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 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