APRICOT – A PRogrammable Interactive Calculate O Tron

What a weird name, but I wanted something with calculate and tron it it, so there you go…

What is it?

APRICOT is a programmable calculator. A very simple one but it’s quite effective and Turing Complete if you want that sort of thing.


Many years back I wrote what I considered my ideal BASIC – I wrote it in C and have enjoyed using it over the years. I’ve shared it and there are a few active users out there too.

I did feel that while it was a good, full-featured modern implementation of a traditional BASIC that it was a bit big. I could not even think about running it on an old (or retro) 8-bit CPU so have looked at various “Tiny” BASICs and other languages, etc. (Except Forth or Forth-like languages. I am simply not interested in these). One that caught my eye was VTL and VTL-2 which can run on a 6502 CPU in under 1KB of RAM.

Trying to port VTL-2 to my own Ruby 6502 system proved to be a little problematic – mostly due to the amount of Zero-Page required, so in the best traditions of time, ie. How Hard Can It Be? I decided I’d write my own little language.


So VTL-2 may have been an inspiration, but my thoughts went back to my first programmable calculator the Casio FX-502P. Also my favourite behemoth of a calculator; The Harwell Computer, or WITCH.

What to write it in?

My initial thoughts were to write it in 65C02 assembly language – that might make it accessible to most folks who have 65C02 SBCs or older systems with a 65C02 CPU.

That hasn’t happened – yet.

I started in BCPL because I have a 65C816 system that can run BCPL (and edit and compile BCPL directly on-board) I thought it might be quicker to get the ideas and basics flashed out in a higher level language then hand-translate it into 6502 code.

It was quicker to get going and I had the basics going in a few hours, but being one of 2 or maybe 3 other BCPL programmers in the world, it’s not that accessible, so to make it a little more accessible, I re-wrote it in C. Currently I’m keeping the BCPL and C versions in-step with each other.

What’s in a number?

I decided that to keep things simple and in the traditions of VTL-2 and various Tiny BASICs that I’d stick to integers – specifically 32 bit signed integers. Apple Integer BASIC was only 16-bits and good enough at the time but the BBC Micro supports 32-bit integers so 32-bit it was.

Interactively it works just like an old-school calculator. There is no operator precedence as such and operators are actioned when they are entered. So 1+2*3 is 9 and not 7 as some people might expect.

How to get it?

Head over to the downloads page to get the manual and the C source code along with some examples and even a couple of games…

You will need to know how to unpack a .TGZ file and compile a C program to use it. There is a short README file there but not a lot else…


cd /tmp
mkdir apricot
cd apricot
wget https://project-downloads.drogon.net/apricot/apricot.tgz
tar xfz apricot.tgz
cd apricot-c
cd ../examples
--- then load an example or 2
--- see the apricot.pdf for full documentation.

A short example

This is a recursive factorial function..

"Number? " ? ;F
"Factorial is: " . #

  = T - 1 [ T \ T ) 1] ` If T is 1 then return
  , - 1 ;F = T ' * T )

and this is integer square root:

` Integer Square root
` Herons Method
` Uses S
` Uses but preserves X and Y.

  = S
  > 2 [ \ S ) ]
  S / 2 = X
  S / X + X / 2 = Y
    Y = X
    S / X + X / 2 = Y
    Y < X ]
  X = S
  '=Y '=X S

Is an esoteric language? I don’t know, but it is quite usable though. At least I think so!

Retro BASIC and BCPL Benchmarks

Doing some tinkering with my retro BCPL system recently and while I’ve always though it was faster than BASIC on the same hardware, I never really worked out just how much faster it really was…

So as it was a retro system, I ran up some properly retro benchmarks (and a few new ones) just to test.


The good news? Yes! It’s faster! The less good news – it’s not as fast as I feel it could be. It may also seem that some of the benchmarks “cheat”. See the bit below about floating point.


So lets look at the benchmarks and talk about benchmarking in general.

Benchmarking is not something I’m unfamiliar with – I’ve been involved in the field of supercomputing in the past and there we had a whole suite of tests to do – as well as some people employed just to run (and tweak) those benchmarks, so having seen that tweaking in the past I’ve tried hard to keep the benchmarks fair over the different versions of BASIC I have used, as well as the compiled BCPL.

Remember too that these benchmarks are synthetic benchmarks – meaning that they may not represent the real-life programs we want to run. Would blisteringly fast floating point performance affect an editor or compiler for example?

The Benchmarks

The benchmarks I’ve used are not the ones aimed at “power” users, but a mix of the old ones that appeared in various magazines of the time which are suitable for those computers – that’s the late 1970s to the mid 1980s and a few newer ones which are still suitable for those old systems.

  • The Rugg/Feldman benchmarks -1977: Wikipedia
  • The Byte Sieve benchmark – 1981: Wikipedia
  • Interface Ages Prime Cruncher benchmark – 1980 : Archive.Org
  • Noels Retro Lab BASIC benchmark – 2020 (ish)
  • My own Text/ASCII Mandelbrot. (2019-2023)


The hardware I’m using is my own designed Ruby 816 system – it has a WDC 65C816 CPU, 512KB of RAM and runs at 16Mhz. The ‘816 is the so-called 16-bit 6502. For the BASIC benchmark runs the CPU is running in 65C02 emulation mode so it’s essentially the same old 6502 that was in the Commodore PET, Apple II, BBC Micro and so on. The 65C02 was used in the BBC Master and BBC Basic version 4 takes advantage of the extra instructions this CPU offers.

The BCPL tests run the CPU in native 16-bit mode. The BCPL environment is actually a 32-bit one, so to make that work there is a bytecode interpreter at its heart. This is written in hand-coded 816 assembler.


The BASICs I’ve tested are:

  • BBC Basic – Versions 1,2,3 and 4. Note that version 4 requires the 65C02 which is what the 65816 actually emulates at power-on time.
  • EhBASIC – This is a BASIC written by the late Lee Davidson which is based on a disassembly of a Microsoft 6502 BASIC. It’s a version that has been tweaked to use some 65C02 features.
  • CMB2 BASIC – The same BASIC that runs on the Commodore PET, VIC-20 and C64 computers. It was assembled from source and tweaked to run on the Ruby hardware system.

The BCPL is Martin Richards 32-bit 2014 compiler running on the same hardware with the CPU running in native 16-bit mode. The compiler outputs a bytecode (called CINTCODE) for a 32-bit virtual machine which is subsequently interpreted by hand written 65816 assembly code.

The tests were edited and run directly on the Ruby816 system.

And then there’s floating point

After a few runs and tests it became apparent that BCPL as going to win but not for the reason that might initially be obvious… BASIC uses floating point numbers more or less by default. BCPL is more or less integer by default. Some BASICs can use integers but the older, Microsoft variants do this very inefficiently. BBC Basic is the exception here but even then, trying to make sure everything is worked out as an integer can be tricky.

So… What I’ve done is tried to do 2 versions of the BCPL benchmarks. It’s not perfect as things like FOR loops in BCPL are implicitly integers but most of the Rugg/Fielding benchmarks are essentially WHILE loops, so that works out OK.

One just didn’t work well though – the Byte Sieve simply wasn’t appropriate for conversion to floating point, so it’s not included (An integer version is). Noels Retro Lab benchmark was converted using a WHILE loop in the same way the Rugg/Fielding ones were. The floating point Mandelbrot is a line for line translation of the BASIC source (with GOTOs and all) but I added in a scaled integer version – it’s not quite identical, but close enough to be representative.

And in a somewhat surprising twist of fate, there are some occasions where BBC Basic 4 was FASTER than BCPL at floating point. Why? Well… Rather than hand-code IEEE754 floating point in 65C816 assembler, I arranged for BCPL to use the on-board ATmega as a floating point co-processor, so it should be fast? well it is, but due to the way the 2 processors talk to each other the latency is somewhat high. The net result is that doing a lot of trivial calculations (like add/subtract) takes longer in BCPL than in BBC Basic4. Is it worth doing anything about it? Maybe, but not right now…


Rather than try to use a stopwatch, I have used the timing facilities provided by the RubyOS.

When running in 6502 emulation mode, RubyOS provides a 100Hz ticker to make the BBC Basics the built-in TIME function works as it ought. The other BASICs use their PEEK and POKE commands to access the memory locations that the ticker uses. There is the potential for a mis-read, but I feel this would not happen often enough to be an issue and if it did then the results would be obvious, so a simple re-run would give the true result.

The BCPL system running in native CPU mode has a 1000Hz ticker and this is used when running the BCPL benchmarks.

I ran each test a minimum of three times and picked the time that was the same over 2 runs. So e.g. if I saw 1.24, 1.24 and 1.23 then I picked 1.24. When I got 3 results that were very close but different, I ran it a few times more until I got 2 the same. Might be marginally scientific, but it’s good enough.

The results:

Benchmarks Table


BCPL is generally faster, but it’s easier to gain speed by use of integer loop counters in FOR loops and so on, however even when using floating point there are gains to be had as the compiler makes a good job of turning the text program into something much more compact and easier to execute – even if it’s is still being run inside an interpreted virtual machine.

BBC Basic improved from version 1 to version 4 – in particular the floating point code was extensively optimised to use the 65C02 instruction set in Basic4.

EhBASIC is a fraction slower than CBM Basic 2 but both come from the same Microsoft background. BBC Basic is much faster in all cases, but it is a larger BASIC and was written some years after Microsoft BASIC.

Source Code?

If you want it, it’s here


  • The world doesn’t need another retro computer benchmark – mostly because we’re not running into shops in the early 80’s and seeing who has the fastest BASIC. The BBC Micro won that war for something vaguely affordable (back then, anyway).
  • Compiled languages are faster.
  • BBC Basic4 is almost twice as fast as Microsoft Basics.
  • BCPL can be up to 8 times faster when you cheat and re-write the benchmark to use integers, but even with floating point it’s still mostly 2 to 3 times faster.
  • My Ruby816 board has performed remarkably well. allowing me to edit and test all the code in these benchmarks. The BCPL compile runs directly on it and while not the fastest thing, wasn’t that slow to make it unusable. Compiling the integer point Mandelbrot takes about 4.5 seconds.


The Humble “Glass Teletype” and the Lazy Programmer…

Way back we had mechanical output devices for our computers. These were big, slow, noisy and really a spill-over from the days of the telegraph, but they fulfilled their purpose and much code, including early Unix was written using them. Teletype Corporation are possibly the most well known ones of the time, although there were many other manufacturers, but when you see a picture of a mechanical printer it’s almost always a “Teletype” (And even when not, it’s almost become a generic word anyway).

Teletype ASR-33

Fast forward to today and we have big, fast screens and editors that do much much more than the old line-oriented editors of yester-year.

But what happens when you build a retro-style computer, running at retro speeds and you want a screen orientated editor?

Well, in the first instance, you write it, test it, use it and it’s great. In my case it’s talking to my desktop PC at 115200 baud (that’s just over 10,000 characters a second, so to fill a typical 80×25 character display takes about a fifth of a second. Acceptable. I’m also using a custom terminal program of my own making and while it’s a relatively “dumb” terminal its clever enough to only update the screen when needed, and as that update is not constrained by the speed of a serial connection it appears to be really smooth and fast, but naturally, I wanted to see what it would be like on a real (or emulated) terminal…

The 1970’s

But lets wind back some years to the mid 1970’s. Computers were still relatively slow but advances were being made in the terminal department. Mechanical printers were now up to about 30 characters per second (from the original 10) and were quieter, but were slowly being deprecated in favour of the new “Glass Teletypes”.

Glass Teletypes?

These fully electronic devices were initially limited in what they could do. Print from top to bottom, scroll upwards and… Well, that’s about it. The limitation was mostly due to the electronics at the time – Memory was still expensive, logic circuits (rather than a microprocessor) were still in-use, so it was not uncommon to see a rather large board stuffed full of TTL ICs driving the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube, often just called a “Tube” in some cultures) typically green phosphors on a black background. If you were very lucky you might have one with Orange phosphors.

Time marches on…

But nothing stays still for very long and terminals (as they were now being called) were becoming more sophisticated – under program control, the location of the cursor could be changed – some could scroll down as well as up. Partial screen clears (say from the current line to the bottom of the screen, or cursor position to the end of the current line). The net result was that “Screen Editors” could now be a thing and while programmers (initially) still used older line-orientated editors for code, ordinary users now had things like “word processors” which used the whole screen and allowed for easier editing of text for documents, letters and so on. WordStar one of those and that was first published in 1978 and relied on these new smart terminals to work.

1978 also saw the introduction of “personal computing” as we might know it today. Relatively affordable computers with screen, keyboard and storage – aimed at small businesses and serious (as they were expensive!) home users and education. The Apple II, Commodore PET and the Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 were the three main contenders then.

But what about the old “Glass Teletype”? They were still in-use for a long time – they were an economical device to connect to larger multi-user time sharing systems and so they lived on for quite a few years. Today they may be considered a bit of a relic. An anachronism or just something for the new kids to laugh at… (imagine a screen and keyboard with no computer!)

Retro (and vintage) Computers…

In the world of vintage or retro computers the Glass TTY is still very much a thing, so for my Ruby project I decided to see how it would work with one – although I do have a real terminal, I chose to use an emulator on my Linux desktop using the PuTTY software.

Lazy programmer…

And what I found was that over the years I’d obviously become quite lazy when it comes to screen handling. Ruby was intended to be vaguely Acorn/BBC Micro compatible when it came to screen handling – and it is, but the Acorn MOS screen handling is very much lacking in facilities required to drive a serial terminal, so while it has cursor move screen clear  and scroll facilities, that’s just about it. And although there are text window facilities (to define an area not a modern “window” in a big graphical user interface) you still need to do a lot to e.g. insert a line or character or clear to the end of the line or page.. The net result was that my editor while ran quite well with my own terminal program ran rather poorly when used on a real (or emulated) ANSI terminal.

So back to the drawing board and the old days of working out screen codes, ESC [ then the magic codes. fortunately a standard had emerged which most people just refer to as ANSI. The hardest part? Making the arrow keys and command keys (Home, End, etc.) and even worse the Function keys work. It may be a standard, but there are many interpretations of that standard…

However some work on the VDU handling code in my RubyOS and in my own SDL based RubyTerm and of-course in my editor and other home grown utilities that run on the Ruby board and it’s now running as well as it might have done back in the early 80’s on a real terminal.


Ruby816 – Solving the bootstrap paradox

Previously I wrote about the issues bootstrapping BCPL on my Ruby board and I was moaning about needing a C front-end or “shim” to get BCPL going.

So I engaged the little grey cells and worked out a strategy…

What I’ve done is to write sufficient ‘816 assembler code to initialise the BCPL global vector and create a stack, then to point the cintcode program counter to some embedded cintcode (embedded into the ASM program as a binary blob), and call the cintcode interpreter.

At this point the bootstrap program can call local functions but not global ones. The “blob” is actually the bare minimum in terms of library calls to get BCPL fully going. I created it by simply concatenating the files (sections) and turning them into a form I can include in-line with the assembler source for the cintcode interpreter.

The BCPL bootstrap fixes-up the global vector by scanning the concatenated section images and working out the correct offsets to populate the global vector with. The first call I then make is the getvec setup call to initialise the memory for subsequent allocations, then I call the loadseg() function to load the rest of the library files into RAM as before with the C front-end. It’s already running BCPL at that point, so the last file it loads is the command line interpreter which is loaded and called and the system is ready. This is slightly quicker than the C front-end too as some of the library routines are loaded with the interpreter and remain there for the rest of time.

And so the paradox is no more!

Ruby BCPL Bootstrap

Ruby BCPL Bootstrap

A Day at the Races

We have a nice point to point racetrack in (near) Buckfastleigh, so today we went over for the first race of the season.

One of the horses that is stabled/trains at the yard where I ride out from was racing today, so it was really nice to see her in action. She didn’t win but was the best turned out for he race thanks to the hard work of Trudi in the stables.

I made a very little video from the clips and pictures I took. Enjoy!

Home Artisan Microbakery – 3/3

Stage 3, but if you missed it, then back to the mix and knead step… or  back to the preparation step

The Big Bake

The next morning comes – round about 5:45am and the dough has risen!

Dough has risenHooray and up she rises… early in the morning!

The task now is to do the usual clean and sanitise, get the ovens on and get the dough scaled (measured) out and into proving baskets, tins and so on. Additionally, on this particular day I have the added pressure of sticky buns… These are made in the morning from scratch using a fairly standard enriched dough recipe (with eggs, sugar and milk), filled, baked, glazed and sold… Todays were cardamom and cinnamon.

Starting with the sourdough:

scalingThe dough is tipped onto the counter and weighed out into the size I’m after. These are medium (600g) loaves so the dough is a rather generous 740g. After scaling, the lumps are shaped into boulles before final shaping.

pre shaped boullesThese are just rough rounds. I then get the proofing baskets and couch ready

baskets and coucheand do the final shaping and leave them covered to rest and rise a little more. This is being done against the clock, so that’s 24 (actually 25 as there was a bit of spare multiseed dough) loaves and I aim to have this all done inside half an hour.

Rye into the ovenMeanwhile the Lincat oven is up to 200°C and the rye loaves which I’d gotten out of the fridge earlier can go in with a big blast of steam…Not forgetting to set a timer!

more scalingThese are the wholemeal and cheese breads scaled and pre-shaped… There will be 2 cheese loaves, a batch of cheese sticks and 2 cheese rolls for the lovely staff in the cheese shop in Totnes…

wholemealsThe wholemeals are in tins.

cheese loavesThe cheese loaves are roughly shaped, filled with cheese cubes and rolled into a log.

cheese loaves proofingThese are left to rise in these baskets along with the cheese rolls which I’ve also stuffed with cheese…

sticky bun doughMeanwhile, I’ve made up the sticky bun dough – threw it all in the mixer, let it knead and transfer it to a bowl to rise.

cheese sticksThis is the start of the cheese sticks. Pull the dough out into a rough rectangle, 2/3 cover in grated cheese then fold, roll, turn and repeat another3-4 times…

more cheese doughGetting there..

cheese stick doughDone – for now. It’s covered with the (recycled) cling film and put in the fridge for an hour or so to relax.

Baked ryeThe rye breads are usually done by now, so they come out and are left covered in their tins for another 10 minutes or so.

ready for ovenAnd now it’s about 7:45 or so – I’ve had to do a round of washing up/cleaning and lifted the risen dough to the silicone sheets that go into the Rofco oven and attacked them with a razor…

dough close upThis is a closer view of one of them – I’m using a large plywood sheet that has been cut to the exact width of the Rofco to load them into the oven.

loading 2After loading the Rofco, I’ve more to go into the Lincat. These are transferred directly onto the board with a bit of flour then into the Lincat.

Lincat loadedThis is the Lincat loaded with the dough – there’s that extra loaf at the bottom (the bakers own!)

sticky bun dough risenMeanwhile the bun dough has risen and we need to tip it out, roll it into a rectangle, cover it with the filling mix (butter, sugar, cardamom), fold and cut, twist and knot…

yum...cutThey’re all the same size… honest!

buns to riseLeft to rise…

What next – it never stops here… I think the wholemeals might be ready to go into the oven.

wholemeals bakingOr maybe this was when they were done…

Inside the rofcoThis is the breads inside the Rofco oven. After 12-15 minutes, I open the door and whip out the silicone sheets to let them bake the rest of the time directly on the stones.

bakedAnd here they are…

cheese loavesThe cheese loaves and rolls are ready to go into the Lincat oven…

buns risenAs are the buns…

baking bunsmorebakingTiming is key here…

baked wholemealsThe wholemeals are out …

chese sticksAnd don’t forget the cheese sticks – this is the cheesy dough out of the fridge…

sticksRolled and cut …

baking sticksand in the oven.

baked cheeseThe cheese loaves and rolls are baked…

baked bunsAs are the buns (covered in honey sticky glaze now)

cheese sticks bakedThe cheese sticks are baked too.

PackingAnd finally it all needs to be packed up into boxes and taken to the shops and it’s in the shops by 10am while it’s still warm…

Home Artisan Microbakery – 2/3

Stage 2, but if you missed it, then back to the preparation step

The Big Mix

Preparation takes place usually at about 3-4pm. A few hours later round about 7:30 to 8pm, it’s time to mix and knead up the doughs which are then left to ferment overnight.

Bubbly sourdoughThese are the sourdoughs after 4 to 5 hours. They’re nice and bubbly and ready to use.

Now, it’s mostly a matter of weighing up the water and sourdough, tipping that into the mixer, then the flour – giving it a good mix, finally adding in the salt for a few minutes more, lifting it out the mixer and repeat the process…

MixingThis is the spiral mixer. It’s single speed with a fixed head, so getting the dough out requires a certain knack, as does cleaning it. Spiral mixers are very common – this is an Italian make and you’ll find these used in pizza parlours the world over.

Rye mixingThe rye is mixed by hand – only a few loaves usually and it’s a very wet and sticky dough. Gluten doesn’t develop in rye the same way as wheat, so there’s no point trying to knead it really. Keep it wet with a sourdough starter and it’ll be just fine. I add caraway seeds, malt and molasses to mine.

Small mixerThe overnight white dough that I use for the cheese breads is an olive oil based dough with just a fraction of the normal yeast added (it’s not a sourdough). This is mixed in a small stand mixer that I was able to get a nice dough spiral hook for. These are much better than the usual hook you get with them.

After that, it’s just a matter of getting the liquid ready for the next mix/knead in the spiral, emptying it, dividing the dough into lumps that will fit the containers, splitting up the rye into tins and trying to keep sane…

Lump of doughThis is a lump of dough taken out of the spiral mixer and left to rest on the bench while I load it up with the next batch. I try to keep the mixer going all the time so I make sure I have everything ready to load it with as soon as I take one batch out. I also try to plan the loads to avoid too much of one type of dough getting into the next batch, so the seedy ones are often last with the plain white (when I do them) first. This day I had 3 lots through the spiral mixer – my usual sourdough which is a mix of white, wholemeal and rye, then a seeded mix, then the 100% wholemeal. I’m not overly concerned if a few seeds get into the wholemeal – I stopped using the main allergen one a long time ago (sesame seeds)

Split doughThis is a load from the mixer that I’ve weighed and divided into two – the smaller on the left will make exactly 5 loaves and the larger on the right will make 7. My largest tub will only take dough for 10 loaves, so the split is needed.

MultiseedHere is some multiseed in the mixer. I get the dough formed first, then add in the seed mix – I make it up myself and is a mix of poppy, linseed (brown and golden), pumpkin and sunflower seeds. I used to buy a commercial mix that included sesame but even though my labels were clear on what was in them, I decided to drop sesame a while back due to some very public issues involving a fatality due to a mis-labeled product. (Pret a Manger)

Wholemeal in the mixerLast through the mixer is the wholemeal. Here it’s had the initial mix and I’ve just thrown the salt into it. (It’s a bit of a wet mix, but not as wet as the rye!)

Rye in tinsWhile all the machine mixing is going in, I find a few moments to scale out the rye into tins. These stay in the fridge overnight and rise slowly there and are first in the oven in the morning.

dough in tubsThe dough is moved into the tubs as it’s mixed and kneaded and gets left there overnight. Now it’s clean and tidy the place up, have some supper and off to bed!

Dough has risenThis picture really belongs in the next post as it’s tomorrow morning, but I’ve put it here to compare with the one above. You can see how much it’s all risen. The left 2 tubs are the white olive oil dough and the wholemeal dough – these are both made with dried yeast, although only a fraction of what you’d typically use for a standard 1-2 hour process.

On to page 3, the bake!

Home Artisan Microbakery – 1/3

A few of you may know that I do the home artisan microbakery thing. My pages for that are over here: http://moorbakes.co.uk/ but in these posts I thought I’d show you a day in the life …

I make mostly sourdough breads for sale directly and in a few local community shops. It all started as a hobby, then developed a bit more as a sort of therapy to help with some health issues, then it got out of hand and I was doing afternoon teas for weddings, office party buffets, local farmers markets and I ventured into the lovely world of patisserie, however that all got too much and today I’ve scaled it back down a little so I can concentrate on other things – notably some IT projects, weight loss consultancy (to help others undo all those years of eating too much bakery goodness!) and give a little time to an older passion; horse riding (and perhaps more on that later)

All in a days work

A bake is split into three parts over two days – preparation of the sourdough starters, mixing the dough, then (the next day) the final shape/proof/bake.


This starts mid-afternoon the day before the breads are baked. Clean and sanitise the work area and fetch the starters from the fridge.


Sourdough is just a fancy name for a natural yeast culture. Some may suggest the name refers to the old “Sourdough Joes” who roamed the wild west, some may suggest it’s due to the presence of lactic and acetic (and maybe other) bacterias that come along for the ride giving it a midly sour taste and some may think it refers to a particular style of bread – whatever – to me, it’s just a natural, slow acting yeast.

I keep 2 different types in my fridge: A white wheat based one and a wholemeal rye based one. They don’t have names – they’re just my starters.

I measure them out into big bowls and add flour and water to make enough starter for that evenings dough mix. The jars are then topped up and left out with the big bowls until later that evening. This gives the left-over starter in the jars a chance to start again and get active and bubbly before being consigned to the dark recesses of the fridge until they’re needed again.

As I type this my starters are about 8 years old. Maybe older. I got the rye starter from someone who’d had it for 5 years and they got it from someone who’d had it for 20 years. What does that mean? Nothing really, only that we’ve been able to keep something going for all that time. I know that some people are proud of how long their starters have been living, but the reality is that it’s really “triggers broom” syndrome. All the living stuff reproduces and dies off in a matter of weeks, so it’s really unlikely that what’s in the jar today contains not a single molecule of what was in the jar when I started them. (And every now and then, I transfer some to a new, clean jar and the old ones go into the dishwasher)

Sourdough StartersThat’s the rye on the left and wheat on the right. The bowls are covered and left for a few hours and I get on with more preparation which involves weighing out the flour mixes for the mixing that evening.

All weighed outThat’s most of what I need for that particular evening. A batch of multiseed loaves, some white dough,wholemeals wheat  and my Moorbakes Sourdough. The rye flour, etc. is on-top of the rye starter bowl and I use shower caps for the other starter.

Milling RyeSpeaking of rye… I mill my own, and wheat sometimes too. I get organic rye (and some wheat) directly from local farms wherever possible. I use organic ingredients wherever possible, although thanks to a cartel of half a dozen or so “certifying agencies” in the UK I am unable to call my breads organic unless I pay them a lot more money than I’ll ever make from selling my breads, sadly.

So that’s about it, however on that particular day (it was a Wednesday) I also chop and grate some extra strong cheddar cheese for the cheese breads I make on Thursdays. Total time is about an hour, so now I clean any mess and get on with other stuff until later in the day.

On to page 2, the evenings mix and knead

Video Demos..

I’ve just watched Dave Murrays demo of his “Vera” video card moving some balls round the screen. Initially confused by how it was working, but now understand that it’s to do with the way the colour works in text-mode, so there is a separate “shadow” block of memory that controls the foreground and background colour for each character position.

So in an otherwise idle 10 minutes, for a bit of fun, I paused his video, looked at his code and re-write it to work in BBC Basic and ran it on my Ruby board:

I did it more out of curiosity and a bit of fun than anything else – I’m also experimenting with screen capture software, rather than point a camera at the screen.

the graphics are still generated here by sending commands from the Ruby board via the serial interface to the graphical terminal on my desktop (The ‘terminal’ is a C program using the SDL librarys running under Linux – it listens to the serial port and interprets the usual BBC Micro/Acorn MOS VDU commands)

You can see my source here: https://unicorn.drogon.net/balls.txt it should run on any BBC Micro. (and it’s not the best, but was done quickly – remember the fun part!)

Ps. If anyone knows anything better than “RecordMyDesktop” that runs under Devuan Linux then do let me know, thanks!

Pps. Yes, this is on my new 65816 board – more on that in a later post!