Master of the 8bit music

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So, today I headed over to John’s with some more of our broken old sad things. Actually I headed over to see John with the hope of showing off the Music 5000. Technically, what we have is an upgraded Music 500. But anyhow, I loaded up the Volvo into a Early 80’s timewarp, and headed over. I also took our Alfa sewing machine which had stuck and wasn’t working anymore. I suspect it was in need of a service… but wasn’t sure whether there was more to it than just oiling things. Also, I didn’t have any suitable oil…


So, we unloaded the Master, which has sat unloved (well, plenty loved but boxed) in the office. Sadly it seems that we neglected to send of the warranty card, so there was no chance of getting it repaired under warranty. Also, this was pre-emptive repair. The power supplies in the Master and the BBC Micro are a little notorious for going bang (given that they’re over 30 years old, some of ’em, that’s not wholly unreasonable), and so the plan was to replace the components that usually fail rather than wait for the magic smoke to escape.


At the same time the battery backup for the CMOS Ram and clock had died, it had been replaced a long time ago – potentially this was an old enough Master that it may have had the lithium pack originally, which had been replaced by the previous owner with 3 AA Duracell batteries. Incredibly, despite being 6 years out of date and having run completely flat (even John’s HP 3466A Digital Multimeter couldn’t detect an output voltage from the ailing pack) and having oozed around the Duracell logos, there was no external ooze. Chalk up one for quality batteries.


The battery ‘pack’ left something to be desired, thankfully Maplin sell a 3-AA battery pack, and so that was rapidly obtained and fitted (John has the post-photos, and some better during-photos). Although this also entailed replacing the entire negative wire for the battery pack which had corroded from end to end. Stripping the wire to solder it to the new battery connector revealed hideous corrosion* after several tries found to run the entire length of the cable and indeed into what had once been the battery connector…


Fortunately, in the background of the shot, you can see that John, being a man of awesome fixative powers had the right connector in his stock, and slipped it in, along with a new cable.

The main job was, however, to replace these:

Oooh, cracky.

Now you might look at that photo and go “oh, they don’t look so bad”. The problem is, once they’ve started doing that cracky thing, what they like to do next is this:

Defective Capacitor in BBC Micro Power Supply

Which is bad.

John, having repaired several BBC Micro’s power supplies’ has a small stock of the relevant capacitors. However, the BBC Master’s board differs from that of the BBC Micro in several minor ways, one of which is that it is lacking the holes to fit one of the smaller modern capacitors that replaces one of the ‘going bang’ variety film capacitors. This was rectified by drilling a hole. This, however, required a bodge of ‘There I fixed it’ proportions, because John didn’t have a drill handy to put the teeny tiny drill bit for drilling PCB holes.

He did, however, have a grotty Performance Power portable drill with a working-but-quite-flat battery. This was charged by… well… it’s better if I just show you:

In true 'There I fixed it' style.

Anyhow, all this culminated in the Booop-Beep of the functioning BBC Master, and after some chaos the Music 5000 kicked into life (in Music 500 mode, because I couldn’t remember how to get the Master to read the old-format disks which the Music 5000 stuff is on) and played….music…ish.

It’s one of those – awesome for the time – interesting now moments. I shall endeavour (now we have a working machine) to retrieve many songs, and capture them for posterity. Thing is, though, I really rather want screenshots to go with them because most of them (particularly the 5000 ones, iirc) have title screens with the track-names and programmer’s names prominently displayed.

Anyhow, it was cool.

Also, John got our sewing machine back working. It turns out it just needed oiling. Everywhere. Which is one of those ‘ok, I can do that in future’ moments. Just need more faith in myself… and sewing machine oil. Anyway. Nice day off :)

Incidentally, if you’ve no idea what a BBC Micro / Master is, lookie at this: Making the Most of the Micro

*Black, black, They lock me in the cellar and feed me pins! Black! BLACK! Crawl on your hands and knees to your impending doom!


Kate is lord and mistress of all she surveys at