Retro Computers - Acorn BBC Master - Retro Computer

BBC Master
Once but the learner, now the master.

The BBC Master. More serious computing from those boffins that gave us the good old Beeb.

Acorns BBC Model B was a heavyweight computer, and it's superior and modernised sibling was a super heavy weight!

I'm sure when our school took delivery of it's one and only Master (the head machine in the computer room) it was dropped off by a fork lift truck and carried in to the building by a large green bloke wearing ripped purple trousers. But maybe my memory is not all that it was...

Even larger than it's predecessor, it had more memory than most model B's in the shape of 128k. The processor had also been improved, the slightly faster 65SC12 cpu. Sitting above the numberical keypad were two cartridge slots, for using with.... cartridges maufactured by Acorn.

Unfortunately very little software (very few classic games!) was released on this format so the slots ended up handy enough for storing biro's and a slimline calculator.

The sound chip had also been improved, the Model B's three channels had been upgraded to four by use of the Texas Instruments SN76489 sound chip.

The graphics modes available could be utilised to great effect due to the machine having it's own video memory, which had been a limitation of the Model A and Model B.

The master was also backwards compatible, but many user's found that older software (and especially older classic games) would not run on their new mega behemoth, so compatibilty was not 100%.

Several ROM software packages were built into the machine such as View (a word processor), ViewSheet (a spreadsheet), ADFS (Advanced Filing System), a text editor and even terminal utilities. Touches like this made the Master and ideal choice for schools, college and universities.
The Master also came in different versions:

  • The standard 128 (named for it's massive 128k of RAM)
  • The Master Turbo - this jet powered baby sported duel processor technology, doubling it's speed from 2mhz to 4mhz. An existing master 128 could also be upgraded to match a turbo - once you had hired the A-Team to dismantle the bullet proof casing and install the second processor for you
  • The Master AIV (which was an abbreivation for Advanced Interactive Videodisc) was a Master Turbo model which also had a SCSI interface and a video filing system. A monitor and trackerball were also included in the package, making for a very professional setup.
It was also possible to modify a standard Master and turn it into one of these systems by adding all of the extra peripherals to it.

The Master AIV was basically the platform used to run the ominously titled BBC Domesday Project - what a fantastic title though to be thought up during the cold war era. But that is a topic for a different discussion.

The Master was produced right the way through to 1993, which is some achievment considering the foothold the 16-bit machines had taken, and the rise of Apple and PC machines.

Throw a salute to the BBC Master! A fine retro computer.

We recommend trying to pick up one of these machines.
Look at computers for sale online or even locally.

If you don't want to get hold of the real hardware then try and download an emulator and
download those classic games. Alternatively you could try and play them online.

NAME: BBC Master
MANUFACTURER: Acorn Computer
MACHINE TYPE: 8-Bit Home Micro (educational software and classic games)
RELEASE YEAR: February 1986
KEYBOARD: Full stroke 93 key with numeric keypad and 10 function keys
CPU: 65C102 (which was an evolution of the 6502 cpu)
RAM: 128 KB
ROM: 128 KB (Which was also expandable)
TEXT MODES: 40/80 x 25 lines, 20/40/80 x 32, Teletex mode (40 x 25 x 8 colours)
GRAPHIC MODES: 160/320/640 x 256 dots in 2 to 8 colours
COLORS: 8 among 16
SOUND: 4 chanels, 8 octaves - SN76489 sound generator
SIZE / WEIGHT: 46.7 (W) x 34.5 (D) x 7.5 (H) cm.
I/O PORTS: Top Quality. Tube expansion, BBC High Speed Bus, FDD interface, User interface, RS423 serial, Analog, Econet network, Parallel, tape recorder, TV/RF, RGB & Composite outputs,
BUILT IN MEDIA: Cassette & FDD interfaces
POWER SUPPLY: Built-in switching power supply unit
PERIPHERALS: External FDD unit, processor card, and lots more
PRICE: £499

Retro Computers and classic games


Anonymous said...

fond memories of using these in school, once I figured out the network had no security I had great fun sticking rude words into peoples essays :-)


Happy days :-)