SSS on RISC OS shows past and presentBy Chris Williams. Published: 12th Mar 2004, 23:20:07 | Permalink | Printable
Robin Edwards reminiscesInterview In the run up to the South West show, Robin Edwards of Serious Statistical Software hinted that the event might be his last. Seeing as Robin's quite a show regular, despite abstaining from the usual PR blitz in the days before each event, even admitting that he's been "at virtually every Acorn and RISC OS Show since 1986, plus many BETT Shows", we decided to hound him with some questions. This week he finally replied and his answers are below. Although the show's been and gone, Robin's comments and reflections on days gone by are still interesting if you're a fan of RISC OS shows.
Q. In your opinion, how have RISC OS shows changed over the years? What about the BETT shows?
A. "Sadly, they are much smaller than they used to be - not a very sage remark, but all too true. We probably all think we know the main reason for this, and feel sad about it. I think the shows haven't change a lot in character. There are the same knowledgeable and skilled people on the stands, though as an exhibitor I don't get to talk to them much."
Q. What was your favourite show(s)? What made them your favourite, or most memorable?
A. "Favourites? The ones several years ago. I liked going to Wembley Conference Centre, the Alexandra Palace, and even Olympia. My stands were always surrounded by people, and I made very nice pocket money. BETT Shows were great, because I really enjoyed amazing 'PC' users with my software. Had it run in a WIMP environment on Windows, I could have sold hundreds of copies at a typical BETT. RISC OS users were usually a bit thin on the ground at BETT, and noticeably more reluctant to buy too. At least that was my impression.
"At one BETT I met [Softease's] Geoff Titmus, who'd taken the plunge and got quite a large stand where he was showing TextEase for the very first time. Having just bought Impression I was mightily impressed with TE, and told Geoff that he had a sure-fire winner. Computer Concepts hadn't seen his stand at the time, and as far as I could see weren't aware of TE. I told them that they'd better take a look! I should have offered to buy some shares or help with early finances, I guess."
Q. You said that everyone who would want your software probably has a copy now. Have you thought about developing some new software instead?
A. "Not really an option. I'm not really a software person - just know how to write stats stuff because I used such things when I was an industrial scientist, having begun on programmable calculators in about 1967 after using IBM mainframes starting in 1964. Progressed to the Commodore PET, with some very useful programs in 1978, and after retirement in 1984 re-wrote and greatly improved it for the BBC B, then Master 128, and even a PC version for DOS, which I sold very readily, running under BBC BASIC.
"Then the Archimedes came along, and at Olympia I think, in 1991 I met a schoolboy who said he'd re-write my spaghetti as linear code and install a WIMP front end, which he did, and for the 1992 Acorn Show we had a really nice multi-tasking version for sale. He still does all the interface stuff, and graphics. But I can't think of anything else I want to write. Anyway, I'm 'getting on a bit' as they say, and I've plenty to do using my software in the field of climate change research."
Q. What has made you exhibit for so many years? In your eyes, what makes it so worthwhile?
A. "Well, I've enjoyed it, and made acquaintance with loads of people from the RO scene, who have all been very pleasant and helpful. Guess it helped because I have no 'technical' competitors. I suppose no-one else in the RISC OS field had the right combination of available time and knowledge of statistics. It's all a hobby. I've always hoped for a 'competitor', but can see that there's never been the incentive for someone else to do the enormous amount of research needed to produce a software that in many respects was comparable with world class PC offerings up to about the early 1990's, and was always much easier to use. I could never have made a living from it. It's fun to have ones 'handiwork' used seriously in prestigious universities, and to have advised quite a number of students regarding their course work and theses. My original purpose in trying to sell (and lend) my software was to get people interested in using statistical methods in science, teaching and engineering. Properly applied it can save huge amounts of effort and money, but sadly, not many people know that. I've lent software to 'impoverished students' for their studies, especially in the early days of SSS.
"And finally, it may not be the complete cessation of activity in the RISC OS world for me."
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