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BBC Micro

Keybordle spotted a BBC Micro in London's science museum, giving an opportunity to mention its historic role.
Published September 9, 2022
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There were two posts about the Acorn / BBC Micro this week. Although I've always thought it is simply too common to be featured on this blog, I had to realize you may read this from any point of the world and it may be still of some interest.

So the BBC Microcomputer System from Acorn Computers Ltd, commonly known as the BBC Micro or Beeb, was a series of microcomputers introduced in the United Kingdom in the early 80s. During its lifespan there were over 1.5 million units manufactured from 1981 to 1994.

Acorn Computers Ltd., a British computer company, dominated the UK computer market, and at some point in the 80s, almost every school in the UK had at least one of these BBC Micros. In fact, it had its own TV show on BBC2 (The Computer Programme).

As you probably know, I'm a big fan of computers of this era with their gorgeous keycaps and weird layouts preceding any keyboard standards.

What's more interesting though is that, as RationalTim points out, every smartphone, current MacBook Pro, Android phone can effectively trace its roots back to this computer: "Its processor is the genesis for ARM..."

ARM in the beginning was known as Acorn RISC machine. ARM1, the first ARM silicon (introduced in 1985) was used as a second processor to the BBC Micro to develop the simulation software to finish work on the support chips and to increase the operating speed of the CAD software used in development of ARM2 (source).

Apple, whilst developing a new computing platform for its Newton, found that only Acorn RISC machine was close to the requirements needed for implementation, but since ARM had no integral memory management unit, Apple collaborated with Acorn to develop ARM.

The result of this collaboration was a separate company, ARM Ltd, established in 1990. FYI, there were about 20 billion ARM chips shipped in 2020 – 800-900 per second (source). In 2021, they celebrated the 200 billion chip mark.

Btw, Acorn, a trading name of CPU Ltd., has something to do with Apple too:

Acorn was chosen because the microcomputer system was to be expandable and growth-oriented. It also had the attraction of appearing before "Apple Computer" in a telephone directory.


The BBC Micro was Jonathan's first computer back in the 80s and he shared some interesting resources after reading the post:

Tynemouth Software (in the UK) sells a USB adaptor kit that allows a BBC keyboard to be used as a USB keyboard.

(While the BBC keyboard came in several variations, they were all mechanical – but none were Cherry MX-compatible. Later BBC Master 128 units used Cherry MY which is sort-of compatible. More info on Deskthority.)

Jonathan even has a video showing the conversion process:


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Published on Fri 9th Sep 2022. Featured in KBD #94 (source).


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