This weekend - world's largest Econet ever?

An event this weekend at The National Museum of Computing (on Bletchley Park campus) has possibly assembled and exercised the largest Econet of all time - that’s my guess anyway. But in any case the Econet LAN Party event seems to have been a great success, including bridging over the internet to stations in Yorkshire and in Switzerland.

Here’s a quick look from early in the proceedings:

Acorn’s network protocol Econet supports file access and print service, also messaging and other communication applications. It was widely used in UK education, although slightly after my time. There’s a byte worth of stations on a network, a byte’s worth of networks, and a means of bridging networks.

Photos and discussion over on Stardot:
Econet LAN party – TNMoC 20th and 21st May 2023 - Page 5 -

More info on Econet

And here’s a journey from a 1980 to a 1988 typical Econet with many links within:


That’s rather impressive, especially since Econet is at heart a synchronous serial network. And in true lovely Stardot fashion, it has people talking about setting up a permanent long-distance Econet system. Which will probably happen.

My first experience of networking was Econet in school. After strict* warnings about not logging in until the class disk was in the server floppy drive from the physics teacher turned computer teacher, we could all log on, see our files (which may have included many obfuscated copies of the frowned-upon Asterisk Tracker game), edit, run, save and even print on the shared Epson FX-80. It was effectively transparent to the user.

*: Doug was almost incapable of being strict, but managed to keep order mostly through being engaged and wanting his students to be engaged too. He was a fanatical Beeb user himself, and during quiet moments in Physics class he was sometimes to be seen slipping a borrowed cassette from his tweed jacket pocket and reading the inlay. I think he ended up writing some physics education software, but we never integrated computers into other parts of the curriculum while I was there, so I didn’t see any of it.


An interesting observation, that the popular UK TV show “Strike It Lucky!” (video link) used 9 Acorns connected by Econet providing 8 video images to 32 on-set monitors. Here’s a short article from BBC Acorn User May 1990, which says initially 8 Masters were slaved to a ninth. (I’m supposing then that only 8 distinct digital images are needed on the 32 monitors.) The article says they were considering upgrading to Archimedes (ARM computers also from Acorn.)

(We’re told the original USA production used Commodore computers)


We looked at using Econet on our 10 beebs but at £50 each it will have to wait, but its great to see it up and working. I left school before BBC’s took over so it was GPIB and {ET’s for me.