My Econet

I have my own little Econet of BBC Computers, which I started in 2002 and has been a permanent feature of BeebMaster Towers ever since. The table below gives a full description of the configuration and status of my network as at September 2013:

This page gives a brief history of my Econet, from its beginnings in 2002 to the present day.

Station 1
BBC Master 128
Station 1 was part of the original BeebMaster Econet in 2002.

It is unique on my Econet as the only station which has had a change of machine. The original Station 1 Master 128 was taken away in 2002, eventually to become the BeebMaster Domesday Machine, and a new Master 128 was christened as Station 1 in its place.

The link to the left will take you to the latest page on Station 1, but this dates from May 2007 and is out-of-date in some ways.

As at September 2013, Station 1 contains my Sprow ARM7 co-processor; the Technomatic Winchester disc is no longer connected since it developed a fault; the Acorn Teletext Adapter is once again connected, but from 2009 to 2012 my Morley Teletext Adapter was connected instead. To its credit, Station 1 has gathered well over 100,000 Teletext pages since the autumn of 2009.

Station 1 can also function as an Econet printer server with the addition of the Printer Server ROM as it is connected to my main printer via a sharer box with the PC. I regularly use Station 1 for local printing but only extremely rarely for Econet printing.

Station 1 remains my principal Beeb and Econet station, and its station ID recognises its status as the premier BeebMaster machine, but it probably isn't terribly sensible to use an ID of 1, because this is the default number used by any Econet station from the Master 128 onwards if the number isn't configured correctly in the CMOS RAM. I did fall foul of this problem in 2012 when I was in the middle of an extensive network file copying operation and I switched on a badly-configured Archimedes I'd connected to the network, which kaiboshed the net due to the station number conflict and I had to start the copy all over again!

Station 128
BBC Model B
Station 128 is the only BBC B on my Econet. It was part of the original configuration from 2002, and was partly responsible for me starting an Econet in the first place - when I bought it, I was intrigued to find the Econet interface inside, as it was the first Beeb I'd owned with Econet.

The link to the left is from June 2007, and one or two things have happened since then. The TV set was changed when I changed laserdisc players from a very basic Pioneer CLD1200 to a dual-standard Philips VP380, and is now a more modern Goodmans TV which accepts NTSC pictures as well as PAL. Station 128 no longer shares the TV, but shares Station 1's Cub monitor instead.

Station 128 has the prototype BeebMaster 32K sideways RAM and also has a 32K EPROM with ANFS 4.18 and ADT 2.00.

In about June 2011, Station 1 developed a fault with receiving data through the serial port so since then, I have used Station 128 to communicate with the VP380 player. All my communication utilities were developed on the Master 128 and use certain constructions only available from BASIC IV (such as ON..PROC) so to run them on the BBC B, I load BASIC IV into the second processor as it doesn't work with a standard 6502.

Station 128 badly deserves a dual floppy drive; some day it shall have one!

Station 254
Acorn FileStore E01
Acorn FileStore E20
The Filestore E01/E20 was the original file server on the BeebMaster Econet but is now practically defunct. It was superseded as my principal file server by the MDFS, even before the MDFS was part of the main network, and then by Station 200 when it became the main server in 2009.

The Rodime inside the E20 was never very reliable, and I formatted it in 2006, unsuccessfully - because the Acorn formatter doesn't know how to deal with Rodime hard disc errors! I could probably get it formatted using Superform (or my own adaptation Ultraform) if connected straight to a Beeb, but it's stuck inside the glass-fronted cupboard and isn't accessible with anything short of an earthquake.

The FileStore doesn't get used at all nowadays, not least because there would be a station number conflict with the MDFS.

Station 200
BBC Master Turbo
Station 200 was added in March 2003, the same time as Station 201. This involved expanding the network cable to accommodate two new stations on the other side of the room. The link to the left dates from June 2007, and Station 200 has undergone a major change since then.

At Byte-Back in March 2009, I bought a Retroclinic CF hard drive. What attracted me to this modern form of Beeb storage was that it connected up to the 1MHz bus and used the existing Acorn ADFS (albeit a patched version), just as if it was a real, 1980s Winchester. I liked this, and felt comfortable with it. What I don't like, and don't feel comfortable with, are storage devices that unnaturally plug into ROM sockets with all sorts of hardware bodges, or need completely new filing systems to work them. Other people may like them; I've decided to opt out. So I was more than happy when I got back from Stoke-on-Trent to permanently attach the CF drive to Station 200 and use it as a Level 3 Econet file server with 4 logical ADFS discs of 512MB each.

This was pretty good timing, as I was about to embark on what is probably the largest-scale harvesting of Teletext pages ever undertaken.

It was also rather appropriate, as I had originally bought this machine to use as a Level 3 file server, mistakenly believing at the time that it was necessary to use a Master Turbo for the purpose.

In February 2013, the first ADFS logical drive in the first CF card half-blanked itself all of a sudden without any explanation. I haven't resolved this yet as at September 2013. I don't believe I lost any valuable data, but I did lose the auto-boot sequence for the file server, so I have to start it manually now each time I power up Station 200. There are many inconsistencies on the Econet partitions on the CF drive, caused by Station 200 crashing whilst the file server is running, caused by bad contacts on the ROM cartridges. This gives me inaccessible broken directories and files, but I don't think it's related to the card blanking issue, which is more likely due to a compact flash hardware fault. Shortly after the card blanking occurred, I decided to discontinue using the ROM cartridges in Station 200 and I moved the ROMs to the sockets inside the machine, forgoing the sideways RAM, which isn't used by the File Server anyway. The File Server hasn't crashed once since I did this.

Station 201
BBC Master 512
Station 201 was added to my Econet in March 2003, in the same expansion operation as Station 200. It is a Master 512 with MOS 3.50 and an overlay ROM board to swap out some of the ROMs in the MOS for ROMs on the board, so it's a slightly unusual machine. The link to the left gives more information, dating from July 2007.

Station 201 has changed very little since then, except that I use it with the BeebMaster prototype dual 3" floppy drive more often than not. I also tried to improve the R-G-B convergence on the Cub monitor a year or three back by adjusting the tabs on the back of the tube. I think I could have endured the electric shocks I kept giving myself if the picture had actually improved, but my clumsy methodology led to me breaking off the tabs before I'd finished, so all I get now is a rainbow across the screen when any text or graphics is displayed!

I have a spare Cub monitor waiting, and it's a higher resolution than the current one, so hopefully I get it in place during 2013. Or 2014. Or 2015.

One of the most remarkable features of Station 201 is its seemingly everlasting battery. In the 10 years I've owned the machine, I've never had to replace the battery pack or even once reset the CMOS RAM.

Econet Clock
Every Econet must have a Clock, and originally the BeebMaster Econet used an SJ Research Clock, similar to the one shown in the link to the left, which is one of the original BeebMaster pages from April 2003.

It's now years out of date, as I've been using one of my own BeebMaster Clocks for some years. After the December 2011 expansion, I slowed the clock speed down significantly to allow the signal to reach the downstairs stations.

Network Wiring
Originally, my Econet was wired up with cable and SJ Socket Boxes, and my original page on my Econet cables and socket boxes from April 2003 is here.

From the summer of 2005 onwards, the upstairs network was made up of T-pieces and Econet DIN leads. In December 2011, I expanded the network to add a downstairs branch, and I did that with a length of network cable and a socket box at each end, connecting the upstairs end's socket box to the end T-piece with an Econet cable, and moving the terminator plug to the socket box at the downstairs end. This allowed the MDFS to be added to the main network for the first time.

2012 Expansion
My most recent network expansion happened in January 2012, continuing the expansion I had started a couple of weeks earlier. I added an extra socket box, which was already terminated inside, to the downstairs extension. This enables ad hoc downstairs stations to be connected to the BeebMaster Econet instead of being run on a separate net.

Station 254
SJ Research MDFS
My MDFS Tower was for years the backbone of my downstairs "Weekend Econet" and finally became part of the main BeebMaster Econet in December 2011. The link to the left shows my MDFS Tower before it was moved in 2010. The configuration of the MDFS Tower remains the same, but the boxes are in a different order in its current location.

I can't use the MDFS and FileStore at the same time due to the station number conflict, but as explained above, the FileStore is nowadays more or less defunct.

Due to years of cold winters, the discs in the MDFS are not as reliable as they once were, even in its new home. A complete overhaul of the MDFS is one of the main items of unfinished business here at BM Towers.

Station 114
BBC Master 128
Station 114 was christened in March 2009 as a direct replacement for Station 112, which I killed after some ill-advised footling with an amp-meter. It is a BBC Master 128 which lives at the side of the MDFS and is the principal ad hoc station in the BeebMaster Econet. It is probably used more than any other of my Beebs apart from Station 1. Many of the screenshot picture sets are made using Station 114 when connected to a DVD recorder. In July 2013, I added an external reference clock crystal in place of the onboard crystal so that I could genlock the picture to the Domesday LV-ROM player.

I'm afraid I can't give you a good explanation of its station ID, except that it's the next even number after 112; it's possible 112 was always the station number of that machine when it arrived, but I can't remember.

Station 70
Acorn A7000
The greatest thing about Econet, in my opinion, is that it spans very nearly the entire repertoire of Acorn computers from 1978 to whenever Acorns stopped being Acorns (NO answers on any postcards please).

My A7000 is my principal 32-bit ad hoc Econet station. I was lucky to get hold of a RISC-PC Econet NIC, which also fits the A7000, shortly after I brought the A7000 home. The A7000 lives on top of the MDFS and is brought out ad hoc when either I need to do something 32-bit, or I need to do some network file copying using the benefit of a graphical user interface. The A7000 has essentially replaced the A5000 in this capacity, simply because it is lighter, much more portable and has 4 times more RAM.

Station 50
Acorn A5000
The A5000 lives in the BeebMaster Workshop and only gets sporadic use now as an ad hoc Econet station as it has been pretty much superseded by my A7000.
Other Ad Hoc Stations Practically any Acorn in the BeebMaster collection has the potential to be an ad hoc Econet Station. If it's a Master series machine onwards, then all it takes is to bung in an Econet Module and it's ready to be connected to my net. Anything before that would really have to have had the Econet hardware already fitted as I'm not capable of adding the Econet upgrade myself to a BBC B or earlier machine.

Many of my machines have been used as ad hoc Econet stations, either during the days of my "weekend Econet", or more recently following my main network expansion in 2011/2.

My Domesday Machine is fitted with Econet and has station number 86. It was used extensively as an Econet Station during my "Domesday Rescue" data retrieval efforts in 2006.

My Teletext Beeb, station number 129, which lives underneath Station 114, has been used at shows as a Teletext terminal and with its issue 2 motherboard, is probably one of the earliest BBC Micros still in Econet use anywhere in the world.

My Schwarzenegger Beeb has been given station number 131 and is used occasionally as an ad hoc Econet workstation.

There is a station 130, by the way - somewhere! I've allocated station numbers 128 onwards for BBC B machines. The reason is that NFS adds leading zeroes to the station number if it's less than 100, and I thought 128 was a more computery number to start with than 100. I did eventually use station number 100 for my Master Compact.
Station Numbering I don't employ any hard and fast rules; the numbering conventions below are a mixture of actual station numbers in use, and general principles for future expansion:
1Station 1, principal Beeb
2-9Reserved for future BBC Masters
30-39Reserved for A3000/3020s
40-49Reserved for A4000s
50Acorn A5000
51-59Reserved for future A5000s
61-69Reserved for future RISCs PC
70Acorn A7000
71-79Reserved for future A7000s
80Raspberry Pi 2 when running RISC OS
86BeebMaster Domesday Machine
87Reserved for second Domesday Machine
100BBC Master Compact
101Reserved for second Master Compact
114Station 114, principal ad hoc Beeb
128Station 128, principal BBC Model B
129Teletext Beeb
130BBC Model B
131US BBC Model B
132-139Reserved for future BBC Model Bs
200Station 200, BBC Master Turbo
201Station 201, BBC Master 512
202-209Reserved for stations on upstairs expansion leg
218Currently RO2 A3000
235Reserved for future standalone printer server station
252Reserved for future file server renumbering
253Second MDFS
254File Server, currently FileStore and MDFS

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