I was delighted to discover recently of the existence of RISC OS pico for the Raspberry Pi.

RISC OS Pico is a stripped-down version of RISC OS for Raspberry Pi. Essentially they have stripped out the graphical user interface from the operating system leaving a Raspberry Pi that boots directly into BBC BASIC VI.

Raspberry Pi booting into RISC OS Pico, showing BASIC prompt and more RAM than you could possibly ever fill.

RISC OS is an operating system designed in Cambridge, England by Acorn. First released in 1987, its origins can be traced back to the original team that developed the ARM microprocessor. Anyone who remembers the Acorn Archimedes range of computers will be familiar with RISC OS. For a 30 year-old OS, it really was ahead of its time. RISC OS in now owned by Castle Technology Ltd. You can find my adventures with RISC OS lurking on this blog.

RISC OS Pico boots very quickly (about eight seconds on my Raspberry Pi 2 between pressing SHIFT+BREAK and getting the BASIC prompt) as shown in this video (running on an early model Pi):

Installation is very easy. You simply extract the ZIP archive onto an SD card with FAT format.  The hardest part is finding an SD card that can be formatted in FAT format (not FAT-32).

Once loaded you have a computer that boots directly to BASIC, leaving you with a rather silly amount of RAM available for your programs - thousands of times more memory than available on the original BBC microcomputers, and of course a much faster processor.  BBC BASIC VI is rather more advanced that BASIC IV on the BBC Master, with greater graphics capability and some extra commands such as WHILE...ENDWHILE and CASE...ENDCASE structures.

The distribution comes with some example programs and a guide to writing BASIC programs for RISC OS.  There is no other documentation supplied (unless I am looking in all the wrong places) so you will have to figure stuff out for yourself.

Setting the time is achieved through the BASIC command:

TIME$ = "16 Sep 2016.18.51.00"

Or whatever the current time is for you, although you will be disappointed if you do not have an on-board battery backup, which sadly the Pi does not yet have (the clock resets to 1970 when you power down).

Retrieving the time is achieved through either printing this variable, or the operating system call:


Other nice features I have discovered so far:

There is a BASIC editor program that beats the BBC Master.  Simply type 'EDIT'.  Options are selected using the function keys:

f1 - OS command
f2 - LOAD program
f3 - SAVE program
f4 - Search and edit
f5 - Search and replace
f7 - Search

A full list of function key definitions can be achieved with CTRL + f5.

There is also a full set of documentation for each of the BASIC commands.  Simply type:

HELP <command>

Well, that's it for now, because that is all I have learned so far.  I am going to continue to play with Pico, possibly try and get some BBC Master programs to run on it, so be sure to come back soon for more...

...if you are still awake, then you might like to read some more posts about the BBC Computers or RISC computers, or you might just want to play a browser-based adventure game.

#BBCBASIC #RISCOS #Pico #RaspberryPi

Perpetual Calendar app updated to include Timely

I have updated my perpetual calendar app for the BBC Master Computer.  It now includes the "Timely" app which I discussed in a previous post.

DOWNLOAD the SSD file for your BBC Master or Emulator.

The perpetual calendar (running in the emulator) showing a view of the 19th June 2019.

The full suite of programs now offers the following features:

  • A perpetual calendar which is good for the next hundred years or more, including dates of Easter, up to 365 custom recurring events or one-off calendar events.
  • A clock (available in both calendar, and "Timely" modes).
  • A timer (counts upwards in seconds).
  • A countdown (counts down in seconds).
  • Up to 6 alarms (which can be saved and reused).
  • A CMOS clock reset utility (thanks to Beebug magazine).
  • Comprehensive documentation and a help system (does not work with second processor).

The "Timely" app running on vintage BBC Master Computer, showing a 20 minute countdown.
Machine code help routine.  Bring up a list of help topics with *H, or find a specific help topic with *H <topic> Unfortunately this feature will not work with the 6502 Co-processor.

If you are still awake then you might want to read other BBC Computer related posts, or just some random programming stuff.

#BBCComputer #BBCBASIC #Programming #perpetualcalendar #time #timer #countdown #calendar #teletext

Get lost with maps too

Introducing our second instalment of awesome map apps to get lost in right now. If you missed the first post, you can grab it here.

The planet's history of violence

There is no denying it. We are one bloodthirsty species. With this app from Nodegoat you can discover all of mankind's battles in one interactive map. The data has been scraped off Wikipedia for all articles relating to a battle that has both a location and a date. Using the app you can focus on a particular country or historical period, or change the slider and watch the carnage unfold.  If you like this app then you might also like the video at the end of this post.

Visions of the Ring

Frodo and Strider, on their way for a pint at Bree.
Ever read Lord of the Rings and felt the need to track both Frodo's journey and the location of the Ringwraiths simultaneously? Well, probably not, but now you can anyway, with Visions of the Ring thanks to Hayoo. With this app you can plot the timeline of the classic book and the location of the main protagonists and antagonists, thanks to some careful research using the Appendix and other sources. Definitely plus one geek experience point awarded to Hayoo.

Solar Beat

Solar beat, like a big cosmic record player, far out, maaaan!
What is the sound of the solar system? Whitevinyl design present Solar beat, a musical orrery. Watch the orbits of the planets around the sun, each one making a different tone as it passes a line from the sun in to interstellar space (which presumably represents the first of January). The result is a haunting and beautiful melody.  Do check it out now. You can alter the speed at which time passes in this solar system, and the number of years that have elapsed is displayed on the dashboard at the bottom.

European Countries Quiz

Some are easy to spot, but I did struggle to find Andorra.

This web app from Sheppard Software tests your knowledge of European geography.  The name of a country is displayed or spoken and it is up to you to find it on the map, scoring points for correct matches.  Sheppard Software have countless other fun educational quizzes on their site.


A typical rainy day in Lancashire.
Ventusky is a brilliant animated weather map app with plenty to play around with from rain, snow cover wind speed etc.

Hurricane Hermine battering the coast of America right now

Video time

The world population has grown by 0.8 billion people over the past decade.  This number is equivalent to more than the population of the United Kingdom each year, or four Americas each decade. Watch the World's population grow from 1CE to the present day and beyond in under 6 minutes.

Isao Hashimoto's map shows a time lapse of every atomic explosion from 1945-1998 with the size of the dot proportional to the atomic yield of the explosion.

Watch a timelapse of every significant battle from 1000AD to the present. The size of each explosion is related to the severity of the fighting.

Perpetual calendar version 1.4

I have updated my BBC Master calendar program.

Calendar running in the BeebEm emulator

The new features are:

  • 'Green letter day' - these are custom dates that you can set so they appear as green days in the calendar.  The dates are simply stored in a text file and you can add a single string of 38 characters to describe the event/day, for example "Auntie Maggie's birthday".  Dates can be set as either one-off events, or annual events.
  • The calendar automatically updates when the date changes in real time.  For example, if you are watching the calendar on the 30th November, late at night, the calendar will switch to 1st December at midnight.
  • Clock has been added. A simple depiction of the current time, which updates every five seconds.
  • Months in the future are depicted in green, and the past is depicted as red.
  • I have included an example data file (D.data) which includes some 'green letter days'.

In the future I may add the ability to add multiple events for each day.  I would have to change the underlying data structure so that events are stored as a linked-list, but I would also have to think about how the events all fit on the screen.

You can download the single-sided disc image for your BBC Master datacentre or for your emulator.

  • Hold <SHIFT> and press <BREAK> to load.  
  • To load the documentation: CH."docs".
  • The dates data file is D.data and should be edited in your text editor *EDIT D.data

Perpetual calendar

Today I wrote a Perpetual Calendar program for my BBC Master 128.

The calendar calculates the dates of Easter, as well as indicating the date of Christmas and Halloween.  Obviously, calculating the date of Easter was much harder(!)  I have managed to get somewhere with calculating the full moon phase as well, but I didn't quite finish this bit.

Perpetual calendar running in the BeebEm emulator, showing the date of Easter for 2017.  By the way, the date of Easter 2018 is 1st of April - NO JOKE!
I am grateful for the following contributions.  The basic calendar function was first published in BBC Acorn User magazine in July 1987, written by Paul Skirrow, and was published in their 'Hints and Tips' section.  I have modified it so that the calendar displays interesting days in colour. It also picks up the current date from the CMOS RAM, so this program will only run on a BBC Master 128, or otherwise a BBC computer fitted with an internal clock and battery.  You can emulate this in BeebEm, but it might struggle to pick up the correct date without some configuration.

The awesome teletext font first appeared in BBC Acorn User magazine in November 1990 and was written by Martin Osborne.

The current functionality allows you to skip forwards or backwards in time in steps of months or years using the cursor keys, or you can go to a specific month by pressing f0 (f10 in the emulator).

In future versions I would like to be able to enter 'red letter' days - ie let the user enter appointments, either recurring appointments like birthdays, or one-shot reminders for the dentist etc.  As it stands the program is only a rebuild of the existing perpetual calendar which I wrote about here.

You can download the SSD single-sided disc image here.  This will run in the BeebEm emulator, but you will get much better experience running it on vintage hardware using the DataCentre add on.

A sample of the help file supplied on the disc.

Introducing Weekend Warriors

This August I have been working on a new game: Weekend Warriors.

Weekend Warriors is a strategy text game of spell-casting and problem-solving. You play the part of a wizard protecting your kingdom from the endless hoards of computer generated enemy horror.

You have at your disposal over sixty unique spells from which you must choose those that will defend your kingdom. Some spells will summon creatures to do your bidding, whilst others represent magical objects, places and enchantments that will aid you in your quest.

At each turn you must defeat the hoards of your enemy by matching symbols on your enemy cards with powers generated by your own creatures.

Facing your first enemy: The Baby Giant Slug, adept at killing noob wizards, this monster requires 2 points of combat power and 1 point of defence power in order to be defeated, however there is a short cut - just one point of fire power will toast this slug to death.
Spells are cast by spending either gold (generated by defeating enemies) or mana points (one point is generated each turn).  The more powerful spells cost more to play, and sometimes they are delayed one or more turns, so you need to think about what you will need in advance.

Unlike many games of this genre, you have access to every spell in the game, which you can access at any point in the game by opening your spell book.  There are currently over sixty unique spells to choose from, with more coming soon.  It is recommended that you study each spell carefully and weigh-up their costs against what you require to win. Some spells reward you for having already cast other spells, for example, the spell Bloodlust gives you combat points equal to the number of warriors you have in your battlefield, so it would be a good strategy to spend precious resources building up your army of warriors.

The spell book showing some of the available spells.

Weekend Warriors allows you to play the game however you want, and you are rewarded for knowing the spell book inside out.

Each turn consists of two phases.  In the first phase you may look through your spell book and choose spells to cast. You may wish to examine the creatures and objects already on your battlefield for activated abilities or to 'rest' creatures you do not need.  In the second phase your creatures spend their 'stamina' points generating powers for you to use in defeating the computer-controlled enemies.  In this phase it is too late to rest your creatures, although you may still cast new spells and organise your armies.

Viewing an item in your battlefield.  Here is the battle axe, which is just waiting to be equipped to a suitable dwarf.

Weekend Warriors is ready to play in public beta form.  There are probably a few bugs still to iron- out, and undoubtedly the game-balance will need tweaking based on feedback.

All constructive feedback is welcome.

Further updates in the future are planned, with more spells and enemies to keep you going.  What is even more exciting is that there is planned original artwork for each spell and enemy in the game coming soon from the talented artist Pob, who worked with me on Spellunker. You can check out Pob's artwork for Spellunker here.

One of the creatures in the spell-book view, showing (from left to right) name; 'summoning' button; spell class and types; description; placeholder for artwork (coming soon); flavour text; casting costs; stamina; abilities; links to other spells that work well with this one.
To get you started with Weekend Warriors, I've created a short tutorial.  Just press the 'Help' button in-game and choose a help topic.

Weekend Warriors tutorial running on my Lumia 950.

If you have enjoyed this post, then you may like this post from last year's game Have Spell Will Travel.

Summer projects over the years

So, I haven't posted for a little while. I have been enjoying the hot weather and some time off work, however I have also been working on a new project (some teasers at the end of this post...)

Each summer I aim to complete a new project.  Listed here are some of the best projects I have attempted over the years....

...starting with...

2008 The Unofficial Talisman Computer Game

An electronic implementation of Talisman - the Magic Quest Game.  I wrote this for fun and to develop my programming skills. It was in no way an attempt to undermine Games Workshop's intellectual property, however, GW did flex their legal muscles and I decided it best to remove this game from all sites that I control.  Nevertheless, it was tremendous fun to create, and it is still tremendous fun to play today.

2012 Star Funk

Here my mining vessel is under attack from a group of passing traders.

StarFunk is a game of Inter-Galactic trade, exploration, mining, piracy and combat for Windows.  If StarFunk is like any game, then think of Elite, but in 2D.  It is completely open, and although there are several missions to complete, how you play and what you do is entirely up to you - although getting on the wrong side of the space police is usually a fatal decision.

2013 Space Combat

I never quite finished this game, however I did distribute the code for anyone who wants to finish it.  In Space Combat you must defeat wave after wave of enemy space craft by throwing dice to overcome their defences.  The executable version is playable, at least for the early levels.

2014 Spellunker

Spellunker is a spelling and adventure game for Windows. You follow the story of Wordsworth Spellunker in his quest to find the truth about his parents.  Along the way you must defeat the various, ever-more challenging levels by casting magic spells - literally spelling words from the assortment of letters you are provided with. The longer your word, the more points you accrue.

The artwork for Spellunker is provided by the lovely Pob, and some of the story-line was created with thanks to Ben.

2015 Have Spell Will Travel

Have Spell Will Travel is a web-based adventure game. You play the part of a hero, defending the town from dreaded kobold attacks. At every turn you will be asked to test one of your many abilities. You could choose your highest stat, but you never know how dangerous your enemy is. With a little luck and skill you may survive long enough to quest for the fabled Sword of Gygax, or even defeat the dread sorcerer, Warren Fogbender.

You can choose from one of over 168 different characters each with a unique set of abilities.  Want to be an Ogre-ninja?  How about a Fairy witch?  Well, with Have Spell Can Travel, you can!

2016 - New game coming soon.

Early version of Weekend Warriors being tested in the Edge browser.

I am currently working on a new game.  It is still in the early stages, however I can say that it is a strategy game in which you must balance your attack and defence powers to overcome various challenges thrown at you by the computer.

The working title is Weekend Warriors, so called because one of the characters in the game - The Weekend Warriors - are so tough you may only play them on a Saturday or Sunday.

That's all for now, but stay tuned to find out more.

Microbit virtual pet

I made a virtual pet for microbit.

The microbit is an ARM-based embedded computer system designed by the BBC for use in computer  science education. It comes packed with sensors and a 25-LED display.  The microbit website allows you to program the device and I first discussed it in this post over here.

Today I built a virtual pet. Grab the code here and run it on your microbit or in the simulator.

Microbit virtual pet when started. It is happy.

As with all virtual pets you get to look after and feed a creature within the device. You can feed the creature by holding the 'A' button, and clean up after its waste with the 'B' button.  Holding both buttons together will get the creature to talk to you - it will tell you what it needs.  The creature gets hungry after a certain period of time which can be changed in the 'hungerThreshold' variable.

This virtual pet always does a poo after you have fed it.

Currently that is all, but there is room to improve: The creature does not die from neglect; it always eats even when it is not hungry; it does not complain when you shake it.

Update - 2016-06-29 - The micorbit virtual pet now has a new name: Mike the Microbit, and he will die from neglect.

Improved SenseHat headlines ticker

Last time I introduced my SenseHat RSS feed display code. Today I have made some improvements to the script.

The Sense HAT provides an 8x8 LED maxtrix display, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, air pressure sensor, temperature sensor and air pressure sensor, as well as a small joystick.  Basically a bundle of sensors that plug in directly to the GPIO pins on your Raspberry Pi. They are well worth purchasing should you wish to upgrade your Pi.

First off, the list 'feedlink' can be populated with as many RSS feeds as you like.  Here I have three BBC feeds, but they could be substituted for any feed you like.  Currently the ticker loops through all of the articles in each feed. You could change it so that each feed is chained to the end of the previous one.  With this code you can switch the the start of the next feed by shaking the Raspberry Pi.  The shake is detected by a change in the 'pitch' of the SenseHat.  You can change the sensitivity of the shake with the THRESHOLD variable.  The new feed will be displayed after the previous article has finished.
The RSS feed ticker scrolling over the SenseHat, however my camera frame rate can't keep up.

I have added some exception handling to the showFeed routine to handle an index out of bounds error. I think this could occur with the previous code.

#Sense Hat RSS reader
#version 2
#For Python 2
from sense_hat import SenseHat
import feedparser
import time

def showFeed(d, n):
    """Shows feed (d) article (n)"""
    except IndexError as e:

sense = SenseHat()
sense.low_light = True

feed = []
feedlink = ['http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/rss.xml?edition=uk',

THRESHOLD = 15 # threshold for tilt (changes feed)

print "Running on SenseHat:"
while True:
    #read the feeds in
    for thisFeed in range(len(feedlink)):

    i = 0 #article pointer
    f = 0 #feed pointer
    while i < ARTICLE_LIMIT:
        orientation1 = sense.get_orientation_degrees()
        print 'feed ',f,'article',i
        orientation2 = sense.get_orientation_degrees()
        #check for shake
        print 'shake detected ',abs(orientation2['pitch'] - orientation1['pitch'])
        if (abs(orientation2['pitch'] - orientation1['pitch'])> THRESHOLD):
            f += 1 #change feed
            i = 0 # return to start of feed
            if (f == len(feed)):
                f = 0
            i += 1

RSS feed for Raspberry Pi SenseHat

I have written a short script for running a news feed on a Raspberry Pi SenseHat.  The Sense HAT provides an 8x8 LED maxtrix display, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, air pressure sensor, temperature sensor and air pressure sensor, as well as a small joystick.  Basically a bundle of sensors that plug in directly to the GPIO pins on your Raspberry Pi. They are well worth purchasing should you wish to upgrade your Pi.

The feed picks up the headlines from the BBC news service and then runs continuously on the SenseHat display. Any other valid newsfeed could be substituted for the BBC feed.

RSS feed running on the Raspberry Pi with SenseHat.  I couldn't get a much better photo then this.

Step 1

I used feedparser for the RSS feeds.  This can be installed on your Pi using the following command:

sudo pip install feedparser

Step 2

The following Python 2 code runs an infinite loop which loads the first twenty articles from the BBC website and displays them continuously on the SenseHat display.

#Sense Hat RSS reader
#For Python 2
from sense_hat import SenseHat
import feedparser
import time

sense = SenseHat()

print "Ticker running on SenseHat"
while True:
    for i in range(ARTICLE_LIMIT):
        d = feedparser.parse('http://feeds.bbci.co.uk/news/rss.xml?edition=uk')

If you liked this article, then you might like my other SenseHat posts, or my other Raspberry Pi posts.

RetroClinic Datacentre for BBC Micro

The post was going to be called: 'You need to hear about my 1MB RAM disk', or 'Not even the US military have this hardware in their nuclear defence system'.

Yesterday the datacentre arrived for my BBC Master 128.

The datacentre is available from retroclinic.com and is a modern hardware upgrade for your vintage BBC microcomputer.  Setting-up was easy as I chose the 'external' datacentre option which is virtually plug-and-play (although I did need to install the RFS ROM chip).

BBC Master running TimeTrek.  The Datacentre is the 3D-printed box with the red light sitting on top of the disk drive.

Datacentre provides you with a RAM filing system.  This means that you get four virtual floppy disks available to use straight away.  The computer treats these as it would any floppy disk with the advantage of being totally silent and noticeably faster.

You also get one Non-volatile 200K RAM disk.  This works in much the same way as the other four with the added advantage of not losing its contents when the power is switched off.  I am going to use this for commonly-used apps. You can also configure the master to boot into this disk which is very handy.

Probably the most compelling reason to upgrade your beeb with the datacentre is the fact that you can plug a USB flash drive into the USB 2 port.  Your computer sees this as another (sixth) disk drive which you can, if you like, use to store programs and files as with the other disks.  More compelling is that you can transfer any file from your PC onto the USB disk and have your BBC computer read these files.  Even more so is that you can dump BBC disk images - both single-sided and double-sided disks.  I have a 4GB flash disk containing over 600 disk images (and it is only 1% full).  I am reliable informed that people have plugged up to 2TB of solid state storage into their computer.  Enough room for every line of code every written for the beeb.

Once you have a USB drive full of disk images, you can transfer them onto either a floppy disk to run on the computer, or simply copy the image onto one of the four volatile RAM disks.  I spent several hours yesterday reliving the BeeBug magazine disks. You can, of course, run these disk images in an emulator on your PC, but there is nothing like running old software on vintage hardware (and a 32 inch screen).

Copying from a disk image to the RAM filing system is a process that takes one OS command *import -02 <imagefilename> and takes about ten seconds to complete for a double-sided disk.

It is possible to export the contents of a RAM disk back to a disk image for the purposes of sharing your disks or keeping a back-up in the cloud.  In fact the process is so convenient that you play loose and easy with your disks.  No longer are you confined to careful archiving of physical disks; ensuring that the most data is packed onto your precious floppy disk.

Perpetual Calendar from BeeBug by P Brown.  Yay! It doesn't think that it is 1916.
The device also has a USB 'slave' port for direct communication with your PC.  I haven't had time to play with this much yet as I was too busy looking through old disk images.  The device is a fully functional USB 2.0 specification host, and as such, you can use virtually any USB device in it you like, including keyboards, mice, joysticks, etc, but that's a post for a different time.

It is possible to accidentally corrupt your nonvolatile RAM disk, so regular backups to the USB drive are strongly advised.  I managed to do this (with resulting data loss) but fortunately the system comes with a utility to restore the disk.

If you are thinking about purchasing a BBC microcomputer, then the Retroclinic datacentre is an absolute must-have addition, so contact Mark now.

#bbcmicro #bbcmaster #retroclinc #bbcbasic #computers #vintage #floppydisk #beebem

What happens when you let a computer compose music?

What happens when you let a computer compose music?

Well the results are pretty impressive with Jukedeck.  By combining computer science and music composition theory, you can create A.I. generated tracks at the push of a button.

Jukedeck allows you to create a new composition in a few seconds by selecting the genre and mood from a list.  Every track you make is unique so there is no danger of your music appearing elsewhere. It is ideal for the growing army of video bloggers who need some background music for their creations.

Tracks can be used royalty free for individuals and small businesses (fewer than 10 employees). Other licensing options exist, including the option to buy the copyright for your tune.

The free account limits you to five downloads per month, but you can get more for each friend you invite (so click that image now!).

+1 geek experience point for Ed Rex, Jukedeck's founder.

What happens when you let a computer compose art?  
Find out in Modern Art is rubbish.

Arduino Star Trek control panel and love-o-meter

I have continued to learn Arduino programming using the Arduino Starter Kit.

The next project in the book uses the Arduino to control three LEDs in what it imaginatively describes as a Star Trek style captain's control panel.  In this project you learn how to write code to test the status of a push switch and then, depending whether it is pushed or not, set the voltage on the LED circuits to high or low. It's another really simple project and is the first introduction to using the Arduino to control components rather than just supply power.

The project comes with a template to help you imagine that you really are Captain Kirk, if you needed help with this.

The next following project is an imaginatively titled love-o-meter.

It uses some code to get read a value from a linear temperature sensor.  Depending on the temperature your program reads the Arduino will set the voltage on up to three LED circuits. The temperature sensor is a rather small component and it actually took me a while to find it! This project also comes with a handy cardboard template - complete with lips - to help bring it to life.  Put your fingers over the temperature sensor and watch the LEDs light up one-by-one.  I understand that the Enterprise was fitted with something like this to help test the compatibility of Federation captains with alien women, only Captain Kirk often chose to ignore it.

The love-o-meter also introduces you to the serial monitor - a console for the output of text so you can see what's happening inside your Arduino.  This is useful as in this project it is unlikely that the ambient temperature is as high as 20 degrees.  I had to adjust my program and found better results when I looked at the serial monitor.

Join me soon as I continue to work my way through the brilliant Arduino starter kit.  Coming soon we will look at using the tri-colour LED and the servo motor!

As it is customary to end an Arduino post with a Douglas Adams quote, here goes:

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”

Still here? Well, you might like this post about the FUZE Basic Robot Arm Kit, or some noteworthy note apps for Windows.

Arduino project 1

Yesterday I showed you the Arduino starter kit.  Today I started to try the first project from the book.

After a short primer in the physics of electrical circuits, the book guides you gently into the first project, which is to create a push-button controlled LED light on the breadboad.

The project doesn't actually use the Arduino except to draw power; its just to get you familiar with the breadboard.  Once I had created the first LED in series with a push switch I added a second LED in parallel with the original circuit as shown below, and hey presto, two robot eyes (well, OK, two red LEDs).

It's not the most impressive project in the book, but at least I have got to grips with the components now.
Things I have discovered that it would be useful to have but I don't currently own:
  • a good light source (to see the colours of the resistor bands);
  • magnifying glass (to see any of the components at all - my eyesight is deteriorating);
  • digital multimeter (not essential, but should be in the toolbox of any electrician);
  • component box (there are a lot of small components).
It is time to stop there and attempt a more challenging project another day. Come back soon.

And since it is customary to end an Arduino post with a Douglas Adams quote - here goes:

A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.’

Still here? Dang! Well, you might like to look at this LEGO TARDIS kit, or maybe you want to solve some puzzles.