BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

for bbc micro/electron hardware, peripherals & programming issues (NOT emulators!)
Post Reply
BitSeeker
Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:18 pm
Contact:

BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by BitSeeker » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:17 am

Can anyone tell me what the space to the left of the BBC Micro keyboard is for? There is a clearly marked oblong cut-out in the covering material and underneath on the keyboard PCB there are holes for a 14pin and 20pin DIL device. I have never seen this used for anything. Was it meant for some kind of keyboard expansion or some other accessory?

User avatar
marcusjambler
Posts: 387
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 11:20 am
Location: Bradford
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by marcusjambler » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:25 am

its the expansion area for the Acorn speech upgrade.
The two main chips sit on the mother board next to the FDC.
The additional PHROM expansion requires another keyboard ribbon, some passives and an IC on the keyboard PCB at the position you mention

rharper
Posts: 353
Joined: Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:19 pm
Location: Dunstable
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by rharper » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:37 am

It's also used for the Viglen ROM cartridge system.
The cartridge connector sits in that space with a cable to a plug for one of the 4 ROM sockets.
Ray
Raycomp

User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 7630
Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:46 pm
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by 1024MAK » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:53 am

BitSeeker wrote:Can anyone tell me what the space to the left of the BBC Micro keyboard is for? There is a clearly marked oblong cut-out in the covering material and underneath on the keyboard PCB there are holes for a 14pin and 20pin DIL device. I have never seen this used for anything. Was it meant for some kind of keyboard expansion or some other accessory?
That was for plug in ROM boards for use in the Acorn Speech system. However, although the speech upgrade system included the sockets, no plug in ROM boards were produced.

So various third party hardware companies produced products that used the cut-out instead. As well as the Viglen ROM cartridge system, there was a ZIF (zero insertion force) socket that connected to the motherboard so that it was easy to swap sideways ROM chips without having to take the cover off.

The cut-out is also known as 'the ashtray'.

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

BitSeeker
Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Mar 30, 2018 1:18 pm
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by BitSeeker » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:43 pm

I wasn't aware of the Acorn Speech System. I just did a search on it. I see two chips were involved, Texas Instruments TMS5220 and TMS6100. There seems to be an upgrade kit available online at Sprow's web pages, and one or two individual ICs on eBay but quite pricey. Photos show these chips both on the main PCB next to the PSU, which answers my question as to what those two sockets were for!

I also searched 'Viglen ROM socket'. An interesting way to make use of a space that Acorn had evidently planned for but didn't quite make use of. It provides a more professional and neater solution than using a ZIF socket, although both solutions provide for only a single ROM. I guess that nowdays, with EEPROM and Flash RAM based boards, there is no necessity for such an upgrade.

Still useful to know the history behind that slot and I have learned something about the Acorn Speech System so thanks for the informative replies!
Last edited by BitSeeker on Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
richardtoohey
Posts: 3563
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:13 am
Location: Tauranga, New Zealand
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by richardtoohey » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:52 pm

BitSeeker wrote:I wasn't aware of the Acorn Speech System.
IIRC it was relatively expensive and a bit of work to install (for non-technical people!) and when Superior Software's Speech! came out (software only), that was the final nail in the coffin. IIRC!

User avatar
tricky
Posts: 2629
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:25 am
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by tricky » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:51 am

It's a shame that Computer Concepts didn't do better with their speech system, which only required the TMS5220.
They had phonemes, intonation, text to speech support (in second ROM) and even singing!

crj
Posts: 834
Joined: Thu May 02, 2013 4:58 pm
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by crj » Tue Apr 10, 2018 12:56 am

I think the reason speech synthesis on the Beeb failed to thrive, even the Computer Concepts and Superior Software offerings, is that they were too expensive for a toy, but not good enough for serious professional use. If you were, for example, Stephen Hawking you'd shell out the US$4,000 for a DECtalk unit (launched in 1984).

User avatar
tricky
Posts: 2629
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:25 am
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by tricky » Tue Apr 10, 2018 6:27 am

Your probably right.
Bitd, I used to help out a blind accountant who didn't have the use of both hands.
I wrote a few tsrs to do things like "sticky keys".
He used a beeb with text to speech, but it was an external untit connected via the serial port (iirc). He also had a "micro writer" which he used to take notes at his courses.

RobC
Posts: 2224
Joined: Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:41 pm
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by RobC » Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:42 am

I think the price was the big factor when it came out and then Superior's Speech, which I think sold well, killed it off.

If you look at the speech synthesis module for the TI99/4a (which is basically the same piece of kit), it seems to have been very popular - loads of TI99/4a bundles on eBay have them. I believe it was sold with a number of games and that helped to shift it and I guess TI could get the chips a lot cheaper than anyone else!

It's a bit of a shame as it's a fun piece of kit and it's always a bit of a "wow" moment when you discover a game that uses it.

User avatar
tricky
Posts: 2629
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:25 am
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by tricky » Tue Apr 10, 2018 11:44 am

The quality of the speech can be quite good, did you listen to the starwars speech I recorded from my Beeb via a TV and cheap phone!
viewtopic.php?f=57&t=14649&p=196188&hil ... rs#p195995

User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 7630
Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:46 pm
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...
Contact:

Re: BBC Micro cut-out space on left hand side of keyboard

Post by 1024MAK » Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:54 pm

Agreed, that speech is very good for a 1980s machine :D

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

Post Reply