BBC Micro Emulator


In the UK, in the early 1980s, there was a company called Acorn that made relatively expensive home computers that were mostly found in schools. However, many teachers also got a discount, and this meant you could also find them in the homes of teachers' children. These machines were the BBC Micro, and while they weren't as capable as a Commodore 64 or Atari 800, or as cheap and functional as a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, they were easy to program, easy to expand, and most of all, ran the original version of Elite. And back in 1984, Elite was the game to play. All of which means that while there's plenty of nostalgia locked up in these old systems, there's not quite the plethora of emulators you usually get for other famed old '80s computers.

Which is why it's great to see b2, a cross-platform BBC Micro emulator. From the moment you start it up and hear that simple square wave beep, you're transported back to your friend's house (the one with the teacher as a parent). b2 emulates the more expensive models: the Model B, the Model B+, and the even more expensive Master 128 editions of the hardware, the latter of which just happens to host the definitive version of Elite. If you have a disk image handy, you simply load it into the emulator and try to remember the load incantation for the BASIC interpreter (hint: run *CAT to get a file listing, and then load a file with CHAIN "filename"). There's a lovely on-screen display too, using an unusual but pleasing graphical toolkit. It's used to show when drives are being accessed and to reconfigure the keyboard layout. The output always looks fantastic, thanks to its use of OpenGL, and the thoroughly modern audio output even includes disk noise. But the best feature is the timeline. This lets you record an emulated sequence, save states, and generate video from your recording. All of which makes revisiting the BBC Micro a complete joy.

Project Website

Acorn, the makers of the original BBC Micro, later became ARM of CPU fame (an acronym that originally stood for Acorn RISC Machine).

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