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Stork portable up for grabs

By 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.

More prototypes
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.

Update
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."

Links

Acorn Stork prototype on ebay

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Discussion

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Come on Drobe, don't make promises you can't keep. We know that the next bit of "dusty {old} Acorn kit" on ebay will generate another news posting :-) -- [link]

 is a RISC OS Userphilipnet on 13/6/03 1:08AM
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WOW! I'd part with a fair bit of change for this if I knew I could get the machine running. Sadly, I doubt I could. :o( -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 13/6/03 2:00AM
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*cough*I pointed out that A500 on TIB forums ages ago*cough*

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 13/6/03 7:50AM
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So what, Andy? I'm sure lots of people spotted both the A500 and Stork. Just spend a few minutes leafing through ebay to find Acorn stuff and you'll find some surprises.

But we guessed both the A500 and the Stork are special bits of Acorn history, so enjoy. And let us know if you bought one of them ;)

Chris, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 13/6/03 8:13AM
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I had a stork for about 6 months; not a bad machine at the time except the power management sucked: You need to turn it on to charge the battery; if the battery discharged, then you were generally stuck unless you turned it on and put it into standby very quickly.

Anyway, I wrote LongFiles 2 on it.

I wonder what serial number this one was; I had Stork B16. I've still got pictures of it too.

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 13/6/03 9:31AM
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If you've got some big pics, I'm sure we'd all like to see them.

And I just bought a laptop yesterday, doh!

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 13/6/03 10:00AM
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Okay, I'll put them on me website (thought I'd already done that, but I can't find it).

I bought myself a Dell Inspiron 8500 a couple of months ago - pretty darn good for a laptop.

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 13/6/03 2:42PM
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diomus: I was just joking around, and I should have expected that sort of reaction from you :D

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 13/6/03 3:43PM
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And we should have expected the "only joking" gag from you. So no surprises all around. Not everyone wants to TIB forums.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 13/6/03 4:40PM
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"wants to read", that is.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 13/6/03 4:45PM
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Not everyone wants to read drobe...

*waits for witty response*

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 13/6/03 5:30PM
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Bum.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 13/6/03 5:45PM
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AD: not everyone wants to read pointless comments.

See www.ietf.org.uk - "It Burns My Eyes".

 is a RISC OS Usertakkaria on 13/6/03 8:41PM
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*moss drags drobe comments to a new low ;)*

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 13/6/03 10:12PM
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Yet another thing which was skipped by the contractors who cleared out the old offices. I managed to rescue an O2 (but some idiot hand taken the DIMMs thinking they'd work in their PC) and an A7000, together with a bunch of Acorn expansion cards. These were rescued by proxy.

 is a RISC OS Usercyberspice on 15/6/03 4:28PM
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Okay, pictures of the Stork that I had are on [link]

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 15/6/03 8:37PM
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Woo! Isn't it nice! Don't see Ethernet though, which for me, is essential. Stork not getting mass produced was probably the biggest pain of all the things Acorn almost did, at least if it was made there would be a few second user ones knocking around.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 15/6/03 8:56PM
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Ethernet in laptops was generally resigned to PCMCIA cards or docking stations at the time the Stork was designed, so it's possible that the case didn't have an ethernet slot.

I'd imagine that you'd be hard pressed to find a working ethernet for the Stork (except via dial-up).

 is a RISC OS Usertribbles2 on 16/6/03 8:59AM
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Nice to see one resurfacing!

/Me designed the parallel port floppy interface for that, and the variable brightness LCD backlight (with nice Alt+function-key dimming!)

Oh happy memories....

/Neil/

 is a RISC OS Userspellinn on 16/6/03 11:20AM
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