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The Icon Bar: News and features: Call for questions: All About Acorn
 

Call for questions: All About Acorn

Posted by Richard Goodwin on 13:01, 12/11/2001 | ,
 
We've got the opportunity to do a Slashdot and forward on questions to an ex-Acorn employee. Tell us what you want us to ask, the best questions will be emailed off, and we'll write up the responses for all to see.

Our contact (who shall remain nameless until we see what questions you put forward so that he doesn't cop flak from his present employers) helped develop the hardware that we all know and love, and is a mine of information on the subject. He's graciously agreed to share this knowledge with us, and so that we don't waste this opportunity we're opening up the discussion on questions to all of you, our lovely, intelligent readers.

I've just started a forum thread on the subject, or if you haven't got an account you can use the news comment facility to add questions.
 
  Call for questions: All About Acorn
  This is a long thread. Click here to view the threaded list.
 
Andrew Weston Message #89371, posted at 13:31, 12/11/2001
Unregistered user What's your favourite film? :)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
bernie Message #89372, posted at 13:40, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89371
Unregistered user I would like to know about the hardware of RiscPC:
- how the memory access time is (programmed?) and what hardware is involved;
- about the PS/2 keyboard interface. it is only 1 channel, it is 2 channels with one disabled (like some older PC that required an Y-cable for mouse and keyboard), and again, what hardware is involved;
- where we can find other sources of infos about the RiscPC's hardware (TRM disappeared)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Thingy Message #89373, posted at 14:36, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89372
Unregistered user Who said the RPC TRM disappeared?
It's online for all to download, along with a whole heap of other TRMs:

http://backwater.vetonline.vic.edu.au/pdf/
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Secret Squirrel Message #89374, posted at 14:40, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89373
Unregistered user What was Pete Bondar smoking?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Terry Nutkins Message #89375, posted at 14:49, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89374
Unregistered user :-D
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Paul Boddie Message #89376, posted at 15:53, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89375
Unregistered user First the historical questions...

1. What really happened to ARX? How far along was it when it got abandoned? When did that happen? Did ownership get transferred to anyone else or did it just get "lost"? What was it like? Will it ever re-surface as an historical "open source" curiosity?

2. There were supposedly a number of projects to revamp RISC OS, such as putting a RISC OS layer on top of the Mach microkernel, and a codename I once heard was "RISC OS Gold". What ever happened in these areas?

3. People go on about how RiscIx could never really perform on ARM2/3, Memc1/1a and so on. Were Acorn ever close to releasing hardware with optimal UNIX performance, such as the once-rumoured Memc2? Why did Acorn drop UNIX? (See 6!)

4. There were rumours about Galileo (or future RISC OS versions) being connected with the Nemesis QoS operating system; how true were they? Was there any interaction between Acorn and Olivetti Research? They seemed to make a fair amount of use of Acorn kit, along with their specialised QoS systems - wasn't one of those systems coincidentally called Medusa?

And finally, the all-important subjective questions...

5. Why do you think Acorn failed?

6. In hindsight don't you see Acorn's turning away from UNIX as ironic given the more recent emergence of Linux? With the current trend of "UNIX for the desktop", do you think Acorn missed out on a trend which they could have participated in with some success? (Like that other company in Cambridge, IXI Ltd., once did.)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Paul Boddie Message #89377, posted at 16:01, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89376
Unregistered user Oh, I forgot something! ;-)

7. Back in 1994 when the Risc PC was launched, there was a lot of talk about multiprocessor solutions. Was this ever *really* on the cards? Do you think this is an area Acorn should have tried to participate in more? Do you think that they should have bothered with the PC card business or should they have only bothered with "8 ARMs in a box" solutions instead?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
June Skythorpe Message #89378, posted at 16:51, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89377
Unregistered user 1. It was horribly over budget and behind time schedule. I wouldn't be surprised if Acorn 'lost' the source.

2. RISC OS Gold was cancelled as they finally noticed that it wasn't possible to do, and even if it was, would end up as a very slow nasty memory hungry thing. (well, the could have done it, but it would have been nothing like the real RISC OS)

3. RISC iX was, and is, very fast. Much faster than Linux or NetBSD on the same hardware. Acorn dropped it because it wasn't making them any money (other companies, such as Sun and HP were producing better workstations for a lot less money). Also, the ARM is the wrong CPU to run a UNIX on. The R240s etc had these problems: 32kB page size is outragous for a UNIX and only makes things more painful. The cache had to be flushed on every context switch, as it was logically addressed rather than physically. It wasn't a quick CPU.

4. I don't know for sure, but I don't think Galileo ever actually happened in the slightest - it was just an idea - they gave up before anything happened.

5. They kept trying to sell underdeveloped expensive hardware with an inferior OS to people who already knew about it (and not making other people find out about it), and that Macs and PCs were becomming *much* more powerful and several times cheaper.

6. It would have made sense if they didn't keep using ARMs, and had decent hardware.

7. The RiscPC had more features removed from the original spec and ideas than any other Acorn product apart from possibly Browse.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Paul Boddie Message #89379, posted at 16:55, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89378
Unregistered user Does the Acorn person still get a chance to answer my questions, or are you the Acorn person? :-)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Daniel Barron Message #89380, posted at 21:29, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89379
Unregistered user 1. Do you still own and/or use an Acorn?
2. Which one?
3. What for?
4. Will you be buying an Omega or other RISC OS computer?
5. Have you got a copy of the Quake (or was it Doom) wad of the Acorn offices that was shown at an Acorn show?
6. Why were so many things removed from the final risc pc like 16-bit sound, scsi, etc?
7. Did Acorn get job-lots of things like CD drives and hard drives which would explain why they flogged machines with over-expensive devices that were small for the time? Dealers were able to sell an equiv top spec machine using their own parts. Or was this a ploy to sell more as the punter thought they were getting a special deal?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Daniel Barron Message #89381, posted at 21:32, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89380
Unregistered user Whoops, some more:

8. Who do you work for now?
9. Are there any Acorn-related projects that you are involved in in your new company?
10. Do you know any rumours about any forthcoming products that might be interesting?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
BatFink Message #89382, posted at 23:53, 12/11/2001, in reply to message #89381
Unregistered user What happened to the ARM2 prototype processors with x86 instructions? Is there documentation on them anywhere?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
guest Message #89383, posted at 08:57, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89382
Unregistered user What was the reason behind Acorn not giving Sony access to RISCOS as the OS for the Playstation back in the early 90's?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Richard Goodwin Message #89384, posted at 09:46, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89383
Unregistered user For those of you interested in Gold (the OS that is ;), this might be of some interest:

-- insert ----------------
All thes are from memory...
Lazarus - Bush Internet TV.
Bethany - updated OS for above.
Martha - Bush Internet TV 2
Couch potatoe - STB for third party.
Medusa - Risc PC development boards - usually in A5000 cases.
Stork - a colour portable
Daytona - Fax terminal
Expresso - RPC with Java and StrongARM.
Gideon - a colout portable.
Morris - A7000 or A7000+
Oh yes, just remembered:
Omega - NC1
Rachel - RPC2 processor card.
Chandler - RPC2 IOMD2
Phoebe - Phoebe

And the OS versions:
Black - 3.5?
Pink - 3.7?
Purple - 3.6?
Gold - a total rewrite of RISC OS. The toolbox was the only thing released out of this. Got superseeded by work on Gallileo.
Gallileo - New super-OS that did not get beyond Kernel level.
(Not sure about the above - gold is correct though).

-- end insert ------------
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
James Message #89385, posted at 10:24, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89384
Unregistered user 1) What do you are (were) the strong points of RISC OS that could have been exploited to encourage wider sales in the desktop market?

2) What do you feel are the weak points of RISC OS that should have been addressed long ago?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
James Message #89386, posted at 12:28, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89385
Unregistered user 3) Did you enjoy working for Acorn?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Lee Johnston Message #89387, posted at 12:58, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89386
Unregistered user In your opinion is RISC OS still viable as a desktop OS? Why?

In you opinion is the RISC OS desktop market still viable? Why?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Guest Message #89388, posted at 16:04, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89387
Unregistered user What do you think Risc OS Ltd should be doing, that it isn't currently?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Simon Willcocks Message #89389, posted at 20:55, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89388
Unregistered user
Hardware Independence:

Do you think that primitive HI could be achieved by moving all segments
of code that access IOMD/VIDC into routines that could be replaced by
hardware developers? (Obviously, subsystems that do some simple, well
defined task could be replaced at a higher level.)

Would it slow down the OS too much, or have any other negative effects?

How much effort do you think it would be?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Guest Message #89390, posted at 23:58, 13/11/2001, in reply to message #89389
Unregistered user Stork was B&W, not colour
Black was 3.6, not 3.5
3.5 was Blue.
Gideon was not portable.
The toolbox _idea_ came out of Gold. All code was new.
Galileo did get past kernel level.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
John Hoare Message #89391, posted at 09:23, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89390
Unregistered user How far did Galileo get, and where's the source? :-)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Richard Goodwin Message #89392, posted at 09:57, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89391
Unregistered user I know the prototype Stork Jason had to play with for a while has a monochrome screen, but was that the end goal, or where there going to be colour versions?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Lee Johnston Message #89393, posted at 10:51, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89392
Unregistered user How about

Would you consider developing for a platform which has no officially supported C/C++ development environment?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Bugalow Message #89394, posted at 13:29, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89393
Unregistered user What happened to the XMPC - the Xemplar Multi Platform computer, that was supposed to run Windows NT, Mac OS, and RISC OS in the same box?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Rob Kendrick Message #89395, posted at 15:26, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89394
Unregistered user It went the same way as the ABC? (ie, it would have been horribly expensive and a silly idea to start with) :)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Guest2 Message #89396, posted at 17:58, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89395
Unregistered user Was porting RISC OS to the MAC as rumoured at one point, ever on the cards?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Guest Message #89397, posted at 18:03, 14/11/2001, in reply to message #89396
Unregistered user If Acorn was an American company, do you think Acorn would have suceeded in toppling Apple back in the Eighties and possibly have ultimately suceeded in tke desktop market.

And in a related question, do you think a Welsh based OS company can suceed where a English based computer company failed!
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Anon Message #89398, posted at 20:27, 20/11/2001, in reply to message #89397
Unregistered user Are any more of the questions going to passed on to the ex-employee?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Guest3 Message #89399, posted at 13:43, 21/11/2001, in reply to message #89398
Unregistered user Make sure you ask the question from Simon Willcocks above.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
Ralph Simons Message #89400, posted at 15:41, 21/11/2001, in reply to message #89399
Unregistered user No! Ask some of the historical questions! :-)

These "can we have hardware independent blah, blah, blah" questions are only interesting for the die-hard, "I'll go down with this ship... oh, it's gone down already... three years ago" minority. Whereas, the historical questions could reveal some interesting stuff about the British (micro)computing industry, how companies are/should be/shouldn't be managed, and so on.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
 
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The Icon Bar: News and features: Call for questions: All About Acorn