A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

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A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by rmbrowngr » Sun Jan 20, 2019 5:46 pm

Theres quite a few BBC Micros available to buy on eBay at the moment:

BBC A with 32k (it has been upgraded I assume)
BBC B’s - various
BBC B+
BBC Master 128k

What would be the best to get hold of in regards to software compatibility and expansion?
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by danielj » Sun Jan 20, 2019 6:36 pm

Master. Every time.

d.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by leenew » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:12 pm

Just a quick note to say that danielj knows nothing and the correct answer is the "BBC Model B".
Well, technically, danielj is correct that the Master is "the best computer", but the original Model B is the one that just about all the software was written for.
It's a tough call... I have both the B and the Master but if I could only keep ONE..... it would be a B :D

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by sydney » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:31 pm

Unfortunately Daniel knows nothing and Lee spends too much time fixing and archiving stuff. The correct answer is: A master with a multi os followed by a model b then a master.
I realise that wasn't in the list but would qualify due to the 'expansion' part of your question.
Last edited by sydney on Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by dv8 » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:33 pm

The B+ is a nice machine but they are way too expensive and the Model A is not much more than a collectors item so, realistically, the choice is between the Model B and Master.

For games, the Model B is much more compatible. A switchable multi-OS ROM can be used in the Master to improve compatibility but it's not 100%. There are a few games that will only run on a Master.

The Master comes with shadow RAM and 64K of sideways RAM built in. The Model B requires extra hardware to add these features.

As far as external expansions go there's not much difference (disc drive, user port, 1MHz bus, Tube etc. all present on both machines).

The Master has some extra internal expansion capabilities like a socket for a second processor. Internal PiTubeDirect FTW!

Personally, the Model B will always be my favourite machine for playing on and tinkering with, but I do appreciate the Master as a machine for 'getting stuff done'.

For any true Beeb fan though, there is only one correct answer. Get BOTH!

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by sydney » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:37 pm

Is there a list detailing what will not work on a master with multi os? I presume zalaga will be there as I think it uses illegal opcodes of the 6502. Are there many more?

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by Lardo Boffin » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:42 pm

I had a disc version of Aviator that would not run on the Master. Not sure if they released a fixed version?

Model B for me!
Last edited by Lardo Boffin on Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by danielj » Sun Jan 20, 2019 7:50 pm

I've had aviator running fine on a Master (and using the patched OS1.2 pretty much lets everything work) - that said, I didn't try using a release on original discs...

Anyway, you can't play Prince of Persia on a model B or B+. And Exile is full screen on a Master without having to jigger about with adding sideways RAM... :)

d.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by flaxcottage » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:02 pm

Since I don't play games on the machines but rather program and tinker with electronic stuff I have a different perspective.

BITD I really liked the B+ 128K. It had the small form factor of the original Beeb and lots of the 'naughty programming' dodges worked on it just as on the original model B. The four SWR banks were a real boon as they allowed different languages and filing systems to be installed easily. I managed to get a B+ 64K from eBay a few years ago and added an extra 96K SWR. Having an EPROM programmer I blew several 32K EPROMS for ROMs which I wanted available all the time. The machine is maxed out with DFS/MMFS, Basic Editor/ADT, Mega3 ROM, Interbase and Exmon2/Wordwise Plus. The installation of a tuboMMC system gives me instant access to all sorts of stuff from a Shift-Break menu system and it has shadow RAM as well. The downside, however, is that PAGE is relatively high and eats a lot of RAM.

That means for me the best Beeb is the Master. PAGE stays at &E00 for all filing systems and it has shadow RAM. The Master and a Datacentre work together brilliantly (mine had 2Gb of storage over 4 ADFS drives). The use of plug-in cartridges allows ROMs to be semi-permanently installed; I especially like the cartridges which take x4 ROMs which can be switched in or out as needed. Four banks of SWR are great. The Master also has the GXR functions built in. The Econet interface is a dream to install and the internal tube is a great bonus too. The use of CMOS RAM to set how the machine works and a RTC just gild the lily in my book. The disadvantages of the Master, for me, are all technical; several educational titles use *LOAD CHARS &C00 to define the user-defined characters - this does not work on a Master; some disk protection methods rely on the presence of a 8271 DFS - this is missing from the Master.
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by Kazzie » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:29 pm

Model A's that have been upgrade to a B will typically have half their RAM chips socketed, which can make diagnosis or replacement of faulty chips easier. However some A's were only partially upgraded to B status: I've seen a few for sale that didn't have the IDC connectors for the Tube, 1MHz bus, etc. fitted underneath (which is how I knew they were A's). You'd have to source and fit the connectors if you ever wanted to use those interfaces.
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by marcusjambler » Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:58 pm

The BBC B is a great machine.
The Master is even better.
Some of the new games/ports are for the master only.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by flowsnake » Sun Jan 20, 2019 10:08 pm

I've never owned a model A or a B+, so clearly neither of these can be the best ;)

I had a Model B from about 1984 onward, and briefly had a Master from about 1991-1993ish. Aside from some game compatibility I found the Master to be a superior machine in almost every way. All the really useful expansions one might do to the Model B are already done, more or less. More RAM, useful software already present in ROM, DFS/ADFS built in, numeric keypad, etc. So if I were new to the BBC world, this would be the machine I should go for.

I did say superior in almost every way... for me the Model B is the magic one. The one on which I got my first taste of computing, and on which I learned my trade as a software developer. All my memories are with that one. Perhaps going too far to call it my first love, but there is something analogous there.

And thinking a bit more widely, the Model B was the hot exciting thing when it came out, but by the 1986 launch of the Master the heads were being turned by Macintoshes, Amigas, Atari STs, and soon after by the Archimedes. So I don't think the Master was as exciting when it came out as the Model B was when it came out, despite being better in any kind of rational comparison.

TL;DR - I prefer the Model B because the computing world was fresh and new when I got one

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by tricky » Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:22 pm

The B will always be my favourite.
Dv8 is on the right track, dip your toe in with a B and chaep "MMC" and then once you are hooked, a master with gotek. You'll find that a B+ and Compact may also just turn up ;)

To answer your question, the B is more compatible "out of the box" and it is also the most expandable.
Speech: B, B+ only.
Real time clock: built in on master (and compact?), cab be added non-standard b/b+.
Shadow ram: master and compact, cut down version can be added to b b+ he cut down version.
Disc interface: master/compact, addon for b/b+ (?)
Last edited by tricky on Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by 1024MAK » Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:41 pm

All of the answers above are by sad deluded people who hang about on a forum about 1980s 8 bit computers far too much, or worse, who also go to meet-ups and play with these computers. Hence they have all missed the point...

Which is, what do you want to do with it?

Possible answers include (but are not limited to):
  • Play 1980s games - BBC B / Emulator / ZX Spectrum / Commodore 64
  • Program on using BASIC - BBC B / BBC B+ / BBC Master 128 / BBC Compact / Electron with disk expansion
  • Serious use - BBC Master 512 / Emulator / Modern PC
  • Cheap - Electron / Emulator / ZX Spectrum
  • Looks good - BBC B / BBC B+ / Memotech MTX
  • Run educational software - BBC Master 128
Yes, I know I included some non-Acorn computers. But although Acorn computers are good, they did have rather a lot of competition, so were (shock horror :shock:) not always the markets favourite.

They are all expandable in different ways. Speech chips won’t fit in a Master. Some of the I/O addresses in a Master are different to the addresses used in a BBC B. The Master can have an internal second processor. There are many expansions for the Electron... (I could go on, but luckily for you, I won’t =D> ).

But back to my first line of this post, if you fit that description, the real answer is, you should get the following...














(Drum roll please)











(Okay, maybe no drum roll, I was always rubbish at music)













All these:-
  • Electron with Plus 1
AND
  • BBC B+ if you can find one (sellers advertising a BBC B without knowing that it is a B+ is the cheapest way, but you may have to wait for a while)
OR
  • BBC B (issue 4 or issue 7 board)
AND
  • BBC Master 128 (or if you are lucky, it will be a Master 512)
If you get a BBC B, it is well worthwhile getting some kind of sideways RAM for it. There are a number of options available.

Or you could get yourself an Acorn Archimedes...

Mark
Last edited by 1024MAK on Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by jonb » Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:44 am

1024MAK wrote:
Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:41 pm
All of the answers above are by sad deluded people who hang about on a forum about 1980s 8 bit computers far too much, or worse, who also go to meet-ups and play with these computers. Hence they have all missed the point...
Cough Memofest was fun cough cough
Which is, what do you want to do with it?
I'll wager I am no different to most in that I have a room full of these machines but use them for nothing other than a vague reassurance that they'll all be there one day when I have the time and / or inclination to play with them. In other words, the answer to your question is generally "To own it". Search your heart, Luke, you know it to be true!
But back to my first line of this post, if you fit that description, the real answer is, you should get the following...
.
.
I was scrolling down thinking the next sentence would be "A life" :lol:

But no..

All these:-
[snip]
Good answer!

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by BigEd » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:37 am

Link for memofest (Memotech meetup)

Not sure if it falls into your "serious use" Mark, but some people like to tinker with electronics, which the Beeb (and Master) are especially good for. So, my taxonomy is something like this: there are collectors, gamers, users, fixers, builders, writers. (And every one of us is a bit of a mix.)

The Master is significantly bigger and heavier, so for some people the smaller size of the Beeb is a win. The Master Compact is another thing again.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by RobC » Mon Jan 21, 2019 11:01 am

I'd say ideally get a B and a Master 128 but if you want to play old games, get a B.

If you want to program, do other "serious" stuff or want to play the new games that are being developed, get a M128.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by 1024MAK » Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:04 pm

BigEd wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:37 am
Not sure if it falls into your "serious use" Mark, but some people like to tinker with electronics, which the Beeb (and Master) are especially good for. So, my taxonomy is something like this: there are collectors, gamers, users, fixers, builders, writers. (And every one of us is a bit of a mix.)
Yes absolutely. I’m a tinkerer. I like to explore, experience, repair, modify and maybe expand 1980s and 1990s computers. Hence why I like to read about what other like minded users are doing. Even better if they then make their work accessible.

Not sure I would call that serious use, as there is also plenty of tinkering on ZX81s and other 1980s and 1990s computers...
But I did start that list with...
1024MAK wrote:
Sun Jan 20, 2019 11:41 pm
Possible answers include (but are not limited to):
Maybe I should have included a tinkerer category :lol:

And of course, just as tinkerers get pleasure from the hardware / firmware side, so users also get pleasured from writing and developing new software. Including games that take advantage of the better understanding we have of these machines. Some of the members here have written some fantastic new games =D>

And we have an excellent artist here who has shown what good graphics the Beeb is capable of 8)

Mark

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by cmorley » Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:23 pm

The correct answer is of course the B. Of course this has nothing to do with me having half a dozen for sale :roll:

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by dixiestoat » Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:16 pm

For me, the Master with Retroclinic's 4 way Multi OS and internal Datacentre seems the best of all worlds... only come across Zalaga that doesn't like that version of OS 1.2 .. although i'm sure other games complain too.. :-k
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by tricky » Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:23 pm

If it says its a b, my games will use the wrong address for ADC. :cry:

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by rmbrowngr » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:17 pm

dixiestoat wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:16 pm
For me, the Master with Retroclinic's 4 way Multi OS and internal Datacentre seems the best of all worlds... only come across Zalaga that doesn't like that version of OS 1.2 .. although i'm sure other games complain too.. :-k
Definitely all pluses.
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by rmbrowngr » Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:21 pm

Something else to consider, I see many times how fragile B’s are in this forum. Are Masters more robust?

BTW, Electrons appear much more robust. They do have much less to go wrong.
Richard B
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by rjnicko » Tue Jan 22, 2019 12:50 am

I chose a B over a master as I liked the more compact size and the fact more games/software is supported without modifications etc.

The masters look nice machines, but kinda bulky looking.

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by 1024MAK » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:48 am

rmbrowngr wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 7:21 pm
Something else to consider, I see many times how fragile B’s are in this forum. Are Masters more robust?

BTW, Electrons appear much more robust. They do have much less to go wrong.
Depends...

Yes, the Elk is less complex. So most failures are normally bad contact of the ULA in it's socket, DRAM chip failure, or ULA failure.

The BBC B, BBC B+ and Master 128 machines all use the dreaded Rifa capacitors (that go pop and produce the foul smelling smoke).

Both BBC B, BBC B+ and Master 128 machines use 6522 VIAs, which are known to cause failures from time to time.

The DRAM chips in a BBC B are slightly more likely to fail, because they are the older generation of DRAM chip, and the BBC B's are older machines.
DRAM chips do sometimes fail in a Master 128. But fault finding is harder.

If one of the custom chips in a Master 128 fails, finding a spare is difficult, as production stopped in the late 1980s. The BBC B only uses a couple of custom chips (and Rob produces a replacement for the Video ULA / VideoProc chip). For most faults, it's easier to fault find and fix a BBC B.

There are also many more BBC B's in circulation compared to Master 128 machines, so the perceived failure rate of BBC B machines will be higher because of this. So it is rather hard to come to any firm conclusions.

But seriously, all joking aside, it does depend on what YOU want to do with it. BBC Masters often cost more than BBC B micros. But, yes, the Master 128 is technically the better machine (that was the whole point of it).

Myself and many others like the BBC B, because it is the first machine that we got to play with (mind, that did not stop me from getting one of each, a BBC B and a Master 128). And if you want to play classic games, the Master 128 is over kill. Unless it is Elite... or any of the other games that makes use of the sideways RAM on the Master.

Mark
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by rmbrowngr » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:26 am

To be honest I do have an Electron (repurchased after selling the original back in 1990). It was the second computer I ever had. The first computer being a ZX81, which I still have, and at some point I want to do a composite mod and to get a zxpand+. A bit afraid to open up because of damaging the keyboard cable. I diverge. Probably I would prefer a BBC Master to explore stuff which isn’t available on the Electron or BBC B. My main focus at the moment is trying to make Electron versions of software available on BBC B (mode 7). It’s fun relearning BBC Basic and at some point to dive back in 6502 assembly. Haven’t programmed 6502 assembly since around 86/87.

Thanks to everybody for your feedback. :)
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by Lardo Boffin » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:13 am

rmbrowngr wrote:
Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:26 am
The first computer being a ZX81, which I still have, and at some point I want to do a composite mod and to get a zxpand+.
If you have found the zxpand+ then you will probably have seen the replacement ZX81 keyboards on sell my retro dot com?
If you open it and the ribbon breaks (fairly likely) you can always trim it back and re-insert to keep it original. You can also get ZX8-CCB on there. Great bit of kit for comp modding. I have fitted over 20 of these now I think.
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by trixster » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:24 am

As a kid in the 80s we had a BBC B at home (with disk drive), so my first love will always be a B. But I avidly read The Micro User and Acorn User and lusted after a Master thanks to the screen shots those mags published of Master-enhanced games. Elite, Exile, Striker’s Run and Lancelot all looked amazing on that machine.

So 10 year-old me would say the Master was/is the best version of the machine, whereas today me would don nostalgia spectacles and say the B was and still is the best.
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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by Tony L » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:26 am

BBC B for me as a friend’s was my introduction to computing. His was a very modified example in a rack case with the keyboard in a separate assembly (maybe Viglen looking at pics online) as he was an electronics geek and had all manner of interface socketry etc. To this day I remember the vibrant colours of his Microvitec Cub monitor, all 8 of them! I learnt how to bounce a sprite around the screen in Basic. This would have been about 82-83 I guess, so I’d have been 19 or so (I never saw anything even approaching a computer at school). I came very close to buying an Elk at that time, but didn’t have the cash free. I remember a couple of other friends having Spectrums, but they only ever used them as games consoles.

It was that little bit of BBC Basic that eventually (many years later) helped get me into IT as a career, so yes, definitely the B for me!

At this point I know next to nothing about the Master, it just passed me by entirely. I had an Atari and later a PC by that time as wasn’t anywhere near the educational establishments one would likely find them. Looks like quite an interesting machine, but I have no connection to it at all. It was only ever between the B and the Elk for me (I now have one of each!).

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Re: A bit of fun: Which version of BBC Micro is the best?

Post by bughunter » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:39 pm

Model B, it's a design classic!

The Masters kept the education money coming in until ARM based machines were ready but I remember them performing like expanded Model Bs with just about every retro-fit upgrade but factory fitted and each one breaking some backward compatibility.

The function-over-form case style was just plain ugly in comparison, a lot like those dodgy fibreglass body kits that early Nineties youths would fit to 1.3 Ford Escorts to fool no-one into thinking their cars were RS Turbos.

It was a Hobsons choice machine for Acorn and boy did it show.

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