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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Acorn Electron

Drawing of Acorn Electron


Acorn Computers Ltd (UK)


(Followed on from the Atom and the Proton, which became the BBC Micro.)

Date Launched

September 1983



Microprocessor type

MOSTEK 6502A @ 2 MHz

ROM size

32 kilobytes

Standard RAM

32 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

32 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style

Supplied language

BBC BASIC, a fast and structured version of the language

Text resolution

Various combinations up to 80 x 32 characters

Graphics resolution

Various sizes up to 640 x 256 pixels

Colours available

(8 steady colours + 8 flashing colours)

Example Screenshot

Electron display
The Mode 0 monochrome screen could produce quite detailed results, suitable for 'serious' applications and not just games.


Single channel through internal speaker

Cassette load speed

1200 baud

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

340 x 160 x 65
Not known

Special features

Single stroke entry of BASIC words by holding down a function key.

Good points

Could run most but not all software written for the BBC Model B.
Robustly built.
Excellent BASIC.

Bad points

Could have as little as 10 KB of RAM left for programs when using high resolution graphics.
Lacked most of the expansion ports found on the BBC B.
Was slightly slower than the BBC B.
A little expensive compared to the Sinclair Spectrum, Oric 1 etc.

How successful?

Manufacturing delays meant the Electron was not widely available for the crucial Christmas 1983 sales.
Unexpectedly, sales of new computers were then poor in 1984, meaning the Electron was never a great commercial success.


Acorn's BBC Model B was selling well to schools and the richer home users but at £400 was too dear for mass appeal.
The Electron was therefore conceived as a low-cost BBC B, using a single custom chip to replace the video, audio and input/output circuits of the BBC, and leaving off most of its expansion ports.
This allowed the Electron to do many of the things the BBC B could for half the price.

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