“New Year is traditionally a time in which the achievements, surprises and disappointments of the previous year are reflected upon. Often, in spite of the fireworks and wild parties, time is set aside in which to dwell upon one’s private thoughts. As 2008 is now underway I’ve found myself mulling over my involvement with RISC OS. Whether I like it or not, my involvement in the Acorn and RISC OS scene has been a significant part of my life over the past 27 years.”
Maudlin Over RISC OS
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2008-01-04 4:47 pmsnozzberry
It’s more like Apple and Microsoft were capable of producing “proof of concept” apps that demonstrated the potential of the platform. Also be kind enough to remember that Microsoft helped the Macintosh platform greatly by porting Word and Multiplan to it (before there was an Excel for Windows). In the late 1980s the software business was still a maverick field filled with startups who lasted five years if they were lucky, and office software belonged largely to WordPerfect, WordStar, and Lotus.
RiscOS is like Symbian and, yes, Sinclair. Great minds creating products as if they existed in a vacuum, and reaping the whirlwind when simpler, less complicated products pass them by.
2008-01-04 6:37 pmsteve_s
Acorn generally had terrible presence everywhere but the UK. However there were enclaves of Acorn RISC OS users all around the world, including Canada.
As for Acorn not giving a software inventive, well, that’s not really true. An early RISC OS application was Acorn DTP. There was also First Word Plus, a word processor, and Logistix, a spreadsheet. Another big early product was the PC Emulator.
(Actually I believe that all of those applications except the PC Emulator were written by third parties with direct assistance and funding from Acorn, and were actively marketed by Acorn.)
For the most part Acorn did leave developing software applications to third parties, believing (rightly) that they could do a better job. However they would occasionally fill in gaps, attempting to ensure that all the bases were covered, such as producing Acorn Advance, an integrated application suite.
One of the things that impressed me when I first saw an Archemedes was the software bundled with it.
Bear in mind that I’d only used DOS and early versions of Mac OS at the time. Things like being able to open the text editor (Edit) and the vector graphics app (Draw) at the same time. Then construct a document by creating columns in Draw and dragging text directly from Edit. Very basic now, but eye-opening at the time.
Of course 3rd party applications were far more powerful, there were excellent DTP and graphics packages every bit as usable as those available for Mac OS. Yet I still found the bundled apps very useful, certainly more so than the ones included with other operating systems.
One thing that article reminded me of was what an absolute bargain RISC OS hardware was at the time. £1,400 for a system with 1Mb RAM and a hard drive, expensive today, but such a good deal in 1989. Compare it with the price (even more expensive in the UK) of a similar specification Mac: http://lowendmac.com/ii/macintosh-iix.html What Mac could you get for a comparable price, an far inferior Mac Classic maybe?
I bet there are lots of OSNEWS readers out there that would jump for joy if their favourite OS had made it onto fifth generation native hardware running at 600Mhz. Imagine an Amiga running a direct descendent of its original OS and software on a fully 32bit 600Mhz 68k chip..
Acorn reminds me of Amiga in some areas, not so much in others. Both had potential, but squandered it. Just because you were the first to do something does not mean you will succeed.
I looked into getting an Archimedes, but they just weren’t really available outside the U.K. There was a subsidiary in Canada, but as far as I could tell, they did little more than pass mail on to the U.K office. It’s a pity because they had many advantages over the Amiga, which I finally settled on, and I would have liked one.
Without anyone outside that one country writing software or supporting peripherals for it, it’s demise was inevitable. That’s aside from the trend at that time for some computer makers to avoid writing their own essential software packages, hoping third parties will do it for them. Tandy produced Scripsit or Deskmate for all its computers, Apple had MacWrite and AppleWorks, PCs had Microsoft supporting Windows by making Word and eventually Office, but Commodore, Atari, and Acorn (and IBM, with OS/2) didn’t give anyone any software incentive to buy their computers, relying on the third party “killer app” theory. Although things like Scripsit or MacWrite were very poor, they at least provided a baseline functionality that you could rely on and compare third party applications to.
Tandy gave up on computers – it was never good at developing its own products, it was much better at rebadging other companies products, but the software it produced or sold allowed its computers to stay in the market far longer than they really deserved to. Apple and Microsoft continue to support their own products (Macintoshes and Windows) with needed software, and survived. Everyone else didn’t, and have faded away.