Mr Ee was a classic. A mate of mine had Microvitec monitor and it looked superb on that. I’ve spent a good few hours playing Dangerous and it is good but only in single player mode. Like you multiplayer does nothing for me at all. It was a great scene then as well. We used to knock about with the Gremlin and Alligata guys in Sheffield. If I remember Alligata we’re above Superior Systems on West Steer and Gremlin was upstairs on Carver Street. A mate of mine worked in Datron over the road. Had some proper laughs in those days.
It was probably TL:DR for most people (I kept adding stuff to it after the initial post, which didn't help!). Loved the BBC Micro and Archimedes - probably the two finest machines to exist in the 1980's, even if they were both overpriced (but worth it, IMHO). It was the fact that they didn't have anything "naff" about them like so many of their contemporaries did (the ZX Spectrum being the worst - literally everything about it was awful and yet it sold in bucketloads because it was cheap). Actually, all this talk of disk protection reminded me of a commercial disk copier progam for the BBC Micro that would display a picture of a pirate if you tried to use it to copy itself. Rather than bother cracking the protection (which I'm sure I could have done), I think I just worked out that if you write protected the disk with a protection label mid-way through it loading, it wouldn't detect its own copy protection and would let you copy itself :-) Hey, no point in wasting time cracking it if a sticky label does the job for you! Getting back to Elite, I did play it for a quite a long time to get my £14.95's worth, but I never became "Elite". I think I did try it on or two other platforms later on and, no, I haven't bought Elite Dangerous before you ask (would be nice if they had a Linux version since I consider Linux the sort of successor spiritual home where ex-BBC/Archimedes owners would end up at) - I just don't like multi-player games (so Steam Proton works well for me in Linux - anti-cheat for multi-player is the last major hurdle and I don't care :-) ). Another BBC Micro story from me: I wrote code to "ROM-ise" any BBC Micro game - you could then run it with a star command and it would display the game name on boot (like Disc Doctor and others did). I got an EPROM blown of Mr Ee! (what a great game that was) and could just run it with *mree and it would instantly start. Linux users can reminisce with xmris of course, which actually looks more like a conversion of Mr Ee! than of Mr Do! :-)
Haha fantastic memories I really enjoyed reading that thank you... Took me right back yes the Captain Pugwash was Frak! and it was a great rendition too ! What did he say he would do whip and do nasty things to whoever copied the game ? ! My time with the beeb set me up for a life time working in IT but I wish I could go back to those times. They were special, magical even. Seriously I was disappointed when I had finished your post ever though of making your memories more permanent ? I would pay to read them :-)
It was many, many years ago, so my memory's a bit hazy on this! Computer Concepts' Disc Doctor ROM was an essential toolkit (I loaded it into sideways RAM) - a 6502 disassembler, a memory editor and a disk editor were all helpful. If a game checked for a bad sector, I'd patch the code to skip that check. If it actually loaded data from a "special" sector (formatted differently from normal to prevent copying), I'd let it load the data, patch it to return control and the *SAVE the data out to another disk. I'd then patch the loading code to load from a normal file instead. I suspect one of these 2 methods is what I'd have done with Elite. I will point out that The BBC Micro Advanced User Guide was a mandatory book to buy at the time - excellent documentation on the OS that proved invaluable when patching games and writing 6502 on the machine in general. I had a 6502 programming reference book (I forget its title - black cover with orange heading on the front) and "The BBC Micro Compendium" (Jeremy Ruston's "banned book" where he naughtily documented an entire disassembly of the BBC BASIC ROM - talk about copyright infringement!). Didn't really need any other books on the BBC Micro at the time. You might like to know that Jeremy's documentation of how the BBC BASIC expression evaluator worked was used as a template for a C-based version I wrote for UNIX/Linux systems called calc (which I didn't realise at the time was also the name of a GNU program...slaps forehead). My funniest experience was with Acornsoft Revs - the author had written a sophisticated way of intercepting *LOAD to load from special sectors. I was worried about patching it until I realise that you could just patch to return control and literally type a *SAVE command to save the chunk of memory loaded to by the custom *LOAD! Once I'd then removed his interception of *LOAD, everything loaded from normal files and I was done. I often found that tape protection was more sophisticated than disk protection, even though you were often paying a lot more for the latter and 99% of the time the disk version of the game was identical to the tape version (Elite was indeed one of the rare exceptions to this). Authors would load (or just check for) extra data on tape that wasn't copyable via *LOAD/*SAVE - you'd just patch that load/check out in most cases. I even used that technique in a slightly ironic way in a commercial tape copier I wrote, so that one of the few things it couldn't copy was itself :-) The most interesting tape protection by far was used by Ultimate's Knight Lore - it used precise timings of the 6522 VIA chip to decrypt data. I had the code for the crack completed in a matter of hours, but unbeknownst to me, one line of it was wrong and this messed up the decryption. After many code reviews on and off, 2 weeks later I found the fix and all was good. I was excited to see what new tape protection Ultimate would come up with in their next game (I think it was Atic Atac) and was massively disappointed that *exactly* the same code I wrote to crack Knight Lore worked on the sequel too, so it was literally a 10 minute crack. Biggest letdown ever! As you can probably guess, many BBC Micro games (outside of the much quoted "classics") were more fun to crack than actually play. I was never defeated by any BBC Micro copy protection and this trend continued for a while with the Archimedes I had (I cracked Zarch quickly, wrote a modder that could give me infnite everything and got to see the end screen probably way before the guy who a won a prize for that! Was tempted to enter the competition for that as a cheat laugh, but was worried they might expect me to play it at expert level!). It only stopped when the first compiled stuff came out for the Archimedes - I think it was a Magnetic Scrolls adventure. It used one of those "type this word from a page in a manual" protections and the ARM code the (presumably C) compiler generated was so bloaty/spaghetti to follow (yes, text compression was involved too) that I gave up on it. A good job the game wasn't much cop anyway! BTW, I suspect I was only person to "pirate" (ha!) the Captain Pugwash theme tune from one of Orlando's games (was it Frak or Zalaga I dunno) that he'd buried in a BASIC game loader as an Easter egg for copy protection crackers, convert it to 6502, make it interrupt-driven in the background and then have it optionally play in the background on a tape to disk copier I wrote :-) What a payback that was and it made me chuckle...
Being a bit of a beeb nerd .. I thought myself Beeb BASIC and then onto 6502 Assembler. Interested to know how you went about cracking the protection on Elite.