Time Warp 1984

Barry Woods time travels back to the Electron's early days Visit The
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Originally published in Electron User 7.05
HERE we are in the 1990s, and it's almost the end of the century. Can you remember what you were doing way back in February 1984? Those were the early boom years of home computing, with micros like the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore Vic 20, Oric, Jupiter Ace, Dragon and, of course, the Electron.

Electron User 1.05 - The First Solo Flight
Sounds Exciting:
Phaser Fire
10 ENVELOPE 1,3,-17,61,9,4,0,0,126,0,0,-126,126,126
20 SOUND 1,1,157,129
Casting Agency:
A ship
10 VDU 23,237,4,6,13,12,20,36,68,255
20 VDU 23,238,0,0,0,128,64,32,16,240
30 VDU 23,239,0,3,2,1,0,0,0,0
40 VDU 23,240,4,255,0,0,170,85,0,0
50 VDU 23,237,238,10,8,8,8,239,240,241
Few micros have lasted, but the Electron is the exception - it is still going almost as strongly as ever, with a thriving userbase and innovative companies like Pres supplying excellent peripherals.

Exactly six years ago this month, Electron User was launched as a stand-alone magazine. Previously it had been a pull-out section in The Micro User, but due to popular demand from its readers it was decided to go it alone.

Way back then, the magazine was aimed squarely at a young readership, with cartoon characters like Electron Eddy and Micro Kind very much in evidence. They soon built up a cult following and it was quite some time before they were dropped in favour of a more serious magazine format.

Other features designed to appeal to the younger reader and novice reader and novice user were Sounds Exciting, a library of interesting sound effects, and Casting Agency, a library of user defined characters. The idea was that you could incorporate these handy little routines into your own program listings. Both were very popular, and we have reproduced a couple of the best ones here.

The lead news story of the February 1984 issue speculated on a new hardware add-on module from Acorn. It was rumoured to have an analogue to digital interface which could be used for joysticks, a Centronics parallel interface for connecting a printer and two sideways ROM sockets.

We know know the expansion module as the familiar Plus 1 - and the rumours were correct in every respect.

Software companies were ramping up production of games titles for the new Electron; Acornsoft already had twelve titles on offer and Micro Power had ten. The race to produce the first hardware add-on was won by Solidisk of Southend which demonstrated its GPI general purpose interface at the BBC Micro User Show.

The add-on plugged directly into the back of the Electron and provided Sideways ROM sockets, a printer port, a user port and Atari-type joystick port. Unfortunately, Solidisk didn't have a great deal of success with the Electron and no longer produce peripherals for it.

Electron User features included the first part of Pete Bibby's long running Introduction to Programming and Trevor Roberts' article looked at the Electron's keyboard and explained what each key did - how on Earth did he make that topic stretch to two and a half pages?

Lunar Lander, Towers of Hanoi and Rescue the Moon Explorers were three simple type-in games, and there were plenty of short utilities and interesting graphics demonstrations too. No shortage of things to do for idle fingers here.

Next month it's March and I'll be setting the controls of my time machine for 1985. What chart-topping business program had just been released for the Electron? What was the tremendous news from Acorn? And will Pete Bibby mabage to get on to PRINT statements by Part 14 of his Introduction to Programming. Wait and see...

The Micro Kid