Thursday, March 20, 2008

BBC Micro and Literacy Project - teams reuniting at Science Museum (this afternoon)

BBC Computer Literacy Project Owl logo

Every now and again, AiB reverts to some Acorn reminiscing. Formative teenage years spent compiling assembler to load into sideways memory banks, getting a programme published (incomplete) in Acorn User, and being taught how to make letters fall down people’s screen by an IT teacher.

So my eye caught the Technology section’s headline on BBC News online this morning ...

'Beeb' creators reunite at museum

Bit late notice unless you’ve got a few hours free in London this afternoon. But you could do worse than head around to the Science Museum and join in the seminar being hosted by their Computer Conservation Society.

It’s in the Fellows Library of the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD. An exhibition of BBC micro hardware is available from 1.30pm, while the main event runs from 2.30pm until 5pm.

At selection of the original Acorn/BBC Literacy teams will be speaking:

  • The role of the micro within the BBC Computer Literacy Project - the genesis, scope, and impact of the project, and the role of the Micro within it. John Radcliffe, the Executive Producer for the BBC Computer Literacy Project will illustrate his talk with extracts from “The Computer Programme”.

  • Its legacy for the BBC - Micro applications, telesoftware, Domesday, and further innovations- led by George Auckland, Head of Learning Innovation at the BBC.

  • Steve Furber
  • Its technological legacy - ARM processor applications, the Cambridge phenomenon, computer architecture research. Steve Furber, CBE, Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Manchester, and one of the key designers of the BBC Micro will lead the discussion, including mention of the ARM microprocessor that is the dominant architecture in today’s mobile and embedded systems, as well as unpacking the cluster of companies and investors that continue to work in the high-tech economy around Cambridge.

  • Its educational legacy - Computer hardware and software in schools, standards and applications. The lead speaker is Mike Bostock, a key educational adviser in the 1980s, who will talk about the educational impact, its ease of use in schools, the take-up of hardware and software, innovation and consolidation, BBC Micros, Macs and PCs, and the continuing influence today of the 1980s generation of teachers.

Herman Hauser is also due to attend the event.

The exhibition this afternoon

“... will be displaying and running several computers from its collections as part of the meeting: a BBC Model B, a gold-plated BBC Micro, an Acorn Atom, Archimedes and Electron and a BBC Domesday System.”
BBC Micro

Watch out for a fuller BBC Micro exhibition in the Science Museum in 2009, coinciding with Dr Tilly Blyth’s book about the BBC micro project which is due to be published next year by Macmillan. Curator of Computing and Information at the Science Museum , Dr Tilly Blyth will be attending this afternoon, no doubt picking up some more history and background about the machine and the literacy project that surrounded it.

Ah ... just remember the deafeningly loud beep when you turned the machines on, or using Shift-BREAK to boot off a floppy.

Update - interviews with Steve Furber, Hermann Hauser, Sophie Wilson and John Radcliffe, along with a quick video.


Miffy said...

I remember being in P6 in late 1980s Strandtown and they had a 'computer club' after school in which we got to play the odd little teaching games on these things. We also had one at home and spent hours guiding pixels round the screen - then we spilled yogurt on it and it broke. Memories.

thebigandyt said...

One the first computer games i played was POD on the BBC. You had to finish this sentence, POD can... then he preformed the action on screen. After trying the obvious such as run, eat and sleep. The next half an hour was spent trying to get him to preform something more interesting. Apparently POD cannot fart.

Love the site, keep up the good work

Hal said...

A colleague of mine was at the recent science museum event and in preparation for it has set up a BBC Micro to read out the current BBC news RSS feeds, and then produce a podcast which you can get through iTunes. This alone is worthy enough of being called geeky, but in fact also shows the amazing capabilities of this remarkable machine.

Whilst the RSS reading antics do also rely on a couple of other (more modern) machines, the experiment shows the BBC Micro still has enough about it to be used creatively, even now.

In fact, if anyone has a BBC 'B' or Master, with or without a CUB monitor, that they want to see used as part of this experiment then I'd love to hear from you.

If you want to see what's going on, head over to and see it in action. You can ask it to read out your own text, and subscribe to the podcast. Please note, this is not a commercial or funded project - we are doing it for the fun of it!