COLLECTING EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE

As with all things, people collect educational software for the BBC microcomputer. Museums will try to collect all educational software that has ever been produced. Individuals may collect a smaller subset, for example software produced by Acornsoft.

The average collector cannot hope to collect examples of every educational title ever produced. There were just too many and a great deal of this software, especially from amateurs and small software houses has been lost over time.

If you want to collect educational software for the BBC microcomputer, the first questions to ask are 'what do I want to collect and why do I want to collect it?' The answers to these questions will focus your attention and limit your collection and limit the amount of time and money you will need to spend on your collection. Are you collecting because you are a 'magpie' or are you collecting for a purpose. For example, are you a teacher who hopes to use the software in your job (yes, amazingly BBC microcomputer software is still used in schools today- I was using it until 2015) or are you a parent who hopes to enthuse your children?

It could be a good idea to adopt a thematic approach to collecting the software. Concentrating on software from a particular publisher or curriculum area is a good place to start. Some publishers produced very many titles in colourful and technically well produced packages. Acornsoft or Sherston are two examples of these publishers. You may be interested in a particular curriculum area, for example music.

 

WHERE TO OBTAIN EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE

There are very few shops open today that sell BBC microcomputer educational software. It is a dead market. CJE MIcros may be able to help in this area.

It is possible to find items for sale on internet websites such as eBay, Gumtree, Freegle, etc. Unfortunately vendors on eBay are asking exorbitant prices for items these days. Gumtree and Freegle are less so but there may be a long journey involved to collect such items.

Friends, family and acquaintances may be good sources. If they had a BBC microcomputer in the 1980s, especially if they were teachers, then they may still have software stored 'safely' in an attic or cupboard.

Computer fairs or radio/electronic fairs may also be a fertile ground for finding material as can be car boot sales. However, in the latter there are sellers who  overvalue their wares.

In the 1980s almost all Local Education Authorities stocked massive numbers of educational titles, including complete packages with documentation in Teacher's Centres. Indeed they frequently indulged in open piracy by providing copies to their respective schools and teachers. Today they have nothing. A huge amount of educational software has been lost because these LEAs did not have the foresight to keep archives.

 

IS EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE VALUABLE/RARE?

This is a difficult question to answer definitively. Individual titles are worth what someone will pay for them. Intrinsically they are worth very little but, to a collector of software from a particular publisher, the last item missing from their collection could be worth a great deal to them personally; to others it is worth nothing.

Boxed packages complete with documentation from large publishers, such as Acornsoft, are common and, as such, have little value (one could be forgiven for believing otherwise if one looks at online auction sites). There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Some titles have captured the imagination of a generation. A title such as Granny's Garden by 4Mation Software commands a high price whenever it is offered for sale. Copies of Granny's Garden abound in disc collections but the actual package, complete with documentation, commands a premium. It would not be surprising for a package, complete with documentation, to sell for over 50 today, well over its original selling price.

Software from small companies, which sold limited numbers of titles, can be exceedingly rare yet has little intrinsic value. The Flax Cottage Archive contains many such items; they were difficult to find but would command very low prices if offered on eBay, for example.

Rare does not mean valuable. Also Items which the vendor has not seen before are not necessarily rare!

 

IS EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE A GOOD INVESTMENT FOR THE FUTURE?

One would not currently collect educational software for investment purposes. The answer therefore has to be 'no'.

Some educational titles may appear to be good investments. Granny's Garden, as mentioned above, especially if obtained cheaply, could be seen to be an investment. However, once the generation who played Granny's Garden at school have passed away or grown up, its value will fall.

Another factor affecting the value of educational software is the fragility of the media. Floppy discs and cassette tapes have a very limited lifetime. When they were produced it was not known that they would be susceptible to fungal attack or that the substrate would degrade as quickly over time. A copy of a package, for which one has paid a premium, could easily become worthless in a few years due to degradation.

Not only magnetic media but also documentation has a limited life. Companies such as Acornsoft used high quality printers  for their booklets and package covers and these will last. LEAs and other public bodies, such as RESOURCE, used much cheaper, in house printing facilities. The ink used in this process, whilst dense and dark when originally used, has a tendency to become sticky over time. This means that pages of documentation will stick together and, when opened, will leave ink on the opposite page. Obviously this will affect the value of the package. Indeed some packages offered for sale today are worthless due to these problems.

Software described as 'an attic find' should be regarded with extreme caution. Attics are notorious for being damp and cold in the Winter and hot and dry in the Summer. These conditions are especially good for destroying magnetic media and poorly printed documentation.

 

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Last updated 5 September 2021

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