Trapper (27th October 2010)
Re: Acorn RISC OS Educational Software
I know that most people who read this have
probably never seen an Acorn computer in a
school, and some of you might not even know
what one is, but I'm hoping there will be one
or two of you out there who will go all misty
eyed at the mention of a RiscPC.
If anybody still has any old Acorn educational
software lying about, would you check through
what you've got and see if you have any of
Anglia Multimedia CDs
Through the Window
Wake UP World!
and a RISC OS copy of the
AEGIS Geographical Information System
that was developed by the Hatfield Computer
Unit in the late 1990s.
It is impossible to get hold of RISC OS copies
of any of these now, unless you're lucky
enough to see them on Ebay, and I'm trying to
locate them for a Special Needs school, so
if anybody has Acorn copies of these, would
you please leave a message saying that you
Very few copies of some of these were ever
sold before Labour killed Acorn in education,
so you might well have the ONLY copy still in
The Sherston title may well be the most likely
one to find, because it may have been produced
in a triple format Mac/Acorn/PC CD. IF you have
a PC version, would you please check whether it's
one of those triple format ones.
Thanks for looking.
Jon Robinson (Leeds)
Trapper (27th October 2010)
You're in luck my trusty Risc PC is still plugged in and working.
As for the software I think you're going to be disappointed. I've asked on here, and at almost every local school and no one has any Acorn kit left. It all went in the bin in the mid-199s.
Hell at my current school they even skipped RISC OS altogether and just had IBM Clones. Go to the The Icon Bar: Technology News and Resources and ask there.
Labour never killed Acorn dude, they killed themselves by never expanding out of the education market and moving far too slowly with networking and digital media. I'd be a very happy techie if I could run 300 networked RISC PC 2s, they were all bullet proof.
If you do need Acorn software let me know, I've got barrels of it. I've try a certain Bay where Pirates may go and search for Acorn Antiques (Yes mods delete this line if it's not subtle enough!)
Thanks for replying to my message.
The problem for Acorn computers was that there was never a big enough gap in the market for them to be able to finance all the software development they needed to remain competitive.
In the mid-90s they were sandwiched between the Amiga/Atari ST, which were the best machines for game players, and the PC, which was the best machine for people who wanted to take work home with them.
What they really needed to do was produce a £400 machine, which had as many games as the Amiga and productivity software that could read and write Word, Access and Excel, but they just hadn't got the resources to do it.
Instead what we had was a rock-solid machine which had - and still has - the most elegant user interface ever designed for a computer, but which has hardly any modern games and doesn't speak Microsoft.
Then the internet came along, and things got even worse.
I may have my figures slightly wrong, but I think in the late 90s Acorn's turnover was just 12 million, and they'd just paid half a million to licence Java. I think similar hefty licencing figures were also involved in some of the video codecs, which is why we never got Media Player on Acorn, and in getting the file format details for all of the Microsoft products, which is why there still isn't a presentation package on RISC OS that can read and write Powerpoint.
The schools were absolutely critical to Acorn. By the late 90s we had quite a nice suite of fast RiscPCs, and every year a couple of kids would fall in love with them, and go home and persuade their parents to buy them one. The schools were the best form of advertising that Acorn ever had.
However, I don't agree that Labour didn't play its part in Acorn's demise. Acorn was bankrupted late in 1998 by a business rival, and - unlike with the banks - Labour didn't lift a finger to get them back on their feet. You might argue that Acorn were stupid to let themselves get caught out like that, but they were too important a company to allow to go down the toilet as a result of what was effectively fraud.
All the Dept of Education had to do was to find a way to place an advance order for the next Acorn model, the Phoebe, and Acorn would have been able to borrow the money from the banks to produce it.
But, hey buddy, what's it to do with us, we're only the GOVERNMENT, right ?
Not only did they not lift a finger to try to rescue one of this country's most important high technology companies, but I'm fairly sure they encouraged the Microsoft takeover by rewriting most of the syllabuses.
I can remember at the time looking at the new syllabus for one of the courses we were thinking about trying to deliver, only to discover that every single module had been carefully written so that you could only deliver it, using the relevant Microsoft product.
We could do everything on the syllabus, using our own software, but just not in the WAY the syllabus specified.
It even referred to things like CSV files, as 'Microsoft CSV files' !!!
I've spent a couple of months in Yorkshire primary schools in the last two years, delivering an educational programme about space exploration, and I've noticed that although there's now a PC in every classroom, a lot of them rarely seem to be turned on, except occassionally to drive the whiteboard !
What schools are now sadled with, is a system which is far too complicated and unreliable to meet their needs, which might have been cheap to buy, but costs a fortune to maintain, and a British computer industry, which has been largely reduced to a bunch of screwdriver and rebadging merchants..
However, although they are not yet available to buy 'out of the box' yet, a lot of work has been done in the last two years to get RISC OS working on newer and cheaper hardware, and one of the consquences of that will probably be that a lot of second-hand StrongARM RiscPCs and Iyonixes will become available at very reasonable prices, if anybody has an old A4000 or RiscPC 600 they want to upgrade.
Just out of interest, if there's anybody who is still managing to use an Acorn machine in the classroom, would you leave a message on here saying what you're using it for.
Thanks for reading.
Jon Robinson (Leeds)
Last edited by castlevarich; 29th October 2010 at 03:09 PM. Reason: Silly spelling mistake
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