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BBC Master AIV & Domesday Project

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Domesday System

In 1983, the BBC decided to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Domesday Book with a new survey of Britain. Up to 1 million people, mainly in schools, participated by collecting the data which was published as the Domesday Project. Rather than use paper (or vellum?) the BBC decided to produce a multimedia product. At this time CDs were still at an early stage in their development and CDROMs did not exist, so the BBC selected Laser discs as a suitable medium. The Domesday Project was published in 1986 on 2 Laser discs (LV-ROM) - the National Disc and the Community Disc.
I have also seen a report that there was a London Disc but I haven't seen a copy [Wanted].

The target audience was schools, universities and libraries, so the players had to be based on systems which schools would be familiar with. For schools, this was the BBC Micro and to a lesser extent the Research Machines 480Z. Meanwhile Philips were comissioned to make the laser disc player (VP415). Logica wrote the software in BCPL. When it was launched in 1986 the BBC AIV system cost £5156.75 (inc VAT). More details of the project can be found at Andy Finney's Domesday Project .

In December 1984 Acorn User published a News Item announcing the Domesday Project titled "Domesday Plus 900".
In September 1985 Acorn User published an article titled "Countdown to Domesday"
In July 1987 Acorn User published a review titled "The Domesday Device ".

I had totally missed the Domesday Project having left school many years earlier, not being a teacher and having no children at school. I became aware of it in 2002 through an Observer article [Observer 3 March 2002] about loss of digital data, since we could read the original Domesday Book after 900 years but 16 years on we could not read the BBC Domesday discs. The CAMiLEON  project had been set up to research the preservation of digital media and chose the BBC Domesday Project as a proof of concept.

When a complete system came up for aution on ebay in September 2002, I bid and won it. So I have a working Domesday system complete with the 2 LVROM discs and 2 additional set of discs - Volcanoes and the Eco-Disc. Since then I have also bought the BBC AIV manual (AIV is Advanced Interactive Video).
Here is a picture of the complete system:

Domesday system

The BBC Master AIV system playing the Domesday Project National disc

The BBC Master AIV (AKA the Domesday System) playing the National Disc. On the bottom left is the Philips VP415 Laser Disc Player, Next to it is the BBC Master Turbo with the Domesday Project keystrip showing above the red function keys. On top of the BBC Master is the Acorn Tracker Ball.

 Domesday System and ROUGOL 2009 show  

 Domesday System on show at ROUGOL show 2009

These are the components that make up the BBC Master AIV system:

Master Turbo  

The BBC Master Turbo

 BBC Master Turbo, from the outside it looks just like any other Master, except for the Domesday Project keystrip. But it isn't ...

Master Turbo open  

The BBC Master Turbo open

 BBC Master Turbo opened to show its secrets. First there is a normal Turbo co-processor module in the top centre. Second between the Turbo Module and the PSU is an Acorn SCSI board. Third is the VFS ROM with the green label on the left hand side.

Master Turbo with turbo module removed  

The Turbo module removed

 BBC Master Turbo with the turbo board removed. This gives a better view of the SCSI card next to the power supply .

Master motherboard and SCSI card

 The BBC Master motherboard and SCSI card

 Master Turbo motherboard giving a clear view of the Acorn SCSI card on the left of the motherboard. The SCSI standard had only just been ratified when this card was produced. The SCSI bus was the data link to the VP415 Laser Disc Player., which appeared to the BBC Master as a large, slow read-only SCSI disc. The Acorn VFS (ROM with green circular sticker on right) was a read-only version of ADFS with additional commands for the VP415. The motherboard is an Issue 1 Master motherboard.

Philips VP415

 The Philips VP415 (front)

 The front of Philips VP415 Laser Disc Player, the top section is the draw for the Laser Disc. The Eject and Standby buttons are on the left. The window for the IR controller is on the right. The bottom slice contains the Genlock and other components to work with the BBC Master.

Philips VP415 back

The Philips VP415 (back)

 The rear of the Philips VP415 Laser Disc Player showing on the left top is the power On/Off button. Below the On/Off button is the mains lead and in the middle right the SCART cable which links to the monitor/TV to display the video picture. On the Bottom left is the RGB cable which links to the BBC Master and feeds the overlay test from the master to the VP415. On the right is the SCSI cable which links the VP415 to the BBC Master to controll the VP415..

Acorn Trackerball

 Acorn Tracker Ball

  The Acorn Tracker Ball connects to the User Port underneath the BBC Master. The Acorn Tracker Ball is a rebadged Marconi RB2 Trackerball. It is one of serveral ways to control the BBC Master AIV by moving the on-screen pointer and selecting commands. The others are the Master keyboard using the Arrow keys and <Return.>, or a mouse which used identically to the Tracker Ball.

The only missing item is the VP415 remote control. [Wanted] 
Here are the 2 manuals for the system:

User Guides

 The Domesday Video Disc Users Guide and BBC AIV User Guide

Here are two manuals for the BBC Master AIV:

  1. The BBC Master AIV User Guide is an Acorn publication which describes how to connect up the AIV System, the functionality of the Video Filing System (VFS) and a Programmers Guide. It finishes with a brief description of SCSI
  2. The Domesday Video Disc User Guide is a BBC publication which describes how to use the Domesday System, the content of the discs and how to navigate them.

The Domesday System keystrip

The Domesday System keystrip

 The Domesday Project (CAV LV-ROM AEKP019X) consisted of 2 video discs (LVROMs) in a boxed set and was published by BBC Enterprises in 1986.. Each disc contains 108,000 pictures and 648 megabytes of data. The first disc is the Community Disc which looks at the UK from a geographical point of view. It is based on maps and can be navigated by map references or place names down to a local level. The information provided at each location was gathered by local people, mainly school children, and is their perception. The User Guide warns that the information is not "official" information and may not even be accurate!

Because of the volume of data the UK is divided in half, one side of the disc covers Southern Britain and the Channel Islands while the other side covers Northern Britain and Northern Ireland. [Note that the convention with Laser Discs means that the disc label actually refers to data on the other side of the platter].

The second disc is the National Disc which is a view of life in the UK as a whole. it is arranged by topic and can either be searched or navigated by a virtual Gallery. Its reverse side contains video sequences of events from 1981 to 1986.

Domesday System LVROM box

 The Domesday System box

The rather battered box for the Domesday Project laser discs

The National Disc  

The National Disc title screen

The national disc front screen

 The National  Disc front screen

The front page of the National Disc is the entrance to the Domesday Gallery. You can navigate round the content of the disc by moving round a virtual gallery.

The Coooumity disc title

 The Community Disc title screen

Community disc front screen

 The Community Disc front screen

The front page of the Community Disc, Southern side which covers the green part of Britain and the Chanel Islands. The navigation bar is at the bottom.

A laser disc

 A Laser (LVROM) disc


I have two additional titles for the BBC Master AIV, the EcoDisc and Volcanoes. There is another disc, The Countryside Disc, which I do not have [Wanted]

 The EcoDisc (CAV LV-ROM AEKP1035) was published by BBC Entrprises in 1987. To quote from the slieve "The BBC Ecodisc offers a unique opportunity to manage a real nature reserve at your desk. The project which was 2 years in the making includes 4000 photographs, 150 video sequences and over 1000 kilobytes of software." It is about a real nature reserve at Slapton Ley in Devon, you have the opportunity to explore the reserve and its inhabitants and to manage it.

EcoDisc box  

The EcoDisc box

EcoDisc User Guide  

The EcoDisc User Guide

EcoDisc title screen  

The EcoDisc title screen

The Volcanoes disc (CAV LV-ROM AELP017) was jointly published by BBC Enterprises and Oxford University Press in 1988. To quote from the slieve "The ... 'Volcanoes' disc is an extensive resource covering all aspects of vulcanology. It includes dramatic film and photographs of eruptions around the worls (and in outer space), computer graphics and 8 megabytes of text including the complete text of a book on volcanoes." The book is Volcanoes by Peter Francis.

Volcanoes Box

 The Volcanoes box

Volcanoes User Guide  

The Volcanoes User Guide

OUP Logo

The OUP Logo

The Volcanoes disc was jointly produced with Oxford University press.

Volcanoes title screen

  The Volcanoes title screen

The opening screen of the Volcanoes disc.


Serial No.01-AVC12-01000836
Motherboard0243,000 Issue 1
CPU clock2MHz
Disc controllerWD1770-PH
Disc Filing SystemsADFS 1.50
DFS 2.24
VFS 1.70
OSOS 3.20
SCSI interface0161,000 issue 1
Co-processor board0243,030 issue 2
Co-processor serial No.01-ADC06-0100273
Co-processor CPUG65SC102P-4
Co-processor CPU clock4MHz
Co-processor memory64KB
Tracker Ball0261,600
Laser Disc Player
Philips VP415/05
AH02644 110069