Stork portable up for grabsBy Chris Williams. Published: 12th Jun 2003, 22:18:54 | Permalink | Printable
Acorn's wasn't-to-be laptop resurfaces [Updated 20:30 13/6/2003]As it's practically Acorn era week on drobe.co.uk, it seems fitting to cover the news of an Acorn Stork portable appearing for sale on ebay. As only a few of the devices were built, "rare" is prehaps a mild way of describing Acorn's failed attempt to launch a sucessor to the venerable A4 laptop. The seller wooyay rescued it from the skip following the changes at Pace.
Initially presented in mid-1996, it's basically a portable A7000 with a 32MHz ARM7500 processor, 8MB of RAM and other goodies and it's all up for grabs with the bidding price already over 100 quid. Acorn's plan, (according to various sources like Richard Atterer's Acorn history page), was to design the Stork laptop and have a third party license the design and do the expensive manufacturing side. Which sadly didn't happen.
"The Stork never was the world's most reliable laptop, requiring lots of love and attention to get working", wooyay told us. "With that in mind, years of neglect at the back of a store cupboard at the [Pace] Cambridge offices haven't helped it so I've not been able to power it up.
"I believe, however, it's a derivative of RISC OS 3.6, and I also believe it's a colour screen, but I've not been able to test any of these."
The fact that to get it working will require relevant hardware knowledge and "enthuisam" sounds like a tempting challenge. At least someone might be able to revive the laptop and be the envy of all other RISC OS users pining for a native portable.
Finally, reader Iain Waugh has spotted another rare A500 prototype on ebay and this one looks like it's being sold off by ex-Arthur (pre-RISC OS) development team leader, Paul Fellows. Paul, who also developed the ABC BASIC compiler, used the prototype A500 to develop the foundations of RISC OS at Acorn. Hence it being that little bit more special.
"This machine is the one I used for development of the Operating system at Acorn", Paul explains on the auction page. "Originally these machines were hooked up to BBC micros via an umbilical into the tube port and all the I/O was done by the Beeb. Over time we gradually got the various sub-systems alive, and moved them over to the A500 native. First the video and graphics, then the keyboard, then the file systems and so on."
And congratulations, you're right. This is another shameless article about some dusty Acorn kit on online auction house, eBay - we suck and it won't happen again.
William Turner has kindly emailed us further information on the Stork prototype portable. William was an Acorn employee and later a Pace employee, until recently of course.
"The OS is pretty much bog-standard 3.6, but with minor kernel hacks to support the dual-scan 16 greyscale display, an updated PS/2 driver, changes to the IO controller (as the floppy drive uses a combination parallel/floppy port on the SMC chip), and new power control software (which, if I recall correctly, was never completed)", William duly corrected us earlier today.
"The Stork case/display was not of Acorn's doing - it was from Olivetti (surprise), and was the same as they used for their Echos PC laptops. They had greyscale and dual-scan colour. However the VIDC20 can't support dstn colour, and it was horribly expensive at the time anyway, so greyscale it was.
"Shame really, as if we'd had the time to address the power management/consumption issues, and not been tied to Olivetti, it would've made a lovely machine."
Acorn Stork prototype on ebay
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