Sometimes you come across something that just makes you say wow – do a double-take and say wow again!
This was my immediate reaction when I found out about jsbeeb
Retro game and computer emulators are not new things – but this for me is special and personal.
My first computer was a Acorn BBC Micro – 1983 was the year – spotty teenager with the newest and arguably hottest personal computer here in the UK. In fact – back then, the UK was the main country with the latest and fastest growing cutting edge personal computers – the first PC’s – Spectrum’s, Dragon, ZX80/81, Amstrad etc.
The BBC wanted to launch a TV series about computers – they wanted a computer to show how to use computers – and they chose a little known company called Acorn to produce the proton – soon to be renamed to the BBC Micro – in just a few weeks from start to finish.
If you’ve never heard of Acorn – then just look at your phone – its beating heart is likely to be an ARM processor, designed by the same imaginative minds that created the beeb.
Packed full of cutting edge stuff (for the time) – a massive 32K of RAM – yes you read that correctly, running at an amazing 2MHz, with 6 “modes” of graphics – one of which was 8 colours at 160 x 256 pixel resolution and 3 channels of audio – all run on the wonderful Motorola 6502 processor … haven’t we all come a long way in 30 years :)
Most of the memory was taken up by the graphic mode – so most games were written in less than 10K. Back then, not only every byte was precious – every bit of the byte was vital.
What makes jsbeeb special then?
how to install
sudo apt-get install git
git clone https://github.com/mattgodbolt/jsbeeb.git
how to run
Then fire up your favourite web-browser and type in the search bar
how to use
Ubuntu users who dabble with a terminal will feel right at home here. The BBC Micro had no concept of a mouse, windows etc. It was command line driven. The language was – and still is – the wonderful BBC Basic
You just need to know a few of the basics
*CAT– displays the contents of a disc
CHAIN "filename"– loads and runs the “executable” e.g. CHAIN “METEORS”
ALT-F12– reboots the computer
SHIFT-F12– reboots and runs whatever disc was last loaded. Thus if in doubt – choose a game and then press SHIFT-F12 to run the game.
The default game is the brilliant Elite
For games, the keyboard is king – most games had similar key bindings. CAPS-LOCK + CTRL or Z + X are left and right. ENTER or SPACE is “Fire”. SHIFT is “Go faster”. The fun though was figuring out these key strokes yourself – just press every key on your keyboard until something happened :)
- the * in *CAT can vary on your keyboard – on my UK keyboard, * is SHIFT-@
- Put your browser into fullscreen mode – e.g. F11 for Firefox and then use CTRL+scroll to shrink or expand the “CUB Monitor screen” to fit your screen size.
- The options “Discs – From STH Archive” will download the full games archive from Stairway To Hell – but it can take 10 minutes or more.
- … so while you are waiting, just go-to STH, download a zip file, unpack it to reveal the
.imgfile. Then load this “from examples or local” – remember to use the “all files” option to make the .img file visible.
Finally – have fun – the games are superb – amazingly addictive – and just remember what you could achieve in just a few K of ram.