Proton (BBC Micro)


The British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, took an interest in the microcomputer
market and began the BBC Computer Literacy Project. Television episodes on microelectronics and
the predicted impact of computers in industry were designed to be made available to students, who
had no time to design their own computer system. The BBC wanted a computer to go with their
television series and started to look for candidate systems.
The BBC had a long list of subjects that it wanted to demonstrate in its series; graphics capabilities,
sound and music, teletext, external I/O, and networking were all requirements. Several companies
competed for the contract, and the Proton project was an ideal candidate. The only problem was
the Proton didn’t actually exist. Itlittle time, only 4 days, and spent those 4 days working night and day, prototyping the design, and
getting the Proton ready to show to the BBC Finally, only hours before the meeting with the
BBC, the Proton was ready. All the hard work done during that week paid off; not only was the
Proton the only machine to meet the BBC’s specifi cations, it also exceeded them. Acorn was
awarded the contact, and the project’s name was changed. The BBC Micro was born.
The BBC Micro sold so well that Acorn’s profi ts rose from a little more than $4,800 (£3000) to
more than $13.6 million (£8.5 million) in July 1983. Acorn anticipated the total sales of the BBC
Micro to be approximately 12,000 units, but after 12 years, more than 1.5 million units were sold.
By 1984, Acorn claimed sales of 85 percent of the computers in British schools, with deliveries of
40,000 units a month. The BBC Micro was extremely well designed for its use; a robust keyboard
that could withstand anything children could throw at it (literally), a carefully designed interface,
and the right machine at exactly the right time. was only in the design stage; it wasn’t prototyped. Acorn had