8-Bit Software Online Conversion

***************************************************************************** Part one of a two part introductory article from A2L (Mike Davis). Part 2 in the next issue. ***************************************************************************** Hi everyone I met C.J. at the last Acorn spring show and learned all about the BBC users. I have over the years in my country written quite a lot of S/W for the BBCs & other Acorn machines (by the way, I am from Ireland). I have always liked the machines for the simplicity & ease of use & have always found them to be ahead of other computer OSs' in most respects. Unfortunately as most people will know, the amount of software was much smaller. I got around this problem by writing any applications I needed myself. I never thought of selling / distributing at the time, as it seemed like too much hassle. I have written the complete software system for the National Weather System many years ago. It was initially developed on a BBC B before the first full version (incarnation) was installed using a Master128 controlling a Pluto 8 bit (16 Million palette). So even the humble BBC/Master can have 16Million colours including a full real time frame grabber(Better than all Pre RiscPC machines). Actually, because it was full broadcast spec, it is still today, of better quality (in some respects) than the RiscPC. I had 500k to 1MB of Video Ram (effectively) on the Master or BBC. This enabled me to have; 768 x 576 (256 Cols out of a pal of 16Million) 500k Or 2 768 x 576 (256 Cols out of .. .. .. .. .. ) 1MB With 2 banks, I could do bank switching. I had a full system written which allowed me to control the video RAM seamlessly with the BBCs. I could then install a ROM which modified the Basic commands thus;- GCOL 0,0-255 worked VDU 23,xx,Colour to redefine, Red(0-255), Green(0-255), Blue(0-255) (Sorry I can't remember the exact syntax above, off the top of my head) Each of the 256 cols was individually controlable in realtime. This is only a small example. A lot of commands were available, and it could be easily Genlocked (Text over video). Star commands were also available to turn on/off the extensions. This was well before the Archimedes range of computers even existed. The company that supplied the boards for me were called IO Research in England (I did the SW). The boards contained an 8086 CPU to help (Unfortunately due to size they had to be external). IO Research set a standard and other boards came out (Such as the Falcon) from 3rd parties. Millipede Graphics did one as well, as far as I know. IO changed their name, when I find it, I will let you know. The Reason I say this is that you may be able to get an old Pluto board (The Falcon may not be 100% compatible with my SW as I never tested it). Millipede graphics exist, but as before I have never tested my software on their boards. I did hear at one point, that some crowd in Wales were using the Millipede boards for the TV graphics for their Election Results using Beebs (Ref Acorn User way back). With the advent of the Archie 310, I got allocated 2 filetypes for the graphic formats I use with the boards and an Atomwide Apec podule was put together to allow the Plutos, to be hooked up to the Archie. The SW was rewritten for the Archie with many Xtras. A full 256-16 Million was available within 8 Months of the 310 Launch. This was years before the launch of the Colour card gold. And also at the time I hooked up 3 pluto boards together onto an Archie. I set them up as a board for each of the colours RED,GREEN,BLUE. The boards are designed to do this, and presto a full 24 bit 768x576 16 Million colour individually controlable system, quite a number of years before the Risc PC. In fact, it has today, capabilities the RiscPC doesn't have for Quality & Broadcast purposes without buying the AplhaLock graphics card from Millipede Graphics for Professional Video (£750 approx). There is no reason why the BBC B /Master couldn't be made to control 3 boards with my SW thus giving better graphical quality etc than the RiscPC currently can. Please note that a wide range of graphic commands (gourad shading Circ-Rect fills, Copy Video Blocks in realtime, more too numerous to say - Fortunately there is a manual). The Weather System when completed was demoted to the BBC & Michael Fish. Because the system was better than BBC's own system at the time (Years Back) it seems their programmers got chewed out of it & it prompted them to implement some similar features in the BBC's Weather system. Their hardware costs approx quarter of a million plus. Our system must have come in at 10,000 at the absolute most. So technically speaking, the BBC computer put BBC telly to shame (Funny when you think of a beeb beating a Mainframe). Please note it was little me verses 12 (approx) programmers for the BBC. I was also in Parallel to this writing QUIZ SHOW software using BBC B & M128s with plutos if required. I learned a lot about the importance of graphical presentation in those days, user friendliness & backups (Whoops!!). My friends say I am one of the fastest programmers they know but I think they exaggerate a bit. The reason I am fast is because I was pushed to my limit & way beyond it. I was at one stage reprogramming the entire Weather system onto an Archie while developing a quizshow system "Where in the World" while doing the software for the euthanasia prelim finals while answering Acorn queries(& doing Acorn Atari Maintenance) while working on 2 smaller projects & running the only Acorn club in the country (On Sats). The projects were generally me by myself with a 4-6 week time limit which I had no choice but to meet. Live TV doesn't get put on hold (Unfortunately). I worked for seven years like this working for 3 days at a time (in most cases) no going home and 1-2hr of kip a day. As you probably imagine the pressure was unbelievable with a constant 140 hours+ a week (with an odd easing twice a year~). The 3 programmers before me lasted only a few months each. Unfortunately 7 years had taken their toll & I gave up that work. I have written more systems than most teams of programmers would in their lifetime. I never regret it as I had learned & experienced quite a lot in that time. Over that time I had written quite a number of hardware & software systems for the BBC & Archie which I needed at the time. More than likely all you guys could use them. I had given quite a lot of them to the members of the Acorn Club I founded & still run since 83. I still have a little shop with quite a lot of NEW?? stock (Original) if anybody is stuck I probably have it or know where to get it. In fact, after getting all the back issue disks almost every problem (85%) I knew the answers to. I have almost every hardware addon for the BBC & Electron & 5000 disks of software 20% at a guess being my own. Over the past year I have been recovering from work (AKA Zombification) and am almost back to normal. I have been asked by a number of companies to work for them & will now be doing (Hopefully) normal hours, shortly. Enabling me to relaxingly doodle at home programming. As you have probably guessed, I have decided to give all of my Software to CJ for distribution. The only problem is trying to figure what stuff is mine from the mountain of disks. I can barely remember half the stuff I wrote. Some I do remember ;- A Network Maintenance software system Level III My own Level III sw A full crossreferenced schematic of A Beeb which points out faults A simple disk enkrypter An Object orientated DataBase Lotsa smallie projects (My small projects are sometimes considered large) A 6502 lesson series for the club Simple games - Other learning proggy stuff Grafix - I am heavily into this area. etc ..................... I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to programming unless under pressure. I have been getting back into the beebs & Arcs. I have 32 Beebs, 4 Atoms with loadsa SW (fully upgraded - Higher than a beeb),6 Electrons with every piece of Hardware & Software imagineable (& some not), 5 Master 128s, 2 Compacts, 3 310s, 1 A5000 (a RiscPC soon) (All networked of course) I gave Mr Harston my Master Scientific 2nd pro with all SW as I had no time to use it & have given away other hardware I have no time to use to those who will make the most of it. I actually prefer the beebs for programming & doodling with rather than Arcs. A note to programmers out there, I have shall we say, literature on the BBCs not normally available. I could say I have full Block & reg / internal C.D.s on the entire BBC B system including proggy info not in the AUG (Bible) but I am not saying that (Know what I mean!!). I will try to send some SW on a regular Basis & am making it all PD Some of the projects were left incomplete (I will finish these & send on when finished). I have decided to start with small ditties from my early days so I enclose modifications to the Software for the CTL Eprom programmer & some Net Roms with command functions etc. I hope this text gives a brief idea of who I am. I will probably not have time to answer any peoples problems/queries (OK so I am lazy-I deserve it). But I do read most of the disk issue contents & if talking or sending to CJ, will send along answers to problems I saw asked. Some of the packages are in a lot of the ways superior to what was available on the market at that time (& since in a lot of cases). So you may be surprised. I will in the future be giving out in the disk Schematics (Electronic Diagrams to those who don't know) for doing things you wouldn't believe the BBC B/Master (to a lesser extent Arc) could do. ************************************************************************** NB:- A note to programmers, watch out for PROJECT RED LION coming soon!!! ---------------- ************************************************************************** THAT'S PART 1 OF MY INTRO A2L