Bell first used computer programming at The Slade in London 1977-79, where he experimented using brush-pens to enhance the calligraphic character of plotted perspective projections; a pseudo-random number generator selected the orientation and types of shapes drawn. He also wrote a program that produced drawings by using rudimentary software agents to simulate spacecraft movement and battles. As Artist in Residence at the Computing Laboratory of the University of Kent at Canterbury 1984-85, he developed the first of his Smallword programs.
Smallworld enables participants to explore the generation of shapes and animations by designing and using software agents Bell calls 'animals'. During the
UKC residency Bell used Smallworld to generate images and animations based on predator-prey interaction, flocking and other emergent behaviours exhibited by the agents. He developed Smallworld further and exhibited it at several exhibitions while pursuing PhD research into the use of Computers in Participatory Art at Loughborough University, which he completed in 1991. In 1997 'Tinyworld' an interactive work was commissioned by Loughborough University.
Bell moved to Bournemouth in 1989 to teach art and design students to use programming and behavioural animation creatively. He helped to establish the National Centre of Computer Animation at Bournemouth in 1989.