Today I’d like to give a special vote of thanks to Ridgeway Primary School in South Croydon, particularly to Geoff Blyth, who arranged for me to pick up some old and dusty BBC Masters, BBC ‘B’s and Cub monitors, along with software, floppy drives and manuals. It was all donated freely to Cleveratom so that we could extend and develop the rather innovative ‘BBC Micro News’ project.
The BBC Micro computer is 25 years old this year and has been the stalwart of many a school computing lab, or classroom computer. The device was always streets ahead of its time, but as with all things technology changed, development ceased, newer machines became available and life generally goes on. Many a BBC was consigned to a skip, never to be used again.
And what a shame that was, for all the wrong reasons! As a teacher in the late 80’s and early 90’s I definitely didn’t know very much about the BBC computers. I didn’t appreciate the ability they had, and apart from the excellent ‘Logo’ language and a range of associated input and output modules, including sensors and motors, I actually despised many of the programs available.
How wrong I was to think like that! Today, Ridgeway Primary School (and Geoff) helped me complete a level of understanding I have been missing for a generation. Today, in amongst all of the bits and bobs, was a copy of ‘Geordie Racer’!
I used to take a class of eager 8 year old children to the TV room at school and have them watch episodes of ‘Look and Learn’ the fabulous BBC series that brought us such greats as ‘Through the Dragon’s Eye’ and of course Geordie Racer. Children would merrily sing the opening music then sit glued to the screen as the story unfolded week by week. Once the episode was over it was back to the classroom to play the computer game. By today’s standards of Quake Engines 3D graphics and Wii consoles the games are very very dull. But back then, this was enthralling stuff as the children battled with Baz (the villain in the story) and picked up a huge number of literacy skills as they did so. As the teacher, I remember thinking that I really ought to find a way to turn down the music as it was soooo annoying, but today I went back in time and relived some classic memories.
Thanks to Geoff, we think these BBCs will be able to help us develop the innovative ‘BBC Micro News‘ website where BBC Micros read RSS feeds from the BBC web site in their very ‘Steven Hawkins’ voices, helped by a couple of more modern machines as they do so. This project started as a bit of a mental challenge and has grown into something more – quite what is not yet clear, only that we need to get this able to handle more requests soon.
There is much to do, of course, and we need to reset all of the hardware so that it will run the ‘BASIC’ program we need it to. In checking the machines today, most are in working condition with few, if any, ailments. Some keyboards are not quite fully working, one or two keys are missing, all of them are dirty and need cleaning, but even so, after years in storage, years of use in a busy school, and a bumpy ride from Croydon to Chelmsford, they ALL powered up!
So imagine my delight when we got to look at the diskettes that Geoff kindly donated – including a box of unopened 5.25″ floppies – and found Geordie Racer, and found that it still ran (no pun intended). Fabulous stuff!
As we get more done, and the service becomes more reliable, I’ll post pictures and write about the developments. We will of course be crediting Ridgeway Primary School on the web site for their very kind donation. If anyone else has got any working BBC Micros (any model, but particularly ‘B’ or ‘B Plus’) then please do get in touch – especially if you have got old software to help us relive special memories!