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A > ACORN COMPUTER  > Archimedes

Acorn Computer

Untitled Document

Acorn UNIX machines, by Malcolm Ramage:

Acorn also used the initial Archimedes board and case to make the R140 and R260, Acorns UNIX machine running Acorns version of unix, RISCiX.

The R140 was based around the ARM2 and the R260 around the ARM3, both had at least 4MB RAM and came in the same style case as the A440.
The R140 used the A440 basis with RISCOS (V2) in ROM, which was used to boot the computer and start RISCiX, the R260 used the A540 basis with a modified version of RISCOS (V2.01).  As a side note, the backplane in the R140 is a different type to the backplane in the A440, though appart from this, the actual machines are identical.

So long as you are using a machine with at least 4MB RAM and an ARM chip up to and including the ARM3, you can install and run RISCiX, even on an A310 (So long as you have 4MB RAM!).
Later processors are not supported, so you can not run RISCiX on a RISC PC or later ARM based systems.

There was an A680, which had no RISCOS, just an implementation of RISCiX and was not based on any marketed Archimedes machine

(UK) reports to us:

I had an Acorn BBC-B, and was very attached to it. By 1987 though, it was looking pretty tired compared with the competition. Everyone else was starting to buy the new 16bits : Atari-STs and Amigas.

Plucky little Acorn however, leapfrogged everyone in the industry by releasing the 32bit RISC-based Archimedes - the world's first Risc home computer, and the fastest micro in the world, it had high quality graphics, wimp OS (that featured a taskbar, antialiased fonts, menus that appeared where the mouse was - not fixed on the top of the window and windows that didn't outline when dragged) and basic in ROM with no need to compile!! oh and 8 channel stereo sound.

For BBC owners at the time, this computer was a wet dream, especially when they saw David (Elite) Braben's 256 colour Lander 3D game demo which featured filled polygons with realtime shadow and highlight calculation. (later dumbed down for Atari, Amiga and spectrum versions)

Later on, they made another quantum leap forward with the range, by introducing the RiscPC. This computer was designed for incredible upgradeability - you start with one systems unit, with a certain number of expansion slots and disks etc, and then when the time comes when you need something better, just connect another 'slice' to the top - up to 4(?) slices, One of the beauties of this system was that you could fit co-processor boards, and have, say a pentium chip running side by side with the ARM chip sharing system resources, with the ability to run Windows programs effectively natively and at full speed. I urge y'all to download the demo version of virtualacorn(.com), and experience an OS about 15yrs ahead of its time. By comparison, the much lauded Mac, Atari, and Amiga OS's look very poor.

Acorn eventually went belly-up, but ironically, the groundbreaking Risc processor at the heart of the archimedes now beats at the heart of 75% of the worlds mobile phones, PDA's, printers, auto systems etc. - anywhere where speed and low power consumption is needed.

Duncan corrects:

I would disagree with the comment that Acorn went belly up. What actually happened was that Acorns share in ARM (who design the RISC processors) was worth more than Acorn itself. Therefore it was decided to absorb the company into ARM, who incidentally designed the processor for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance.

Malcom Ramage adds:

Roosta and Duncan, technically you are both correct (Sort of)

This came from a former Acorn employee at a former Acorn building that I went to when I was a field engineer. What is now ARM was all part and parcel of Acorn, however as the sales of computers declined, but the sales of the processors rocketed, the ARM division was split from Acorn and the ARM renamed from Acorn Risc Machine to Advanced Risc Machine, which also became the name of the company. The remaining bits of Acorn, and associated office space, were renamed LM4 and designed high performance reciever technology, this in turn was bought out by Pace (Who do digital TV reciever boxes).

At the time I visited one of the former LM4 offices in Cambridge, they were still using Archimedies computers to do all the design work and many of the employee's (Especially management) had been there since the early days of Acorn and had some interesting stories about the rise and fall of Acorn.


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