The incredible pagetable.com continues to erupt historical joy with the conversion of “Archimedes Operating System – A User’s Guide” to PDF. This 320 page PDF of the book, originally published in 1991 “gives you a real insight into the micro’s inner workings. The book is applicable to any model of Archimedes whether running the Arthur or RISC OS Operating Systems.”
The Acorn Archimedes computer was the starting point of one cornerstones of modern computing today – The ARM chip. The “Acorn RISC Machine” chip was designed for this new British computing platform which was popular in schools, replacing earlier BBC Micro computers (The Archimedes included a BBC Basic interpreter and BBC Micro emulator).
Many British people my age have fond memories of the Archimedes computer, sporting RISC OS (and Arthur OS before that) it provided many innovations, including a task bar (long before Windows had one), a three-button mouse that allowed you to select things without changing focus and powerful 32-bit processing. My first experience of video/audio multimedia was on a RISC OS machine.
RISC OS, like just about every competing operating system at the time, blew Windows 3.1 out of the water. The Acorn Archimedes and RISC OS platform hung on in Britain for some while, but was ultimately beat out by the PC clones becoming increasingly common in businesses, and therefore schools being moved to the same equipment.
Had the Archimedes platform hung on for just a couple years more, it could have been a key player in Internet access as it was installed into schools between 1993 and 1996. The school I was in switched to 50 Windows 95 PCs for Internet access.
The book, like most handbooks of the time, spares nobody in going into technical specifics. The ARM chip is described along with it’s machine code instruction set. The file system and DOS is explained and then a guide on how to write software “modules” that add to the ROM-based OS and then full blown WIMP applications.
As a primer to commanding the machine, this book stands up there along with “The Commodore 64 Programmer’s Reference Guide” for completeness and practicalness.
Archie’s ran in 24bit mode.
The basic was built in to the ROM and was fully integrated into the OS. You could write GUI apps with it, and it had a full ARM assembler built in (so you could embed ARM assembler in to your BASIC.)
The BBC emulator was an application (on floppy) and was “okay”, but the sound emulation was pants.
I doubt the Archie would have handled the Internet. It used a proprietry networking stack (“ECONET”) that was based on the same standard as the BBC Micro. I don’t think ethernet made it to the Archie till RiscPC’s, and then Acorn was living on borrowed time by that point anyway. Econet was a token ring set up and interoperability between the rings was limited to say the least. It was more designed for classroom networking and was sloooow as heck.
Mouse was horrible. It used 3 buttons to achieve what the Amiga did in two. It’s also a PITA, because something like an A7000 is cripples (as it uses PS/2 mouse poret instead of the proprierty Archie port) because it requires a non standard 3 button PS/2 mouse.
Arthur only existed for about a year. I remember seeing it in 1988/1989, but the ROMS had all been upgraded to RISCOS 2 by the time I used an Archie in ernest (about a year later.)
The Archie had pretty basic video capabilities. 256 Colours was the highest mode most A3xx and A4xx machines did – most people ran in 16 colour mode too, because you ended up in Mode 13 on a lot of the earlier models. Chunky beyond belief. The A5000 might have done a higher count, I forget. My Sixth Form mainly had A310’s and A410’s.
Task bar – debatable. People always claim it was the Archie that invented it, but Next came up with the Dock at about the same time… more wishful thinking on the part of Acorn fanboys, I think :-))
Yes, I used them. Yes I own one still. No, I’m not sad they went away.