BeebControl>>BBC Buggy

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A fischertechnik set meets the BBC Micro

Launched in 1983, the BBC Buggy from Economatics claimed to be the first computer control buggy for the Beeb. However, this picture scanned from the BBC Buggy's box suggests there's a lot of work ahead of the builder before this buggy can start responding to computer commands. Still, for many buyers (mostly schoolteachers) putting it together was half the fun. So much so that Economatics claimed to have sold over 5000 by the mid eighties.

The box describes its contents as 'The BBC Buggy Control Kit - an expandable, versatile kit of parts and software.' The contents are listed as:

  • Easily assembled fishertechnik construction kit
  • Stepper motors fully wired
  • Electronic circuit boards, fully assembled
  • All control cables
  • Software tape with 13 programs
  • Software documentation
  • Assembly instructions
It adds that only a screwdriver and M4 spanner are required. A further footnote mentions that a pen kit (supplementary) is available for LOGO use.

I notice that one item not included in the parts picture is the clear plastic top cover to protect the circuit board from prying fingers. This cover can be seen fitted to the well-used buggy above, but not on the one shown below (which is also scanned from the box). The cassette tape above is also minus its label, so the shots are clearly very 'pre-production'. I wonder if any other parts are missing from the parts picture (see large version in the gallery section).
Getting it moving

Thirteen programs accompanied the kit on a tape cassette. (I don't know whether a disc version was ever available, but I appear to have some files on an anonymous floppy that look suspiciously like Buggy files. If I find they'll run from disc I'll stick them on the software page.) The programs were listed as:

  1. Test and familiarisation
  2. Switch - direct computer control
  3. Memory switch - demonstrating computer memory
  4. Snail - screen route planning
  5. Routeplanner - advanced version of snail
  6. Recorder - route display
  7. Explore for wall - mapping of boundaries
  8. Explore for object - seeks out objects, defines shapes and returns home
  9. Barcode routeplanner - non-keyboard information input
  10. Tin Pan Alley - composing music by barcodes
  11. Man vs Buggy - 'Flying blind'
  12. Sunseeker - seeking a light and negotiating obstructions
  13. Line follower - black or white line following

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