DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

on-topic Acorn-related news and discussions not covered by the other forums
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DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Commie_User » Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:51 pm

Seems more than Sinclair felt left in the cold and took comfort in bellyaching that the Conservative government weren't putting computers in schools fast enough, without enough of a software spread and freezing out Acorn's competition.

Well to quote Yes Minister, Rome wasn't built in a day and in any case, the Dragon was rubbish while Acorn offered the BBC the closest high quality spec they liked. You couldn't even type fast on the Dragon, it had no lowercase, no 80 columns and no serial.

What do you make of this?
DRAGON DATA'S PLANS TO move upmarket this year. launching two bigger machines,
will bring it into an even stronger position to attack the educational market. This is one
area in which the Conservatives are particularly proud of their achievements, through the
micros-in-schools scheme. But how justified is their pride? And, more importantly for
Dragon Data, how free and open to attack is this market?


In fact, the Conservative record is less bright than they are willing to acknowledge, and
their achievements are tarnished rather than burnished, Many school children are still
never getting near a computer, or are finding that their interests are not being matched
by the Conservative policies. So far most secondary schools have no more than one
micro, and half the UK's primary schools are still left without a machine. The scheme's
declared aim is to provide schoolchildren with the instruction and hardware to prepare
them for the future. Obviously the Conservatives have a low expectation of schoolchildren's
survival — and high hopes of a fall in the birthrate.

The shortage of machines is compounded by divided government responsibilities.
The micros-in-schools scheme is sponsored by the Department of Industry but the actual
use of the machines is more the responsibility of the Department of Education and
Science. The junior Education Minister acknowledged this spring that it was no good
having the computers without the right software and admitted that a great deal more was
still needed. He also admitted that not all local education authorities had been able to
benefit in equal measure. The Industry Department's response was to add small-scale
robots to the list of hardware that it is willing to subsidise.

The micros-in-schools scheme is also put forward as a prime example of what the
Conservatives call enlightened public purchasing, or what others call buying British.
Doubtless Clive Sinclair has some unprintable opinions about how enlightened the
scheme was when it excluded his machines, And Dragon Data, by most counts the third
most successful British home computer manufacturer, is still excluded. For a party which
professes to believe in the virtues of the free market, the Conservatives are remarkably
keen to indulge in high publicity persuasion from above, while ignoring surges in popular
interest from below.

http://www.retro8bitcomputers.co.uk/Con ... l_1983.pdf

____

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by algenon_iii » Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:07 am

Some Caerphilly cheese with your whine Sir [Dragon]?

Ignoring the deficiencies of the Dragon 32...

The BBC/government in the early 1980's understood something some computer companies didn't, the importance of standardisation. I didn't do GCSE Computer Studies (or O levels as they were back in the early 80's) but I can imagine the misery schools and exam boards would have if there hadn't been standardisation around the beeb. If an exam asked a student to write some code to do something, imagine getting code written in Apple BASIC, Atari BASIC, BBC BASIC, Commodore BASIC, Microsoft BASIC, Sinclair BASIC depending on what computer a school had and then marking it figuring out if the code was correct based on the nuances of the implementation of BASIC (esp. with things like random numbers).

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by jonb » Tue Apr 30, 2019 7:49 am

...Dragon Data, by most counts the third most successful British home computer manufacturer...

Oh, come on. When I worked in a computer shop in the '80s we couldn't give the Dragons away, they were that bad. I have one here. it uses a minority (in the home computer market) processor, has a cruddy version of MS BASIC and really lousy graphics capabilities. To say nothing of the character set. Software support was very poor (there were something like 10 or 15 titles at the time) and it looked awful - way bigger than it needed to be. About the only thing good about it was the keyboard and robust case.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by vanpeebles » Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:47 am

I do miss those old early days when there was loads of different computers, and making a purchase was like crossing a minefield :lol:

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by paulv » Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:26 pm

vanpeebles wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:47 am
I do miss those old early days when there was loads of different computers, and making a purchase was like crossing a minefield :lol:
My parents attended a seminar about home computers held in the Sheffield branch of Debenhams on the Moor which took people through all the different computers available, discussed features and price points. Oric-1, Spectrum 48k, Dragon 32, BBC model A and B, C64, New rain etc.

Despite it being one of the more expensive machines, they plumped for the BBC B because they could see it was a higher quality product with more possibilities and it was what my school had introduced 6 months before. For them, it was expensive but worth it.

For me, I owe the computer literacy project my entire career.

That investment in the Beeb for me has paid for itself many times over.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by 1024MAK » Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:19 pm

algenon_iii wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:07 am
The BBC/government in the early 1980's understood something some computer companies didn't, the importance of standardisation. I didn't do GCSE Computer Studies (or O levels as they were back in the early 80's) but I can imagine the misery schools and exam boards would have if there hadn't been standardisation around the beeb. If an exam asked a student to write some code to do something, imagine getting code written in Apple BASIC, Atari BASIC, BBC BASIC, Commodore BASIC, Microsoft BASIC, Sinclair BASIC depending on what computer a school had and then marking it figuring out if the code was correct based on the nuances of the implementation of BASIC (esp. with things like random numbers).
When I did my CSE and O-Level computer studies classes at secondary school, we had just three machines. Two BBC B’s each with a single 5¼” floppy disk drive and a single Research Machines 380Z. This was in 1984/5 I think.

In school, I did all my project work on one of the BBC B’s. But at home, I had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. I can’t remember now, but at least one of the exam boards allowed projects to be submitted for a number of different types/makes of computers (too long ago for me to remember if this was for the CSE or the O-level). So I submitted a 5¼” floppy disk with my BBC B project and a cassette tape with my ZX Spectrum project on it. I passed with good grades for both the CSE and O-Level.

So as you can see, some exam boards did allow projects to be submitted for use on machines other than Acorn BBC B machines.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Ramtop » Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:38 pm

jonb wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 7:49 am
Oh, come on. When I worked in a computer shop in the '80s we couldn't give the Dragons away, they were that bad.
I recall they were quite successful for a short time after launch, mostly because Sinclair was having production issues and Spectrums were in short supply. I've no doubt Dragon probably were number three in the market, for possibly a couple of months. They ramped up production to meet the apparent demand and then found the market had lost interest, and they got stuck with piles of what was, as you say, not a very good computer.
Gary

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by danielj » Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:41 pm

They're basically a coco - the display is awful (al-la-atom), but the guts aren't too shabby with a 6809?

d.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by RobC » Tue Apr 30, 2019 3:10 pm

danielj wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:41 pm
They're basically a coco - the display is awful (al-la-atom), but the guts aren't too shabby with a 6809?
Yes - a 6809 (albeit running sub-1MHz). You can run things like FLEX and OS-9 on the 64K version.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Commie_User » Tue Apr 30, 2019 5:44 pm

It doesn't even seem Spectrum-level but it was sold for twice the price.

Reading the magazines, they dish out funny little techie tips. To avoid feedback ruining loads and saves, users had to remove the Mic and Ear cables alternately.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by RobC » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:07 pm

Commie_User wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 5:44 pm
It doesn't even seem Spectrum-level but it was sold for twice the price.
To be fair, the Dragon has a better keyboard and build quality than many contemporary machines. Also, the 6809 is often considered to be a "nice" CPU to program although the 1MHz version probably isn't going to perform as well as a 4MHz Z80 or 2MHz 6502. Plus FLEX and OS-9 were well thought of and had lots of high level languages.

Still, it's pretty clear why the Beeb was the preferred choice for schools at the time - no other machine was as robust or capable.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Ramtop » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:20 pm

danielj wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:41 pm
They're basically a coco - the display is awful (al-la-atom), but the guts aren't too shabby with a 6809?
It's quite a poor computer overall, with the exception of the CPU. The graphics are particularly bad, 192x160 in four garish colours doesn't really stand up well to a VIC-20 never mind the Speccy or C64. And the system ROM boots up to a horrible black-on-green screen, is stuck with especially ugly upper case text only, and if I'm remembering correctly from my brief time using a Dragon the BASIC is slow and... basic.

The 6809 is a very nice processor, albeit clocked quite slow in the Dragon. But I always thought it was a prime reason for the Dragon's lack of success. Nobody else in the UK computer market was using it, and barely so in the US. Back in 1982/83 coding a game for the Z80 meant access to the increasingly large Spectrum user base, the VIC-20, BBC and C64 were all successful enough to warrant writing 6502 code.

But supporting the small Dragon market required re-writing a game for the 6809, something almost no publisher was prepared to do. I expect just finding 6809 coders was not particularly easy as people tended to learn to code for whatever computer they owned, and that almost always had a Z80 or 6502 in it back then.
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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Prime » Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:21 pm

Note this isn't specifically aimed at Ramtop, though it's his post I quoted, more of a general reply to this thread.....
Ramtop wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:20 pm
danielj wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 2:41 pm
They're basically a coco - the display is awful (al-la-atom), but the guts aren't too shabby with a 6809?
It's quite a poor computer overall, with the exception of the CPU. The graphics are particularly bad, 192x160
The Dragon as the Atom uses the 6847 which can do :
32x16 text (uppercase only).
A bunch of semi-graphic modes up to 64x192 in 8 colours (this is a consiquence of the Dragon & CoCo using the SAM).
128x192 in 4 coulours (2 sets)
256x192 in mono (2 sets)
in four garish colours doesn't really stand up well to a VIC-20 never mind the Speccy or C64.
Vic 20 22x16 text or 176 x 184 (8 colours).
Spectrum 256x192 pixel resolution but only 32x24 colour resolution, each 8x8 square could only have 2 colours in it.

So on both couts by some metrics the 6847 could be said to have better or equivilent graphics to the VIC or Spectrum.
And the system ROM boots up to a horrible black-on-green screen, is stuck with especially ugly upper case text only, and if I'm remembering correctly from my brief time using a Dragon the BASIC is slow and... basic.
You could do black on orange or their inverses.

It was pretty standard Microsoft Basic.
You are probably mis-remembering and it depends what you are comparing to Dragon basic is deffo faster than Sinclair basic, and also has some extra facilities, on the other hand I used to like the way Sinclair did string slicing etc. As for Commodore basic, now on machines before the C16/Plus 4 now there was primitive. BBC basic probably has the speed edge though as it does have things like integer arithmetic which pretty much none of the others had.
The 6809 is a very nice processor, albeit clocked quite slow in the Dragon. But I always thought it was a prime reason for the Dragon's lack of success. Nobody else in the UK computer market was using it, and barely so in the US. Back in 1982/83 coding a game for the Z80 meant access to the increasingly large Spectrum user base, the VIC-20, BBC and C64 were all successful enough to warrant writing 6502 code.
Though to be fair there was a lot of software that was ported between the CoCo & Dragon, remembering that the CoCo was quite popular in the US.

I'd also say that back in the day people (writing games at least) didn't code for a processor more for a platform, it was then of course easier to port that to another platform using the same CPU, which is IIRC how a lot of the early Amstrad games came about, ports of Spectrum titles.
But supporting the small Dragon market required re-writing a game for the 6809, something almost no publisher was prepared to do. I expect just finding 6809 coders was not particularly easy as people tended to learn to code for whatever computer they owned, and that almost always had a Z80 or 6502 in it back then.
Whilst some games houses worked like this a lot of them would publish programs submitted by independent programmers, which is how IIRC the Dragon got a port of "Manic Miner" & "Jet Set Willy" There where also several houses that catered specifically (or at least mostly) for the Dragon & CoCo e.g. Microdeal.

Also whilst there was certainly less software for the Dragon than say the Spectrum, there's certainly more than 10 to 15 titles.

As for the box being too big, couldn't that also be said of the Beeb? I'd rather that there was space inside the box to fit expansion boards etc, than the absolute cramped space that you have ina 48K spectrum for example.

From Commie_User's post :
Reading the magazines, they dish out funny little techie tips. To avoid feedback ruining loads and saves, users had to remove the Mic and Ear cables alternately.
In my experience this wasn't the case, and I also heard this being a problem with other micros (especially the Sinclairs), so was probably more a case of getting the right tape deck to work with the right computer....The Boots one I had back in the day worked fine with the ZX81, Dragon & Spectrum.

Look the Dragon wasn't perfect, no machine was not even the Beeb, and there are some valid criticisms to be made but please try and do so based on the actual hardware / software capabilities rather than general impressions.

Cheers.

Phill.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by 1024MAK » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:05 pm

Prime wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:21 pm
From Commie_User's post :
Reading the magazines, they dish out funny little techie tips. To avoid feedback ruining loads and saves, users had to remove the Mic and Ear cables alternately.
In my experience this wasn't the case, and I also heard this being a problem with other micros (especially the Sinclairs), so was probably more a case of getting the right tape deck to work with the right computer....The Boots one I had back in the day worked fine with the ZX81, Dragon & Spectrum.
Excluding specialist data cassette decks (such as the Commodore), there were various models of ‘shoe box’ mono cassette recorders. These fell in two groups, those that amplified the incoming microphone signal and then sent this signal to the earphone socket (so that a human could monitor what was being recorded), and those that did not send an amplified microphone signal to the earphone socket. The former caused problems for various computers (hence the advice to unplug the earphone cable when saving). The later did not.

For loading, having both cables connected made no difference regardless of which design of cassette deck was in use.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Richard Russell » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:23 pm

Prime wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:21 pm
BBC basic probably has the speed edge though as it does have things like integer arithmetic which pretty much none of the others had.
BBC BASIC was unusual in having explicitly-typed integer variables, but other BASICs of the time, and before, supported integer arithmetic using variant variables (although I don't know specifically about Dragon BASIC). Indeed even BBC BASIC (Z80) used variants, as have all my versions of BBC BASIC since.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Commie_User » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:46 pm

Prime wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:21 pm
Look the Dragon wasn't perfect, no machine was not even the Beeb, and there are some valid criticisms to be made but please try and do so based on the actual hardware / software capabilities rather than general impressions.
Is it only a general impression that the Dragon seemed more susceptible to feedback errors compared to other micros? There seems to be a good repetitive theme on that one in the magazine.

But I suppose it's horses for courses. Do you go to Boots and buy whatever bargain bucket dictation machine for your data and be happy with a bit of cable toggling? Or do you prefer to find yourself with a machine like the Commodore, with near-constant flawless data tracking and total ease of use - yet find you had to pay £150 in today's money just for a rotten cassette drive??

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by vanpeebles » Wed May 01, 2019 9:24 am

Er, Boots would of sold proper computer tape recorders :lol:

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Ramtop » Wed May 01, 2019 10:34 am

Prime wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:21 pm
The Dragon as the Atom uses the 6847 which can do :
32x16 text (uppercase only).
A bunch of semi-graphic modes up to 64x192 in 8 colours (this is a consiquence of the Dragon & CoCo using the SAM).
128x192 in 4 coulours (2 sets)
256x192 in mono (2 sets)

So on both couts by some metrics the 6847 could be said to have better or equivilent graphics to the VIC or Spectrum.
I was possibly a little harsh in the VIC-20 comparison, but it can put 16 colours on the screen which the Dragon can't do. And I really don't agree about the 6847 being equivalent to the Spectrum; again, the Speccy's ability to put 16 colours on the screen simultaneously gave it a significant edge over the Dragon, and programmers and artists rapidly learned how to work around the 8x8 attributes system to do some impressive visuals. I can't think of a single game on the Dragon that doesn't have a better looking equivalent on the Spectrum.

You mention Manic Miner and JSW later in your post. Those are a good illustration of my point; monochrome only on the Dragon but quite colourful on the Spectrum. Any computer shop showing those games running on both platforms would, I think, sell rather a lot of Spectrums.
You are probably mis-remembering and it depends what you are comparing to Dragon basic is deffo faster than Sinclair basic, and also has some extra facilities, on the other hand I used to like the way Sinclair did string slicing etc. As for Commodore basic, now on machines before the C16/Plus 4 now there was primitive. BBC basic probably has the speed edge though as it does have things like integer arithmetic which pretty much none of the others had.
Yes, I may be dumping on the Dragon's BASIC a bit because I didn't use one until 1984, and by that point I was most familiar with the Plus/4's BASIC which was very nice, if not the quickest thing in the world.
I'd also say that back in the day people (writing games at least) didn't code for a processor more for a platform, it was then of course easier to port that to another platform using the same CPU, which is IIRC how a lot of the early Amstrad games came about, ports of Spectrum titles.
I suppose sharing a CPU was both a blessing and a curse. Spectrum ports benefited the Amstrad by extending the software base, and if they tended to run slower than on the Spectrum the CPC made up for it with a sharper image. But the MSX suffered very badly from Speccy ports that ran like treacle due to the MSX's video hardware not being suited to games designed for the Spectrum.
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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Commie_User » Wed May 01, 2019 11:16 am

vanpeebles wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 9:24 am
Er, Boots would of sold proper computer tape recorders :lol:
I must admit I looked at those and and scoffed, as I'd recognise so many as rebadged or repurposed regular mono cassette decks. Even the Acorn one.

Though much as the Dragon was holed under the waterline by design, it's truly fascinating to see the collectors make what they can of it and get it to perform. Especially when the Dragon's Claw came out for it, so users could plug BBC-compatible nick-nacks for it.

http://archive.worldofdragon.org/index. ... n%27s_Claw

Now that's a bow to the people who really knew how to make computers, if ever I saw it.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by RobC » Wed May 01, 2019 11:55 am

Commie_User wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 11:16 am
I must admit I looked at those and and scoffed, as I'd recognise so many as rebadged or repurposed regular mono cassette decks. Even the Acorn one.
I always found the Acorn data recorder to be very reliable. In fact, I used to take mine into school when they had problems with certain tapes as it loaded everything. It's still going strong to this day.

My wife had a Dragon 32 BITD and her abiding memory of it was of struggling to get cassettes to load! Once we rescued her Dragon from her parent's loft, my Acorn data recorder was able to get it to load all her old games without any issues :D

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Commie_User » Wed May 01, 2019 1:56 pm

They WERE good decks. When I was given my hand-me-down Electron, the tape deck was almost one of a kind. The same reliability I came to expect with the proprietary CBM tape decks. (Amazing reliability with the CBM units, actually, when you feel how light and flimsy they seem, especially when you open one.)

I wish I'd kept all the micros I was given. With dinky machines like that, I wouldn't have been pushed for cupboard space.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Richard Russell » Wed May 01, 2019 2:48 pm

RobC wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 11:55 am
I always found the Acorn data recorder to be very reliable.
The BBC took a particular interest in the Beeb's Cassette/ROM Filing System and associated hardware. As is well known, it's the only part of the MOS in which BBC engineers took a direct role: not in the coding (although in close liaison with the programmer, whose name escapes me at the moment) but certainly in developing the protocols and testing. I'm sure that the 'official' data recorder will have undergone detailed evaluation in Western House, and of course Acornsoft pre-recorded program cassettes were mastered entirely using BBC equipment, without a BBC Micro being involved at all!

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by RobC » Wed May 01, 2019 3:33 pm

Commie_User wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 1:56 pm
The same reliability I came to expect with the proprietary CBM tape decks. (Amazing reliability with the CBM units, actually, when you feel how light and flimsy they seem, especially when you open one.)
Didn't Commodore use some kind of weird scheme for encoding the data :?:

Ah yes: http://www.zimmers.net/cbmpics/dtapes.html
With disk drives being as pricy as they were, Commodore needed a cheap substitute that it's beloved masses, whether schools or home users, could afford. The result is one of the slowest data transmission devices ever conceived by man.
:D :lol: :lol:
However, these units did accept standard old cassette tapes, not unlike the ones we still use today. They encoded their data using digital tones, which sounded like high piched squeels when listened to on a normal tape player. They interfaced with every Commodore 8-bit computer using a special datasette port intended for that purpose.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by mr-macrisc » Wed May 01, 2019 4:36 pm

What all the other brand fans who moan oh but it wasn't fair.

Acorn was only company that showed a working prototype that was prety damn near spec as can be. It also had all the ports you could ask for so could be hooked up easily to experiments, motors, robotics, even used in industrial machines.

Now show me what competitor at close to price with same abilities? Yes those other machines could probably have been turned to those tasks with add on hardware modules but you'd quickly get to a much higher cost without getting close to equalling all the abilities and expansion available in the beeb.

Plenty of companies made it big in the computer boom without the bbc contract. In fact much bigger sales numbers. So moaning the contract wasn't fair and what would have happened of we won it instead. Well if you were up with the sinclairs, c64's, cpc etc then you could have made it too. I remember looking at dragon games in store and in screen shots and, well to be blunt, the electron trounced it.

Just a shame none really made it in US and as market standardized and settled it all migrated to the US machines. Shame acorn couldn't get into us or i guess even get a 6502 manufacturer to use acorn mos/bbc basic nd or risc OS later in day.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by mr-macrisc » Wed May 01, 2019 4:46 pm

Not to mention...

How many of us have nr 40yr old ex school bbc's that handled probably a decade to twenty years being abused by kids????

I doubt many other options would have managed that.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Richard Russell » Wed May 01, 2019 4:47 pm

RobC wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 3:33 pm
Didn't Commodore use some kind of weird scheme for encoding the data :?:
I don't know about CBM, but most home computers of the day used some variety of the Kansas City / CUTS tape format. Whilst in essence simply Frequency Modulation, the 1200 baud variant used by Acorn qualifies as a more sophisticated encoding scheme because a 'zero' bit corresponds to only a single cycle of the lower tone (1200 Hz), which isn't that different from the FM encoding used on single-density floppy disks. It requires more care to be taken with parameters like group delay than the 300 baud version.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by RobC » Wed May 01, 2019 4:54 pm

Richard Russell wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 4:47 pm
I don't know about CBM, but most home computers of the day used some variety of the Kansas City / CUTS tape format. Whilst in essence simply Frequency Modulation, the 1200 baud variant used by Acorn qualifies as a more sophisticated encoding scheme because a 'zero' bit corresponds to only a single cycle of the lower tone (1200 Hz), which isn't that different from the FM encoding used on single-density floppy disks. It requires more care to be taken with parameters like group delay than the 300 baud version.
A bit more on the Commodore Datasette from Wikipedia:
In the Datasette, instead of writing two tones to tape to indicate bits, patterns of square waves are used including a parity bit. Programs are written twice to tape for error correction; if an error is detected when reading the first recording, the computer corrects it with data from the second.
And:
Because of its digital format the Datasette is both more reliable than other data cassette systems and very slow, transferring data at around 50 bytes per second; even the very slow Commodore 1541 floppy drive is much faster
Last edited by RobC on Wed May 01, 2019 4:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

B3_B3_B3
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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by B3_B3_B3 » Wed May 01, 2019 7:18 pm

Richard Russell wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 2:48 pm
...The BBC took a particular interest in the Beeb's Cassette/ROM Filing System and associated hardware. As is well known, it's the only part of the MOS in which BBC engineers took a direct role: not in the coding (although in close liaison with the programmer, whose name escapes me at the moment) but certainly in developing the protocols and testing. .....
Thats very interesting: I assumed the lauded tape blocks idea was Acorn's (although once a block wouldn't load on my tape machine it usually never did even if it then loaded OK on my friends 'load anything' hitachi).

I remember The Micro User's Mike Cook (hardware writer) writing that the Automatic Gain Control on standard cassette decks was what made them less reliable and wondering why none were marketed as AGC free/or with 'disable-able AGC'..

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Richard Russell
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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Richard Russell » Wed May 01, 2019 7:48 pm

B3_B3_B3 wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 7:18 pm
Thats very interesting: I assumed the lauded tape blocks idea was Acorn's
It's too long ago for me to remember exactly how responsibility was split between Acorn and the BBC, but we had more of a role than in any other aspect of the MOS. From the start it was expected that cassette tapes could be used for data files as well as program files, making a block-based system essential (and a relay to switch the tape transport); the ability to rewind-and-retry was I think secondary. David King, who was I think the BBC engineer most involved, might well remember more.
the Automatic Gain Control on standard cassette decks was what made them less reliable
I really can't think why, since the modulation scheme was FM rather than AM and nominally constant-amplitude, and the steady-tone leader should have allowed the AGC to stablilse before the modulation started. I would have expected AGC to be helpful rather than the opposite.

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Re: DRAGON USER gripes about the Computer Literacy Programme.....

Post by Prime » Thu May 02, 2019 9:28 am

The Dragon & CoCo also used a block based tape format, though unlike the beeb they didn't have a block number and the error correction wasn't as good....you couldn't rewind the tape to retry like you could on the beeb, I guess because of the lack of a block counter.
As Dragon / CoCo basic is effectively MS basic I wonder if any of the other MS basics also supported this e.g. Commodore / MSX? I'm pretty certain that it was also a feature of IBM ROM based basic.

Not suggesting anyone stole from anyone more a case of parallel independent development.

Cheers.

Phill.

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