Eben’s talk from Beeb@30 – video

Andrew Edney from Connected Digital World wrote a really great piece (lots of photos, too) about the remarkable day we and about 150 other people spent at ARM a week ago, celebrating the 30th birthday of the BBC Micro. Eben and I were misty-eyed on the day with a mixture of horrible jet-lag (we’d just got in from Heathrow) and nostalgia, which we shared with a very proud and cheerful Jack (who as well as being a Trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation was one of the people who worked on the very early software for the BBC Micro 30 years ago).

Eben’s first computer, like mine, was a BBC Micro, and he says that he owes everything he has now to the people who made that machine. After a panel discussion with those people (you can see video of some of the other talks at the link to Andrew’s article above), Eben gave the keynote speech. Andrew’s video of it is the first I’ve seen published, and I’ve embedded it here. (Thanks Andrew!)

We feel very, very small and insignificant next to people like Chris Curry, Steve Furber, Hermann Hauser, Sophie Wilson, Nick Toop, Chris Turner and Andy Hopper – it’s no exaggeration to say that they shaped our childhoods, and made our adult lives take the direction they have today. We were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm for the Raspberry Pi project; we feel we’ve got a lot to live up to, and a lot of work ahead to ensure that their hopes and expectations for us match up with the reality. There’s motivation for you.


Napior avatar

First !

I watched it befere it was upload on website.

XAPBob avatar

In 30 years time maybe the same will be being said about a RPi convention – by someone designing the next big (small) thing

Mark avatar

30 years ago…. Oh god I feel old now

AdeV avatar

You’re not the only one…. I first used a BBC Micro when I was 8 years old, it was brand new. Our local education authority had bought 1 (I think) & it was traveling between schools.

I knew from the first day I used it what I’d be doing with the rest of my life – and so far, I’ve not been wrong.

raffy avatar

After a generation, two projects with identical goals meet, a really memorable event.

It looks like the RPi board is just right for a BBC micro/keyboard-like case.

Andrew Cracknell avatar

that’s just what I propose doing with my Rasberry Pi when I get it as luckily I have an empty BBC Micro case ready and waiting. My first job was working for a company that made PCB digitisers the unit’s brain was a BBC micro (uncased) connected to a 6800 VMEbus card via the 1Mhz bus. The Beeb was the cheapest way of getting a graphics display and a high quality keyboard (Cherry?). So add me to the ranks of ‘The BBC Micro got me my first job’ brigade. All my nights away at Poly spent in the company of my BBC B paid off :)

JamesH avatar

I still have my BBC B with sideways RAM/ROM board in the loft – used to be a Model A, serial number 3336, so pretty early (before the price rise!). Sits in a case with the Epson printer I had at time (18th Bday present IIRC), the twin disk drives – a later addition. Haven’t dared try it – capacitors probably shot by now!
Used throughout university for Pascal programming and occasional report writing (and Chuckie Egg, Elite, Defender, Monsters etc). Wrote a z80 emulator in Pascal on that IIRC. When we needed to write C in 2nd year fell by wayside, used mainly for games and graphics assignments.

liz avatar

Am I imagining this, or does the guy who wrote Monsters work in the same office as you and Eben?

JamesH avatar

I have no idea! Who wrote monsters? (which was a copy of the Arcade game SpacePanic) I need to know, so I can confront him/her with my poor A level results.

liz avatar

I don’t remember! I’m pretty sure I was introduced to someone at a Christmas party about five years ago and was told he’d written Monsters; don’t know what his name was or if he’s still there, though. Much of the rest of that evening was taken up in my holding the hair of moaning, vomiting accounts temps, as I recall.

Jongoleur avatar

Moaning and vomiting? Its what accounts temps are for! You’re a saint! (Did you end up having to ensure they got safely into their taxis too?)

ross avatar

Liz – you are thinking of Tim Dobson and you aren’t imagining it.

( http://8bs.com/elecgame/monsters.htm )

liz avatar

:) Brilliant. I loved that game too – my little brother and I must have wasted whole weeks of our lives playing it.

chrisotherwise avatar

Mine’s still out and gets used from time to time. Makes a welcome change from today’s PCs and Macs. Other than an exploding power supply (easily fixed) it still works just fine. I’ve added John Kortink’s amazing GoSDC which gives me more storage than I could ever need – should be good for a few years yet – although it’s going to get stiff competition from the PI…

Andrew Edney avatar

Thanks Liz – it was a great day :-)

Ian Hamlett avatar

Lovely clip. Once everyone’s computer literate, we can start teaching people about smart-phone orientation while filming ;)

bobbintb avatar

or about not sitting right in font of people that are filming.

Jongoleur avatar

Or standing in front to take your own photos, and looking around directly at the camera, then turning back and CARRYING ON.

John Knight avatar

Oooohhhh, it would’ve been awesome if this did become the next BBC Micro in name as well! Hehe, nevermind, Raspberry Pi is an awesome name anyway. What I was wondering about is if there’s a way we can see the Python tutorials for the school kids, espcially to do with Snake? As a lazy man who gets headaches easily, I’d love to learn how to programme in Python using methods meant for school kids (probably much more interesting and lively) instead of the materials written for stupid grown-ups. :)

Steve Pearce avatar

You might be interested in the Head First series by O’Reilly.

The books teach fun examples with comedy and pictures to keep the reader engaged and as such, they tend to be marketed towards older children and young adults.

Andrew Edney avatar

I wasnt planning on filming it, just taking pictures, but I started filming anyway – at that point I already had the camera “oriented” one way so I just kept it.

Think yourself lucky I didnt upload it sideways to YouTube :-)

Nick Barnes avatar

Will the Raspberry Pi boot with a beee-beeep? Or will I have to hack that in myself.

Willrandship avatar

You’ll have to put it in yourself, but it shouldn’t be too hard, just a modification to the initrd.gz file :P or somewhere else along the bootup sequence.

theHetman avatar

I think I must have been writing a mouse driver at about the same time that Eben was. It was at my first job – for a custom board based on a suped up Z80 (a Hitachi HD64180). We were writing an art package for it. I believe that I also wrote floppy drivers that would read and write to FAT12.

As for Watford Electronics I bought an A3010 from them with the Watford internal hard drive added – a huge 40MB drive. That would have been ’92 I think.

ricky roberson avatar

LOL about feeling small and insignificant. What do you think THEY felt like 30 years ago knowing that Apple and IBM and even an up and coming Microsoft were striding the globe in sevel league boots? You are the same achievers as those you look up to, you just haven’t got the hindsight of history yet!!!

bobbintb avatar


RMW5 avatar

Apple were hardly striding the planet in 1982. IBM, DEC, Burroughs, Sperry Univac, Amdahl, Data General & Cray, maybe, but Apple were small fry and Microsoft’s DOS was only released in August 1981, which made them tiny compared to the companies that had been designing, building and shipping mainframes, peripherals,operating systems and applications software for the previous 20 years.

Jim Manley avatar

Actually, by 1982, Apple and IBM had each shipped the better part of a million machines worldwide, many more than all of the computers shipped by all other companies on the planet to date, then. Now, they weren’t nearly as powerful as the bigger brothers, but, as the bacteria eventually overcame the “superior” invading aliens in “The War of the Worlds”, so too did the small, but numerous, surpass the existing computing giants of the past, with Apple now the largest business by capitalization and cash-on-hand in history, surpassing some EU countries’ GDP.

We’re rooting for the R-Pi here in the Valley of the Shadow of Evil, though, because we know a winner when we see it, and our “educational system” may actually be in worse shape than those in the UK, as hard as that might be to believe (on average – there are exceptional bright spots in every nation).

Homer Hazel avatar

I just want to express my frustration with the suppliers you have chosen to distribute the Raspberry Pi computers. One has told me that he may send me an email one of these days telling me I could order the Raspberry Pi. The other one actually let me order a Raspberry Pi, but said it will be delivered in May, then they said it would be delayed until the CE was approved. I’m in the States, so it will probably also be delayed until the FCC approves it also. Today I started getting the SPAM type of solicitations from this vendor. I hesitate to unsubscribe from the email because they do have my order for a Raspberry Pi and I want to get email on the Raspberry Pi. I’m not likely to buy anything else from them, particularly if they keep dinging me with unsolicited emails. I realize this may not be the appropriate forum, but I am frustrated and this was handy. Will there ever be Raspberry Pi’s available to the USA? I was willing to pay double for one if it were ordered from you folks just to give one away to charity. Alas, that may never happen now.

liz avatar

See this thread in the forums, which should answer your questions – the forums are a more appropriate place for this discussion than this comments section, which is about something else entirely! Incidentally, I assume you’re talking about element14 – I am also a member there, and I do not get emails from them because I unchecked the boxes in the email preferences page in my account.

Chris avatar

I think that they stopped sending Forum updates by E-Mail because their Forums were flooded with replies… I personally saw over 200+ E-Mails in my Inbox from them in one day and it surprisingly stopped.

ACER was doing a charitable idea with their eePC Netbooks where you would be able to buy one for near $200 for yourself and they would donate one to a less fortunate country… I was having such trouble at the time to find one at that price point I literally gave up when local computer shops were quoting me $350 for one.

Will these RaspberryPi’s be labeled “Charitable Purchase” when they are shipped?

Liam avatar

Just a correction. ASUS, not ACER sell the Eeepc.

Chris Rowland avatar

The first thing I did for the company I’m still with was write a terminal emulator on a BBC Micro in assembler. I’ve still got a stick of 2K EPROMS for it in my desk. I wasn’t really working for them; it was a sort of work experience and they offered me a job at the end of it.

DeliciousRaspberryCake avatar

Aw the raspberry pi can’t beep at all..

I hope it’ll have some sort of “intro” when you turn it on, like the logo when linux is booting. I can imagine that becoming some sort of cultural icon in the near future

Nick Barnes avatar

Well, the RPi doesn’t have a speaker – at least, it doesn’t have one out of the box – but it could certainly beep through the HDMI.
After that, a Tube interface….

Jongoleur avatar

Ages ago (1st October!), there was a discussion on the Forum about what sort of noise the Raspberry Pi should make when it booted. I don’t think any consensus was reached… :-)


IbanezJem avatar

My first thought was The Two Ronnies sketch too. Then I thought Emerson, Lake and Palmer, beginning to Fanfare For The Common Man. Finally I came up with Iron Maiden, Phantom Of The Opera!

Jim Manley avatar

I actually had my boom box play ELP’s “Fanfare … ” from cassette using the alarm function! I am going to set it for my R-Pi boot sound, for certain – thanks for that reminder! I suppose “Karn Evil 9” is appropriate for the interminable wait for our boards …
“Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!
We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside!
There behind the glass
is a Model B, alas.
Be careful as you pass, move along, move along … ”

“See the showwwwwwww!!!”


Nick Barnes avatar

Well, that settles it: one of my projects is going to be a bee-beep startup sound, ideally driven by power-on diagnostics (so you get a different sound if the diagnostics go wrong). Also: a near-instant boot to a python (or maybe ipython) prompt. Possibly with some other behaviour – such as a Linux tty, or a boot to X – if ‘Shift’ is held down.

~Neil~ avatar

Small world. I used to work with Chris Turner when we were at Cambridge Consultants together, designing and marketing XAP processor cores respectively. Funnily enough he’s now with ARM. Small world indeed….

Ian Hamlett avatar

You say that but I’ve been walking all day and I didn’t even get halfway round.

~Neil~ avatar

Try walking in ever increasing circles!

wombat avatar

OMG 31 years ago I spent my summer holiday “fixing” all the selfbuild Acorn Atoms that were returned because they didnt work. From memory I got 10 squid per machine fixed and did between 5 and 20 a day!

Pet Hate that summer was unsoldering and resoldering all the switches on the Atom keyboard.

Stuart Lea avatar

Blimey ! £200 – £1000 a week for a student job 31 years ago. You must have had one hell of a strong liver to survive that.

wombat avatar

It was easy money…. just long hours there where a lot of people buying the kit version of the Atom and making a total hash of the soldering. I wish i had taken a year out of education!

Kari avatar

How do you pronounce “Beeb@30” ?

JamesH avatar

Beeb at thirty

AdeV avatar

Beeee-Beep! surely?

Jamie avatar

Looks like this was filmed on a laptop.
I wonder if they will be somthing like the free code things for the Pi where people give out free simple codes that are easy to modify.

Jamie avatar

Filmed on an iPhone i mean

IbanezJem avatar

Noticed the Marshall amp in the background. Another quality brand of British engineering that has stood the test of time! :)
A good omen?

Paul Johnson avatar

Liz, you, Eben and everyone else who has been involved in this are good people.

Hebburnboystephen avatar

I bought the BBC micro when I was 25 years old and had a young family living on a tight budget in Stevenage Hertfordshire.
It really changed my life and launched me into the world of computing.
Without it I would probably still be working on center lathes and other machines. I now live in sunny Arizona and design software systems after having worked in software engineering at BAe, Hughes Aircraft and a couple of hitech companies in Arizona.
I am on the early bird list for the raspberry Pi computer and feel the same excitement that I did for the BBC micro.

Good luck and keep up the good work.

Gee avatar

i’m 30 trying to teach myself embedded hardware, from the sound of your story there my still be hope for me yet.
regards Gee

Hebburnboystephen avatar

Keep working at it Gee. There is a lot of good material out there on embedded hardware.
I have been doing a bit of tinkering with Arduinos and find it fun but very limited due to the memory map of the chip. What I am interested in doing is interfacing the Raspberry Pi computer to the Arduinos.
You should try to get involved in user groups that way you may get some opportunities to move into that line of work.

Good Luck

Morgaine avatar

Yes indeed!

One of the most interesting things that Eben mentioned about future plans in his keynote was the possibility of a package deal with Arduino. This would be a win-win because the two are really complementary and not direct competitors as some portray.

The overlap between them is really quite small as Eben said, maybe 10%. You need to extend the Raspberry Pi before it offers anything like the same degree of support for hardware control, so you might as well use a cheap and very widely available Arduino as that extension. (And it’s fully open hardware.)

It was really quite an insightful point he made.

Hebburnboystephen avatar

Yes you are correct about the complementary association between the Raspberry Pi computer and the arduino. Use the arduino as a set of hardware slaves/probes and the RPi as the master analysis, display, communications engine. At the price of the components could build a sweet system that could be used for many applications where data collection hardware interaction and user interaction are required. The possibilities are endless. And as an educational tool……… Need I say more!!!

Spencer Stapleton avatar

I would have really enjoyed this video had my parents not walked into the wrong shop and came out with a Dragon32.

Jason Ozolins avatar

BBC Micros were so expensive in the colonial Nether Void of Australia that the only way most kids got to touch one was at school; for some reason they seemed to be prepared to pay through the nose for computer gear from dedicated educational suppliers. This letter to The Micro User from 1984 reckons that a Model B’s Aussie price worked out to £1000 at that time:

A bit like what I gather many US IT equipment manufacturers do now with their UK prices compared to the US prices.

Eventually I bought a second hand Model B in 1987 from a guy who’d used to work for GCHQ before moving to Canberra, and he gave me all these GCHQ BBC User Group newsletters. Funny how things go around the world…

Dragon32s never made it to Australia, but my parents bought a Beta VCR… :-)

Gee avatar

I ask my dad for a computer hoping for a BBC B but ended up with a atari 2400 I have been trying to make up for it ever since.
regards Gee

Blaine Dufrene avatar

Cool video… Please give us news on testing of the r-pi

Neil Pacala avatar

“they shaped our childhoods, and made our adult lives take the direction they have today. We were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm for the Raspberry Pi project; we feel we’ve got a lot to live up to”

Wow. This passage is inspiring to me. That means I owe them also since if it weren’t for them, there will be no Raspberry Pi that today’s
generation- me included, can play with.

I have to do my part and in my small way make certain Raspberry Pi’s ideals propagates to the next generation.

AdeV avatar

Absolutely agreed. 1st, make the next generation….

David avatar

The Beeb micro was fabulous and as the family worked in education I often spent time with them (although the family eventually bought an Amstrad CPC – pay). For interesting for me though was the early 90s where the Acorn Archimedes and graphic design software from Computer Concepts was in many regards well ahead of the Mac. It’s a shame more of the Acorn portfolio didn’t conquer the world like the ARM chip did.

Stuart Davies avatar

Come on – it was not just the BBC micro. What about the Spectrum and the PET. I started with a hand build MK14 and moved on to the Exidy Sourcerer. Does any one remember those!

Those were exciting times. I hope to get my son interested to the same degree but it all seems ‘ordinary’ and ‘every day’ now. I hope the RPi bringes back some of the MAGIC :-}

JamesH avatar

Well, the day and talks were about the BBC Micro at 30 years…..

Stuart Davies avatar

I agree. I just wanted to pay tribute to the other inovations that drove the revolution.

Hebburnboystephen avatar

The BBC Micro was definitely a major turning point in early home computing. Before that the majority were like toys or were too expensive. But when I got the spec for the BBC a year before the first one was built I could see the commitment to making it a computer that would be a robust well planned system with expansion well thought out.
I had a ZX81 before the BBC micro and that was also a major milestone before the BBC even though it had under 1K of memory on the base unit. I wrote an early space invaders program in assembly language. The small memory footprint made a lot of us have to learn Z80a assembly language. Then when we moved up to the 16K? BBC micro it was like moving to a mainframe. And what we could do with the 6502 was amazing then via the tube we could add a Z80a processor and leverage our ZX81 knowledge.
What a time that was!!!
Then some guy came along with DOS and the whole landscape started to change……..

Kevin avatar

Are you saying all of this because there is a 30 year wait/backorder for the raspberry pi and you’d rather set expectations properly this time? :)

RMW5 avatar


Howado avatar

Strange pre-order experience? As registered at Element14, just received email with link to pre-order http://click.e-marketing.premierfarnell.com/?qs..(deleted).. So, got on the form, filled up all the ordering and card payment info, pressed submit. And then nothing at all happening, no confirmation order email afterwards etc? Is it name sensitive, i.e. I put my name for delivery address and card info differently, could this be an issue? Thanks for help!

Abishur avatar

I’m not certain, but it sounds like a question that would be best answered by contacting Element14 ;-)

Howado avatar

Let me rephrase it, after ordering from the same link (same procedure at E14) is it normal for other users as well not to receive any post ordering information/confirmation email? I’m active online shopper from the 1990s globally and this happened only this time now.. Simply, I’d like to know is it still some sort of manual process for them, so I can expect further confirmation later(days), or is it fully automated ordering process by now, therefore there was an error (perhaps on my part) and I should order again? This is not normal situation, when dispatched credit card data are in the limbo.

Stuart Davies avatar

I ordered and got a reply by email almost straight away.
Did you get a confirmation screen with your order id on it. If not then I would think that you order got lost in the ether and that is good reason to contact them.

Or order again and you might get two! -)

Howado avatar

Thanks for the first meaningful answer here.
Well, after being redirected from their email, on their website I had to choose my country first then on next page fill the ordering forms/credit card, I think no ID info was pre-filled by their system for me, which is kind of unusual from redirected email anyway. Should I be member of their “web community” and log in for the proper ordering functionality? This has not been mentioned in the emails though. In any case this is quite frustrating online shopping experience, I guess even 99.9% of the asian ecommerce sites are more capable than this. Btw. do you recommend some reliable contact at E14 for these ordering matters? Thank you

Stuart Davies avatar

I had registered my interest with element14 but I did not need to be logged in to complete my order. I clicked the link from the email and blindly filled in the form. The only link I can see with my pre-registration was my email address. I do not have a contact in element14, sorry.

Good luck:-)

Chad Buie avatar

Very cool; I can’t wait to get one and start writing a Linux OS or software on-top-of a GNOME already…. :-)

Jaseman avatar

Eben is still thinking in thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands – Raspberry Pi will affect millions of people’s lives, but only if you can cope with supply and demand. Think of the Russian families that cannot afford a PC or laptop, who now have an opportunity to own a computer. Just the supplies required for that one huge country will be massive, then you have all the other continents to think about. The demand is global. 193 countries – not just a few interested parties who live around the Cambridge area.

JamesH avatar

I don’t think anyone is thinking in the thousands or 10k’s any more! Millions on the other hand – well, we will just have to wait and see. If demand really is in the multi millions, then there may be issues with chip supply, as the demand really will be much much greater than predicted. And you do need to predict these things well, before pushing a lot of very expensive wafers through a fab.

Liam avatar

So i noticed the keyboard for the BBC micro behind him, how it had a unique row of red keys at the top. We had the BBC Micros at my primary school in Australia in the early 90’s.

Anyone else played Martello Tower on that thing?

tadpole avatar

I just got another one of those, “oh we are working so hard and are making such great progress” emails from farnell. Why do they bother to constantly send out emails that have no real information in them other to say “we are so close!”. I know this isn’t the best place for this post. Could we have a “complain here” thread? You know, just to let off steam and for giggles.

Stuart Lea avatar

With a long weekend upon us (well, for the UK at least), I guess there will be a lot of visitors to this site and the forums. Will there be an update as to the progress that has been made with the compliance testing, as it has been over 2 weeks since we were told that testing had started?…I’ll even settle for a ” we’ll let you know Tuesday” entry. But some more detail than “promising” would be appreciated.

Pygmy_giant avatar

I had a BBC Model B that a friend gave my dad who was a teacher when I was 11. It worked for about an hour and a half before crashing as the power supply got too hot. I had to wait about another 30 minutes before I could use it again. That was the only reason I ever saw sunlight for about a year.

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