Acorn event recalls best of British computing


Acorn event recalls best of British computing

Microscope contributor

The glory days of the early 1980s saw some British names fighting it out in the computer rooms at schools and in the bedrooms with Acorn among the leading contenders.

The Cambridge-based company was lucky enough to land the backing of the BBC, which wanted to use a microcomputer as the basis of a series "Making the most of the micro" encouraging children to learn about programming and technology. The result was the launch of the BBC Microscomputer, known as the Beeb.

The cream coloured case and the mixture of black and red keys were iconic for a generation that managed to cut their teeth learning basic programming skills and playing games like Elite and Football Manager.

The original founders gathered together last week at a Computer Conservation Society event that marks the 26th anniversary of the launch of the computer to remember the days of 16 kilobytes memory compared to the gigabytes that are available now.

The BBC Microcomputer rivalled the Sinclair Spectrum and the US Commodore to get the backing of schools and parents and was one of the companies that along with those rivals failed to make a transition into the 1990s. Various reasons have been given to explain the fall of Sinclair - poor product quality around its business machine - and the other rival Amstrad - suffering from component inconsistencies. But Acorn was always seen as suffering from having become too diverse and overstretching itself.

In comments made at the event, Acorn founder Hermann Hauser said that it had helped blaze a trail that had helped other technology companies grow in Cambridge, where both Acorn and Sinclair were based.

He added that it had failed to realise just how far ahead of the competition it had become and it even managed to wow Bill Gates when he went to see its operating system, which was more developed than MS DOS.

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