The BBC Micro, Betamax and the Pope: together at last

If you're British and of a certain age (in your mid-late thirties, probably) your initiation into the world of computers probably involved the BBC Micro, a blocky mix of beige and brown which was never fashionable, never much fun and yet truly deserves celebrating as it its hits 35th birthday. It's back in the news not just for this crucial anniversary but because the BBC have pinned to it their attempts to bring a new piece of computer programming technology into schools, the Micro Bit. Dirty Tapas has a sneaky suspicion that the Micro Bit will go the same way as the Atari E.T. game and the Barcode Battler, but that's not what we're bothered with here. What's far more interesting is the humble BBC Micro itself, and the fact that it has reached this milestone just a month after I received a rather wonderful birthday present: a Betamax instruction video on how to write programs on this beast of a machine. What do you buy someone who's got it all (or if you're a friend with an over-developed sense of irony)? This.

The questions must be racing through your mind. 

  • Four free programs? The generosity is astounding. 
  • Where's David Redclift now?
  • If this is the sequel, where can I see the original?

To answer these in sequence: yes; no idea (Wikipedia once again shows its limits); and on Youtube of course!

Before you tuck into a weapons-grade dose of computer-coding, let Dirty Tapas just treat you to a full tour of this gorgeous artefact. (If you're watching, Disney, this is what Indiana Jones should be hunting for next.) First, we should peruse the back cover.

"We've got the experts taped." It's a lovely motto, even if it does sound a little bit like the sort of thing you might expect to read in a ransom demand. But don't worry, any such fears are quickly dispelled by the mouthwatering glimpse of other instalments of this video series: Herbaceous Borders with Mike Long? Yes please. "Soccer is Fun" with Bobby Charlton? Could this get any better? Well yes it could. Simply open up this precious Betamax artefact and behold the full list of Masterclass episodes. I draw your attention to MC15... Its author, a certain H.Riley, has already demonstrated a clear mastery of painting (landscape and portrait), drawing and L.S. Lowry. Here, though, he or she really outdoes themselves.

Nope, no idea what the hell this means. For now we're left with David Redclift and BBC Basic.  We might not have detailed intelligence on where David is now, but through the magic of the internet Part One of his masterclass has been immortalised on Youtube. Here he is revivified in all his glory.

10 TAKE IT AWAY DAVE

20 RUN! 

Jon HarveyComment