Why bother? Acorn is dead!
27th October 2000
The views expressed in this article are purely the opinions of the
author, Richard Murray, and should not be taken as truth, fact, or resembling anything
whatsoever. So there.
Acorn are dead...
You know, after over ten years of predictions of gloom and doom, it is finally true. Acorn
are dead. The technology was sold to other companies (such as Pace - yeah, that Pace,
the set top boxes and modems Pace...) and then licensed to other companies.
It's about time, really.
Acorn never did get their act together regarding 'clones'. Which meant this one company was
solely responsible for both the operating system and the hardware. Not a bad thing at the
beginning, but towards the end I think they got a little sidetracked with innovative ideas
that didn't quite make it to fruition; which no doubt bothered the sugar daddies.
...so why bother?
For two reasons. Firstly, look at the Amiga or Atari scene. Just because the perceived
'parent' company ceases it doesn't mean the users are going to instantly flock in droves to
other systems. Sadly, many people bleat when it comes to this issue. Rather than picking a
system which does what they require (Acorn, Mac, or otherwise), they will tend to get what
everybody else uses. Don't get me started on that. :-)
Point is, there are many people such as myself who use an Acorn computer. Whether they can't
afford a new PC, whether their Acorn machine does all they currently need, it is their
prerogative to continue using the machine.
The Atari column bid farewell to TOS in the November 2000 issue of Computer Shopper. How
long has it been since a high-street shop sold Atari/TOS? As long as there are users, the
platform will continue.
All of this, assuming there were not companies developing new machines based on RISC OS...
So where are they?
In development. There is a lot of unseen work going on with RISC OS and new computers. But
how many rehashed ARM, VIDC, IOMD combinations do we want to see? Well, the honest answer is
none. The VIDC doesn't really cut it for modern video applications, and all the new ARM
processors are 32 bit only, which means RISC OS will need rewriting to work with the new
Maybe the development will take time, but if we have a new machine that can take DIMMs,
use a new ass-kicking ARM processor, and run Quake at a few hundred frames per second, won't
it have been worth the wait?
How do you know this?
A lot is educated guesswork, some is derived from undercurrents in news postings. I would
like to be privvy to some insider information that I can write about here, like
"RISC OS is now 32 bit native, and it works flawlessly on a 500MHz
StrongARM", but unfortunately secrets aren't made so I can tell them!
I'm confident of the ARM processor, and the system as a whole. I think it still has a
future. We'll never see instant results as our market is so very much smaller than that of
PCs. But I think a more thought out system would be worth a wait.
Is that all?
No. I think the ARM is a lovely processor. I know it isn't exactly 'normal' to
attribute concepts such as beauty to a processor, but the ARM really does break the mould.
I hope that ARM Ltd. make a cheap (and I mean £200 max.) prototype board with an
ARM7500, tiny ROM, FlashROM, RAM, and some I/O. The tiny ROM could get the thing going, and
either boot from FlashROM, or program the FlashROM from a serial link. Such a board would
be a useful teaching tool, and I'm sure students would rather learn on an ARM than have Z80
and 80x86 inflicted on them. With sufficient I/O, it could also be used for prototyping
stuff. At around two hundred quid, I'd buy one!
So this site is dedicated to all those learning to program the ARM, for whatever purpose,
and here's hoping that it shall live long and prosper.
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Copyright © 2004 Richard Murray