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The Icon Bar: News and features: A summary of RISC OS hardware

A summary of RISC OS hardware

Posted by Phil Mellor on 00:00, 4/2/2005 | , , , , , , , , , , , ,
This is a summary of current and historical Acorn and RISC OS hardware.

Current computers


Castle launched the 600MHz XScale IYONIX pc in 2002 running a new 32 bit version of RISC OS (RISC OS 5). The OS and hardware were developed in conjunction with Tematic, a group of ex-Pace and ex-Acorn employees. Tematic later merged with Castle Technology when Castle bought RISC OS from Pace.
See also:


The A9home is currently in beta and is expected to be finished by Q2 2006, around the time of the Wakefield Show.
It has been developed by Advantage 6 and runs a 32 bit version of RISC OS Select, developed by RISCOS Ltd.
See also:

Virtual Risc PC

The alternative to native ARM hardware is to use an emulator running on Windows X86 computers. A version for Mac OS X is also in development.
Virtual Risc PC is developed by Virtual Acorn and uses a version of RISC OS licenced from RISCOS Ltd. It is based on Red Squirrel, which is a freeware emulator with fewer features and requires the user to obtain their own ROM images.
Many RISC OS dealers market PC and emulator bundles, sometimes called 'hybrid computers'.
See also:

Post-Acorn computers

After the demise of Acorn, several developers released RISC OS compatible computers. The first range used the ARM7500FE processors as these contained the memory and video controllers that RISC OS was dependent on.


This was based on a Simtec motherboard, brought to market by RiscStation, the manufacturing arm of the CTA dealership in Manchester. It was produced in several versions; a standard model, an extended model with more memory and features, and a network-only version (no hard drive).
The R7500 series were released running RISC OS 4.


Microdigital produced the Mico which had similar specifications and pricing to the RiscStation machine. Several promised upgrades were either difficult to obtain (network card) or never materialised (graphics card).
See also:


Shortly after the Mico release, Microdigital announced the Omega. It promised support for StrongARM and later processors, and video capabilities surpassing the Risc PC.
Unfortunately Microdigital faced many difficulties and delays getting the Omega design finished and to market. It was finally released after the Iyonix, around 3 years late. Little has been heard from Microdigital since 2005, following legal action to recover lost deposits and refunds from several unhappy customers, and a lack of impact in the market (caused by delays and the release of the arguably better specced Iyonix).
See also:

Kinetic Risc PC

After the break-up of Acorn, Castle Technology obtained permission to continue production and sales of the Risc PC and A7000+.
Castle release the last upgrade to the Risc PC in 2000 with the Kinetic Risc PC clocked at 236MHz and later at 300MHz. This had the main memory and OS located on the processor daughterboard, avoiding use of the slow memory bus.
See also:

Acorn computers

See the ART Factsheets for more information about Acorn and ART's developments.

Risc PC

Risc PC - The Risc PC was launched in 1994, and is still in use today by many RISC OS users.
Its processor was upgraded several times over its life, allowing it to compete against emerging technologies.

  • ARM 600 - This was the original 33MHz Risc PC Processor used in the computer
  • ARM 700 - The ARM 700 was clocked at 40MHz and Risc PC 700s were sold from 1995
  • StrongARM - Acorn launched the StrongARM range clocked at 202MHz in 1996, and later released a 233MHz model.


Clan factsheet

RISC OS 3.1 era machines

  • A3010, A3020, A4000 - these machines were released in 1992 and were all based around the same design, aimed at the home, education and small office markets respectively.
  • A5000 - ARM 3 processor, released in 1991.
  • A4 - Acorn's only production laptop. Rather than being a portable A5000, the A5000 was actually developed on from the A4 design.

Early 32 bit Acorn machines

This was the Archimedes and BBC A3000 range.

The ones that got away

Many machines were announced that never reached production. They include:

  • Phoebe - the machine that killed Acorn.
  • RiscStation portable. Deposits were taken, launch dates were pushed back, but the computer was never released. The main reason given was that it was not possible to source the small quantities of cases needed over the machine's lifetime.
  • RiscStation Evolution. Based on another Simtec design, this time using a StrongARM chip. It was planned for release after the R7500. RISC OS was unable to support such radically different hardware at this point, and RISCOS Ltd were unable to reach agreement with RiscStation and other hardware manufacturers on how the conversion work should be paid for.
  • Imago. Designed by Millipede, marketed by Cerilica, this high specification machine never made it beyond prototype stage, again due to the hardware dependence of RISC OS.
  • Peanut portable.



There are two competing USB implementations for RISC OS, produced by Castle And Simtec/RiscStation/Advantage6.
See also:


Replacing/Cleaning Acorn Mice - Mice cause the most problems out of all RISC OS hardware, so here is a guide to clean or replace your mouse.

Complete solutions

POSsum - The POSsum is a point of sale system based around a RiscStation computer.

8 bit Acorn hardware

BBC Domesday

CAMiLEON and BBC Domesday discusses the history and preservation of the BBC Domesday system.

Further information

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The Icon Bar: News and features: A summary of RISC OS hardware