8-Bit Software Online Conversion

This is my second article about the history of 8BS. For the other parts see: Part 1 by Duncan Webster in 8BS 33 Part 2 by Duncan Webster in 8BS 40 Part 3 by myself in 8BS 46 More History PART 4 (22/09/98) By Chris Richardson I lost this article in a 'new software' disaster. I discovered that a new HTML editor I used 'tidied' the text into oblivion. Thanks to Stephan Richardson for providing a printout that I 'more or less' copied back in faithfully. Crumbs! It is nearly three years since I wrote the first history article, As I said, it is now history. Time flies. As I gathered the above articles together to put on the 8BS website. I realised that it was maybe time to update the story a little further. So here we go Update of my earlier history of 8BS The Magazine Changes to the format of the disc based magazine have been minimal. As I said, I was happy with the format and still am. The menu software still looks the same on the outside. I have just tidied up the way I put the articles and software into the menu so that it is easy to follow. When I look at some of the older magazines, I mixed articles and adverts up in the same menu. Steven Flintham who wrote the menuing system is still a member of 8BS but is presently not in a position to find the time to put in to write software for 8BS. Jonathan Harston has had a fiddle with the menu system and made some useful alterations to the way it is organised. The Pool The 8BS pool of PD discs is ever growing. There are now 963 entries in my TBI Totals table This does not mean that there are 963 discs in the library! There are more than 1000 discs in my drawer, some entries in the catalogue consist of more than one disc. I have copied and sent out 17,599 discs from the pool. More recently I have produced a set of CD roms containing the whole of the pool available to PC users with BBC emulators. The Membership There are now 464 members of 8BS, but this is a misleading total. How do you leave the membership? There is no fee to join, membership does not expire. Very few people bother to tell me they no longer have a BBC. Some members may leave a gap of a year or two between requests for issues. I have a graph that can call up that shows me the last issue that members received This gives a reasonable indication of how many are leaving. I can compare this with a graph of how many are joining to see how 8BS is doing for membership. About 110 members have received the last two issues. There are some members that do not receive magazine issues, These numbers are just a little bit less than they were 3 years ago. HOWEVER! My opinion is that it does not matter how many people are in the club, it is the enthusiasm of those that are in it that is important. Until issue 66, there has been plenty of stuff submitted for the magazines. The BBC I now have on my desk just one Master 128 with a 512 board and 1 meg upgrade. A Monitor, twin 5.25" to 3, 5" drive, twin 3 5" drive, Eprom Programmer and twin 40 meg hard drives. I have a number of machines in the loft complete my collection of Acorn 8 bit machines as well as some spares to keep my Master going. I am still looking for an Acorn Atom. Recently, whilst talking to someone on the telephone, I completely stripped my Master down and cleaned it up. All the keytops came off, the motherboard came out and the whole thing got a good polish up. It is now spotless and ready for another 10 years service. The PC In late 1996, a PC appeared on the 8BS desk. I wanted to buy an Archimedes, however the cost was too high. I am by nature a skinflint and hate to part with money. When I looked at what I could get for the money when comparing a PC and Archimedes, I am sorry to say that the PC won. I had a plan, I wanted to put the 8BS pool onto the hard disc of my BBC as a backup. I wanted to create a website for 8BS. Before I got the PC, the 5.25" discs with their 3.5" backups took up huge amounts of space in my house. There were over 2000 discs of software kicking about in boxes. I wrote some disc imaging software to read the DFS and ADFS discs into my BBC's hard drive. It worked quite nicely. I now had a way of reading and writing images. Then I worked out how much disc space I required to image the 8BS pool. There was not enough. I hit the idea of a backup on hard disc on the head. When I got a PC, my plan was to somehow do the same thing but using the PC hard drive. When I started, I had no idea how I was going to do this. First of all, I needed to copy the disc onto the PC. I was lucky in that the backup of thepool was on 3.5" disc. I found a piece of PC software called FDC that would read BBC discs in as images. Over a period of 3 months I then read the 3.5" discs in as images. I putthe 5.25" version of the pool away and managed without it for several months. I was happy that I could manage this way with the two drawers full of 3.5" discs as the master copy of the pool, so I gave the 5.25" discs away as freebies. I did not expect to find BBC emulators, but there was a plethora of them. I tried them all and eventually decided that Stuart McConnachie's PCBBC was the best. I now have my PC set up so that a double click on the BBC disc imageruns the emulator with that image loaded. I then started putting the images onto CD and passing them on to people. Mark Usher helped me develop an Access 97 database that contains a copy of the catalogue. Click on a disc image and it runs a specially adapted copy of PCBBC with the image loaded. The whole pool is now available on 7 CD's. There are many other useful tools on each CD too. The Internet I misguidedly signed on with the internet provider Compuserve for a couple of months. After realising that I was paying a fortune to stay on line for more than a few hours each month I signed off and weht for good old Karoo. They gave me a couple of megabytes of webspace and on 5/3/97 8BS went on to the internet. I spent hours putting 8BS into as many search engines as I could. Just about all new entries into the club come via email from the website. I discovered Robert Schmidt's BBC Lives! website. He has amassed a huge collection of BBC software, mostly commercial, he is trying to collect everything. He has given space for a lot of the 8BS magazines to be made available. Through Robert's site I found Mark Usher. Mark's self imposed millstone is to get as much BBC documentation as possible into electronic format. Over the years, Mark has come to my rescue many times. Not The Acorn User Shows 1 and 2 Jonathan Harston volunteered his house for a weekend in Summer 1996. This was quite handy as there was to be no Acorn User show in Harrogate that year. Paul Clucas suggested that we called it 'Not The Acorn User Show' which seemed quite appropriate. Many 8BS members showed up over the 4 days, some staying overnight. There was lots of discussion and fiddling about with BBC bits. Jonathan volunteered the same thing in 1997 and was taken up on it once more. There are articles in 8BS magazines about these events. EBTEL An offshoot of Not The Acorn User Show 1 was EBTEL. Many hours were spent discussing the idea of a modem based communication system for 8BS, more or less an extension to the messaging system. Here are the specifications I wrote for the system: EBTEL 8-Bit Software Telephone Messaging System Introduction EBTEL is a telephone based messaging system that links in to the 8BS messaging system but is also a messaging system in its own right. EBTEL indirectly links in to the internet allowing 8BS members limited access to the internet. EBTEL is an organisation within 8-Bit Software. Only members of 8BS will be able to join EBTEL. In the spirit of 8BS, EBTEL membership is free. Members of EBTEL will be supplied with a disc containing all the required software for connection to EBTEL. Aims ? To allow members of 8-Bit Software to pass messages and software to 8BS for the regular disc based magazine. ? To allow members of 8-Bit Software to pass messages to one another via the EBTEL system. ? To allow members of 8-Bit Software limited access to the internet. ? To allow 8-Bit Software members to send and receive Email. ? To allow members of 8-Bit Software to occasionally download specific items of software that they may require. The Hardware Initially EBTEL will initially consist of: Master 512 with 1 megabyte upgrade Twin 3.5" 5.25" disc drive Monitor Hard Disc Drive (30 megabytes) Modem Telephone line These items will be situated at 8BS HQ (17 Lambert Park Road Hedon) The modem will be connected to 01482 896868. The modem is the only item of hardware that is needed, 8BS already has the rest of the required equipment. EBTEL Operating Hours Initially the system will be switched on when the hardware and telephone line is free for use by EBTEL. I envisage this as probably being for short periods on an evening, also, possibly during the daytime. This will depend upon the level of support as I have to consider the running costs of leaving the equipment switched on for long periods. 8BS already has two telephone lines (one for private use). The 8BS line is in constant use for other 8BS related activities. It will therefore always be a matter of juggling the time for EBTEL with other considerations. If support becomes strong enough (a situation I do not envisage), then 8BS could purchase a further line to allow EBTEL to be left switched on permanently. If this situation arose, further hardware would have to be acquired also. A full set of equipment (listed above) would be needed. A Master 128 would be quite sufficient. The only item that would possibly cause a problem to acquire would be a hard drive as these are few and far between. Rules of Operation and Membership of EBTEL Chris Richardson at 8BS HQ is the EBTEL manager. Only members of EBTEL will be allowed access to the EBTEL system. Only 8BS members will be allowed to become members of EBTEL. Membership of EBTEL will be at the discretion of the EBTEL manager. Once a member of EBTEL the member will receive a disc of software and password allowing access to the system. Continued membership of EBTEL is at the discretion of the EBTEL manager. EBTEL members will receive a FREE disc of software that they will not copy or pass on to anyone else. The disc is uniquely identifiable by direct inspection of the catalogue of the disc (*.) and by the EBTEL security system. The disc contains all of the software required to access and use the EBTEL system. The disc is NOT Public Domain and remains the property of 8BS. The manager of EBTEL can request the return of the EBTEL software at any time. EBTEL Specifications ? Mode 7 throughout. ? Preparation of messages off-line using a text editor similar to the 8BS messaging system. There are 3 distinct types of message. One being the 8BS message intended for the 8BS magazine, another the EBTEL message for collection off the EBTEL system by another EBTEL member and the last being text suitable for Email. ? Preparation of upload of software off-line. Software for inclusion in 8BS magazines can be uploaded to 8BS via EBTEL. The software submitted in this manner must follow the guidelines laid down in TBI-00 for submission of software. ? Preparation of download of software off-line. Certain items of software may be placed on the EBTEL system for download. Software will be chosen by the EBTEL Manager and placed into the download directory of EBTEL dependent upon demand. ? Simple menu driven operation. Menus are the same style as those of 8BS issues. ? Simple selection of messages/software for upload and download in a session, then connection to EBTEL to carry out the selected operation without further intervention in an attempt to keep on line time down to a minimum. ? A call back system to allow EBTEL members in credit to be called from EBTEL if the rate is cheaper (it occasionally is due to free access to Mercury from the Hull area where EBTEL is presently situated). ? Security to reduce the risk of non members accessing the system. ? The EBTEL members EBTEL disc is uniquely identifiable by direct inspection of the catalogue of the disc (*.) and by the EBTEL security system. The disc contains all of the software required to access and use the EBTEL system. ? EBTEL members can access directly the following EBTEL system directories; USER#.*** where # is the relevant user directory and ### is the user id of the EBTEL member. This directory contains messages and files specific to that particular member only. Both read and write is available the member is able to see the contents of the directory. No sub directories are available from this directory. The SOFTWARE.DOWNLOAD directory is also directly accessible by the member as READ ONLY. The directory is visible to the member, access to sub directories is allowed. The SOFTWARE.UPLOAD directories are only available for write and cannot be seen by the member. ? The EBTEL system, is the property of 8BS. As such, no individual can claim the right to ownership of the software which is NOT Public Domain. ? Changes may be made to the EBTEL software, updates will be issued free of charge to members of EBTEL on the understanding that as soon as an update is received, the disc containing the old version of EBTEL is immediately mailed back to 8BS. Minor alterations to smaller parts of the EBTEL system may be available for download on the EBTEL system. A current list of all programs and current version numbers will be made available on EBTEL. EBTEL System Directories EBTEL is situated on a Winchester hard drive. It therefore runs in ADFS The directory containing the whole of the EBTEL system is: :0.$.EBTEL. Containing the following files: Email One file containing uploaded messages for Email !Mesg Concatenated 8BS message submitted for 8BS magazines From the EBTEL directory are the following sub directories: Users# Where # is a number between 1 and 20. See further breakdown System Containing everything required to operate EBTEL. See further breakdown Software.Upload# Where # is a number between 1 and 42 Software.Download Containing anything including directories The Users# directories contain: EBTEL messages for download by individual members The System directory contains: All files necessary for the operation of EBTEL LOGONH Log on History All records relating to members of EBTEL. The records will include passwords, and account details. Security and Accounts Removed from this article! System Maintenance The EBTEL manager will use a series of menu driven utilities to: Read/Edit the system data files. The EBTEL Crash Well, that was the idea. I knew that I would not have the time to program the software required. Jonathan Harston volunteered to write the necessary software. After a full year Jonathan had still not found time to complete the task and so Jon Ripley and Andy Nelson volunteered to start again. Once more, the volunteers discovered that they could not complete the task and so I announced the demise of EBTEL to the eagerly waiting membership. I and a few others were bitterly disappointed by this failure. Bits of Kit Gathering And Selling More than ever over the last couple of years, I started gathering bits of BBC clutter with trips around the country gathering things to put in my loft. How is 8BS Going? I am nowhere nearly as busy with the club as I was 2 years ago. The job has changed from wading through piles of post to a more sedate one. The article 'A Month in The Life of 8BS' in an 8BS magazine described how really busy I was. The magazine until issue 66 filled itself quite easily with just the right amount of input. There is a slowing down of members joining, about 3 of 4 a month now. The Future I want to help in gathering together BBC software and documentation to preserve as much as possible. I would like to have a full collection of Acorn 8 bit hardware, being a realist I know that there would be not enough room in my house for it. I am still after an Acorn Atom though. The 8BS magazine will be published as long as there is new material to put into it. Recently submissions to the magazine have been falling off. It is that serious in fact that with issue 66 I am seriously considering changing planned publication dates or even stopping the magazine all together. Plenty of people want the magazine but very few are bothering to submit stuff. 15/10/98 Issue 66 deadline day and I have finished altering TBI-00 and all documentation around the place to allow for the closing of the magazine part of 8BS. 8BS will continue to collect software and supply discs from the PD library. 8BS will still provide support for BBC users over the telephone, through the post and over the internet. 8BS 66 is the last 8BS magazine disc. Credits All the people from the previous credits plus Gill my wife again for putting up with all the phone calls and bits of BBC stuff scattered around the place. John, my oldest son who can now strip, clean and repair a BBC at 20 paces blindfolded. Paul Clucas who checks each issue out for spelling mistakes. Robert Schmidt of the BBC Lives! for hosting many of the 8BS magazine back issues. Mark Usher for helping me a lot. Crispin Boylan for his valuable input. Steve Allsopp for helping with the catalogue info. Jonathan Harston for his work on the menuing system. Steve Hanson of Superior software for donations of stuff. Stuart McConnachie for his work on PCBBC, keep it up! Peter Davy for his donation of equipment. Andy Nelson for his help. Peter Shaw for his donations of software.