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The BBC Microcomputer Page

The History of the BBC Micro In T&T

The BBC Micro or "Beeb" as it was commonly known was the result of efforts by the British Broadcasting Corp to provide computer literacy and access to as many people in the United Kingdom as humanly possible. For a more in depth look at the development of the BBC Micro go to David Schmit's home page: The BBC Lives!

I have decided to write a short historical essay of my own for our own Beeb. This compliments and expands on what I wrote in my background page. I hope you find this interesting.

Special thanks to Dr Barnes and my dad, Boyd Reid, for assisting me with this web project.

NOTE: This page is still UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

The following text is still sketchy and incomplete. . .proceed with CAUTION

Go back to the previous chapter

The BBC Microcomputer Users Group. BBCMUG

"No Constitution/No Membership fees"

On Wednesday 4th April 1985 the first meeting of the official BBCMUG was called to order. The flyer advertising this meeting touted these two statements at the bottom in bold type (all printed on a BBC using a dotmatrix printer). The flyer invited all BBC users to come and share their knowledge and expertise of the BBC or just to pick up any useful information that they needed. The meeting was held in MCA's own office in Port of Spain and there were no problems that were revealed in the groups first quarterly newsletter. Volume one Number one of the Newsletter was printed in July. This newsletter became the most important part of the BBCMUG'S endeavors and was published religiously and without fail up until 1990.

By 1984 'eventually more than 1 million BBC micros are sold. . .' and in Trinidad a good many are sold by MCA. Since England and Acorn were across the Atlantic it was difficult to get first hand support and in 1985 Trinidad and Tobago's communications industry was still very much in its infancy. Therefore BBCmicro users relied heavily on the intermediaries, in this case Deryk Faria and MCA. However MCA was unable to actually teach a user how to use the BBCmicro and so it became important to form a group to provide first hand support for each other. The actual idea for a user group did not arise from one person but seemed to be a common agreement between a few individuals. The creation of the BBCMUG can be credited to a select few: Mr Roger Barnes, Mr Russell Cunha and Mr Gilbert Boyd Reid. Mr Faria became the unofficial representative of the agent on this informal executive group.

During his career as chaplain of the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, in the early 70s, Mr Reid met Mr Barnes during a series of University seminars for lecturers and it was during informal moments at these meetings that they discovered a mutual interest in computer technology. The University had already had a digital computer since 1966 and run programming courses for staff and students but actual training in Computer Science was still a long way off. Both Mr Barnes and Mr Reid purchased BBC micros for basically the same thing. They wanted further to explore computer programming and were interested in keeping up with the developments of the new information technology. Mr Barnes had been a user and programmer of the University computer - an IBM 1620 - since 1966, and had bought his first home microcomputer, a Radio Shack TRS80, in 1979. His first BBC micro was bought in England on sabbatical leave in 1983. He became a user of the BBC because he felt it would help him in his research and teaching at the University Faculty of Agriculture. In a recent email message he responded to my question by saying "I used the BBC for a number of reasons the first was to extend my knowledge of programming (not only Basic). 2. to carry out a number of investigations into mapping and statistics. . ." He developed "Several statistical demonstration routines for the Biostatistics course in Advanced Botany; Several genetics demonstration routines for the Pre-Agriculture genetics course; Suite of graphics demonstration programs for the Computer Science elective in Agriculture; 15-minute demonstration of raster and vector graphics with Caribbean examples (Land Surveying GIS seminars, 16th December 1988). Map-drawing and editing system for the Caribbean islands. . ." and a host of others including 3D mapping, a graphical working model of a programmable 4-bit computer with a 16 byte memory. a numeric input pad and a 1 byte VDU screen, a multi-column printing program for the MX-80 printer that printed text in 2 - 5 columns. "This was the first program," he continues "I wrote a recursive routine for...it just seemed to fit!"

Mr Reid had his own various programming endeavours. One that was demonstrated at an early meeting of the BEEMUG was his "Dump memory to screen" command and a "Form marks calculator". However by 1987 he was spending most of his time developing an elaborate program (code-named Schooltime) to help formulate timetables for secondary schools. An early precursor to Schooltime was a simple mark sheet for students (?). However part of his reason for purchasing the computer was to help impart knowledge of information technology to his sons, in response to his recognition - mentioned in the BBC's education investigation "The Mighty Micro" that the key to the widespread use of computer technology lay in the hands of the next generation.

Therefore these two men formed the core for the BBCMUG from its inception. Other important members were Euric Jardim, a mathematics teacher from the all girls Holy Name convent and Jason Arneaud who was recognised for his work in BASIC programming at the age of fifteen. These members assisted the MUG in continuing throughout the years of its existence.

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