BBC BASIC was 40 years old in 2021. Acorn Computers and the BBC set the end of July 1981 as the deadline for the completion of the very first version of BBC BASIC, so it would be ready in time for the launch of the BBC Microcomputer later that year. After a period of intensive testing and last minute bug fixing it was finally sent for ROM manufacture in mid-September 1981, with the first masked ROMs arriving from Hitachi in November. To commemorate this auspicious occasion I have featured below some notable applications and achievements of BBC BASIC over the past 35 years. For more background information you can read accounts of the history of BBC BASIC elsewhere on this site, on Wikipedia and in this PC Pro article.
The program helps you compose a limerick - you get a choice of characters and, depending on how
you choose, there is a variety of rhymes and a violent ending! Another part of the poem seems
to be never-ending so, when you've had enough, just remember the title...
The ARM is now the highest-volume 32-bit (or more) processor in the world by a very large margin (over 1,400,000,000 ARMs were shipped in 2004).
Click here to see a snippet of the original BBC BASIC code.
Earlier machines had relied on a complex mechanical cam to control the axes; the replacement used hydraulic servos to control the tooling. An industrial version of a BBC model B microcomputer formed the basis of the control system, programmed in BBC BASIC. Conductors for a new design of generator could be produced in hours rather than days or weeks.
20 years later the machine has been refurbished and fitted with a new control system using
BBC BASIC for Windows. Calculation of the servo data that used to take typically 20 minutes
on the original system is now completed in as many seconds!
The software acts as a central hub for processing storyline data, combining scripts and directorial notes with shot and edit information. It works across a network to provide up-to-date information to the studio floor and to post-production, and creates a range of different outputs including customised audio files, preview videos and progress reports.
The software can import and export data compatible with many standard
media production tools, including Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro,
Adobe Premiere and After Effects.
Instat has been used widely in the UK and elsewhere by a range of companies, research
institutes, schools, colleges, universities and private individuals. At The University of
Reading it has been used extensively on training courses run by the SSC and the
School of Applied Statistics. It has also been used in many countries on statistics courses
and on courses related to health, agriculture and climatology.
The Dad's Army episode Room at the Bottom was recorded in colour but the videotape was wiped in the 1970s. Fortunately the programme had been copied onto black-and-white film and the process used had preserved some evidence of the original colour as a pattern of fine diagonal stripes.
A program was written in BBC BASIC for Windows to analyze the pattern and
from it restore the original colours; details of the process can be found
Once the raw colour had been recovered, further improvements were carried out to restore
the programme to a quality sufficient for it to be broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday 13th December 2008.
The program runs 24 hours a day on an unattended PC and is achieving 100%
service continuity, demonstrating the stability of BBC BASIC.
Because of the requirement for low-latency, real-time, performance the system needed a dedicated hardware processor consisting of custom programmable logic to perform the image analysis and a DSP to carry out the necessary computations. It was installed and used in many TV studios worldwide.
In 2015 Shotoku brought out an updated version
of the system called Free-d2 based on a general-purpose PC
programmed in BBC BASIC for Windows, demonstrating the advances in hardware
and software that have taken place in the intervening 18 years.