Rob's Ramblings

Wednesday 4 March 2009

It only took 20 years...

Back in the 1980s, the computer I used pretty much exclusively was the BBC Micro.  I had written a fair bit of software for it, including two products sold commercially, and a number of items I was commissioned to write.  I ran two dial-up bulletin boards and a moderated chatline/forum thing on Prestel. I was a committee member of ClubSpot 810, responsible for the BBS listings, and was employed by Micronet 800 in the Technical Help Department.

Most of what I did at home, including a multi-line viewdata bulletin board, was run from an "Econet" network I had at home.  Using a slightly modified BBC Master ET and a 10MB hard disc. (Yep, ten megabyte... I've got nearly a million times more space on the home LAN now!)  It used to take over 30 floppy discs to back-up, and the external drive unit was almost the size of a Mini-tower PC today!

By the end of 1989 and after two house moves, a new family and a full time job, most of the Beeb stuff was packed up and in boxes.  Over 15 years later, in about 2006, after two further moves, with nostalgia in my mind, some of it got unpacked again.   The hard disc seems to be unwilling to perform any more, but I did still have some backups.  In odd moments over the next year, and with an A5000 obtained from Freecycle running as a filesever, I managed to get a network up and running again between a stack of machines balanced on an overly small desk, and after a few false starts, restored a backup set!  Then we found out we were having a baby, and all time for tinkering stopped.

Three years later, with the addition of an ethernet card in the A5000, and much help from members of the BBC Micro mailing list, I got IP working and the A5000 on the LAN.  Unfortunately I was unable to find any SMB, FTP or NFS server software for the A5000 that would run on the RISC OS 3.1 A5000 , so nothing would actually talk to it.

In steps a RISC PC... It only took three days of snatched minutes here and there to get it to log into the Econet server across the ethernet.. and I finally had a machine that the riscos samba server would work on.  It crashes a LOT, so it's going to be unuseable, so I'm going to have to try another protocol, but at least it's a start: I mapped a drive on one of the PCs, and was able to list the directory!

So, over 20 years since I was last able to properly access this data, it looks like it's going to be available again!

I'm thinking that I'll have to move it all from the A5000 onto the RISC PC, and run the econet fileserver on there, then just use the A5000 as a gateway between the econet and the ethernet -that way I don't need to have both machines on as much - most of the time I'm going to want to be accessing it from a PC.

Once that's all done - next task is to sniff some of the AUN traffic (econet over ethernet) and adjust BeebEm's econet support to use that protocol - it will be rather cool to have an emulated BBC Micro talking to a real one across the networks!

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  • Yes, a real BBC talking to an emulated one over econet would be cool!

    If you want to get your files onto your PC and you have Linux you could try Sunfish and Moonfish, which are an NFS client and server for RISC OS available from I use Sunfish on my Risc PCs to access my Linux file server.

    By Blogger frankoid, At 23 March 2009 at 23:12  

  • I tried sunfish/moonfish, but I kept getting the same SWI error as everything else I tried. I'm not sure if it was an incompatabiity, because of the old version of RISC OS on the A5000, or a system config problem now. I will try it again from the RISC PC at some point..

    By Blogger rob, At 24 March 2009 at 07:17  

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