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SSS on RISC OS shows past and present

By Chris Williams. Published: 12th Mar 2004, 23:20:07 | Permalink | Printable

Robin Edwards reminisces

Interview 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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I hope Robin does Wakefield - I didn't have time to go round the stands at the SW show and I'd have liked to try this out. Has Robin thought about leasing it out to another show exhibitor to keep it 'visible' even if few sales are anticipated ? If it's in BBC BASIC I imagine the code will work fine on an IYONIX.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 13/3/04 8:24AM
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Just before Wakefield 03, I asked Robin if his software was 32 bit and he said it wasn't. I had hoped he would have it done as I was interested in a copy at the time.

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 13/3/04 9:22AM
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It's mostly basic, with about 15KB of machine code (in a file not inline assembler) and uses 2 modules - ZapRedraw and InterfaceManager (courtesy of SoftWare Interrupt Developments). It'd take a few hours to convert with access to source code(s) but in the meantime it does work under Aemulor.

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 13/3/04 9:57AM
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With a product like this, would selling it in a bundle with VA to windows users be an option?

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 13/3/04 10:10AM
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Where is the link url to Robin's site at the end of the article? SSS does have a web site doesn't it?

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 14/3/04 9:05PM
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Try [link]

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 14/3/04 9:43PM
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Hi All.

Kind of left RISC OS land, however, I had to post with my appreciation of Robin as a person.

When I was an undergrad I tried Robin's offer of a free evaluation copy. He sent me the intermediate version and said something like "look Bob, your a skint student; use my app and dont worry about when or if you pay me". I found this generocity overwhelming.

I mailed him to thank him and when I started my PhD I bought a copy. He then gave me a better version (even though I only bought the basic one) as a congratulations on getting a 1st (no pun intended). When I finished my PhD and passed my VIVA he again mailed to congratulate me.

All in all------- Robin is a gentleman through and through, and I cannot praise him highly enough. If there were more peoplke like him, the world would be a better place.

So I feel obliged to publicly give Robin a big "thank-you" for all the advice on stats in my research over the years. ANd of course for being so pleasant.

Regards Dr Bob Hartley

 is a RISC OS Usernijinsky on 15/3/04 5:08PM
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Reply to imj: That link doesn't work?

 is a RISC OS Userpipalya on 15/3/04 10:07PM
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In reply to Pipalya & iml Yeah, I had a hunt around for Robin's site, for he certainly used to have one. Alas, I am reliably informed that it has not been around for a couple of years now. If you, or anyone else wants to get in touch I've got his email address but he gets a lot of spam and so would not thank me if I pubished it here. Email me from the "about drobe" page if you want it.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 15/3/04 11:10PM
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I just assumed it was temporarily dead :-( Well there's always the good old wayback machine: [link]*/[link] though it doesn't look too exciting.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 16/3/04 12:02AM
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This reminds me, Robin had a quick chat at the SW show about converting his software to 32 bits. He wasn't sure what was involved, so I offered to give some advice, but I haven't heard from him. If anyone wants to pass me his email address, I can get in touch and offer some more encouragement.

Cheers ---Dave

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 20/3/04 4:34PM
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