At last: The BBC Micro you always wanted, in Mastodon form

10 PRINT "Retro Awesome":20 GOTO 10

Retro Tech Week If one of the tenets of retro computing is doing awesome things with not a lot of resources, then there are few better examples of the breed than the BBC Micro Bot - a Mastodon account that recently posted an image that looked for all the world like a raytraced scene.

The BBC Micro Bot is an excellent service for anyone who remembers the beige box delights of the 1980s Acorn computer. We spotted it a few years ago on Twitter (now called X) before it moved to alternative social media platforms, including Mastodon. Pop some BASIC into a toot, include the hashtag #bbcmicrobot, and the bot will run your program.

The resulting output will then turn up in the bot's gallery and likely appear as a post containing a photo or video of the output. It's rather addictive, although it's also hard not to be awestruck at what some clever folk can achieve in a few lines of – admittedly quite hard to read – BASIC.

BBC BASIC appeared in 1981 and was written mainly by Sophie Wilson. With its origins in Atom BASIC for the Acorn Atom, the language was a pillar of the UK computer literacy project pushed by the BBC. For its time, it was a speedy thing and featured some neat extensions to permit the definition of procedures and functions. It also gave access to the computer's high and low-resolution displays, which is where the BBC Micro Bot comes in.

At its heart, the BBC Micro Bot is an emulator of the Acorn hardware. Credit is given to JSBeeb and beebjit, but the implementation of the emulator as a social media account means one's BASIC creations stand a chance of being shared outside the Acorn community.

The scene dates back to 2021 and the bot's Twitter days, and it remains an impressive demonstration of what can be achieved with just a few bytes of code.

We took the code and ran it up in an emulator – JSBeeb – which handily demonstrated two things. First, the code does indeed work. Second, this particular example takes an age to run. Think more frames per day rather than frames per second.

Partial render of a scene in jsbeeb

Still, it is Retro Week here at The Register, and if you're of a certain age, were brought up in the UK, and remember trying to get in a sneaky game of Elite while the teacher wasn't looking, checking out the BBC Micro Bot before tumbling into a JSBeeb and Owlet BBC BASIC click-hole is a delightful way to spend a lunch break.

10 PRINT "Those were the days ";
20 GOTO 10


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