Micro Men

The 1980s race to create an affordable and reliable home computer was the subject of BBC4’s ‘Micro Men’ shown last night (and still on iPlayer). Chris Curry, co-founder of Acorn computers, and Sir Clive Sinclair were competitors but they were also close friends and they both did an enormous amount to bring the creativity of computing into British homes.

Our computing collections represent the incredible diversity of British machines at this time, from familiar computers such as the Dragon 32, ZX81 and the Oric 1, to unique computers such as our gold BBC Micro.

Gold BBC Micro

Gold BBC Micro

In March last year we invited the creators of the BBC Micro computer to the museum for a reunion to celebrate the team’s contribution to computing in Britain today. It was attended by ‘Micro Men’ producer Andrea Cornwall and some of the fantastic stories about Acorn that came out that day inspired the programme and the writer Tony Saint.

The creators of the BBC Micro computer

The creators of the BBC Micro computer

The legacy of the BBC Micro in developing the UK’s games development industry and the adoption of ICT in British schools and colleges is enormous. Technologically the BBC Micro also led to Acorn developing the ARM microprocessor. Benefiting from high performance and low power, ARM microprocessors are likely to be found in your mobile phone or ipod, and have been shipped in over 10 billion devices; more than one for each person on earth.

But we mustn’t forget the contribution of Sir Clive Sinclair, who created the first home computer under £100 and sold millions of machines into British homes.

3 thoughts on “Micro Men

  1. Andrew Chitty

    I really enjoyed the first hour of MicroMen – I wasn’t sure they really knew how to end it. The music montage with games and focus on the bubble bursting didn’t really do justice to the impact of Acorn and Sinclair or the UK software developers they brought into being. Very good effort from BBC4 though who are ploughing an interesting furrow with factual based dramas in science/technology dramas – Einsten and Eddington, Florey etc.

    And was I seeing things or was that a fleeting glimpse of Acorn/RISC/BBC Micro tech guru Sophie Wilson behind the bar of the pub in the end scene where Chris Curry and Clive Sinclair made up?

    Reply
    1. Tilly Blyth, Curator of Computing and Information Post author

      Ah yes, the barmaid who called time was the wonderful Sophie Wilson (previously Roger) who was the brains behinds many of Acorn’s first machines (Atom, Proton, and the instruction set for the ARM chip). It was a nice touch at the end of the programme.

      Reply
  2. George Coney

    Are you still looking for copies of the Micro User magazines with details of the Gold BBC Micro competition and the follow up about how they made it? I have both if you want them. Please contact me if you’re interested.

    Reply

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