IBM compatible upgrade for BBC Model B
IN a sideways move that looks as if it's going to leave rivals
far behind, Data Technology has announced an IBM compatible upgrade
for the BBC Model B.
Produced by a team whose members originally worked on the BBC
Micro and Torch computers, the Graduate will upgrade the BBC Micro
to a 16 bit business computer.
The development means that the Graduate plus the BBC Micro will
give buyers IBM capability more cheaply than buying the IBM PC
itself - with the possibility of full colour as well.
So far BBC upgrades, including Acorn's own Z80 second processor,
have tended to base their products around CP/M compatible machines.
The strategy has been to open the wide range of CP/M software
to the BBC Micro owner.
But this ignores the fact that the major thrust of software
development is increasingly towards the IBM Personal Computer,
which uses PC DOS, not CP/M.
With the Graduate, it is claimed, BBC Micro owners will be able
to take advantage of this ever-increasing and highly sophisticated
The package looks extremely competitive. The minimum system
-G400 - selling at £599. gives the BBC Micro not only 128k
of RAM expandable up to 1.2 mbytes, but also a 400k BASF disc
drive -independent of the BBC Micro's DFS.
The second system, G800. selling at £869. has twin disc
drives plus full colour word processing, spreadsheet and database
Both systems have expansion slots to take advantage of the wide
range of IBM add-ons such as communication cards and hard discs.
Driving force behind Data Technology is Martin Vleiland-Boddy,
the founder of Torch Computers.
Said Martin: "We've got a winning team together. On the
hardware side there's Alan Wright, who worked on the BBC Micro
and the Torch. For software we've got Paul Bond, who wrote the
BBC Micro OS, to help us.
"And, of course, on the financial side there's my brother
Clive, who's worked widely as a consultant for companies such
as Acorn and Sinclair".
FOR ACORN, MICROVITEC
ACORN Computers has won the Queen's Award for Technological
Achievement for the BBC Micro. The award pays special tribute
to the BBC Micro's advanced design and it commends Acorn "for
the development of a microcomputer system with many innovative
Chris Curry, Acorn's managing director, said: "This is
a special honour for Acorn because it highlights the technical
achievements of the BBC Micro system.
"We have consistently aimed to design computers that have
set technological standards instead of merely meeting a price.
"Our approach is vindicated, both by the award and by the
fact that two years since it was launched the BBC Micro is still
the most advanced computer of its kind".
The award also goes to Microvitec for the innovative technology
of their Cub colour monitors.
The news came as Microvitec celebrated a record £9 million
turnover in what is still only their fourth full year of operation.
Since the Cub monitors were introduced they have won approval
from the BBC, the Department of Industry, the Department of the
Environment and are said to be currently used in 95 per cent of
Microvitec head Tony Martinez said: "I understand we are
one of the youngest companies to receive the honour.
"Our market success during the four years of our operation
has been entirely due to an all round team effort and the Queen's
Award comes as a marvellous tribute to the work of all concerned".
A LEADING software house has made a technological breakthrough
which it believes will scupper most of the pirates currently pillaging
Rochdale-based A & F has developed the software at a cost
of £20,000 to enable an anti-copying device to become 95
per cent effective.
"We now have a system that will make it virtually impossible
for school children and computer clubs to make audio copies or
computer dumped copies of our software", Mike Fitzgerald,
the company's managing director, told The Micro User.
"Not only that, but it will have serious implications for
the professional pirates".
The device has been patented by Jim Lamont of JLC Data, Barnsley,
who hit the headlines recently when the Minis- try of Defence
snapped up a similar invention of his and placed an embargo on
"We had been talking to Jim Lamont about the one the MoD
grabbed when the government stepped in and brought an end to that",
says Mike Fitzgerald.
"It was at this point we decided to evaluate an earlier
system of his. Now, three months later, we have the software to
make it work".
Pseudo user groups are expelled
COMPANIES with a commercial interest in the burgeoning BBC Micro
market are trying to muscle in on the user group scene in the
hope of making a financial gain, according to a spokesman for
the Association of Computer Clubs.
The ACC is so concerned about the trend that it recently expelled
Beebug and Laserbug from its membership.
"We were very unhappy about the fact that these organisations
described themselves as user groups but in fact both clearly existed
for commercial gain", said the spokesman.
Soft sales soar
DYNABYTE Software reports steeply rising sales graphs since
they attended the Electron and BBC Micro User Show in March.
Although it was their first show, and they had one of the smallest
stands, there was a queue to try out the games on their two BBC
According to sales executive Ian Mortimer business was "extremely
busy". Dynabyte plan to be at the Electron and BBC Micro
User Show in Manchester this August.
The firm has also had good reactions from customers about new
packaging, which bears screen dumps so that games fans can get
a better idea of what a game actually looks like when played.
Electronic mail network aids appeal
MICRONET 800 achieved a first using the BBC Micro over Easter
when it linked up with Capital Radio in a charity appeal.
The result was that subscribers to the electronic mail network
pledged a total of £1,000 to the radio station's "Help
a London Child" scheme.
Two or Micronet's staff were on standby at Capital Radio throughout
the Easter weekend, armed with a BBC Micro and modem to accept
While the station's disc jockeys were encouraging regular listeners
to contribute over the airwaves, the Micronet team were exhorting
their own subscribers to take part by regularly posting bulletin
boards on the viewdata service's database.
"It was a very successful exercise", said Adam Denning,
Micronet's software and technical editor.
"We updated the screen every time we received a pledge
in order to keep the interest going".
Tom's micro is the key to a bright new world
THOMAS Lindley has recently started his schooling. And so far
he has delighted his widowed mother by being able to string a
few words together — even though he is 46 years old.
For he was born a spastic and has remained almost completely
crippled all his life.
In fact up until a few weeks ago, he was unable to master even
a simple "yes" or "no".
It is little wonder then that most people dismissed him as having
the IQ of a five year old.
Then along came social worker Frank Arbour, who introduced him
to a BBC Micro - and the real Thomas Lindley is now about to stand
up and be counted.
A few simple tests on the keyboard was enough to reveal that
Thomas, far from being mentally retarded, may in fact be a man
of considerable intelligence.
"We are already convinced that most of Thomas's learning
problems stemmed from the frustrations imposed by his physical
limitations", Frank Arbour told The Micro User.
"Naturally it has not been easy going. We have found considerable
difficulties due to the fact that his disabilities prevent him
from making the maximum use out of the conventional keyboard.
"However we expect that people already working in this
field will be able to provide some of the answers in the not too
The Tameside social worker and his colleagues working on the
case are hoping that not only will the BBC Micro open up educational
horizons for Thomas but also eventually allow him some control
of his environment.
What they would like to see is him using the micro to control
electrical appliances around his home in Dukinfield where he lives
with his 82-year-old mother.
"If he could use it to switch on lights or boil a kettle,
that in itself would be a major breakthrough", said Frank
The BBC Micro now installed at his house has been bought jointly
by the local authority and the Greater Manchester Spastics Association.
The Rev Oswald Lloyd-Roberts, director of the Association, said:
"Inside Tommy is a lot of speaking. But we can't understand
him and he gets very frustrated.
"At last he is going to be able to communicate with people".
The case of Thomas Lindley moved Paul Hartland of Information
Technology, the Government-sponsored training scheme involving
the disabled, to comment:
"Too many people still think of home computers as games
machines. I believe we are now going to see their real value.
It is all very exciting".
In the race
ALLIGATA Software of Sheffield is co-sponsoring a racing car
20,000 see the big show
And now it moves to a bigger venue
MORE than 20,000 visitors flocked to see the latest Electron
and BBC Micro User Show held at the New Horticultural Hall, London,
recently — some 2,000 up on the previous event last year.
At one time during the peak day on Saturday, one of the two
turnstiles in operation had to be closed to reduce the intake
as the large hall was packed to capacity.
And reports of record takings during the four days were received
from the majority of the 83 exhibitors who attended the show.
"Naturally we were delighted with the overwhelming success",
said a spokesman for Database Publications, organisers of the
"For our last show had been held just before Christmas
which meant that central London was already swamped with people.
"To attract even more people to a March show proves that
the public's interest in the BBC Micro and Electron - and all
the hardware and software being produced for both machines - is
growing all the time.
"It certainly justifies our decision to hold five shows
a year - just to satisfy the demand".
Because of soaring interest the next London show moves to a
much bigger venue - Alexandra Palace in North London.
Put these dates in your diary:
July 19-22: Alexandra Palace, London.
August 31-September 2: UMIST, Manchester.
October 25-28: Alexandra Palace, London.
December 6-9: New Horticultural Hall, London.
Meanwhile back at the most recent show, an attempt to play computer
games non-stop for 24 hours failed by just 55 minutes when the
14-year-old boy involved dropped off to sleep.
However Derek Crea-sey, from Stockport, is still eligible for
inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records for completing his marathon
23 hours and five minutes ordeal.
The event was held to coincide with the opening of the record-breaking
four day show.
"Up until about 20 hours he was going strong", reports
one of the organisers.
"But then he developed a headache. So when he finally nodded
off we hadn't got the heart to wake him up".
The world record attempt was linked to medical research to estab-lish
whether or not prolonged playing of computer games can be harmful.
In order to study this Derek Creasey was hooked up to an ECG
machine which monitored his progress throughout.
He was also tested at regular intervals for dis-orientation,
lack of concentration and other possible ill effects.
Provisional results have given the current computer games craze
the all clear.
"During the attempt he showed no obvious signs of stress
at all", said a medical observer.
"In fact the only symptom he displayed was what anyone
else would have shown after 23 hours and five minutes non-stop
doing anything - and that was just plain old fashioned tiredness".
Video training via BBC micro
THE Department of Trade and Industry is putting £100,000
into a project to produce an educational video system based partly
on the BBC Micro.
It will train microelectronics technicians at the college run
by the electricians' trade union, which is also putting cash into
The idea is to combine unchanging information held on a laser
video disc with volatile information stored on a BBC Micro.
The video disc will hold a mixture of still frames, live action
and stock footage. Computer graphics will represent electronic
circuits for fault diagnosis.
The system will go on sale to industry and training institutions
According to Eric Parsloe, whose company, Epic Industrial Communications
is setting up the system, it will provide a low cost solution
to a major industrial training and productivity problem. In addition
it should help give the UK the lead over other countries.
Contest for prep school pupils
PUPILS in preparatory schools are to have their own national
computing contest, based on the BBC Micro.
The competition - the first of its kind — is being run by Satips,
the Society of Assistants Teaching in Preparatory Schools.
Contestants can submit either educational programs or games
for two contests, one for under 11 s and another for over 11s.
All programs, maximum 75 lines, must be original and bug-free.
They must be submitted via a Satips member of school staff.
The entry fee is £1 for each program and the closing date
is December 1. Prizes are not yet finalised.
Full details are available from the organiser. Robert Robson,
who teaches science at a Norwich prep school. Tel: 0603 868982).
Bibby on Basic
MIKE Bibby, Features Editor of Micro User, will be running a
weekend course in BBC Basic for absolute beginners in July.
The course will be held at the University of Manchester's Holly
Royde College. Starting at 6.45pm on Friday, July 6 it lasts until
4pm the following Sunday.
''The idea is to follow the same style I use in my beginners
articles", said Mike, already an experienced lecturer on
beginners Basic for the extra-mural department of the university.
"We'll be starting at the very beginning and building up
slowly from there, learning good programming techniques as we
"The aim is that by the end of the weekend even those who
knew nothing about the micro will have a thorough grounding in
Electronic classroom takes its bow
THE classroom of the future took a bow at the Electron and BBC
Micro User Show — and in doing so fueled the controversial debate
about the future role of teachers.
"We set out to be provocative and succeeded", said
Peter Brameld, of Database Publications, one of the joint organisers
of the electronic classroom stand.
"Many teachers and theorists are worried that the computer
will eventually replace the teacher in the classroom and that
pupils will develop learning relationships with software programs
and not with their teachers", he said.
"We wanted to bring these fears into the open for proper
discussion, and to support the idea that computers should be used
simply as a valuable teaching tool or aid to complement a teacher's
The Electronic Classroom featured 10 BBC Micros linked to the
Symbnet local area network from Symbiotic Computer Systems.
The system was first developed for Apple computers, and has
many similarities to the professional network used in a business
Message switching allows a supervisor to send messages to individual
users, to groups or to all users of the network.
Project identities are allotted to users and these can be used
as addresses for messages to various groups of people.
The messages are stored on disc until they are acknowledged
A password facility means it is possible to keep information
confidential when required.
A major feature is that expensive peripherals such as disc drives
and printers can be shared between micros.
And use of fibre optic cables means the maximum distance between
any two computers on the system is nine kilometers.
This is particularly useful for universities or colleges of
further education where resources and departments are often split
over several locations.
The BBC Symbnet will run Acorn DFS software without modification
and DFS ROMs are not required, say Symbiotic. It is also compatible
with the tube.
Econet 2, the enhanced version of Acorn's networking system,
is due for release next month.
It will be demonstrated at the next Electron and BBC Micro User
Show to be held in London's Alexandra Palace.
GOING BANANAS OVER BEES
THE Windward Islanders have gone bananas over the BBC Micro.
The machines, supplied by Broadway Electronics of Bedford, will
be used to reorganise stock control for the Caribbean islands'
main crop — bananas.
More than £2,500 worth of equipment, based around the
BBC Micro and Broadway's own disc drives, have been flown out,
following an order handled by the Crown Agents.
A specially insulated crate was used to protect the equipment
from the tropical heat during transit.
How did this British company land an order from half-way around
The Windward Islands Banana Growers Association in St Lucia
was put into contact with them via the Agricultural Research Council
and the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering, which
is also a client of the computer company.
Paul Vaughan, Broadway's MD, said: "This order illustrates
the versatility of the BBC Micro".
ROM based software takes off
FIRMWARE - software stored on a ROM chip - is becoming standard
for serious programs for the BBC Micro.
This is so much so that in many cases the available sockets
inside the BBC Micro have been used up and enthusiasts have turned
to ROM expansion boards in order to fit all their chips.
Watford Electronics, one of the leading firms selling ROM-based
software, has issued a new 13 ROM expansion board for the BBC
The firm has also produced enough utility chips to fill all
As well as the Watford DFS and the Beebmon machine code monitor,
written by Andrew Bray of The Advanced User Guide fame, the firm
has produced two new graphics screen dump chips.
The first, Dump Out 2, is a machine code hi-res screen dump
ROM for a wide range of printers.
The second chip, the Epson Dump ROM, is designed specifically
for Epson RX and" FX printers, allowing teletext graphics
as well as mul-titone screen dumps.
Watford is also entering the micro communications revolution
with its Termemu terminal emulator ROM for the BBC Micro and its
Prestel Interface ROM.
Computer Concepts, already well known for the Wordwise word
processor, is also expanding its range of firmware.
In addition to the graphics ROM and the Printmaster printer
utility, it has released Caretaker, a Basic utility ROM.
Among other things Caretaker will allow the Basic programmer
to recover a crashed or corrupted program and selectively renumber
and/ or save parts of a program.
It also allows the use of single key entry of keywords.
Also planned for release - when the ROM chips are available
- is the Accelerator, Computer Concepts' long-awaited BBC Basic
This is claimed to be the first full floating-point compiler
available for the BBC Micro.
Acorn in laser disc drives deal
ACORN is to take part in a joint venture to manufacture laser
disc drives in Hong Kong.
The company has reached agreement with BSR International to
set up a new manufacturing operation under the name of Optical
Information Systems in the Crown Colony.
A joint statement was released by Hermann Hauser, Acorn's chairman,
and W.R.A. Wyllie, chairman of BSR International after the conclusion
of successful talks in Hong Kong.
Optical Information Systems' first product will be a compact
laser disc drive which, claim the makers, will feature greater
storage capacity, reliability and faster access times than currently
available with floppy and hard discs.
This is in line with the new company's long term strategy to
develop digital optical technology for computer data storage and
HEARD ON THE GRAPEVINE..
ALREADY known for its disc drives and the Amcom DFS, Pace has
entered the rapidly growing field of micro communications with
the Grapevine modem.
The low-cost hard wired device plugs directly into the telephone
system by way of a standard jackplug.
It is capable of operating at 300/300 baud full duplex and also
1200/75 baud, the Prestel rate.
This means that using the Grapevine and suitable software, BBC
Micro owners can access Prestel databases.
They can also use bulletin boards such as The Micro User's own
It can even go international, as it supports both the European
and American transmission frequencies.
Pace is also supplying ROM-based software to work with modems
such as the Grapevine in the form of Commstar.
This "drives" the modem, effectively turning the BBC
Micro into a terminal with access to databases and bulletin boards
throughout the world.
Race on for Z80 second processor
UPGRADE Technology is running neck and neck with Acorn in the
race to launch a Z80 second processor for the BBC Micro.
As The Micro User went to press, it was clear that only a day
or two separated the two companies.
Upgrade's commercial director Steve Matthews said: "Although
not the first Z80 second processor to hit the market, ours has
many advantages over the others".
Upgrade's product, which will be available first from northern
dealers, has its own built in power supply and is a completely
It has an internal disc controller, so does not rely on the
micro having a DFS, and is suitable for either model A or B.
The disc controller will handle two drives, which can be easily
and independently installed by the user via a software utility.
The unit also includes an expansion bus that allows the user
to plug in up to three add-on boards.
These will expand the unit's RAM from 64k to 256k, adding serial,
parallel or IEEE interfaces, extra hard disc storage or stereo
sound synthesis. The Acorn product, though different in detail,
is understood to be largely similar. It costs about £100
more, but this is offset by a large amount of bundled software.
Acorn's deal includes free office productivity programs - word
processing, spreadsheet, database and graphics — a system generator
for application software, plus CIS Cobol, Professional Basic and
OLYMPICS ON BBC MICRO
THE BBC Micro has been programmed to simulate the world's best
athletes in the main track and field events which feature in the
In all cases - allowing for a slight random element - the computer
achieves the current world record.
Ranging from the 100 metres to the hammer throw, it is accurate
in all details from times to distances.
The games program package involved - called Micro Olympics -
has taken several months to write due to the complexities involved.
Players attempt to beat the computer and so establish a world
record of their own.
• See special offer on Page 79.
Hints for Hobbit fans
GOOD news for adventure fans who find The Hobbit habit forming
but can't get there and back again.
Melbourne House has published "A Guide to Playing the Hobbit"
by David Elkan. It is the First time that a guide has been published
for a BBC Micro adventure.
In three increasingly easy stages the reader is taken through
the program's problems and pitfalls, with hints and explanations
given as necessary. As the game is different every time it is
played, the guide is not a unique solution to the program, more
a manual of strategy.