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last updated July 22, 2006

Andy's guide to...
Using BBC software on a
64K Jaffa/Slogger modified
Acorn Electron.

(thats a mouthful)

 

My 64k RAM Board :

 
 

I was told it was a JAFA sideways ram board, but it is etched with :
'GRAM Business Systems Ltd' - 'A20-002-P1B Issue D'

 

Do you have a 64k Acorn Electron?
are you wondering just which BBC titles are compatible with it?
Then i think you've come to the right place :-)

I primarily collect Interactive Fiction titles (text parser adventures)
and so this guide may be biased towards that sort of software,
but hey, yah boo sucks, i compiled it for my own amusement, not yours :)

I kept coming across too many BBC adventure titles that i just couldn't find for the elk, or i would always find the BBC version first and then the elk version would turn up eventually a long time later. Miffed with this, i decided to get hold of a sideways ram board, and finally after a long time of looking, i got a Jafa systems pcb. As I couldn't find any information on the net on this subject of playing BBC games on an elk (not all that surprising really is it?) i decided to throw up a quick page so that people searching in the future may benefit from my findings...

 

Q & A
Why do some BBC games work on a standard electron, and others don't? I'm going to spare you the real details here. Basically, although both machines have 32k of ram, the BBC manages it better, and the electron is a little wasteful (this is down to hardware design, not software implementation), thus in actual fact, there is more ram available for user programs on the BBC than the elk. The second main difference comes with screen modes, the elk lacked one of the best screen modes invented, mode 7, a whole screen of colour and text in 1k of space. The elk had some of its own modes to make up for this, but programmers rarely used these modes, and it just didn't make up for the lack of that mode 7. So, the reason your old game wont work on the elk might be because there just isn't enough ram available, or the game uses a screen mode or other bit of bbc hardware that the elk quite simply does not have.
So how do you make BBC games run on the electron? Simple (or not). Install a sideways ram board that turns the elk into a 64k monster. Jafa and Slogger are two companies that made these boards back in the day, and they're not that easy to find nowadays. However, if you have yourself one, with the flip of a switch, you essentially give the elk the same amount of ram as the bbc had. This now means that a game or program that was writtren to use all of the BBC's available ram will not crash out. While having 64k is great and all, very, very few programs use this extra ram, and in reality from the perspective of a game you were trying to load, it probably only adds 4k or 6k to what the electron had available before. The point is though, that now you *can* load BBC games without getting any errors relating to running out of memory, and this means about 80% of games will at least load up and run, result!
But you say 80%, why do the other 20% still not work? Because they may have been designed for a different screen mode, or have some trick programming that determines the type of machine the software is running on and will point blank refuse to continue loading. Some games can fall into this 20% margin because while the games might work, they might just be horribly too slow, or show too much garbage on the screen to make the game playable. Still, what are you bitching about? you've just expanded your possible games collection by another hundred or so at least!
But I still can't get [insert random obscure BBC software title here] to work on my elk, is there anything else i can do? Well, the folks at Jafa were quite clever, and they actually released an external add-on that gave the elk a mode 7! So if your program still wont run due to lack of mode 7, then find one of these for sale, they turn up even less often than the sideways ram boards, and even then, its no guarantee. While it gave you a mode 7, it wasn't a mode 7 identical to how it worked on the BBC. It worked, but slightly differently. If your piece of software was written in assembler for example and relied on timings and certain behaviours of BBC hardware, you're probably going to be shit out of luck.
You're not helping me, i still can't get X software to run on my elk! Are you still bugging me about this? Listen, get a life and go and buy a freakin BBC off of ebay for a fiver and stop being a cheap SOB. Godamn, i mean, the whole point of this page was just intended to guide elk owners into expanding their software collections a little more.

 

I'M BORED OF READING, NOW GIMME THE INFOZ

How to interperet this table: The software title column refers to the BBC ONLY version.
That is after all why you're here right? Some of these titles DO have
their own electron version available, but if you can't find it, or don't have it,
you want to know how useable the BBC version is on your elk right?

In case you were sleeping past the introduction, the following results have
been gleened from loading this TAPE software on an electron that has a
Jafa 64k ram board installed. YMMV but in all honesty these results
should apply equally to owners of the Slogger Master Ram board
IN 64K MODE
.

CLICK HERE if you want to buy any Acorn Electron
or BBC B games, i have loads for sale!!

STATUS description: example screen info
1 This game has a terminal loading problem, to the point where nothing useable actually loads up for you to interact with. - "LOCKED"
- "MISTAKE AT LINE XX"
- "BAD PROGRAM"
- "THIS PROGRAM IS NOT DESIGNED FOR THIS COMPUTER"
2 This game does load up, and just about plays, but the screen is all over the place, the text is hard to make out, and its damn slow. You wouldn't choose to sit and play this game. Garbage characters interfering with regular game text at an unbearable level, slow as hell, bad sounds etc. One to avoid unless you're desperate.
3 This game works, with only the odd unsightly garbage character that doesn't detract from playing a game. These are usually related to double-height text formatting and simple colour coding in the BBC screen mode.
4 works absolutely fine, no noticeable differences, looks pretty much like it was intended! maybe there will be the odd double-line of text on titles screens, maybe the odd one or two colour control characters in insignificant places.
5 works absolutely fine, no noticeable differences, looks Exactly like it was intended! the important thing to note is that while this title states BBC only, it seems to work on a STANDARD ELECTRON, not even any need for the 64k mode to get this one playable. maybe there will be the odd double-line of text on titles screens, maybe the odd one or two colour control characters in insignificant places.

 

BBC Software Title publisher status NOTES
Bored Of The Rings Silversoft 4  
Doctor Who : The First Adventure BBC Soft 1 loads up, does stuff, but crashes out.
Ferryman Awaits Kansas City Systems 1 "this program is not designed for your computer"
Five Spheres Of Goliath Kansas City Systems 3 freaky intro music
Frak! Aardvark 1 stops loading with "Requires a BBC with OS 1.0+ to run"
Gremlins The Adventure Adventuresoft 3  
He-Man MOTU Super adventure U.S Gold 2  
Horror Castle A 'n' F 3  
Killer Gorrilla Micropower 1 loads, plays music, but has a different screen mode
Kayleth U.S. Gold 2  
Kingdom Of Hamil Acornsoft 4  
Lords Of Time Level 9 4  
Myorem Robico 5 sold in the BBC Trilogy boxed set, this tape auto-senses the machine its being played on and loads the corresponding version.
Project Thesius Robico 5  
Questprobe 2 : Spider-Man Americana 5  
Questprobe 1 : The-Hulk Adventure International 4  
Questprobe 1 : The-Hulk Americana 4 version bbc-b/126
Rebel Planet U.S Gold 2  
Rick Hanson Robico 3  
Return To Eden Level 9 4  
Saga Of Erik the Viking Level 9 / Mosaic 3 loading screen looks funky
The Pen And The Dark The Unorthodox Engineers / Mosaic Publishing 4 weird loading screen animations, but perfect gameplay!
The Alien From Outer Space / Dragon's Tooth Double Gold / Incentive 1 Bad Program
The Pay-Off Bignose / Atari 4  
Wordhang BES 5 plays, but is just quite slow to react
Xanadu Adventure Hopesoft 4  

If you have information regarding BBC -> 64K Electron compatability and would like to add it here,
then drop me a line! it would be good if you could folow the numbering system
that i have sued above, this makes it a lot easier to describe the games
in terms of functionality! thanks.

CLICK HERE if you want to buy any Acorn Electron
or BBC B games, i have loads for sale!!

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