Yes, TIB proudly present: an archive of ART Factsheets, Clan Factsheets, and Clan Newsletters, kindly donated to us by Peter "RISC OS Modules Database" Howkins. And for those of you who need a bit of a history lesson, read on...
Back at Acorn World 1994, Acorn founded a scheme for enthusiasts. They called it The Clan. In return for a one-off sign-up fee of ¬£15, members received a sweat-shirt and a bag full of goodies - a Risc PC lapel pin, a mouse mat, a t-shirt, and a few demo discs, all of which were proudly brandished as people walked around the show. At times queues reached 25m in length as their applications were processed. Nobody cared whether you liked a lot of chocolate on your biscuit - it was clear that The Clan was the club to join.
Everything went very quiet for a while after the launch. It seemed like the Clan's sole contribution to the scene was a co-ordinated dress sense at user group meetings, thanks to all those designer Acorn fabrics. People started to grumble, wondering whether Acorn would do anything with all the personal details and subscriptions that had been collected.
It wasn't until the start of 1995 that things started to look up. Chris Cox, a new face at Acorn, was appointed to run The Clan shortly before BETT (a high profile IT education show and, therefore, high on Acorn's list of priorities). Peter Bondar told Cox to build a "Rocket Ship" Risc PC for the show, which he managed despite being thrown in at the company's deep end. Giving the role of "Uncle Anorak" to Chris Cox was an interesting move because he hadn't really followed the Acorn dream prior to getting the job. "My recollection of Acorn from my college days was of a little company behind the cinema in Market Square in Cambridge where we went to try to buy a keyboard. The place was complete chaos - they were cutting the tops of chips to look at the silicon because they needed to find out why the chip wasn't working. I didn't realise that the company had now moved to Histon - five minutes walk away from where I was now living." (AU, Feb 96)
As the new Enthusiasts Sales and Marketing Manager, Cox was tasked with discovering how best Acorn could satisfy the RISC OS fans. The Clan was to create a line of communication between Acorn and its enthusiasts. Acorn would provide members with early information on its products and technologies, and it would collect feedback that could influence its future direction, and make sure the enthusiasts' voices were heard.
Clan members got their mitts on a lot of beta software over the years - notably the new filecore for large discs, Browse and Java, as well as a variety of demonstrations of possible changes to RISC OS such as redesigned interfaces to the applications suite, the task manager and the iconbar. Many of the ideas met with a negative response, and a fairly detailed summary was produced and sent back to members.
Acorn tried to tap into the base of skilled enthusiasts with a number of competitions. A Pocket Book II was offered for the best icon designs, and towards the last days of Acorn the Clan members were asked to provide the name for the successor to the Risc PC, codenamed Phoebe. (In the end, no suitable name was suggested, and the name Phoebe was used anyway).
According to many, the best reasons for joining The Clan were the substantial discounts that were offered on products from Acorn and various third parties like Eidos. Savings could be made on Desktop C/C++ or a new computer, and the then revolutionary new StrongARM processor could be ordered in advance of other (non-Clan-member) customers.
When Acorn disappeared so did The Clan; it closed with a membership of thousands. RISCOS Ltd set up a new membership club with a yearly subscription - The Foundation - which still runs today. Occasionally a R@RE piece of Clan Acorn memorabilia will go up for auction on eBay, and occasionally someone will pay attention and place a bid.