Robert Hampton

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2nd February 2015


The tech world is abuzz today – Raspberry Pi is back with a new, sexier upgrade:-

A new more powerful Raspberry Pi 2 that is six times faster than the original from 2012, has been launched by the Cambridge-based startup costing £23.30.

Good luck getting one. They’ve been selling fast, and servers at some of the online retailers are buckling under the demand.

The Pi, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a £25 computer. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but easily capable of running a variety of software. The Pi is leading the charge to get people (especially kids) interested in programming. Find a spare USB keyboard and mouse, then plug the Pi straight into the TV, just like the ZX Spectrums of old (although the Pi’s HDMI output is at a slightly higher-resolution). The idea is to have a cheap computer that can be tinkered with at will, without worries about breaking it. If something goes disastrously wrong, simply reformat the SD card and start again.

Although the target audience is kids, plenty of older geeks (ahem) have bought a Pi for their own pet projects. Pi has been used to run a home security system, create a retro game console, and even to create a DIY Ceefax service.

RISC OS Pi Desktop

I got an original Model B a couple of years ago. Everyone else put a flavour of Linux on it, but I went and whacked RISC OS on mine. That’s the OS I grew up with – first on an Acorn A3010, then a RiscPC which lasted nearly eight years (towards the end of its life it was held together by bits of superglue and gaffer tape). Apart from the odd game of Fervour, I was the archetypal teenage bedroom coder, churning out semi-functional BBC BASIC files week-in, week-out. My proudest moment was getting one of my apps onto the Acorn User cover disc.

Zap displaying BBC BASIC code on RISC OS Pi

I haven’t had much time recently to play with the Pi, but I’ve tried to set aside an hour or two each week to sit and do some coding. After the stress of dealing with our barely functional LAN at work, and the slog of studying three (3!) Open University computing modules, it’s nice to have a reminder that computers can be fun.

7th April 2013

Vlog With A Cog

The original and best ARM operating system, RISC OS, is back on the Raspberry Pi. Here is a quick test run of the new system, along with a quick demo of Draw, Paint and BBC BASIC.

For more info go to my new RISC OS Pi page.

14th February 2013


If you like old computers, and wasting time on YouTube, be sure to check out “Strings and Things”, episode 3 of Making the Most of the Micro, from 1983.

Look out for:-

  • “Authoress” Frances Howard-Gordon’s ability to spell being called into question on national TV
  • Gratuitous abuse of the MID$ function
  • Word processing, BBC Micro style, with View and a quality printer.
  • Grudging acknowledgment of Sinclair, with a ZX Printer spewing out some curly till receipts.
  • A defunct supermarket chain
  • A Hitchhikers Guide cameo
  • Subtle mockery of old-fashioned people who play Patience with real cards
  • Ian Trackman getting very indignant about some badly-crafted BBC BASIC. “Look at this! It didn’t even clear the screen!”

Marvellous stuff. It turns out that nostalgia is exactly what it used to be.

16th March 2008

That’s what the REM keyword is for

On impulse, I purchased BBC BASIC for Windows, for one reason and one reason only: to port my magnum opus, MadMaze, over to the dark side.

One problem I’ve encountered is that BB4W is based on a BBC Micro-type environment, whereas MadMaze is of course written for the 32-bit Acorn machines. So I’m going to have to change all the RISC OS system calls to BBC Micro-type calls. And where is no BBC Micro equivalent, I’m going to have to find the Windows equivalent and use that. Oh, and the sound system is different. Oh, and I wish I’d commented my atrocious code better.

But it works… after a fashion:-

MadMaze for Windows