A Very 2017 Take On A BBC Micro

In the early 1980s, there were a plethora of 8-bit microcomputers on the market, and the chances are that if you were interested in such things you belonged to one of the different tribes of enthusiasts for a particular manufacturer’s product. If you are British though there is likely to be one machine that will provide a common frame of reference for owners of all machines of that era: The Acorn BBC Microcomputer which was ubiquitous in the nation’s schools. This 6502-driven machine is remembered today as the progenitor and host of the first ARM processors, but at the time was notable for the huge array of built-in interfaces it contained. Its relatively high price though meant that convincing your parents to buy you one instead of a ZX Spectrum was always going to be an uphill struggle.

So, you never owned a BBC Micro, and this has scarred you for life. Never mind, all is not lost, for now you can have that Acorn experience without scouring eBay for a classic micro, by running one entirely in silicon on a myStorm FPGA board.

To be fair, running classic hardware on an FPGA is nothing new and there have been a few BBC Micros implemented in this way, not to mention an Acorn Atom. But this project builds on the previous FPGA BBC Micros by porting it entirely to Verilog and incorporating some of the bug fixes from their various forks. There are screenshots of the result running several classic games, as well as test screens and a benchmark revealing it to be a faithful reproduction of a 2MHz BBC Micro.

We covered the myStorm board when it arrived last year. We’ve also brought you another FPGA board running as a coprocessor for a real BBC micro.

Thanks [monsonite] for the tip. He also alerts us that the myStorm board’s ARM microcontroller can now be programmed from the Arduino IDE.

12 thoughts on “A Very 2017 Take On A BBC Micro

  1. cool project.
    But text like this always makes me grin “by porting it entirely to Verilog and incorporating some of the bug fixes from their various forks” because what it also means is that it will be introducing new bugs…
    But seriously now, cool project, this machine deserves the attention.

  2. “convincing your parents to buy you one instead of a ZX Spectrum was always going to be an uphill struggle.”

    I’m sure there is one kid out there, but really, convincing your parents to buy you a computer we use at school verses one with games… ?

    I faired no better, my parents bought me a commodore.
    Plus 4.

    1. Ouch. Torture.
      “Here boy, do the grocery bill accounting. Now tabulate just how much you cost us every month too feed, cloth you and give you a light to do your homework by.. Games?!?! I’ll teach you a GAME! Use the computer to write a letter to your mother confessing your shame Muhahhahahahaa!”

      To be fair, it was one of the few that could do all of that out of the box. Assuming you had storage or a printer.

    2. I was a lucky one, my dad setup the computer (Yes singular) at my school, he liked it so much that he bought one for home.

      I have fond memories of copying full games from the source code printed in magazines to floppy disks and sneeking them into school to play on the computer.

    3. When our late arriving Spectrum broke and turned out to be the wrong model my dad insisted on getting a BBC as a replacement, I wanted a C64. Glad he did though it was brilliant to use.

  3. Interesting, I’ve always liked the bbc b, but its a big lump of computer to take up space in my room, so a smaller fpga implementation of it sounds even better, elite on the bbc and c64 were the definite versions, and repton and thrust and citidel were good playable games on what everyone tried to pretend was just a educational computer.
    My parent/famil/relatives clubbed together and bought me a acorn electron for xmas which was touted as the same computer as the BBC model B except it had no mode7 (cefax) and no romsockets etc, and ran about half speed because of a 4 bit bus to the ram. It did run bbc basic though, and let me turn in a massive homemade database program in basic to run newspaper deliveries for a newsagent that netted me a O level in computer studies (brits will know how much that dates me). Years later I picked up a bbc b and dual disc drives for my collection but it got left behind moving country and the person storing it dumped it.
    Bet blackice orders go up after this publicity :-)

  4. I got a Commodore 64 and never look back. Did not like the bbc mirco we had them at school for computer lessons. Found them boring. I lean all my programming and stuff on a commodore computer which had more going for it and a lot programming magazines you do get and try and plus it had the famous SID chip with all them great sounds.

  5. I was lucky to have a BBC Model B bought for me when we moved house, I was about 10 years old and the year was 1983. It eventually got upgraded with a disk drive. Jump to now and I collect retro computers. What started off as collecting the ones I went through as a kid got out of hand and I now have around 40+ machines. That collection is mainly Commodore Amiga and BBC machines, 4 Master 128s and 5 Model Bs. I’ve got my main BBC Master set up next to my PC and it gets used regularly. I’ve also managed to upgrade the hell out of it. I’ve got a DataCentre External (gives me USB to and from my PC making software transfer sooo much easier (supports SSD and DSD images) and a 2GB hard drive for use with ADFS. Yes, that’s gigabytes and not megabytes!), 4x MultiOS switcher (OS1.2, OS2.0, MOS3.2 and MOS3.5), 2 battery backed-up SRAM cards for slots 0-3, PiTubeDirect which emulates several co-processors switchable using *FX, custom burnt ROM of Lancs Assembler, external 5.25″ 40T/80T disk drive all running on a Commodore 1084S monitor using a cable I made to link the two.

    It’s an awesome machine now and I love using it when I can which, luckily enough, is whenever I want :D

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