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Back to humble 8 bit beginnings

By Chris Williams. Published: 24th Oct 2002, 22:51:46 | Permalink | Printable

Sprow's Mini BBC B microcomputer announced

8bit is where it all began, where the whole Acorn era started and progressed from and why you're sitting here reading this very web site. They say mighty oaks grow from from little acorns, this is certainly true given the evolution of Acorn hardware from the BBC B to the Archimedes to the RiscPC. And while the days of the 6502 may seem a long time ago for some, a good deal of it lives on today. The old MOS OS_Byte routines still exist in one form or another in RISC OS; for example, open a * prompt and type 'fx 0' to display the OS version in your machine. Once upon a time, that would have reported simply 'OS 1.2'.

So the BBC B, the microcomputer powered by the 6502 8 bit microprocessor that made Acorn's name in the UK education field in the 1980s and had a huge following with users enjoying a huge selection of classic games and applications as well as many breaking into programming using the built in BASIC interpreter. We loved the simplicity and versatility of the old Beeb and drobe.co.uk is indeed happy to reveal that Robert "Sprow" Sprowson has this month developed a BBC Micro clone. Get this, it's the size of a floppy disc. How cute is that?

"After much behind the scenes work I am pleased to be able to inform interested readers of the release of 'MiniB',the floppy disc sized BBC micro compatible 6502 home brew computer", announced Sprow in his post to csa.annnounce. "...The only minor draw back is that you have to build it yourself"

According to Sprow, the MiniB features:

  • 128k flash for OS and applications software
  • 32k SRAM
  • PS/2 keyboard port
  • IIC bus with Y2K compatible real time clock
  • 20x4 LCD display
  • BBC micro compatible 1MHz bus
  • A BBC MOS like OS which features all the usual OS_Byte suspects, it even runs BBC BASIC.

Check out this photo if you don't believe us, BBC PDA anyone? We eagerly sought Sprow regarding his little gem and one email later, this is what he had to say for himself:

"It originally spawned from me always promising my parent's I'd do them a burglar alarm system - I layed all the cabling and put the box up but couldn't decide what to use as the controller", explained Sprow. "I then thought about how easy it would be to do with a beeb (a burglar alarm written in BASIC!) but that a beeb mounted on the kitchen wall would look a bit daft.
"The OS source is about 59k of BASIC assembler,which boils down to a 6k ROM image.There's still quite a bit missing,but it should fit comfortably in the 16k flash region.It's assembled in the !65Tube emulator on a Risc PC."

At the moment, Sprow can only offer blank PCBs for you to get started with; expect fully built and tested units to be on sale early in the new year.


MiniB webpage

Previous: Taking 32bit for Vantage
Next: October round up


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Going to have to buy one :)

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 24/10/02 11:09PM
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I haven't a clue what I'm going to do with one, but it's still cute :)

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 25/10/02 12:00AM
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Cute. Lovely.

 is a RISC OS Userian on 25/10/02 12:16AM
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It's kinda tempting... hardware and myself don't get on, so if built boards were available, that'd be cute :-)

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 25/10/02 12:35AM
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I'll wait for the fully built units myself... I can't wait!

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 25/10/02 9:23AM
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Crazy stuff. Why bother with 32bit when 8bit has been there all along! :)

 is a RISC OS UserSnig on 25/10/02 1:45PM
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Ooooh the possibilities, well ok theres not that many but it's bloody cute :)

 is a RISC OS UserNoMercy on 25/10/02 8:42PM
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Nice one Sprow,

Does this thing have 1MHz bus output ? If so it'd be pretty neat for controlling things (and because it runs BBC BASIC a lot easier than those darn PIC's).

Anyway again congrats

-- Annraoi

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 26/10/02 5:03PM
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