Run a BBC Micro Model B on a myStorm BlackIce

Retrocomputing is a fun way to relive (or experience for the first time) the early years of personal computers. While there is no substitute for the tactile feel of actually using a vintage personal computer, they can be expensive and difficult to find in working order. Modern reproductions are a good alternative, but can be pricey themselves. The most affordable way to experience a classic personal computer, or at least the operating system and software, is to emulate one.

BBC Micro (📷: Wikipedia)

With more than 1.5 million units sold, the BBC Micro (models A and B) was one of the most popular personal computers of the ’80s. Made by British computer company Acorn Computers and originally introduced in 1981, it’s a computer that most people who grew up in the ’80s in the UK were familiar with. Roughly 80% of British schools had a BBC Micro, and so it has a high nostalgia factor for many Brits.

myStorm forum user hoglet was one of those people — the BBC Micro Model B was their second computer (replacing the earlier Acorn Atom). To emulate the classic “Beeb” (as it was nicknamed), hoglet decided to use a myStorm BlackIce. The BlackIce is a unique development board that combines an FPGA and an ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller, and it has plenty of power to run the BBC Micro operation system.

While this isn’t the first FPGA-based BBC Micro implementation, getting it running on the BlackIce took some coding by hoglet. They based this on a fairly popular BBC core for FPGAs called Mist, which was then modified to work on the BlackIce. The version hoglet is now running seems to be working just about perfectly, with all of the functions available, and software and games running nicely. If you have a BlackIce and want to do the same, the code and instructions are available in the forum post.