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The Icon Bar: News and features: Wakefield 2001 show report

Wakefield 2001 show report

Posted by Richard Goodwin on 01:00, 5/7/2005 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
A quiet and, given the recent revelations from RISC OS one might be tempted to say subdued, Wakefield show this year; however, well worth a visit if you want to see all the latest developments in RISC OS hardware, and pick up a few bargains at the same time.
The car held together there and back, so big thanks to Jason Tribbeck for the lift. There weren't any great surprises over what we speculated about in the previews, and given that there wasn't quite so many Internet connected machines here as there was at the Epsom show I decided to come home and upload all the photographs along with the report.
The first port of call was the charity stand, which seemed bigger this time around than I've ever seen it - several tables filled with all manner of 8-bit and 32-bit (crossed out and re-labelled 26-bit) kit. If you're looking to pick up a Beeb, BBC Master, A310 or A3000 for a song, then this is the place to be - stacks out front, and a sneaky peek out back showed a room full of replacements when the first lot have been sold. Lots of software, podules, Beeb ROMs and more exotic bits of kit were also there to be had - I beat Simon to the BBC Master version of Elite, but there was enough to go round - a Beeb tape version in mint condition complete with Dark Wheel novella in another box. Jase picked up a Tube, a monitor stand/twin disk drive (5.25" and 3.5") and a music synth for his planned new retro-hardware web site, and got a small graphics tablet thrown in. Not a bad little haul! I did dither over a Irlam DIY Replay card and come back to find it already sold, but as there wasn't any software I guess I won't lose any sleep over it. there was also another stand selling A5000s from a stack for thirty quid, and AKF60 monitors (the 14" RiscPC monitors) for a similar price. Alas, there's only just so much space in a two-seater car...
All the new machines were in evidence - the Omega was, as promised, on display for the first time. Okay, so the screen was given to some chronic tearing, and blanked out altogether when someone changed the screen mode just as I was about to take a photo, but it is still under development. I was told that it was running at about a quarter of it's "proper" speed, although didn't quite catch the excuse; again, some tweaking still to do. There was also the opportunity to look inside, and a PC card (with processor and memory on board) on display.
The "old" RiscStation laptop was on the CTA stand when I was wandering around for some reason, but before I could get too excited I was warned that it was still a PC running a slideshow of RISC OS desktops. Someone on the stand did offer to crash Windows for me to make me feel better though. It does look a nice machine, but it'd be even nicer if it was sitting on my lap. This may no longer be what the final version looks like however, as rumour has it that a new case manufacturer is now in the picture. Oh well, guess I'll still be lugging my RiscPC and full keyboard to work on Monday morning. the EPOS system was up and running with new newsagent functionality added to the video library, stock control and regular shop functions. I guess I should point out that I know exactly what it can do because I designed all the icons, which is why in the photo it isn't running in full screen mode...
The ExpLAN SOLO machine was also in evidence, the whizzy solar-powered machine being tested in Africa. I haven't reported on this one before because I was sworn to secrecy by my source, only to wake up one day and find it was all over the Internet, but suffice it to say it's a very clever system that has a custom power controller that can take up to five different types of power input including the solar array (pictured below).
And Castle were displaying a 300Mhz version of their Kinetic card, with computers built around this overclocked StrongARM available soon. Some people with experience in hardware design have expressed concerns about overclocking to such an extent however, so we'll see if this quest for extra speed is at the expense of stability or not.
Input hardware was in evidence, and I decided to pick up a PaintPal graphics tablet from Paradise's stand for fifty quid. Using induction technology means that the cordless 3-button pen doesn't need batteries, the pad just detects where it is and what it's doing - although remember to put it back in the stand provided so that you don't lose it!
I was sorely tempted to pick up Stuart Tyrrell's new PS2 mouse adapter, especially after seeing it's ridiculously compact design - it looks more like a gender changer than a full interface, but it apparently crams a tiny circuit board into one of the plug covers. After Castle came out with a similar product based in a metal tube recently, it looks like Stu's back in the lead when it comes to mouse adapters. I already have one of his older designs, but hey, I have more than one RISC OS machine... His new multimedia keyboard was also on display, and after using a PC keyboard for a while now with all those extra buttons I can't do anything with it was pretty cool to see the calculator key actually load !Calc. It was also connected to a switch box (for four computers, not two as previously mentioned in the preview), and at the tap of a couple of keys the keyboard, PS2 mouse and monitor switched seamlessly over to a Windows machine - for reference purposes only, you understand.
Paul Vigay however was running a MacOS X laptop as a server for his two Acorn machines, so we'll skip over his shareware stand as punishment; it did have the only official ArgoNet presence in the show, but there were plenty of unofficial ArgoNutters around as ZFC members aplenty stopped to chat. Co-comp were there in person however, running a nice-looking desktop...
And so to R-Comp, which, given that Andrew had The Icon Bar on display on two of his machines I'll describe as saving the best until last. Descent II was playing on a couple of machines, looking very smooth (apparently on a standard StrongARM RiscPC, not, as I'd previously assumed, a 300Mhz hacked one - woo!). TEK was also up and running - not completely stable as yet, but playable in R-Comp arcade. Still fielding questions about F16 with good grace - it's still finished, it's still waiting for a machine fast enough to handle modelling a world in such minute details as to work out the airflow over the wings - Andrew was keen to show his latest Internet software, but let's face it, wandering back over to the games arcade's pretty tempting, isn't it?
All in all, it wasn't the busiest RISC OS show I've ever been to, but certainly well worth a visit. Make the effort to go on the Sunday, I doubt you'll regret it.
Update (2:27am Sunday 20th May 2001): click here to see Keith's pictures

Wakefield 2001 Photographs

009: May 2001
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On arrival at the charity stall, Jason Tribbeck tries to decide whether he really needs a passenger in his two-seater car on the way back down south or to just load up with 8-bit toys.
010: May 2001
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The 32 26 bit side of the charity stall, leading back to the 8-bit side. Bargains to be had!
011: May 2001
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Jeez, I guess that guy must really like Elite for some reason... Simon Challands picks up yet another copy.
012: May 2001
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Stuart Tyrrell making a sale, blissfully unaware that he's being watched...
013: May 2001
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..and now the penny drops.
014: May 2001
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Inside the Omega. Note the four PCI expansion slots, and the PC card in front.
015: May 2001
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The Omega in action... or at least, it was, honest.
016: May 2001
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Pretty RiscStation box.
017: May 2001
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The EPOS system on the RiscStation stand.
018: May 2001
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Bill Simpson, prominent ArgoNet subscriber and ZFC member, about to show us his battle scars.
101: May 2001
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The Solo, solar powered RISC OS machine.
102: May 2001
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TEK at last!
103: May 2001
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Descent II; damn fast, but probably running on something faster than my old 202MHz StrongARM.
104: May 2001
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Co-comp Ltd. running some sort of RISC OS/Mac hybrid? No, just a themed desktop.
105: May 2001
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Not exactly heaving, but nice to walk around.
106: May 2001
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Isn't that The Paul Vigay?
107: May 2001
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Cathy tries to hide as Paul explains the latest in crop circle theory...
108: May 2001
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A man of obvious style and taste, Andrew demonstrates R-Comp's Internet software using some random web site.
109: May 2001
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Another shot of Descent II in action.
110: May 2001
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R-Comp's games arcade, with TEK in the middle, Heroes of Might and Magic II on the right and Spheres of Chaos on the left.
111: May 2001
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Vince talks up his web page alteration software.
112: May 2001
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Paradise's PaintPal graphics tablet in action.
113: May 2001
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Jason again, with Keith. I'd better not say anything else, as Keith has an almost identical shot with me in it.
114: May 2001
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"What's that on his T-shirt? Icon Bar? What's that?"
"Oh, just some web site. Ignore him and he'll go away."
115: May 2001
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A RiscStation portable in the flesh. Don't get too excited, it's still a Windows machine running a slideshow.
117: May 2001
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A very similar desktop to the one on the RS website, isn't it?
118: May 2001
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Why is this man looking so shocked?...
119: May 2001
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...a 300Mhz RISC OS machine!

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The Icon Bar: News and features: Wakefield 2001 show report