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Archives of the Clan-destine

By Chris Williams. Published: 20th Jul 2003, 01:24:27 | Permalink | Printable

Painful memories in .jpg form

Digitally scanned in copies of Clan and ART publications from the Acorn era have been published online this weekend. The archived documents, hosted on iconbar.com, were unearthed and prepared by Peter Howkins.

While whoever pays the bandwidth bills for the 'bar's NoughtPointOne server finds a stiff drink, in the online archive you can find a lot of historic, tear jerking stuff that's painfully nostalgic. There's fact sheets on PCMCIA stuff, the NewsPad, the Stork and also products that actually materialised. The Clan newsletters and fact sheets are what rose tinted glasses are made of.

The Acorn Clan was introduced when the Acorn management were becoming noticibly allergic to RISC OS desktop users, sorry, enthusiasts because Acorn were trying to get their technologies noticed by big players like Samsung so as to get into new markets and make money. Despite focusing on frantically waving licensing oppotunities at the consumer electronics giants, Acorn felt the need to keep their small band of extremely loyal desktop users happy and so the Clan was born. As a member of the Clan, you got a frankly cool Acorn branded jumper and t-shirt, access to Clan member only areas of Acorn shows, a regular-ish newsletter and pre-release software goodies to play with; it was an enthusiast's dream.

The newsletter was particular colourful and bright and glossed over the fact that Acorn were concentrating more on non-desktop technologies than on their desktop division by covering what users wanted to hear about - Java, new hardware and the next generation of RISC OS. Who really cared if RISC OS was going to be used in some cruise liner? We were all promised the Phoebe and we were going to wipe the floor with all those naughty Windows and Apple users who had said rude things about RISC OS. Enough said.

ART, or rather Acorn Risc Technologies, was another piece in Acorn Group's corporate jigsaw and part of Acorn management's idea that throwing another spin off venture at a problem or market is the best way to solve it. ART was quite the opposite to the Clan but desktop users were usually kept up to date with ART's work, much like an older brother boasting his college exam results. Whereas the Clan was a friendly forum for end users, ART's job was to tout Acorn's technologies to other companies. It's business mission statement is suffocating enough: "To enable ART's business partners to exploit RISC-based technology commercially by offering cost and time-to-market advantages through technological innovation". Ick.

But seeing these publications and documents again conveniently online is an excellent reminder of where we've come from since the final days of 1998 when Acorn decided to screw over its devoted, unquestioning userbase. Bitter, us?

And 1997 really isn't so different to 2003. Castle Technology, as the new owners of RISC OS, are ever so keen to see RISC OS deployed in an embedded form in consumer electronics, which reminds us of Acorn's attempted advances into the then fresh, scary new realm of the set top box. It's all very exciting hearing about how RISC OS is going to be smuggled into new gadgets but what does it mean for us mere enthusiasts? If there's money to be made, and therefore money to keep RISC OS going, then don't let us stop anyone - it's not as if we're impertinent enough to consider Castle doing an Acorn on us. Of course not.

Re-reading through the Clan newsletters, you get a real sense of history and history has taught us many amusing lessons like don't expect anyone now to take you seriously if you pre-announce a computer that sports a distinctive yellow case. As the 'Bar point out, the Clan continued after the breakup of Acorn in the form of the Foundation, organised by RISCOS Ltd. and still publishing its CD magazine to this day.


ART, Clan history archives

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Nice. Looks like I'll have to get scanning in more AU manuals.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 20/7/03 9:56AM
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Yep. A solitary magazine doesn't really even fit the section title of "mags" let alone actually warrant a section of its own :-P

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 20/7/03 11:38AM
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