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Fixing up a second hand Acorn computer

By Chris Williams. Published: 29th May 2005, 19:08:22 | Permalink | Printable

Teaching an old dog new tricks

Some old RiscPCsSo you've come back to RISC OS. You've grabbed from eBay a cheap RiscPC or some other machine that's barely usable by today's standards. You recognise the familiar Acorn nut logo on the desktop, and can't wait to get stuck into this piece of computing history - but you can't figure out how to get the machine to do anything useful.

Luckily, Adam Richardson has written a simple guide to "sorting out that old RiscPC you just got for a fiver on eBay" for his website. Adam told us: "Its main aim is to describe how to get a UniBoot system up and running, but it also describes things like resetting the CMOS."

"My page isn't really about 'current' machines - it's about sorting out a second hand computer - which is bound to be more problematic than buying something shiny and new," he added.

Legacy Acorn kit is now increasingly accessible, seven years after the break up of the company. With A5000s going for a couple of quid and RiscPCs available for under 100 on eBay, picking up an old machine is cheaper than the high-end emulation route. Whilst Adam's guide is written from the software perspective, there's also the hardware aspect to consider: nailing down the baseline specification for what makes a usable RISC OS machine.

Presumably, a StrongARM processor card is mandatory, plus RISC OS 4, and 64M of RAM with some VRAM or a Viewfinder card. Then you'll need an ethernet card and possibly a USB or IDE card to give the old machine some kick. By now, you've run up a bill that, interestingly, is mildly close to the A9home or a special offer Iyonix, depending on how much you want to push the computer.


Sorting out an old RiscPC Programming hints and tips also by Adam

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There's quite a lot of said kit on ebay right now - a few people including myself have decided to have a clear out this week. Among the stuff I've put up are "naked RiscPCs" - otherwise working machines, but sans cases: ready for the above treatment. Certainly there will be a few bargains with so much stuff on offer.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 29/5/05 7:18PM
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On the other hand, that A540 sold for 411 ! Almost unbelieveable.

Incidently, I wonder if putting the word 'naked' in item descriptions will generate increased interest?

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 29/5/05 10:07PM
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The old RiscPC may be useful as a back up for your new machine?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 29/5/05 11:28PM
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If chucking in all those bits will get it up to the price of an A9 I ought to sell my RiscPC right now. I think I'll hang on to it for a while longer, though.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 29/5/05 11:44PM
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hey this article is just right for me ;)

I plan on picking up a cheap old A7000 for some first eplorations of the OS. And when I get some coding going and actually like using riscos I'm going to save up for an A9home. I really like it's modularity but I'm a bit worried about the fact that it doesn't use castle's official riscos 5 but rather the now unofficial select.Or did RiscosLtd get the license back? All so confusing :)

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 30/5/05 9:26AM
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@highlandcattle: This has been sorted out quite a while ago. RISCOS Ltd is certainly not doing anything illegal.

@everyone: Does someone still have one of these audio tapes wich came the A5000, explaining the use of RISC OS to a novice user?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 30/5/05 9:54AM
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woops the last thing I read on the subject was the transcript from the castle press event last summer.Could you point me out to an article where I can read up? I think Castle and Riscos should merge :d And castle hould hire a designer because damn they have no style

 is a RISC OS Userhighlandcattle on 30/5/05 11:38AM
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See [link]

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 30/5/05 11:43AM
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to highlandcattle The official OS is RO4 Select/Adjust.. I presume RO5 has been accepted as 'official' in the ROL/Castle agreement though now that Castle have looked to ROL for further development (eg ideas generated as Merlin project), and ROL have produced a 32 bit happy OS, the spotlight is bound to be in that area for further development. The A9home is in the mainstream (and legal!) of RISC OS development. And ROL is best left independent of all hardware developers where it can serve all development. It's how we got 32-bit happy RO4 and it's the only way RO can survive long term.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 30/5/05 12:37PM
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JGZimmerle: I've got the ones that came with my A4000 somewhere, they're in a box either in my loft or in my parents loft along with all the other books and stuff that came with the 'learning curve' pack!

 is a RISC OS UserFonz on 30/5/05 12:37PM
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I've got the welcome tapes in Replay format (they came on the Acorn Replay Clips collection one cd), any plans for them?

 is a RISC OS Userleeshep on 30/5/05 6:40PM
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Ive just remembered I have one of those introduction tapes sitting in my computer desk cupboard and after a quick look it's now sitting in front of my keyboard here, dated 1992 and it's still got the wrapping on it, coo.

 is a RISC OS UserFuzzy on 30/5/05 7:06PM
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Well, I always thought that this was a brilliant way to learn RISC OS usage. Could one of you make it available on the net in mp3 format?

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 30/5/05 7:20PM
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In reply to JGZimmerle:

I will see what I can do ;-)

 is a RISC OS UserFuzzy on 30/5/05 7:41PM
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I might sell my two SA-RPC's when they arrive with my stuff from America. I think they may have been robbed of CD drives and maybe hard disks, but have PC card, ethernet, Viewfinder, 2Mb VRAM, 128Mb EDO RAM etc.

It's a shame I had to chuck out my PRM's and Welcome Guides etc.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 31/5/05 8:18AM
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Simo, ViewFinder cards are quite valuable as they are out of production. CJE are paying a bounty, but you might get more from a private sale as there is still some demand.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 31/5/05 9:32AM
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Simo, I'm very interested on getting my hands on a ViewFinder card.. :) If you could email me when you get your systems in, I'll make you an offer.


 is a RISC OS Userhelf on 31/5/05 1:37PM
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ok, everyone will be emailed when my stuff arrives.

i have an 8mb viewfinder, but think i still have the ati xpert2000 32mb in a pc, which i could switch out too, might even have a spare one made by gigabyte which may work too.....

note, it's not the radeon.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 31/5/05 6:50PM
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