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Watford's 512 Co-processor Interface

Watford Electronics has released yet another interface for the model B and B+. All you need then is a 512 coprocessor to turn your Beeb into an IBM PC compatible. A gimmick or a breakthrough? Peter Rochford reports.

Product: Co-Pro Adaptor
Supplier:    Watford Electronics
Jessa House, 250 High Street
Watford, Herts WD l 2AN.
Tel. (0923) 37774
Price : £63.25p inc. VAT and p & p.

There must be a fair number of model B owners who would welcome the chance to be able to connect one of the Master co-processors to their machine. This is the thinking behind the release of the latest Beeb add-on from Watford Electronics, called the Co-Pro Adaptor.

What this unit does, is to allow either the Master 512 co-processor or the Master Turbo co-processor to work with a model B. In addition, the well-heeled Master owner could have a triple processor machine, with for instance, a Turbo inside the machine and a 512 residing in the Co-Pro Adaptor.

The Co-Pro Adaptor is a free-standing, mains operated unit housed in a sturdy BBC-beige metal case, measuring 220mm x 200mm x 65mm. The front panel features a DC power on/off switch and LED indicator. At the rear is a captive mains lead complete with plug and a ribbon cable measuring approximately 11 inches for connection to the TUBE port.

The top of the case is a hinged lid and provides easy access to the interior for fitting and removal of a co-processor. Installing a co-processor is quite simple. The pins on the underside of the co-processor board plug into two sockets on the main Co-Pro Adaptor circuit board. This does need reasonable care as it is only too easy to mis-align pins and socket, as there is no locating keyway.

Once installed correctly, all that is required is for the ribbon cable to be connected to the TUBE port. This can be REALLY fiddly as the ribbon cable is so short. With everything installed and connected, powering up the adaptor and then pressing Ctrl-Break, activates the co-processor.

In use the Co-Pro worked perfectly and there were no system crashes or anything else untoward. I did test the unit on both my Master and a model B. With the Master, I had my Turbo board inside the Master and the 512 installed in the adaptor. For me, the ability to do this is a godsend as I can now utilise both my co-processors without having to plug and unplug them inside my Master.

Model B owners can now buy a Turbo board and the Co-Pro adaptor for less than the price of the old Acorn 6502 second processor. The Turbo of course, apart from being cheaper, is also faster. The use of a 512 with the model B I find a bit dubious. There is no numeric keypad on a model B, and the 512 software configures this to provide certain key-functions normally found on IBM and MS-DOS machines.

In conclusion, I think that the unit is excellent and should find favour with both model B and Master owners alike. I should add, that at the time of writing, I hear that Acorn are to release their own adaptor for co-processors. It will be more expensive than the Watford unit at £86.25 (inc. VAT). I hope to obtain one as soon as possible for review.

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