8-Bit Software

The BBC and Master Computer Public Domain Library

Emulators: Setting Up And
Creating Hard Drives

This page is now rather out of date. For up to date information on emulators, see here.
I am leaving this page as it is as I think there is some useful information on it that will always be of use

What is an emulator?

A program or application that acts like a BBC computer on which you may write/run BBC programs. Load, save and create floppy disc, hard disc and tape images. I suspect mainly used to play BBC games.



Not the same as having a real BBC computer of course, but now it is possible to have a wide range of virtual machines taking up no physical space in your home.


Where can you pick up an emulator?

There are various emulators out there to emulate a wide range of Acorn machines. It is pointless for me to reproduce the excellent list that The Stairway To Hell has: Emulators Page

I highly recommend Beebem and B-Em.

Emulators Help And Hints 

I by no means profess to be anything like proficient with emulators. I have spent quite some time in the past grappling with them. I have had to go cap in hand to people to help me out from time to time. Here, I thought that I would put some of my notes to remind me when I forget how to do stuff. Maybe some of it may be useful to you with a bit of luck.

Formatting a 720k DOS disc in Windows XP

From time to time, the only way (EDIT: A simpler way of creating DOS disc images is to use Virtual Floppy Drive at http://vfd.sourceforge.net/) I could find to create a disc image was to write files to real floppy and then read that floppy in as a disc image (the DOS discs in the 512 section for instance). Having a large supply of High Density floppies and virtually no Double Density floppies to hand, I had to look towards using HD discs as DD.

This, is a risky business as doing this does destroy the HD disc. Using a second hand HD (well used) disc to create around 100 images finally broke it. Each cycle involved copying files to the disc, reading, then deleting the files.

Double Density 3.5" floppy discs have only one hole which is at the top right corner of the disc (going by the image below). If there are two holes, one in each top corner of the 3.5" floppy disc (as in the image below), that means it is a 1.44MB High Density disc. Cover both holes. Usually, there is a sliding tab in the top right hole to do the job. The other will need covering. Don't use clear tape! I use stick on 5.25" floppy write protect tabs. In the image below, the stick on tab is peeled back so that it is visible for this photo. The write protect tab at the top right is closed so that the disc is writeable.

Open a DOS window in XP.

Type the DOS command "FORMAT A: /T:80 /N:9"

I have tried "FORMAT A: /T:40 /N:9" in an attempt to create a 360k floppy, but received an error message stating the drive did not support that command.

Warning. If you repeatedly use (write to) an HD floppy disc as if it is a DD floppy disc, it will eventually become ruined. My experience is that after around 100 full disc writes (followed by a full disc deletion), the disc becomes ruined. When, eventually, Windows struggles to write/delete a file to/from the disc and stops the transer/deletion with an error, the odds are that the disc has finally worn out. The best thing to do is to bin it and get a newer one out. I only use HD floppies in this way as temporary throw away discs as my stock of DD discs is very low. Never keep anything valuable you are relying on to work on HD formatted DD.

Set Up With Emphasis On Hard Drives


Master 512 Emulation And Setting Up A Hard Drive In BeebEm 4.03



At the time of writing this (May 2013), BeebEm 4.14 is the latest version, however due to GPL problems with licensing, you will need an older version, BeebEm 4.03 for Master 512 emulation.

BeebEm 4.03 is downloadable from the BeebEm website. It already has a hard drive image set up and ready to go for you, so unless you want a different size drive, you can miss out stages 22 to 44.

The following instructions were typed in and screenshots grabbed as I downloaded a fresh copy of BeebEm 4.03 from http://www.mkw.me.uk/beebem/BeebEm403.zip, installed it and then created a new 64MB hard drive image with 30MB DOS partition using my PC running XP. So assuming you are doing something similar, it should work for you.

Click on the thumbnails if you want to see the screen grabs properly.


Installation of BeebEm 4.03

01 Download BeebEm 4.03. This is the zip, not the self extracting version.
02 Extract to a folder of your choice. I placed it in a folder named: \My Documents\8bs\BeebEm-4.03\
03 Double click BeebEm.exe. You will be asked if you want to create a folder for the user data if one does not exist. If you click 'Yes', the folder is created in \My Documents\BeebEm\ you must remember this as it is this folder ( actually, \My Documents\BeebEm\DiscIms\ ) that will be used for the user data (your data) when the hard drive image is saved.
04 The emulator starts up.
05 Set up personal preferences. These are mine. I like to remove write protection from the drives, so I uncheck all of the three ticked options here.

Master 512 and Hard Drive Installation In BeebEm 4.03

06 Select the Master 128.
07 Select Hard Drive On/Off so it is ticked.
07a Type *CONFIGURE HARD (*CON.HARD will do too). Then do a hard break into ADFS with CTRL+A+F12 to initialise that setting and put the emulator into ADFS.
07b If all has gone well, you will have a BASIC prompt in ADFS at which you can type *CAT (OR *.) and *FREE to see that you have a 10MB hard drive with DOS installed on to it. With a hard drive installed on your Master128 using ADFS, the Hard drive is drive 0 (or 1). Floppy drives become drive 4 and drive 5. In DFS nothing is altered, drives are still 0, 1, 2 and 3.
08 Set OPTIONS>PREFERENCE OPTIONS>SAVE DISC/STATE/TAPE FOLDERS. This bit is optional as are the other save state options here. You can set them at any stage when you will find it useful.
09 Select Master 512.
10 The boot up process begins. Press RETURN (or just wait a few moments).
11 We now have the DOS prompt in drive C: .
12 As you can see, the GEM discs have been installed on it for us on a 9MB DOS partition. You can also see that DOS+ version 1.2 is installed on the image. I want Version 2.1. At this point, If you have previously made a backup of your hard drive, you can simply copy your backup and overwrite the existing files. The emulator will then use your own hard drive image. For the purposes of this exercise, I shall continue as if I do not have a backup and want to create a new 64MB hard drive with DOS+ 2.1 and the GEM discs installed on it.
13 Creating a backup of the drive, you can do this at any stage. Remember to browse to the directory BeebEm chose for the user data (refer to step 3), there will be a similar copy in the folder you installed BeebEm in but this will not be used. Copy the three files associated with your drive. In this case drive 0.

Creating A New Hard Drive Image In BeebEm 4.03

14 Ensure the emulator is in Master 128 mode with HARDWARE>MODEL>MASTER 128 ticked and HARDWARE>MODEL>MASTER 512 Unticked. Do FILE>LOAD DISC 0 and then select the HDinit disc image. This link is for the program v1.15 (not in a disc image) directly from Jonathan Harston. Place it in a disc image yourself or just download the disc image I made here. Note, these links are to version 1.15. B-Em v2.2 contains a disc image of HDinit that has v1.12 on it, do not use this.
15 Type *DISC or do CTRL+D+F12 to put the emulator into DFS mode.
16 *CAT (or *.) will show you what is on the disc. Type CHAIN"HDInit" (or CH."hdinit") to run the emulator hard drive set-up program.
17 The hard drive creation program starts.
18 Press 'D' then '0' then press 'ENTER' then press 'Z' then type '64M' then press 'ENTER'. The screen should then look like this.
19 Then press 'F type 'NO' press 'ENTER' type 'YES' press 'ENTER'.
20 Very briefly this warning appears before you are then returned to the program screen. IF THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN, (I found that sometimes other error messages come up), simply repeat step 19 until it does.
21 Do CTRL+A+F12 to reset ADFS. *CAT and then *FREE will show you what is on the disc which should be nothing at the moment. You can see here that the drive is 64MB.

Creating A DOS Partition On A Hard Drive Image In BeebEM 4.03

22 Do FILE>LOAD DISC 0 and select GEM disc 1.
23 Do HARDWARE and ensure that MASTER 512 SECOND PROCESSOR is ticked. The emulator will then boot up the DOS+ disc. The screen looking like this to start with.
24 When the process is complete, the screen will look like this. DOS+ 2.1 with the prompt at drive A:
25 Next we need to Prepare a DOS partition on the hard drive C:. Type 'hdisk' and press 'ENTER' to start the program that will do this. Select the size of DOS partition you want using the arrow keys and 'ENTER'.
26 Confirm.
27 Messages.
28 Messages.
29 You are returned to the program menu. Select 'Make Hard Disk' Partition Bootable.
30 Confirm.
31 Messages.
32 Messages.
33 Messages.
34 You are then returned to the Disk Maintenance Program. Select EXIT TO DOS. Check all is well by switching the Master 512 off and then on again by using HARDWARE>MASTER 512 SECOND PROCESSOR. The Emulator should now boot up from the hard drive to the C: prompt, a lot faster than from the floppy image did. Typing *CAT in Master 128 mode will show these files now on the ADFS partition of the hard disc image.

Installing The GEM Discs Onto A Hard Drive In BeebEm 4.03

35 I will show you a little trick now in case you have not already spotted it. You can speed the emulator up to around five times normal speed by selecting SPEED>FIXED SPEED>100. Be careful when using this though, change back to real time before making keyboard entries. Try it for yourself without changing back to see that if you don't tap the keys very quickly, autorepeat comes in. You could of course use *CONFIGURE REPEAT to change this.
36 Go back into DOS and the Master 512 by selecting HARDWARE>MASTER 512 SECOND PROCESSOR and ensuring it is ticked. The Master 512 boots into DOS with the C: prompt. Move your GEM discs into your favoured directory on the PC and select GEM Disc 1. Be aware that the GEM DISC 1 image supplied with BeebEm and B-Em is v1.2 NOT 2.1. Get GEM 2.1 here
37 At the DOS prompt type 'a:' and press 'ENTER' to change to drive A. Then type 'hdinstal' press 'ENTER' to start installation of the GEM discs.
38 The program will start and prompt for a keypress to begin installation of the GEM discs to drive C:
39 Progress is marked by display of the files as they are transferred. Wait until the process of transferring disc one is complete. Now is a good time to speed the emulator up by the way. Disc one complete, the program asks you to insert disc 2 and press a key.
40 FILE>LOAD DISC 0> select GEM DISC 2 and press a key when returned to the emulator. Disc 2 is then transferred to drive C:
41 Disc 2 transferred, the program then asks for disc 3.
42 FILE>LOAD DISC 0> select GEM DISC 3 and then press a key when returned to the emulator.
43 Confirmation that the GEM discs are transferred. You get this even if they have not been although error messages will come up if for instance you got the wrong disc in the drive (in this particular case the directories will be created but the files will not be transferred). GEM disc 4 is not used in this installation process.
44 Drive C: should then look like this. Now might be a good time to copy the three files in the BeebEm DiscIms folder as a backup (as mentioned in step 13). Then put anything else you might want on there, GWBASIC for instance.

Getting the GEM Desktop Going

45 Assuming you are on drive C:
Type GEM at the DOS prompt to start the GEM Desktop.
46 Do AMX>ON/OFF to toggle the mouse capture so you can use the graphical interface. To get your PC mouse and the emulator mouse synchronised how you may want it needs a bit of experimentation with the available options. Or you could just hide the PC cursor in OPTIONS but now we are getting into your personal preferences which you from now on can only discover by experimenting wth the menus yourself.
47   When you have everything set up how you want, don't forget to save your preferences so it boots up how you like it the next time you run BeebEm.


Installing Hard Drives In B-Em v2.2

I would recommend using BeebEm v4.03 rather than B-Em v2.2 for Master 512 and hard drive emulation because BeebEm v4.03 comes ready to go straight out of the download and allows startup straight into the Master 512 to be saved in preferences (plus a few other advantages). Whereas B-Em v2.2 seems to have a couple of problems with Master 512 emulation that make it difficult to use.

Firstly, in B-Em v2.2 it is not possible to save state or set preferences to start up in Master 512 mode. Also, each time the emulator is started, the correct ADFS ROM has to be loaded. Each time the emulator is changed between Master 128 and Master 512 the sideways ROMs empty and neede to be re-SRLOADed. The version of HDInit supplied with the download needed an update.

However, as I struggled with this for some time before needing to ask Jonathan Harston for help with the solution, I will document two procedures. The first one, I have used. The second one from Jonathan is untested by myself.

Method One

Do this before carrying out the procedure from step 22 in the BeebEm procedure (remembering that the MENU options in the BeebEm procedure will be different for B-Em)

- Settings -> IDE -> Enable IDE drives
- Settings -> Model -> Master 128
- Disc -> Mount DFS disk image HDInit.ssd
(Use the updated HDInit here: http://mdfs.net/Info/Comp/BBC/IDE/ADFS)
- *SRLoad ADFS153 8000 7
- *Unplug 13
- *Configure FILE 7
- Emulator hard reset with FILE -> Hard Reset
- Select drive 0 ( press 'D' then '0' )
- 'I' to investigate drive, or 'Z' to set drive size (e.g. use 32M for a 30M DOS partition)
- 'F'ormat, 'NO' HADFS partition, 'YES' format
- e'X'it
- *Configure Tube
- Settings -> Model -> Master 512
- Disc -> Mount DFS disk image HDInit.ssd
- *SRLoad ADFS153 8000 7
- Disc -> Mount DOS Boot disk
- Emulator hard reset with FILE -> Hard Reset

Then, every time the Master 512 is required:
- Settings -> Model -> Master 512
- Disc -> Mount DFS disk image HDInit.ssd
- *SRLoad ADFS153 8000 7
- Disc -> Mount DOS Boot disk
- Emulator hard reset with FILE -> Hard Reset

Note the important updated HDInit from Jonathan's website.

Method Two From Jonathan Harston. Untested By Myself

Do this before carrying out the procedure from step 22 in the BeebEm procedure (remembering that the MENU options in the BeebEm procedure will be different for B-Em)

> Just needs to be prefaced by, for B-Em:
> - Settings -> IDE -> Enable IDE drives
> - Settings -> Model -> Master 512
> - Press f12 to do a /Soft/ Break to get to the * prompt
> - Disc -> Mount DFS disk image HDInit.ssd
> - *DISK
> - *SRLoad ADFS153 8000 7
> - *Unplug 13
> - *Configure FILE 7
> - - - Once you've formatted the hard drive, this subsection is not needed:
> - - - *Configure NoTube
> - - - Ctrl-f12 to do Hard Break
> - - - *DISK
> - - - CHAIN "HDINIT"
> - - - Select drive 0 ( press 'D' then '0' )
> - - - 'I' to investigate drive, or 'Z' to set drive size (I use 32M for a\ 30M DOS partition)
> - - - 'F'ormat, 'NO' HADFS partition, 'YES' format
> - - - e'X'it
> - - - *Configure Tube
> - Disc -> Mount DOS Boot disk
> - Ctrl-f12 to do Hard Break to boot DOS


Emulator Roms
These are now supplied with the emulators
but I am leaving them here
for old time's sake
Master 128
Master 128 3.50
Master Compact
Master ET

Back to 8BS