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RiscPC production cease rumoured

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th Nov 2003, 20:21:31 | Permalink | Printable

Maybe now they'll be worth something

RiscPC It's been reported that Castle Technology are no longer in a position to manufacture new RiscPCs. The 'Bar were first to break the story after a RISC OS dealer spilled the beans to usenet. We're awaiting confirmation from Castle.

"I've just confirmed with Castle that they haven't been able to source a number of key RiscPC components and are therefore not able to produce another batch", wrote Chris Evans, of CJE Micros. CJE has since pulled new RiscPCs from their price list, although 2nd hand RiscPCs are available.

Although this will mean that there will be no new RiscPCs, there are a number of new solutions available to take the legacy RiscPC's place, (depending on your definition of available): the XScale Iyonix, the elusive StrongARM Omega and the controversial emulation route. Incidentally, Steffen Huber recently posted online some Iyonix vs. Omega benchmarks.

RiscPC logoThe RiscPC was officially, publically launched in 1994 with RISC OS 3.5 and the 30MHz ARM610. It allowed a second slave processor to be fitted, supported up to 2MB of VRAM and used the Acorn VIDC'n'IOMD chipset. For 1699 quid, you could get two slices, 8 Mb of main memory, 1 Mb of VRAM and a 420 Mb hard drive and a 14 inch monitor. Later came the 200+MHz StrongARM processor card and newer versions of RISC OS.

When the Acorn era eneded following the 1998 break up of Acorn group, Castle were quick to grab the rights to the RiscPC and later developed the Kinetic card for the machine. For many RISC OS users, the RiscPC may be out of production and well on its way to its 10th birthday, but it's impact on the RISC OS world will never be forgotten.


Castle website History of Acorn

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Any idea how may RiscPC systems were produced over the last 9 years?

In it's day the RiscPC was a truely unique and innovative computer. It still makes me smile when I hear the hard disk kick into life and that wonderful soft beep signals virus free productivity in less than 20 seconds. Any chance of a feature article about the history of this great machine?

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 6/11/03 9:03PM
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Yes, no problem. Send it to us when you're done and we'll publish it.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 6/11/03 9:14PM
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Well a sad day, what a fantastic machine, I really think that the modular box system is something that no modern computer has bettered.

A feature article on the Risc PC, its uses and people's memories of it would be great!

Right, time to see if Ebay has one going spare...

 is a RISC OS Userrod on 6/11/03 9:14PM
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The RPC must still have had a reasonable level of demand left, for them to bother to find out if more could be made.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 6/11/03 9:28PM
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Chocky: do you have to have a weird/warped/sarcastic answer to every question? [actually don't answer that]

Did we ever come to a conclusion as to whether the Kinetic was a kind of feasability study for the Iyonix by Castle?

Hmm, looks like time for my 2 SA-RPC's to be eBay'ed so I can buy that new PC.....

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 6/11/03 9:30PM
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knutson: I would guess somewhere in the region of fifty to sixty thousand Risc PCs were produced, but it could be more than that.

Sadly, I imagine most of them are no longer in regular use.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 6/11/03 10:24PM
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Yeah, Chocky has an answer to just about everything ;-) You may have noticed that he's one that would prefer you give something than ask for something. I can see where he's coming from but it reminds me of the days when there was so much activity on the platform that you'd get stuff before you even knew you wanted it. Ah, it's a bit quieter now.

The Kinetic was just a way of getting a bit more life out of the RiscPC and thus allowing CTL to get a better return for their investment. Acorn had considered a Kinetic board in its day but concluded that the gains weren't worth it. However, they had the Phoebe on the way to make better use of the StrongARM so you can see why they didn't bother. Apart frm keeping interest (and money) in the platform I can't see how the Kinetic would have helped the Iyonix.

Anyway, surely just because they've stopped making the machines it doesn't mean that it is time to sell yours? IMHO the RiscPC has been past it for a long time. I'm actually surprised it has still been selling given its price and the difference in price between it and the vastly superior Iyonix.

-- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 6/11/03 10:33PM
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In my opinion the RISC PC is certainly the best machine Acorn ever made. Clever hardware engineering and case design made it a killer machine in its time. A real shame Castle might not make any more of them.

I wonder if A7000s will go too? If they go as well as RPC, it leaves a bit of a gap in the market; there will no longer be a budget RISC OS desktop. There will be a big price jump between old 56MHz machines and the 1200 quid Iyonixes / Omegas. Perhaps Castle could design a new budget machine (like the RISC PC had the A7000, the Iyonix could have the A8000 or something).

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 7/11/03 5:41AM
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timephoenix: I think that the Microdigital Mico and Riscstation computers will continue to be made, though for a 100% feature-complete budget computer, the A7000(+) is still the best. By feature complete, I mean a machine with working sound and network abilities (presuming both still aren't available in the clone machines).

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/11/03 6:17AM
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Sound is definately available on the Mico. Network cards are apparently available too.

I wasn't aware that the Riscstation ever had an issue with sound or networking. (Both on board unlike the mico I think).

The Mico Hard drive performance is _far_ better than an A7000.

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 7/11/03 7:23AM
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Jess - still can't get sound on my Mico! Have returned the machine but still no success! What's the secret?!

A reasonable budget machine is crucial, the Iyonix and Omega are great for higher-end users but we surely still need a cheaper, less well spec-ed machine available as wel?

 is a RISC OS Userrod on 7/11/03 8:22AM
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I still wish that there was the money in the market to produce a machine that looked a little different to your average PC. It's all very well telling everyone how wonderful your machine is, but when the outside doesn't look any different to a normal cheapo PC box, it doesn't set itself apart from the rest (yes, I know we know better, but others dont). The RiscPC box (and all the other Acorn designs) did this well - how many times have you played 'spot the Acorn' on TV progs of a few years back? I'd have difficulty noticing an Iyonix... Oh, for a nice Nucleus. :o)

 is a RISC OS Userlarryfi on 7/11/03 9:16AM
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The Iyonix is too expensive The Iyonix is too boring That one's not going to be changed soon then

What other computers have been produced for almost 10 years?

I expect quite a few RiscPC sales were for computers in industry doing specific tasks.

RiscPC 1699, Iyonix, cheaper.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 7/11/03 9:39AM
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Personally, I've always thought of the RiscPC as one of the *worst* machines Acorn ever designed. It had the case design from hell (if you wanted to upgrade your RAM, you had to remove all the slices, all the expansion cards, and such. Loads and loads of wasted space [ie, above the CPU cards in extra slices] while stuff was squeezed up into a corner). It was also a slow machine when released, when considering what 1699 could buy you at the time.

My favourite personally was always the A540. Built like a tank, and with an ARM3, and FPA, and a colour card, it often felt faster than original RiscPCs. And it can run Acorn's UNIX. :)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 7/11/03 10:12AM
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In reply to nunfetishist:

Actually, I have to agree with you - the A540 was cracking - in fact all of the Axxx range had a great case design (it being the same ;o). One of the reasons I liked the RPC case was the extruding drive section - certainly an Axxx throwback - and it showed a kind of 'family linkage' between the machines. I also agree with you on the internal problems of the RPC case, mind - I only ever got to 2 slices, but what a arse on! I kind of let it off a bit for the space wastage over at the processor side though, as it was ideal for anyone to produce a tall second-processor add-on. Not that anyone did. I hit someone with a A310 once. Did more damage than I expected. ;o)

So come on, everyone - what was your fave Acorn design?!

 is a RISC OS Userlarryfi on 7/11/03 10:38AM
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Allan Boothroyd, the chap who designed the RiscPC case, as well as the BBC Micro's case, as well as numerous other products is famed for designing things that look nice, but never thinking about the inside. People who buy his services must remember that he designs the outside only. Acorn didn't seem to realise that. :)

I once dropped an A540 down 5 or 6 steps. It was fine. Not a single dent on it. Two of the steps needed replacing though, as it'd snapped two of them. :)

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 7/11/03 10:44AM
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In reply to nunfetishist:

Now that's what I call machine design! ;o)

 is a RISC OS Userlarryfi on 7/11/03 10:59AM
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In reply to nunfetishist: I recall someone saying they'd backed their car over an A3000, which apparently survived in working order, although the case was cracked.

Larryfi: favourite machine? the one I'm typing this on (Kinetic RPC+VF2). Its predecessor was an A410/1, which with the benefit of hindsight was a poor bargain compared to an A5000, but I was not savvy enough at the time to realise. Question: is there scope for 'factory reconditioned' s/h RPCs? Given the basic reliability of the RPC this would be an acceptable substitute for a new machine for most purposes surely, and cheaper too presumably?

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 7/11/03 11:23AM
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When is the computer woprld going to learn how to spell "publicly"? :-))

 is a RISC OS Userlibrarian16 on 7/11/03 11:33AM
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The RiscPC is still a great machine. I have upgraded my RiscPC600 with OS4, a Kinetics card and extra memory. It beats my Pentium 4 PC every time for reliability and use. If the software was about, Microsoft would not get a look in.

 is a RISC OS UserGoodrick on 7/11/03 12:45PM
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I think I might start a 'fave Acorn design' thread on csa.misc - it'd be nice to know which design (not electronic, but aesthetic / physical) has appealed to people most over the years. Besides, I've not been on the csa groups for a while! :o) My tops (in no order) are the BBC B, Axxx, RiscPC, and the Master Compact had a certain something. Does anyone remember Potato Econet?

 is a RISC OS Userlarryfi on 7/11/03 1:06PM
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Someone appears to have mistakenly moderated my previous post down.

> The Iyonix is too expensive > The Iyonix is too boring > That one's not going to be changed soon then A starting point for a discussion on price vs unique cases.

> What other computers have been produced for almost 10 years? A starting point for a discussion on why the RiscPC lasted so long, is this unique?

> I expect quite a few RiscPC sales were for computers in industry doing specific tasks. An answer to the question of RiscPC sales in the Iyonix age.

> RiscPC 1699, Iyonix, cheaper. "Iyonix is too expensive" counter claim.

Maybe it's a bug in the comment code.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 7/11/03 1:35PM
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In answer to one of the posts way above, the RiscStation seems to have no problems with it's sound at all. It has networking on board (10base) and a 10/100base card available. I'm not sure about SCSI and USB for the RiscStation though. In any case, it would be the one I chose if the choice was only between the RiscStation and Mico.


 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 7/11/03 1:44PM
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Rod - There are some modules needed as well. I found I had to edit out the modem lines is the obey file and iirc it needed to go in predesk. It's my brother's system if this isn't enough to get you sorted email me and I'll pull off the details next time I'm on it. jess at itworshop. uklinux. net

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 7/11/03 2:32PM
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The RiscPC is the best computer ever made, full stop. No computer company made anything so flexible, robust, expandible, future-proof and just so darned character-laden as the RiscPC.

Now 'killer design' is simply about making computers that look like a lamp from Habitat.

I'd sugest a strangely high proportion of RPCs made are still in active use of some sort or another. Heck, my mother still uses her RPC daily, despite having a Mac laptop. It still feels instant-fast for the work she does in Artworks, Draw, Datapower and Impression and it hasn't had half the expansion it could have - she doesn't read drobe or any acorn publications and has no idea there's an 'iyonix'. One of my granddad's friends still uses an A5000 regularly, using nothing but Publisher, another uses an A4000 and Style.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 7/11/03 3:18PM
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BTW, if anyone wants a "Brand New" RiscPC there is one on eBay ATM. I expect it will reach I higher price now that if it was put on eBay last month.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 7/11/03 4:10PM
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The 'Wasted' Space above the processor card in the Risc PC, was usefull for double width cards, such as the millipeede cards. Plus I think there is a special double width podule expander for a Risc PC slice?

My A310 was superb, but I recieved an iyonix (looks around hopefully), then I woudl do the same as I did to my PC, buy an aluminium case with windows + cold cathodes :D kool RISC OS box ;) woudl be worth it!

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 8/11/03 12:09AM
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I have 15 200Mhz RPC's sitting in the corner of the bathroom at home that would probably really enjoy a better home. How much is one of these fella's worth these days, keeping in mind that I'm in australia and sadly there isnt much of a market for them here (They have already been advertised in the paper with no response).

As for my fav acorn, it would have to be the RiscPc. Its the only machine that Ive ever owned and can call mine! There has been many an occasion where Ive impressed my friends with the speed that it can be turned into 20 parts, without the need for any tools (other than myself) It gets alot of use when Im doing my uni work etc., and the only thing that i find it cant do is open lectureers powerpoint slides :(

When someone can show me a PC that I can use without getting frustrated or without it crashing I will move my RPC to the side and get one of those things, only I very much doubt the old girl on my desk will be moved in the next 5 years. :)

If anyone is interested in a RPC email me and I'll forward you the details........wonder how much it costs to post one..

 is a RISC OS UserTezza on 8/11/03 1:35AM
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should i include my email address in that last post? :)

its tj.houston@student.qut.edu.au

 is a RISC OS UserTezza on 8/11/03 1:38AM
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Start an acorn user group at uni?

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 8/11/03 8:53AM
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The Iyonix is too expensive The Iyonix is too boring That one's not going to be changed soon then

What other computers have been produced for almost 10 years?

I expect quite a few RiscPC sales were for computers in industry doing specific tasks.

RiscPC 1699, Iyonix, cheaper.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 08/11/03 11:32AM
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You said that in the last 2 comments that got modded down. Why continue sounding like a stuck record?

Oh, and btw, it takes many people (not just 1) to mod a comment down.

 is a RISC OS Userg0tai on 08/11/03 12:06AM
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So lots of people hate me, what's the problem?

Have there been other examples of expanable case designs?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 08/11/03 12:13AM
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The Iyonix is the future. I can't see Castle making anything on the RiscPCs given that even a strongarm goes for around 120 ukp on ebay. Having said that, I still think my Kinetic RiscPC is a beautiful final flowering of a truely great engineering design.

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 08/11/03 12:28AM
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Yeah the Iyonix is kind of expensive... but that's to be expected. What bothers me about the Iyonix is its marketing... there is hardly any. It is presented boringly. The case is the blandest I've ever seen on a computer. The website is not much more inspiring. Genesi's Peggy computer is being marketed to PC geeks, Castle should do the same with the Iyonix. They're quieting selling it to existing Acornites, but just not doing enough to bring new users. Without new users, RISC OS will die out. I guess Castle is kind of like Acorn. Great engineers, good people, but not salesmen?

By the way, you can see pictures of the 'Acorn Rocket Ship' here: [link]

Tazza: put a Risc PC or two for sale on online auction, and you may be surprised what you get for them ;)

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ via on 08/11/03 12:31AM
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In many ways the RISC PC was innovative (ultra expandable case, heterogenous processor support, fast dual ported video RAM as well as main RAM and so in) - perhaps in many respects it was ahead of it's time. I will be sorry to see it go, but I imagine a great many will still remain in use. The availability of cheap second user machines may even mean some people will find them a fairly inexpensive means of dabbling in RISC OS and RISC processors.

No PC's of its day (1994) were anywhere near as expandable as the RISC PC, I'd also point out that over it's lifetime the clock rate increased from (the old 30MHz ARM610) ending up at 300MHz (Kinetic) all *without* changing the motherboard (it would be like taking a P4 board today with a 2.4GHz CPU and upgrading it to 24GHz without changing the motherboard (two words spring to mind "Fat" and "Chance").

Nope the designers of the RPC should take a bow, the longitivity of their design says a lot about how fairsighted they were.



 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 08/11/03 12:39AM
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AMS: And note that on a RiscPC the memory access rate is considered to be a severe bottleneck...

Just because you *can* do something, doesn't mean you *should*.

Memory access is a real bottleneck on modern machines at high clock speeds, and not using a faster bus speed on a modern processor would be just foolish.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 08/11/03 1:54PM
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Yes I agree fully with you, it's a bit of a waste having a faster processor over a slower I/O and Memory bus. But at least with the Acorn approach people were *not* forced to upgrade ever 12-18 months (as commonly happens in the PC world). Kinetic partially addressed the memory bandwidth problem (by using SDRAM rather than the onboard - older/slower DRAM on the motherboard, albeit at the expense of losing I/O DMA).

Ok the performance improvement of the processor didn't fully get realised, but given that Phoebe didn't happen it was probably the best that could be expected (the important point is that the design at the outset allowed an acceptible (if not ideal) half-way house to be realised - again credit to the original designers I would have thought !).

Thanks and regards


 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 08/11/03 2:06PM
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> But at least with the Acorn approach people were not forced to upgrade ever 12-18 months (as commonly happens in the PC world).

You don't want to open this can of worms. You really don't /have/ to upgrade every 12-18 months unless you really want to keep your computer super up to date. If that is the case an upgrade will probably be required every month. Say the RiscPC was updated every 12-18 months (it wasn't but, hey) then you could replace your PC motherboard, processor and memory in a bundle at the same time and over the life of the machine you'd likely have laid out less cash on the PC given it's lower initial purchase price. And by the time you got to the StrongARM age, the PC would have left the RiscPC standing. These days the situation is even more this way.

Still, I bought a RiscPC 600 and later a StrongARM machine because I like RISC OS and wanted to run the programs I had. And, getting back on track, I do like the case. Looking a bit dated now but it certainly stands out. Not until Apple started going all iMac-y did Acorn lose its 'distinctive case' crown :-)

Now, I just want to scrub the RPC case up so it looks like new. Any ideas?

-- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 08/11/03 5:07PM
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Lots of white spirit, and a scrubbing brush is quite effective deppending on what has caused the grime. It didn't work on my keyboard though because I think the previous owner of the keyboard was a smoker...

 is a RISC OS UserAndrew Duffell on 08/11/03 5:13PM
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Dougal: The most important difference is that RISC OS is much less affected by significantly slower memory than, shall we say, certain other operating systems. (We're not allowed to say "more efficient" any more, though...)

Don't you remember all the people telling us that the StrongARM upgrade would never be worthwhile if it didn't include L2 cache...?

Admittedly, the much larger L1 cache helped, but again that was mainly down to the nature of the software being run.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 08/11/03 6:32PM
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> Don't you remember all the people telling us that the StrongARM upgrade would never be worthwhile if it didn't include L2 cache...?

Actually, I remember Acorn telling me that a L2 wouldn't help all that much in making the SA RPC much faster. Having said that, there was a Phoebe on the desk beside me :)

-- Spriteman

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 08/11/03 7:01PM
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No, as I'm not an Acorn person, so I've never followed the ins and outs of the platform :)

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 08/11/03 7:19PM
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Spriteman: They meant "when running RISC OS and most RISC OS applications" :-)


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 08/11/03 7:33PM
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Dougal: Some of it might be important when considering whether something "*should*" have been done or not :-)


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 08/11/03 8:32PM
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In reply to "Me":

Castle should use the Phoebe case on an Iyonix machine and call it "Phoenix" or something. The Phoebe case would appeal to more people than the current, boring Iyonix case, surely. And that Acorn Rocket is very cool, you can't do that with many other computers!

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 08/11/03 10:52PM
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Only problem with that is that the Phoebe case is a completely different format (NLX I think) to the ATX Iyonix. Then there's is the problem of cutting holes /neatly/ for the podules.... Cheers!

 is a RISC OS UserThe Doctor on 08/11/03 11:00PM
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No, not the phoebe case. The Iyonix should be a bright green box in whatever Pantone was used for the old Acorn logo. In fact, it should be called the Acorn Iyonix. Wharever anyone says, Acorn is a classic evocative brand and it's sad that it's not possible to buy a new, Acorn-branded computer anymore. 'RISC OS' sounds a bland and workmanlike name for a platform in comparison.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 09/11/03 09:15AM
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Very droll. But if you note I was merely reflecting on the fact that in the RiscPC accees to memory has been described as a bottleneck, thus my statement remains valid, regardless of my ignorance of the machine's earlier life.

 is a RISC OS UserDougal on 09/11/03 1:29PM
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Dougal: Almost all computing tasks suffer a bottleneck somewhere, whether it be memory access, disk or CPU. The Risc PC's slow IDE disk interface has been "described as a bottleneck" too; so has the lack of hardware floating point.

The point you're missing is that most RISC OS users are more interested in the performance of the applications they're actually running, rather than being told from on high that "XYZ is a bottleneck". You are correct in that most modern operating systems struggle with memory access to the processor (hence ever increasing L2 cache sizes, amongst other things), but RISC OS and its applications are far less affected by this.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 09/11/03 1:57PM
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I followed the link to the History of Acorn sites. It is such a shame that Acorn fell apart. They got so close. I'm looking forward to the day when someone with inside knowledge writes a book on Acorn. It was one hell of a roller coaster ride. Still maybe it's not over yet. I know VRPC upsets a lot of folk but it is so funny to think of all those Wintell machines that are starting to be used to run RiscOS. Sounds like the start of the next chapter in that book to me...

 is a RISC OS Useranon/ on 09/11/03 5:45PM
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