The Acorn 6502 Microcomputer Kit Steve Furber recalls...

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One of the Acorn Microcomputer team was Steve Furber (now ICL Professor of Computer Engineering, at The Department of Computer Science, The University, Manchester).

Steve recalls...

“The System 1 was very much Sophie’s baby – your notes suggest I had a hand in the cassette interface, which may be true but I don’t recall it. The origins of the System 1 were in the Science of Cambridge MK14. I built the first prototype MK14 by hand, and Sophie looked at it and said “I could do better than that!” and went away and did so. I thought the System 1 was entirely designed over an Easter vacation, not the summer as your notes say, but I could be wrong. I do recall that Sophie produced the monitor program by hand (hand assembly of 6502 code), we blew it into a PROM and it worked straight-off. There may have been a minor bug or two, but basically it ran first time, previously untested.

The System 1 had a starring role in the BBC’s Blakes 7, I seem to recall.¹  It was used as the control panel on the cargo vessel they went around in, and I seem to recall Sophie noting that they even pushed the right key sequence to run a program. This was the time when Sinclair was quoted as saying that a ZX81 could run a nuclear power station. The Acorn riposte was that an Acorn System 1 could run a 22nd century intergalactic cargo ship!

Incidentally, ‘Acorn’ was first introduced as a trading name by the company CPU Limited (Cambridge Processor Unit?) and the company only changed its name to Acorn some time later.”

¹ The Blake’s 7 computer was called Slave; the Acorn System 1 can be seen between the hemispheres in this picture (photographer unknown).

[Edited from e-mail from Steve Furber, dated 7 June 2002. Thanks, Steve.]