or something else. Maybe with a Master-like machine circa 1984 to keep sales going in the short term, but not the distracted proliferation of 8-bitters that we actually saw.


It's possible that Acorn really should have tried to optimise the cost of the Beeb through other means, too, potentially only doing so by waiting for supply problems to diminish and for prices to fall. The company could have regarded Sinclair's antics as a distraction and let him compete with a bunch of soon-to-be-defunct companies, Commodore and - soon enough - Amstrad. And they could have held back on trying to enter the US market, too.

Maybe then - perhaps after a couple of years or more - there'd have been an "Electron" as a "full" Beeb of some kind. Sort of like the budget variants of the popular Commodore and Amstrad machines that came out years later. Maybe this answers the original question! :wink:

What certainly wasn't clear back in 1982-3 was the way the market would go: that's why there were all those second processors, ABC models, and so on. Nobody was certain that DOS - as opposed to IBM - would be the dominant platform, and nobody was even sure that IBM would be dominant, either. CP/M seemed pretty viable, and at the higher end there was always stuff like Unix. Not even IBM intended for DOS to stick around as long as it has done.

Maybe Acorn could have done a bet-the-company move and tried to offer Xenix on the 32016 as planned, perhaps. That might have driven the company's development more efficiently, but then again, they might then have gone bankrupt and gone the way of so many other companies of the era, with the only difference being that someone would have had to pick up the obligation to make more computers to fulfil the BBC contract.

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

Postby SarahWalker » Thu Sep 01, 2016 7:20 pm

paulb wrote:What certainly wasn't clear back in 1982-3 was the way the market would go: that's why there were all those second processors, ABC models, and so on.

True - this is all very easy to say with hindsight! :) It's easy to say in retrospect that 8-bit clearly didn't have a long-term future, but I acknowledge that wasn't obvious in the early 80s.

The thing that I see looking back though, is that Acorn in the post-BBC years had very little direction (other than perhaps to milk the BBC architecture as much as possible...). Even at their height they were a pretty small company, and attempting to compete in every market simply meant that they stretched their resources much too far. In my mind, if they'd concentrated on one market at that point (eg going down the Unix route) maybe they'd have built up a more solid market presence, and have been able to weather the mid-80s storm better?

At the end of the day, this is all just daydreaming though :)

(it's perhaps worth noting though, that this is essentially what ARM ended up doing in the 90s - concentrate solely on the portable market, deliberately avoiding desktop/workstation/any other market. Obviously this was very successful!)

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

Postby paulb » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:03 pm

SarahWalker wrote:
paulb wrote:What certainly wasn't clear back in 1982-3 was the way the market would go: that's why there were all those second processors, ABC models, and so on.

True - this is all very easy to say with hindsight! :) It's easy to say in retrospect that 8-bit clearly didn't have a long-term future, but I acknowledge that wasn't obvious in the early 80s.


I think everyone saw the impending commercial demise of 8-bit in the early 80s, and they didn't need hindsight for that: needing to use more than 64K of conveniently-addressable memory was possibly the greatest priority, but performance was also very important, too. Many people looked to the 68000, which indeed was very successful, and it would have been a decent-enough choice for Acorn, certainly.

SarahWalker wrote:The thing that I see looking back though, is that Acorn in the post-BBC years had very little direction (other than perhaps to milk the BBC architecture as much as possible...). Even at their height they were a pretty small company, and attempting to compete in every market simply meant that they stretched their resources much too far. In my mind, if they'd concentrated on one market at that point (eg going down the Unix route) maybe they'd have built up a more solid market presence, and have been able to weather the mid-80s storm better?


I wish they'd taken Unix a lot more seriously. Acorn almost acquired Torch before Olivetti acquired Acorn, and Torch made a fair attempt at doing Unix on the 68000. Maybe people at Acorn saw that coming and wanted part of the action. (RISCiX didn't seem to last long enough at Acorn, and by the time they could have adopted a Free Software Unix, it was all RISC OS and nothing else in non-vapour form at Acorn.)

SarahWalker wrote:At the end of the day, this is all just daydreaming though :)

(it's perhaps worth noting though, that this is essentially what ARM ended up doing in the 90s - concentrate solely on the portable market, deliberately avoiding desktop/workstation/any other market. Obviously this was very successful!)


Yes, it certainly worked out well for ARM, but it all seemed to take a long time to get going: maybe getting the likes of Nokia on board helped a lot with adoption, thus getting ARM devices into the growing mobile phone business. And the competition probably didn't do themselves any favours, either.

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

Postby dgrubb » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:21 pm

paulb wrote:I wish they'd taken Unix a lot more seriously.


Amen.

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

Postby ThomasHarte » Thu Sep 01, 2016 9:30 pm

dgrubb wrote:
paulb wrote:I wish they'd taken Unix a lot more seriously.


Amen.

I'm not a fan. UNIX's model of factoring is the equivalent of requiring that all functions have the signature:

Code: Select all

char *function(const char *)


Though the alternative is a thousand OSes that ended up so wedded to their original implementation language as quickly to whither. So I'm at most ambivalent. It's just like the dominant thing in most markets: sufficiently mediocre not to be too extremely objectionable.

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

Postby Commie_User » Fri Sep 02, 2016 11:06 am

Image

Yeah. This must also have killed some street cred.

The mountain could easily have come to Muhammad. Making the Elk as they did, Acorn could have at least pushed for BBC education packages to come with pared-down Electron versions. Many games came on dual-format tapes, so I doubt that would have been unreasonable. (Did Acorn? I don't recall.)

If kids really did need to do word processing or whatnot at home - which they didn't, as schools supplied machines - then a skeleton Elk program would have done the job.

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

Postby danielj » Fri Sep 02, 2016 11:46 am

It was never meant to be a games machine (that advert says it all). Pretty much all of the Acornsoft educational range ran on the elk, either the beeb version ran fine, or there was an electron version released. Lots of other publishers released educational titles for it too. Remember the home market for educational software is very different from the school one (both in terms of budget and what's required).

As a kid, I used the electron as a word processor at home, wrote software which I took into school and ran on the beebs/masters. etc. It did exactly what it said on the tin and at a substantially lower cost than a BBC micro.

d.

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

Postby paulb » Fri Sep 02, 2016 11:49 am

Commie_User wrote:Yeah. This must also have killed some street cred.


Yes, Acorn underestimated "pester power" and the real audience of any advertising. :lol: It might have worked better with more effective "coded messages" for the kids, such that they would then have been more enthusiastic about the product, consequently presenting the advert to the "purchasing department" where the obvious material would have worked its intended magic. :wink:

Commie_User wrote:The mountain could easily have come to Muhammad. Making the Elk as they did, Acorn could have at least pushed for BBC education packages to come with pared-down Electron versions. Many games came on dual-format tapes, so I doubt that would have been unreasonable. (Did Acorn? I don't recall.)


A lot of stuff did get released in Electron-branded packaging, and some had "and the Acorn Electron" added to Beeb-branded packaging. Most of the stuff wasn't even pared down because the code won't have been using Beeb-specific features or will have degraded gracefully enough to work correctly, anyway. (Who cares if a language ROM boots into mode 6 or mode 7?)

Commie_User wrote:If kids really did need to do word processing or whatnot at home - which they didn't, as schools supplied machines - then a skeleton Elk program would have done the job.


This is where a built-in cartridge port would have made sense: pitch View (the word processor) at buyers and they can plug it in straight away. Making them buy a Plus 1 was just going to make a casual buyer's interest in "serious" stuff somewhat less likely. There was Mini Office available on tape, but that was something of a budget option, although it may have broadened the perspective of quite a few people who might have just needed a nudge to get into that kind of thing.

I'm not totally sure that the "games for the kids, serious stuff for the adults" scenario was that realistic, really, but that's partly what this advert is about.

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

Postby Commie_User » Fri Sep 02, 2016 12:54 pm

So Acorn did, just about, have enough bases covered for education. But all was against it.

The Electron should have sold well for as long as the BBC was around, then. But as has been said, promotions were confused, a non-games machine was crippled further for that gaming market anyway, and the big Christmas momentum was missed.

Now it seems the last nail was nobody needed it for the toil it was pushed for. Like with Dad at work, a computer at home's nice but the firm supplies one anyway if they're that hot on keyboard bashing.

What a sad story. I almost want to get one in sympathy!




Image
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/An-Acorn-Elec ... Sw0UdXwVT0

Poor little bugger!

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

Postby paulb » Fri Sep 02, 2016 1:22 pm

Commie_User wrote:Now it seems the last nail was nobody needed it for the toil it was pushed for. Like with Dad at work, a computer at home's nice but the firm supplies one anyway if they're that hot on keyboard bashing.


Just as Acorn had to guess which way the proven market for computers was going to go, in the computer literacy drive no-one really knew what other people would end up using computers for, especially at home. You can get a hint of this in the coverage of the launch event for the Electron itself:

"From the outer darkness appeared Wendy Craig, playing the role of a poor little housewife, baffled by all this, sceptical of the use of microcomputers in the home and not wanting to be blinded by science..."

Still, we can acknowledge that certain "diversity challenges" were recognised as long ago as 1983:

"Girls are 13 times less likely than boys to use a micro at home, and only 4 per cent of micro users are mothers."

In some ways it's like another era; in others it's like not so much has changed at all.

Commie_User wrote:What a sad story. I almost want to get one in sympathy!


Get one! :twisted:

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

Postby Commie_User » Fri Sep 02, 2016 2:07 pm

paulb wrote:Get one! :twisted:


I don't think it would even run my Riffer listing, never mind the other packages I have Acorns for, like Beebsynth. Now that's a true pity, as I could've packed the place with low cost spares.

And OMG, it's just so square: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PR8VxgikPRc

:)



Looking at the launch coverage, the Electron certainly never stood a chance. Reading that Chris Curry quote, he seemed one of those overambitious parents determined his ordinary newborn will be the next Billy Liar. Though had he been the Commodore boss launching the Amiga just a couple of years later, he may have had a small point.


Ubiquity and the attractiveness of that came later. Too much hype and hope back in the 80s, with this cartoon in the same issue accidentally making me feel how pathetic it all was. (Not just about the Electron, yet any micro pushed as the literal be-all and end-all before Multimedia.)

ACORN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.png


That whole struggle thing. But for what they were on their level, the micros were excellent. I still swear by mine for the synth and special music software they excel at.

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

Postby ThomasHarte » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:19 pm

Follow-up question: did Acorn ever really understand the home market?

(and, side question: how much did 4164s cost in 1983? All I can find is that they were around $100 in 1981; I'm curious as to how much more it would have cost to ship as a fully-2Mhz 64kb machine)

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

Postby paulb » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:32 pm

ThomasHarte wrote:Follow-up question: did Acorn ever really understand the home market?


They almost did: the A3010 would have gone down a treat a few years earlier. :wink:

ThomasHarte wrote:(and, side question: how much did 4164s cost in 1983? All I can find is that they were around $100 in 1981; I'm curious as to how much more it would have cost to ship as a fully-2Mhz 64kb machine)


I've been wanting to know contemporary component prices for ages! Have you just been lucky with search engines or did you find a stash of old catalogues? Finding such figures for any point of time in the past - as opposed to pricing details from opportunists trying to sell unrelated tat on the Internet right now - is an excruciating experience.

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

Postby ThomasHarte » Fri Sep 02, 2016 7:20 pm

paulb wrote:I've been wanting to know contemporary component prices for ages! Have you just been lucky with search engines or did you find a stash of old catalogues? Finding such figures for any point of time in the past - as opposed to pricing details from opportunists trying to sell unrelated tat on the Internet right now - is an excruciating experience.

Just a lucky find of that one number, sadly. This site has a load of old Radio Shack catalogues though, from which I was able to spot that 4116s (i.e. 1/4 the capacity) were $3.95 in 1983, having been $5.95 in 1982. I saw neither an index nor a search feature though so it's not the most time efficient way to proceed.

(arithmetic on 4116s: 32kb with full 8-bit access would have required sixteen chips, for a cost of $63.20 supposing you were just some guy on the street; the exchange rate exactly in the middle of 1983 was about $1.53 to the pound, so about £40. Presumably less if you're using fewer, higher-capacity chips and buying in bulk?)

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

Postby daveejhitchins » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:53 am

I've been reading this thread, with interest. My thoughts:

Personally, I think the Electron, at the time of inception, was just what Acorn needed. Remember the real problem wasn't the cut-down features but the delayed launch - which, IIRC, was down to Ferranti, not Acorn. If the launch had been on-time, we wouldn't be having this conversation, I believe!

Having been-there-at-the-time I was, probably, one of the first customers buying an Electron. Why an Electron* - purely cost! I already loved the Beeb but there was no way I could have afforded one (even though I had a reasonable income from my part time business, at the time)- the Electron, however, was within my budget. The Plus 1 came out with just the right delay for my finances to have recovered, and presented a whole host of new opportunities e.g. my first Acorn product - a 16K sideways RAM cartridge that could be either 1 x 16K or 2 x 8K both with switchable (a real switch) write protection - and I think(?) the first use of a PLD in an Acorn accessory <citation needed> :D - I also started to use my Electron for the business e.g. View for all my correspondence and Viewsheet for all my BoMs and calculations. Absolutely brilliant, at the time - I stayed with this set up all through my time at Baildon Electronics (until 1994), however, I did change to a Master, when they became available.

I did play some games, but due to me being cack-handed, with no coordination whatsoever, I was not very good, so sort of lost interest.

Of course it's interesting to hear what people think what Acorn should have done, however, the Electron wasn't designed a week before it finally hit the market place - conception was, probably 2 to 3 years before that. At that time RAM prices were, probably, at their highest - So, what do you do - exactly what Acorn did. And changing a design, mid stream, especially with a ULA controlling everything, just wasn't going to happen.

On last point . . . One of my biggest issues, with Acorn . . . Their advertising was just pants - Goodness knows what they could have achieved with a decent marketing department . . . Having said that, the pre-orders, for the Electron, where, for Acorn, phenomenal . . .

Dave H :D

* I didn't even think about any other computers - IMO they were just toys - game only machines!
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby MartinB » Sat Sep 03, 2016 9:15 am

Should the Elk have been a full-blown Beeb? Absolutely not, that's been our job these last years - and what awesome fun it's been.... \:D/ =D> :-D

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

Postby daveejhitchins » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:49 am

=D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>
MartinB wrote:Should the Elk have been a full-blown Beeb? Absolutely not, that's been our job these last years - and what awesome fun it's been.... \:D/ =D> :-D
=D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

Hope you don't ming the correction, Martin?

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

Postby davidb » Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:13 am

The expandability of the Electron is definitely one of its highlights. One thing I wonder about is the original case design - it was said that the final design was based on the dimensions of a tissue box. Does anyone know what the original design looked like?

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

Postby Commie_User » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:24 pm

daveejhitchins wrote:=D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>
MartinB wrote:Should the Elk have been a full-blown Beeb? Absolutely not, that's been our job these last years - and what awesome fun it's been.... \:D/ =D> :-D
=D> =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

Hope you don't ming the correction, Martin?

Dave H :D



So now the BIG question... anybody considered the surgery to FINALLY give the Elk the missing pieces it needs for that full BBC compatibility? Or would the ULA kill that prospect stone dead?

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

Postby paulb » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:45 pm

Commie_User wrote:So now the BIG question... anybody considered the surgery to FINALLY give the Elk the missing pieces it needs for that full BBC compatibility? Or would the ULA kill that prospect stone dead?


LOL! No, not the usual meaning. Instead, I present you with a list of links:


I honestly thought it would be longer, but that's just from a quick scan of my posts.

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

Postby algenon_iii » Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:48 pm

Typical only just seen this thread, this is what I posted in another discussion on more or less this topic:

..I came to think the electron should have been: a Model A with 32k RAM, but all of unused port sockets, IC sockets and supporting PCB that the Model A didn't use in default configuration stripped out and all put in a smaller (Atom?) sized case. With no need for FDD power sockets a cheap power brick could have been used further cutting costs.

In the '83 Electron announcement issue of AU the Model A cost £299. I've heard many times that schools demanded a discount off the list price of BBC Micros (figures ranging from 20% to 50%). Based on a 20% discount the Model A could have been sold for £239, that's not too big a difference from the £199 that the Electron originally sold for. So with fewer sockets, smaller PCB, smaller case, cheaper PSU and no licensing fees (Acorn apparently had to pay the BBC a fee in order to use the name) it should have been possible to get very close to the magic £199.

The Teletext colour palette of the BBC/Elk is one of my pet hates (especially compared to the C64 or even Spectrum). IIRC the BBC RGB port never had an intensity pin and the Model A didn't have an RGB port. So just adding colour intensity on this computer could have been a simple opportunity to provide a genuine 16 colour mode/ palette to use / choose from, instead of wasting the 4th colour bit on whether a colour flashes.




The guys at Acorn were great techies, which is why they probably went down the ULA route when severely rationalising the BBC A design might have been a better approach. Then again I imagine that some of the knowledge gained during ULA design might have helped them design the first ARM processor. I've seen the Master Compact mentioned, the tech side was great, but the execution poor i.e. putting it in a 2-box design. If it came in a Amstrad CPC / Spectrum +3 integrated all in one design it could have done a lot better in the home market.

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

Postby paulb » Sun Sep 04, 2016 6:56 pm

algenon_iii wrote:The guys at Acorn were great techies, which is why they probably went down the ULA route when severely rationalising the BBC A design might have been a better approach. Then again I imagine that some of the knowledge gained during ULA design might have helped them design the first ARM processor.


I think this is probably the case. Maybe someone can ask Steve Furber about the ULA, its design and significance inside Acorn, next time he's giving a talk instead of everyone presumably pitching the usual "what was it like to design the ARM?" fan questions. (Or at least that's what I end up reading about, so I don't know whether that's what people really ask.)

algenon_iii wrote:I've seen the Master Compact mentioned, the tech side was great, but the execution poor i.e. putting it in a 2-box design. If it came in a Amstrad CPC / Spectrum +3 integrated all in one design it could have done a lot better in the home market.


Interestingly, Electron User speculated about a new Electron which must have been fuelled by rumours that actually described the Master Compact.

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

Postby Commie_User » Mon Sep 05, 2016 12:59 pm

paulb wrote: I present you with a list of links:


I honestly thought it would be longer, but that's just from a quick scan of my posts.


Thanks for those.

Well let's go whole hog and start all over again, with Pi innards: http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/201 ... ry-pi.html

Or whatever this is: http://www.hack247.co.uk/blogpost/eeepc ... -electron/


I keep saying someone should make a BBC B for general sale, with connections for the usual things we need, such as CUB and disk drive. And one day somebody will.

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

Postby paulb » Mon Sep 05, 2016 1:31 pm

Commie_User wrote:Well let's go whole hog and start all over again, with Pi innards: http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/201 ... ry-pi.html

Or whatever this is: http://www.hack247.co.uk/blogpost/eeepc ... -electron/


Well, that's just the re-use of a keyboard from an old computer with a modern computer. As long as people don't go round trashing working computers, that's probably a reasonable pastime, but it isn't really exploring the constraints of the original hardware.

I already upset a few people by saying that if you disregard more and more of those constraints, it isn't informative historically, doesn't answer questions like the one you asked, and leads to precisely this kind of "Electron with hidden Raspberry Pi running emulator" thing. At which point, people might as well claim that they've recreated the technology that took people to the Moon by posing for selfies in front of a blue/green screen while someone defends the exercise by saying that "computers these days can render the Moon really realistically".

Commie_User wrote:I keep saying someone should make a BBC B for general sale, with connections for the usual things we need, such as CUB and disk drive. And one day somebody will.


Hopefully, yes.

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

Postby ThomasHarte » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:02 pm

algenon_iii wrote:The Teletext colour palette of the BBC/Elk is one of my pet hates (especially compared to the C64 or even Spectrum). IIRC the BBC RGB port never had an intensity pin and the Model A didn't have an RGB port. So just adding colour intensity on this computer could have been a simple opportunity to provide a genuine 16 colour mode/ palette to use / choose from, instead of wasting the 4th colour bit on whether a colour flashes.

Maybe your monitor is too good? I'm going to guess that most Electrons, like mine, were connected up via UHF, in which case the colours aren't all that sharp. Contrasting screen shots from my emulator attached — to repeat, because other authors have given the whole area a bad name: it ends up with those results because it performs a composite encoding of the video signal, then performs a composite decoding. No subjectivity applied, anywhere.

Vindaloo is an example where it looks like they've intended to use the composite signal to beef up the colours — e.g. on the quadrants of those square tiles at the bottom, or the right hand sides of the rocks.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 18.55.58.png

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 18.56.00.png

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 18.57.17.png


That Repton's in there for comparison with this YouTube video of the real thing. So, yeah, maybe I do have the colour turned down just a tiny bit bit too far on my emulated TV set, but it's clearly within the real range.

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

Postby RobC » Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:27 am

algenon_iii wrote:The Teletext colour palette of the BBC/Elk is one of my pet hates (especially compared to the C64 or even Spectrum). IIRC the BBC RGB port never had an intensity pin and the Model A didn't have an RGB port. So just adding colour intensity on this computer could have been a simple opportunity to provide a genuine 16 colour mode/ palette to use / choose from, instead of wasting the 4th colour bit on whether a colour flashes.

Agreed. I'd love to create an improved video ULA to give 16 proper colours in mode 2 and a larger palette. I have the components ready and finally have the time on my hands but now I've gone and broken my wrist :(

algenon_iii wrote:I've seen the Master Compact mentioned, the tech side was great, but the execution poor i.e. putting it in a 2-box design. If it came in a Amstrad CPC / Spectrum +3 integrated all in one design it could have done a lot better in the home market.

The Compact cases look very much like the Communicator and Filestore so I suspect Acorn were just using up what they already had!

Having said that, I think the Compact is the most attractive of the Beeb range.

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

Postby ThomasHarte » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:58 pm

RobC wrote:Agreed. I'd love to create an improved video ULA to give 16 proper colours in mode 2 and a larger palette. I have the components ready and finally have the time on my hands but now I've gone and broken my wrist :(

I'm an electronics dunce, and have recently evidenced this elsewhere, but surely the problem isn't the ULA? Red, green and blue come out as digital signals down in the lower right of the schematic, then a bunch of logical components do the resulting mixing to produce video, seemingly in a binary fashion? If you added a brightness pin, or made those ULA outputs analogue, surely you'd also have to change a whole bunch of stuff in the trimmed schematic hastily edited and attached?
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george.h
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby george.h » Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:21 pm

Commie_User wrote:So now the BIG question... anybody considered the surgery to FINALLY give the Elk the missing pieces it needs for that full BBC compatibility? Or would the ULA kill that prospect stone dead?


Surely all one has to do is do some suitably technical description on what is involved and how to do it, whilst quietly placing example Electron under the bench/counter. Just as one reaches the end quietly bring out shiny BBC B saying "and here is one I made earlier"... :lol:
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ThomasHarte
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby ThomasHarte » Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:52 pm

george.h wrote:
Commie_User wrote:So now the BIG question... anybody considered the surgery to FINALLY give the Elk the missing pieces it needs for that full BBC compatibility? Or would the ULA kill that prospect stone dead?


Surely all one has to do is do some suitably technical description on what is involved and how to do it, whilst quietly placing example Electron under the bench/counter. Just as one reaches the end quietly bring out shiny BBC B saying "and here is one I made earlier"... :lol:

If the problem is pin count and complexity, why not break the ULA into a few separate chips? Oh, except that producing chips is cumbersome, so why not substitute with a bunch of off-the-shelf components — everybody liked it when those people built a 6502 out of discrete components, right? Though the box would need to be a little bigger. Suggested components: a 6845, a 5050, some 6522s...

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1024MAK
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Re: Should the Elk have been a 'full' Beeb?

Postby 1024MAK » Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:26 pm

ThomasHarte wrote:
RobC wrote:Agreed. I'd love to create an improved video ULA to give 16 proper colours in mode 2 and a larger palette. I have the components ready and finally have the time on my hands but now I've gone and broken my wrist :(

I'm an electronics dunce, and have recently evidenced this elsewhere, but surely the problem isn't the ULA? Red, green and blue come out as digital signals down in the lower right of the schematic, then a bunch of logical components do the resulting mixing to produce video, seemingly in a binary fashion? If you added a brightness pin, or made those ULA outputs analogue, surely you'd also have to change a whole bunch of stuff in the trimmed schematic hastily edited and attached?

Depending on how you did it, there would need to be changes to the other circuitry. But changes for a digital "bright" / intensity output from the ULA, could be done the same way that Sinclair did. Or use a monitor that has a "bright" / intensity input. Yes, these are rare now, but were far more common in the mid to late 1980's.

The best improvement, but a lot more complex than a simple single "bright" / intensity output, would be to have two digital "TTL" level outputs for the red, green and blue channels each. Two reds, two greens, and two blues. So a total of six outputs. That then gives 64 colours (including black). With new circuitry external to the ULA doing the mixing and processing.

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