"...touched for the very first time...". When my boyfriend directed me to TIB, that was my general impression. I had wandered into a new and confusing world, where nothing would ever be the same again. Of course, when I got to know the history of Acorn and RISC OS, I realized that I wasn't a newcomer at all. Like most people of my generation in Britain, I had been introduced to computing by the mighty BBC Micro/Master, and later the Archimedes. The first operation I ever did on a computer was to play 'Dragon World' at primary school, which I remember being quite entertained by. I'd love to revisit the game and see if I still feel the same about it nearly twenty years later. At secondary school, most of my first attempts at word processing, programming, desktop publishing and working with spreadsheets were done using BBC computers, and I remember the thrill of being introduced to our school's brand new Archimedes computers at around the age of 14. By that time I had an Atari ST 520, so was familiar with the general layout of the desktop and computer itself. Sadly, though, I don't think I did a great deal on the Archimedes, which is a shame, as I've heard nothing but praise for it.
As I said, most Brits of my generation can tell more or less the same story, so it seems incredible that I should have totally forgotten about RISC OS until I met my boyfriend. I realized the other day that I have only been familiar with Windows since 1996, when I went to university. In my first year, it was still common to use DOS for email, and Windows 98 was the exciting new thing, with a layout a million miles away from Windows 3.1. And do you know, it looked strangely similar to the Archimedes.... During the period in which I left school and started university, Acorn turned from being the main provider of educational hardware, to going bankrupt and being sold off to several different companies, which is an astonishing turn-around. But you all know that.
The fate of RISC OS has created a minority of loyal users, who have been rewarded at last by the development of the IYONIX (and, eventually, the Omega). The enthusiastic championing of this by my boyfriend has sustained my interest in the platform, but I suppose the real clincher was watching his 1995 Risc PC in action. I haven't seen an OS that is so easy to use in at least six years or so, and which looks so good. Having struggled with Windows through university, employment and at home, I already had an inkling that computing really shouldn't be that stressful, but it was a bit of a slap to the face to know that it doesn't have to.
Which brings me to the question I've been pondering for a few months now; should I buy a Risc PC? The ease of use isn't in question, but can a platform that has been starved of money and interest really meet all my needs? The recent launch of the IYONIX, unfortunately, didn't convince me that it was a particularly good deal, and part of the reason for this lay in the promotional material. I don't consider myself a complete computer novice, but the surfeit of technical information frankly baffled me. I didn't really have any criteria to compare it to, and it obscured other features that would have been of interest to me, such as a CD burner. Basically, it failed to tell me why I should choose RISC OS over other platforms. Although I've heard that its performance is impressive, I'm not ready to shell out over £1000 for what is an unknown quantity for me, especially as my own PC is only a year and a half old. I know that Castle are, out of necessity, preaching to the converted at the moment, but is it a strategy that will allow the RISC OS user base to grow? I can, however, get an older Risc PC for far less money, and this may be a better option for the nervous beginner, but I wouldn't even be considering this had it not been for my boyfriend.
Well, I'm undecided. I'm currently trying to install Linux, which will probably have a bearing on whether I do embrace RISC OS again, but I must admit that I'm still at danger of being seduced by the rather lovely design of the RISC OS desktop, not to mention the beautifully rendered fonts. As I've got to save money at the moment rather than spend it, I'll probably defer the decision until after August. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, if anyone's planning to sell their old Risc PC in the autumn, I'll be pleased to hear from you...