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Elite on the BBC Micro and NES

Elite over Econet

BBC Master and 6502 Second Processor Elite, converted to load over Econet

For those of us who grew up in 1980s Britain, the BBC Micro was synonymous with education. Some schools only had one computer for the whole school, which would be wheeled out on a trolley along with the school TV, but some schools had entire networks of Beebs, connected together by Acorn's proprietary networking technology, Econet.

Econet let entire classrooms load software from file server, while sharing printers, disc drives and other expensive pieces of equipment. You could load the likes of Granny's Garden and L - A Mathemagical Adventure over Econet, but disappointingly for an entire generation of school kids, you couldn't load Elite, no matter how hard you tried. It just wouldn't work.

Fast-forward to the modern era, and Econet is still going strong, albeit in the realm of hobbyists and computer museums. The UK's National Museum of Computing has a lovingly crafted 1980s classroom with an entire room full of Econet-connected Acorn machines, and it is a thing of beauty:

The classroom at the National Museum of Computing

I have my own rather more modest network at home, connecting together my Archimedes A410/1, BBC Master and BBC Micro, and I just had to get Elite loading over it. The challenge is one of memory; like the disc filing system, Econet steals a chunk of memory for its own use, which isn't normally too much of a problem, but when you're talking about a game that famously uses almost every single available byte, Econet is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Luckily the BBC Master and BBC Micro with 6502 Second Processor have plenty of spare memory, even when running Elite, so all it takes to get it loading over Econet is to restructure the game so it no longer uses the memory that Econet needs. I say "all" as if it's an easy thing, but here we are, with a version of Elite that loads and runs over Econet, and which you can download and install on your own Econet network for everyone to enjoy.

Teachers, you might like to look away now.