Gadget Hall of Fame: BBC Micro

The Micro moniker seems a little silly now, but it still has a special place in our gadget-loving hearts

Can you remember what you were doing 34 years ago? If all you can come up with is an uneasy sense of existential blankness, then chances are you weren't born yet.

For those of you who were a part of the universe back then however, you may remember the BBC Micro. Younger gadgeteers will of course, be more familiar with the BBC Micro:bit - the Raspberry Pi-like PC which is far better suited for its 'micro' name, but its bulky beige grandfather earned its place in the tech history books long before the internet began spreading memes to the masses.

Whether you're a Micro veteran or a curious tech-head wondering what all this nostalgia's about, it seems fitting to remember one of the gadget world's old masters...


What’s the story?

While today’s kids swipe at their iPads, ignorant of the endless lines of complex code grinding away behind the scenes, the youth of the ’80s had BASIC, a programming language easy enough to master for their own applications – and the engine behind Acorn Computers’ BBC Micro.

Thirty four years ago the Micro – designed for the Beeb’s Computer Literacy Project – created a legion of mini geeks, most of whom made the words ‘GAVIN IS A LEGEND’ scroll across their screens at least once.

Why should I want one?

Apart from the pleasure of knocking up your own programs and playing Chuckie Egg, there’s the joy of owning one of the most influential computers ever. The Micro fostered an explosion of talent and creativity that would make the UK the centre for great games development for years to come.

It also spawned the Acorn Archimedes, the first PC to run on the ARM processor. ARM-based chips are now used in pretty much every modern media device, including your kid’s iPad and your smartphone. 

Given their age, any machine that hasn’t been looked after is unlikely to run for long. If you don’t fancy owning the box itself, Android owners can revisit simple programming and most of the original games on the free Beebdroid app.

Also in 1982...

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska: Arguably The Boss’ best album. This sparse and often dark collection of songs – recorded on a four-track tape recorder in his bedroom – is a million miles from Born in the USA.

The Beastmaster: A poor man’s Hawk the Slayer? Pish and posh. Beastmaster has matured into cult sword-and-sorcery status, with several sequels and a TV series. Don Coscarelli directed; he later made the equally genius Bubba Ho-Tep.

Sony CDP-101: The first CD player to go on sale commercially – a snip at US$730. Complete with its own infrared remote, it was perfect for listening to the first album to be released on CD: 52nd Street by Billy Joel.

The Young Ones: The students of Scumbag College – Rik, Vyvyan, Neil and, erm, Mike – put an alternative comedy fist into the British sitcom. The nation’s schoolchildren, and comedy, were never quite the same afterwards.