Yellow Pig's BBC Computer Pages

The BBC Master 512

About the 512 | Outline | Bibliography | Problems | Extra Info | Software | Photos | Index


Here are a few items of software that might be of interest to BBC Master 512 owners. From this page can be accessed:

The Master 512 system software

Other items specifically for the Master 512

GEM Version 3

Public-Domain, Shareware, etc

Issues about downloading software for the 512

Copyright matters

The Master 512 System Software

The BBC Master 512 was distributed with four (5¼") disks of software, and it cannot be used without at least the first disk of the set – the DOS-Plus Boot Disk.

If the disks are missing or corrupted, then they are slightly awkward to re-create. Click here for instructions and resources to rebuild them.

Other Items Specifically for the Master 512

Co-Processor Filing System (CPFS) – This enables the co-processor memory of the Master 512 to be used as a large RAM-disk while the BBC Computer is in native mode. (Note: This program was originally produced as an EPROM which would not work if copied into Sideways RAM. The version here will work in Sideways RAM.) The source files are included in the archive for anyone interested.

Millennium Bug Fix – The Master 512, at least when it has a genuine Master host with a battery-backed clock, does not read the date correctly on system boot. This fixes the problem.

PC Compatibility Enhancer (PCCE) – There are a number of reasons why certain PC programs will not run on the Master 512, even though (going by the amount of memory, the DOS version, etc) they ought to work. Some of these are due to faults or omissions in DOS-Plus. PCCE sorts out a number of these, and allows several programs to run that would otherwise fail on the machine.

Master 512 Mouse Driver – The Master 512 is supplied with a mouse, but with no mouse driver other than the one integral to GEM. Here is a standard MS-compatible mouse driver for the machine. The source files are included in the archive. (Note: With the default settings the mouse feels a bit sluggish by modern standards. It felt quite normal at the time the program was written. Using it with a setting of about S=160 makes it feel rather more like a modern mouse.)

Command-Line Mouse Driver – A different way of using the mouse enabling it in many programs that do not normally cater for it (and indeed at the DOS command-line). Causes movement of the mouse to simulate pressing "arrow" keys, and the mouse buttons can be assigned to other keys.

Master 512 BBC Basic – A special version of BBC Basic written for the Master 512, allowing all the facilities of the BBC Computer host to be used by the co-processor.

Intercom – A command-line processor for the Master 512. Allows recall and editing of command-line entries. (It works very like the DOSKEY program that forms part of MS-DOS from Version 5.)

Ramdisc and Utilities – A replacement for the supplied MEMDISK program. This one does not have the 90kb overhead, it can be assigned to another drive letter than M:, and it can be removed without rebooting the machine. It can also be located in the upper memory area of an expanded (1Mb) Master 512, and in this case it takes up no standard memory. Also included is a utility for reassigning any drive letters.

Suprstar (and GoBBC) – Suprstar allows access to native BBC *-commands in a much easier to use and more flexible way than the supplied STAR utility. GoBBC is really an extension to Suprstar, allowing full use of the native BBC Computer from within the Master 512, and then returning to the 512 from where you left off.

Fix EXE – A different way of handling the "need to reload COMMAND.COM" bug.

Fast-boot – A program that will allow much faster booting of the Master 512 from floppy disk. (This is a ROM image that really needs to be blown into an EPROM to be of any use.)

GEM Version 3

The supplied version of GEM (on the system disks) is Version 2. The Master 512 will run Version 3, and some programs require it. Click here for instructions and resources.

Public-Domain, Shareware, etc

The idea of the Master 512 was always that it would run PC software, but in practice not all PC software that ought to work in fact does. The programs in this list have been tried out on the Master 512 and found to work. (In some cases it may be necessary to run PCCE or use some other trick to get them to function correctly.)

Please note that, although some of these programs are free and all of them are old, some may require a registration fee if they are to be used regularly.

Dabs Press Shareware Collections

Dabs Press issued two collections of shareware that worked on the Master 512. (Occasionally a small part of the program didn't function as it ought, but not enough to render it unusable.) Each collection was distributed on five 800kb disks, with a booklet, and there was an extra "Bonus Disk" included in the second set with some extra programs not mentioned in the booklet.

The programs that made up these collections are included here, each disk compressed as a zipped archive, or as two if the single file would be too big for a 360kb disk. They can be expanded back to the original disks by using PKUNZIP on the Master 512 with the "-d" option. (See below for the PKZIP package.)

Dabs Press Collection 1


Disk 1 (Word Processing): Mindreader, SpellCheck, Justify, Fogfind, Word Processing for Kids

Disk 2 (Other Business Programs): As Easy As ..., FloDraw

Disk 3 part 1 (Games 1): Bridge, Burger, Checkers, Entrap

Disk 3 part 2 (Games 2): PC Chess, Sopwith, Wombat, Monochrome Chess, 3-D Noughts and Crosses

Disk 4 (Printer Programs): FX Edit, FXPR4, ImagePrint, LQ, Sidewriter

Disk 5 (Miscellany): Casio, Finger Paint, New Sweep, PC-Art, PC-Outline, World Map, Visual System Information, What Am I, PC-Golf

Dabs Press Collection 2


Disk 1 part 1: File Express, Life

Disk 1 part 2: Cassette Labels, PC Touch Type

Disk 2: Business Simulation, Expert, Gomuku, Great Little WP, ZBASIC

Disk 3: 3 by 5, Astroview, Calendar, EZ Forms Lite, List v6.2a, Mille Bornes

Disk 4: D-Date, Express Calc, Math Pak II

Disk 5: ANSI Screen Editor, Cribbage, Easy Write, Edwin Editor, Elevens, Equator, File Find, Fix Date, Letterhead Designer, System Speed Test, War on the Sea

Bonus Disk

This was included with later releases of Collection 2. As well as a few extra programs it also contains the documentation for File Express because this will not expand properly on the 512 (The program is on Disk 1).

Bonus Disk: Colossal Cave, Instant Calendar, Mail Merge, PC-Write, Writer's Heaven, File Express documentation

Other Software

A86 / D86 – A very efficient assembler and debugger that works well on the Master 512.

PKZIP – This is the standard DOS version 2.04g of the very well-known file archiving program. Note: This runs on the Master 512 provided PCCE is used (otherwise it crashes).

QEdit – An easy-to-use text editor that runs well on the Master 512.

Micro Emacs – A version of the classic Emacs editor ported to DOS. It runs on the 512 without any obvious problems.

Galaxy Lite – Word processor popular in the 1980's. It runs on the 512 provided PCCE is used.

PC-Write 3 – A more recent version of this word processor that the one on the Dabs Bonus Disk above.

There are quite a lot of disk images with Master 512 compatible software available here (with thanks to Jon Welch).

Practical Matters

Downloading for the Master 512

There does now exist hardware that will enable you to connect a BBC Computer directly to the Internet. See, for example, here or here.

If you do not have anything like this, though, you will have to download any of the above software onto another computer, which I will assume is a PC. (You are on your own if you are using something else, like a Mac or a Unix mainframe!)

You then need to transfer the data from the PC to your Master 512. This means you need:


compatible sized disk drives (and some suitable disks)


a direct data link.

Compatible sized drives

Floppy disk drives originally produced for the BBC Computer were all 5¼" ones (and they have to be 80-track double-sided ones to use with the Master 512). Newer PCs will normally use only 3½" disks, if they use any at all. It is possible to connect 3½" drives to your BBC. Or you may indeed have a 5¼" drive on your PC.

Provided you have same-sized drives in both machines, you can transfer the data very simply. Once the Master 512 is booted into DOS-Plus it will handle 360kb (5¼") or 720kb (3½") DOS disks without problem. The only complication is if you need to download the system disks.

For programs that run in the native BBC Computer, such as CPFS, just bring them to the 512 on DOS disks, and use the DOS-Plus utility MOVE.EXE to copy them to DFS or ADFS disks.

Just two things to remember:

         You must use double-density (DD) not high-density (HD) disks. The BBC is not capable of using HD, and the disks are not interchangeable – you cannot format HD disks in DD formats. For 3½" disks, DD disks have just one hole for the write-protect tab; HD disks have a second hole on the opposite side. For 5¼" disks, the two types look very similar, except that high-density ones have the HD logo printed on them.

You need to format these disks on the PC and not on the Master 512. There is a bug in the Master 512's DISK utility which means that if you use it to format disks in 360kb or 720kb formats, then you cannot use the disks to transfer data between the two machines.

Note that if your PC is running Windows XP or later then you cannot format DD disks from the Format dialogue box in Windows Explorer. Instead, go to "Start | Run..." and enter:

format <drive> /t:40 /n:9

for a 360kb (5¼") disk, where <drive> is "a:" or "b:" as appropriate; for a 720kb (3½") disk replace the "40" with "80".

Note also that disks already used in a BBC double-density format do not always format correctly on the PC. If this is a problem then format the disks in DFS on the BBC to wipe them clean from the PC's point of view, and then re-format then as 360kb or 720kb.

Direct data link

The only sensible way of linking the BBC Computer to a PC is through the serial ports, connecting the BBC's RS423 port to one of the PC's COM ports. You will need:

         A serial data cable, which is easy to make up (provided you can get a suitable plug for the BBC end);
    Some appropriate software. A suitable program would be XFER, which is designed for exactly this purpose.

Note that XFER transfers files to the BBC Computer in native mode for saving on DFS or ADFS disks. Programs to be run on the Master 512 will need to be transferred to DOS disks, and this can be done using the DOS-Plus MOVE utility.

You will have to do things this way round unless you can find a suitable program to run on the Master 512 that will use the serial port properly. Most such programs will not work with the 512. Apparently there was once a program that would work correctly, but unless you can find a copy you will have to go via BBC file formats.

Both compatible disks and a serial link?

If you have both of the above, then you have a choice. On the whole disks are faster, particularly for large files. Transfer by the serial link can be more convenient for small amounts of data, though with programs for the 512 you have the awkwardness of needing to use a BBC format file as an intermediate stage. Make your own decision!

Copyright Issues

Click here for Note to Copyright Holders

About the 512 | Outline | Bibliography | Problems | Extra Info | Software | Photos | Index