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The enduring appeal of the BBC Micro


After over 30 years, I was thinking that I should part company with my much-loved BBC Micro with its twin disc drives and colour monitor. Somehow it had come to seem part of the family, although in truth it was bought for professional reasons. It was my workhorse word processor on which many books were written, including Inside Information (BBC Publications, 1985) and the manual for Wordwise Plus, its instant word processing ROM chip with a powerful built-in programming language. It was supplanted only in 1989 by a Macintosh IIcx.

Thinking that I should try it on eBay, rather than consign it to landfill, I assembled it ten days ago to see if it still worked. I tried out an endearing Acornsoft program called Podd, which leapt into life immediately (my fingers haven't forgotten how to Shift-Break or *W.). I thought it might be interesting to see how grand-daughter Amy, aged 7 and well used to iPhones, iPads, Kindle Fires and other technotoys, would react to its prehistoric clunky graphics, electronic beeps and simple interface. She absolutely loved it, just as her uncle and mother had loved Podd at her age. By this time I had looked out what a friend described as the largest collection of legal educational software for the BBC Micro that he had ever seen and was wondering what to try next, once she was bored with Podd - when disaster struck. A sharp crackle, a smell of burning and smoke started to billow - so I hastily unplugged it from the wall! Amy was first terrified and then really upset: poor Podd, she worried, would have been hurt, and protectively she picked up his box to cuddle him!

Thinking the power supply had blown, I realised that this made the eBay decision much easier, and last Sunday I listed the still-working disc drive and display screen on eBay. This has triggered dozens of messages from BBC aficionados: some explained that I could and should repair the BBC micro, rather than sell it, another had used Wordwise while at school and thus knew of my manual and prompt cards. Others again wanted to buy the dead computer as well as its peripherals, another wanted me to ship it all outside Great Britain. Some were at pains to assure me that it would be going to a home that would look after it well, and another was appealing to me to sell it for a house containing "a living timeline of vintage systems". Clearly this listing has touched a communal nerve of computing history, just as Podd has endeared himself to successive generations. Without the demise of the power system, I still wonder if I would have been strong enough to part with it.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 16, 2013 1:42 PM.

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