the life & times of 06-ALA01-0006180

acorn electron game tape ZAOR


User Port & UPURS suite


Probably my most-loved and vital addition to my Elk.This is the EUP and ROM-based UPURS software suite, designed by Martin Barr, that allows several transfer options with PCs as well as increased connectivity to the Electron through the two user ports.


The UPURS commands allow for the transfer of both single sided (ssd) and double sided (dsd) disk images to and from the Elk, thus allowing a physical disk to be created on the Electron from an ssd image on the PC and the other way around. You can also transfer ROM images to the Elk and back again and also load data directly into the Electron memory, for example the digitised image that you can see on the Contact page of this site. Cassette loading can also be achieved on the Electron from a tape image (uef) on the PC, resulting in tape games being loaded much faster than when using the traditional method.


The manual for the EUP & UPURS is available as a PDF file on the Retro-Kit website.

I love the idea that my Electron can display good quality images, such as digitised photographs. Back in the 80's, this would have been even more impressive! Of course there were digitisers available, such as the WE Beeb Video Digitiser but these were pretty expensive and are now pretty rare. To use one now on your Elk you would need an extra interface, such as the PRES AP5, which is in itself fairly rare (although there is a redesign and rebuild going on over at StarDot at the moment).


An alternative method that lets you impress your retro buddies with near-photo-quality images on your Elk screen employs the help of UPURS. You will need:


an Acorn Electron

Plus 1, Rombox, Plus 2 or similar

the Electron User Port & UPURS suite as detailed above

a PC or laptop

the BBC Micro Image Converter (incorporating Image2BBC) by Francis G. Loch, Dreamland Fantasy Studios.


Step 1


Example applications of UPURS:

#1 transferring digitised images to the Electron.

Using the BBC Image Converter on your PC, select a source picture or photograph and choose a Mode for the output Electron image. I usually use Mode 4 which produces a nice quality black and white interpretation. Using the Converter, you can select various filters and so on to get the final image looking nice.


In the example image shown here, the original is on the left and the converted beeb/elk output in on the right. In this example screenshot, output is in Mode 2 but we will be working with Mode 4.


Once you are happy with way your image looks, Save it; I give mine a name that reminds me of the way it was converted - as this is going to be a Mode 4 image on my Elk i call it "art_md4_5800" with 5800 being the HIMEM value for Mode 4 on the Electron.

Example image conversion using Francis G. Loch's 'BBC Micro Image Converter'


Step 2


Having converted our image into something that the Electron can understand, we next need to actually transfer it across to the Elk. This is where UPURS comes in. For all of my transfers, I use a package on the PC side called Hercules (as detailed in the Electron UPURS manual). For detailed guidelines on all UPURS transfers, see the manual for the Elk UPURS suite, but for the purposes of our example exercise I have set "art_md4_5800" as the file to send from my PC in Hercules and called for it on the Electron side with the UPURS command *UPLOAD 5800, making sure I have switched the Elk to Mode 4 first.


This is fine, but the command text will corrupt the image on the Electron once it has been sent over, so we first need to set up a text box on-screen first and change the COLOUR to 0 so that any text is hidden and does not corrupt our new image. I usually do this by entering MODE 4, then COLOUR 0 followed by a CLS. Then, using VDU 28,0,0,0,0 to set a text box up that doesnt interfere with our image (see page 92 of the Acorn Electron User Guide) you can go on to call the image over from the PC using *UPLOAD 5800 (It's also worth adding a VDU 23,1,0;0;0;0; in there to before that to remove the blinking cursor).

You will need to be careful typing that bit in as you won't be able to see what you're typing since it will be black and in a small text window!


Once the image is displayed on the screen on the Electron, you either save it to tape or disk or print it using a screen dump routine, or, theoretically, manipulate it using an art package (though I haven't had a great deal of success with the latter).


To save the image to disk, I use *SAVE <name> 5800 8000

This is where it is important not to have any text corrupting your image on the screen as the save will literally be of what you see at the time. To load it again, just switch to the MODE of the saved image, in this case 4, and use *LOAD <name> 5800

where the HIMEM value 5800 can be replaced with appropriate value for the MODE of the image.


In this example, I am going to go on a step further and print out a dump of the screen using Beebug DUMPMASTER rom, which i have imaged onto disk and transferred into SWRAM on my Elk (a later how-to, I think)  ;-)


the image on the Electron in Mode 4

Step 3


You can see in the earlier image conversion example screenshot that I had the output showing as a MODE 2 picture, but I like the monochrome feel of MODE 4 and as I only have a black ink ribbon for my Star LC-100 dot matrix, this is what I usually work with.


Have fun!

Acorn Electron digitised image transfer

Original painting, Electron image and printed screen dump...

Other examples of digitisations onto the Electron can be found throughout the site; here's those chaps from the BBC film Micro Men...

Micro Men 3 Micro Men 1 Micro Men 4 Micro Men 2