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Rare Acorn graphics joystick in auction

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th Oct 2005, 22:38:12 | Permalink | Printable

Useful for designing sheds and blasting Elite pirates

Photo of BitStik and kitA bizarre piece of forgotten Acorn history has turned up on online auction house ebay: a cross between a joystick and hand drawing tool, the Bitstik. Put up for sale by Paul Skirrow, the kit includes a ROM chip and software for a BBC microcomputer fitted with a second 6502 processor.

The gadget attempts to convert a BBC B into a CAD workstation. And it can be used as a joystick for Elite players, if you don't have a second processor. It'll come as no surprise to read that Paul says the rare joystick is probably the nicest he's ever used.

Update at 22:13 7/10/2005
The auction has ended early, and the BitStik sold for 119 quid.


Bitstik leaflet and auction

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I saw one of these systems in action when I was at college, probably 1985/85. It was impressive to say it was running on a Beeb. I think it was developed by ROBO systems.

Very nice, although a lot of the joystick functionality was how it was interpreted by the software.

 is a RISC OS Userdemondb on 7/10/05 8:57AM
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Gawd did I lust over one of those when I was a kid, the vector based graphics software looked amazing with very innovative control using the 3 axis joystick. I beleive the system retailed for around 2000, so it was a bit out of range of my pocket money at the time :(

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 7/10/05 9:33AM
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I've got one at home - I either bought it at the Wakefield show a few years back, or I got it from my old school when they got rid of their BBC stuff (can't remember!)

I don't have the software for it, but Elite was fun with it!

From memory there were two versions - one with potentiometers, and the other with optical movement. I could be wrong on that, though...

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 7/10/05 11:24AM
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I've got an old Acorn pamphlet somewhere that includes an advert for the bitstik. Always looked like a tasty bit of kit. The pamphlet must be from some point just before the olivetti takeover, as it's got an advert on the back for the ABC range of machines.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 7/10/05 11:36AM
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Me too!!! I've got one, scaved it from school when they were clearing out (one of the perks of working there). It does indeed feel like the classiest joystick ever. Just looked at ebay, 119quids eek! Am off to polish me joystick ;-).

 is a RISC OS Userniftybit on 8/10/05 3:39PM
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Seems like a useful tool for minimising RSI. Is this kit at all compatible with a SARPC? With a view to using RiscCAD.


 is a RISC OS Userpetermcc on 10/10/05 4:21PM
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I would imagine the interface is a 9 way D type serial, as this would be all the BBC B would have. Even if it was TUBE or USER PORT, the RPC would still be unable to use it.

I did use a Marconi RB2 Trackerball on the original A310. I don't know if these are still available, or compatible. The problem with trackerball type devices on a modern desktop is that the screen does not scroll automatically, you have to either drag a scroll bar, or move the pointer back to access toolbars.

In my experience, I would stick with the mouse. If RSI is becoming a problem, try increasing the mouse sensitivity, or reducing it, so you either move your arm more or less to try and give it a larger range of movement.

 is a RISC OS Userdemondb on 10/10/05 9:30PM
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I beleive the stick used the analogue port for the X,Y and Z axis, and was set up in absolute mode (position on screen proportional to displacement), rather than the relative mode of game joysticks (displacement determines speed of movement). The approximate 10bit accuracy of the Beeb's ADC would have been fine for hitting each pixel on a 640x256 screen, but would require quite a bit more accuracy for the higher res screens used today. I don't think it was self centering making driving it in relative mode difficult, and you'd only end up with a glorified laptop nipple which doesn't suit everyone.

If the mouse is becoming a problem try a graphics tablet, as holding a pen can be more relaxing for some types of operation such as clicking and dragging, and of course is particular good for drawing graphics. For other things such as drag and drop with buttons held at the same time its more difficult, and the mouse still wins out for general desktop manipulation.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 13/10/05 9:41AM
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