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Were 'podules' ever considered for the BBC Micro?

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 1:11 am
by Commie_User
Just a quick question as the thought occurs that having a far simpler board would have cut down costs to please teachers at the time, with a cost-cut board maybe putting Acorn computers in the home at nearly the numbers they wished with the Electron.

Sorry if this was covered earlier. It could very well have been. Just I'm idly curious.

I'm ogling all the ports on a BBC B now and I still have to say I'm impressed. But I'd have thought most users would have just been satisfied with the serial, printer, analogue and video out on the machine itself with whatever else added on a card for specialists.

Re: Were 'podules' ever considered for the BBC Micro?

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:39 am
by jgharston
That's called "an upgraded BBC Model A".

In fact, what you've described is a bog standard stock BBC B anyway.

Re: Were 'podules' ever considered for the BBC Micro?

Posted: Thu Oct 18, 2018 11:39 pm
by Commie_User
Though I think there's a difference between the Model A and this because perhaps it would have made the coming Electron easier to invent?

I don't know. Just flying kites! Not my strongest of topics this one.

Re: Were 'podules' ever considered for the BBC Micro?

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 7:21 am
by BigEd
If Acorn hadn't landed the BBC deal, and if the BBC hadn't wanted all the facilities that the Model B offered, it's possible they would have built a machine with fewer facilities and with a general purpose expansion - like the Electron, but without the super-integrated chip.

Except, they'd already made the System, and the Atom. The Atom has an expansion bus - that already happened!

You might ask instead, would Acorn have made a super-Atom... well, that was the Proton, and the idea (AIUI) was for it to be a front end to a more powerful second processor. That's where Acorn would have gone: machines which could be networked and with second processors. This was the scientific and workstation market, not the home computer market, or the educational market.

Re: Were 'podules' ever considered for the BBC Micro?

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 9:19 am
by 1024MAK
To nick a phrase from elsewhere in the computing industry, “where do you want to go today”? Or rather, which market segment do you want to sell to? What do you want a computer for? Games? Educational? Business? Scientific? Accounts? Process control?

In the 1980s engineers/inventers/companies came up with designs for computers based on various factors. One was what they, personally, wanted to design, or thought the market wanted. Hence Sinclair’s ZX80, ZX81, ZX Spectrum and QL. As we now know, Sinclair got it right for the ZX80, ZX81, and ZX Spectrum, but not for the all reasons he intended (they were not intended to be used mostly for gaming). Sinclair does not appear to have done any significant market research when designing the QL. So it’s not that surprising that it failed in it’s intended market.

Commodore had different reasons for the PET, the VIC-20 and then later the C-64. All were successful. But it all went wrong for the C16 and Plus 4 etc.

Acorn did things differently again. Put the BBC A, BBC B, BBC B+, BBC Master 128 and Electron (all of which were aimed at hobbyists, the home computer educational market, and schools) to one side for a moment. Have you looked at the other computers that they sold?

Podules are just another expansion bus system. Various manufacturers had different versions over various years for various machines. They ranged from the simple Sinclair bung everything on an edge-connector type to a proper expansion plug, cable and socket to an expansion ‘box’ that could contain say, eight expansion cards.

IBM took a different approach and put the expansion box inside the case!

Going back to Acorn. With the Beeb, they were bound by the specifications laid out by the BBC. Cheap, poorly designed, or poorly engineered expansion systems can be unreliable. So putting as much as you can on a PCB can be a good thing. Especially where children are involved.

Good expansion systems cost lots of money. So there is a forever moving line between the cost of putting as much as possible on a large PCB vs. having less features, but having an expensive expansion system.

And of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing...

May be, the Beeb could have been designed with some podules. The FDD system, the speech system, the Econet could all of been plug in modules that fitted into a small internal mini back plane (part of the large ‘main’ PCB). But then, the cost of a fully expanded machine would be more than a fully expanded BBC B...

Mark

Re: Were 'podules' ever considered for the BBC Micro?

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2018 11:14 am
by AndyF
But then, the cost of a fully expanded machine would be more than a fully expanded BBC B...
I think that's par for the course though really, same as if you buy a new car and don't specify certain extras, to have them fitted at a later date usually costs more than they would if they were fitted at the time / ordered with etc.

Credit where it is due though with regard to the plug in Econet interface on the Master (can't remember if the B+ has pins or not?) compared to the B, a moments job compared to (for me at least!) a good hours cursing with a soldering iron! To be fair to myself it did work when I'd finished!