User groups

Head to London if you want a breath of life for your Beeb

The RISC OS User Group of London (ROUGOL) will be looking at the BBC Microcomputer this month, with a visit from Jason Nicholls, an active member of the Acorn and BBC User Group (ABUG) and regular exhibitor at shows, representing Retro Software.

Jason will be talking to the group about some of the modern upgrades available for the 8-bit system, even though the machine went out of production over a quarter of a century ago. A popular computer, an issue like that were only ever going to be minor – and its users therefore have the support of an enthusiastic community of developers, who produce new software to run on it, and new hardware add-ons to enhance it.

Modern hardware upgrades for the BBC include a variety of storage solutions, offering the means to access USB memory sticks and SD cards, which are an ideal medium for floppy disc images, allowing quick and convenient access to all that old (and new) software.

A particularly impressive hardware upgrade is VideoNuLA (which visitors to the Southwest show will probably be able to see on Rob Coleman’s stand). The BBC Micro had a fixed palette of just eight colours, with its biggest colour depth being sixteen colours – with the extra eight merely being flashing combinations. One of VideoNuLA’s features is that it expands that to a more palatable (get it?) range of 4,096 colours, so that screen mode (MODE 2) able to cope with sixteen colours now able to display sixteen different colours from that palette.

The BBC Micro was able to play host to second processors via its tube interface, allowing the machine to provide input/output facilities to a more powerful (or in some cases just alternative) system. A number of such processors were available, such as the z80, x86, and 32016 – and a cunningly appropriate modern upgrade is PiTubeDirect is an interface that uses a Raspberry Pi as a second processor. As if using a modern ARM-based system as a second processor isn’t enough, now consider that it can emulate all those older second processors, so it provides them all in a single upgrade.

Switching to software, there are a number of new games available for the BBC, and some of these will be shown at the meeting – along with modern development tools and emulators that make it much easier to write (and debug) software for the platform.

The meeting, which is free to attend, will take place at 7:45pm on Monday, 17th February, at the group’s new venue:

The Duke of Sussex (upstairs in the Chichester Room),
23 Baylis Road,
London,
SE1 7AY.

A couple of minutes walk from Waterloo Station, the Duke of Sussex is easy to reach if you’re travelling by public transport, and for drivers there is parking outside on Coral Street. ROUGOL can be contacted via Twitter, by telephone on 07970 211 629, or by email if any help is needed finding the venue – or for any other relevant information.

The group also organises the annual London Show, which takes place in October – and this year that will be on Saturday, 24th October, once again at the St Giles Hotel, Feltham.