BBC Launches 80s Computer Programme Video Archive

Computer Literacy ProjectPeople interested in the history of computing can now dive into an archive of programmes created by the BBC for a national initiative called the 'Computer Literacy Project' throughout the 1980s.

These BBC programmes covered the explosion of personal computing and the fast spreading use of computers in the home. The programmes explained principles still relevant today and included interviews with computing pioneers of the time such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Bob Moog and Robert Foster to name a few.

The online archive allows visitors to view all 267 programmes produced and explore 2,509 clips which are searchable by topic and keywords. You can also find out how the BBC Computer Literacy Project came about. Of specific interest is the ability to run 166 BBC Micro programs used on-screen via an online emulator.

A crucial part of the project was the commissioning the BBC Micro - a computer to assist which teaching viewers how to program and introduced them to the principles of computing. Designed and built by Acorn Computers in Cambridge, the BBC Micro is the start of a lineage that would ultimately lead to the design of the ARM processor. In fact, the ARM processor which is used in over 95% of mobile phones today, was developed using a BBC Micro!

The project has been spearheaded by David Allen, producer of many of the programmes in the archive, and Steve Lowry who was technical lead on many of the live demonstrations within the programmes.

The Centre for Computing History interviewed both David Allen and Steve Lowry together to find out more about these programmes and how they developed : 

Professor Steve Furber, principal designer of the BBC Micro and the ARM processor, and ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, said "Computing today is so pervasive and taken for granted that it is important to understand that this was not always the case. The 1980s saw the emergence of the computer from the machine room, where it was under the control of a few folk in white coats, into homes and schools, where it was accessible to all."

This archive will also be available to view at The Centre for Computing History on our visitor terminals.

Story By: Jason Fitzpatrick

Date : 27-06-2018

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