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Castle bids farewell to RiscPC

By Chris Williams. Published: 11th Nov 2003, 22:42:22 | Permalink | Printable

Somebody call the fat lady

A StrongARM RiscPCCastle have today acknowledged that the venerable RiscPC has reached the end of the line and there are no plans for future production, confirming a rumour previously leaked by a leading RISC OS dealer. When existing stocks of the machine dry up, we'll be left with the A7000+, the barely a year old XScale Iyonix and products from what Castle define as "independent manufacturers".

So long, farewell RiscPC. You have served us well and we have served you well, with USB, AGP and PCI treats. Whenever we power up our next generation RISC OS machines, the near silent hum from the power supply will always whisper the name, "Medusa".

Castle took over the rights to the RiscPC and A7000+ design from Acorn during the 1998 break up of Acorn Group. According to Robert McMordie's excellent History of Acorn website, the very first RiscPC was publically released in 1994 and featured a 30MHz ARM610 processor, 2MB of RAM, no VRAM, a 210MB hard disc and, with a 14 inch monitor, cost 1249 quid. By 1997, when the Acorn world was looking relatively rosy and upbeat, StrongARM RiscPCs could be had for 1399 quid and each packed a 202MHz StrongARM processor, a 1.2 GB hard disc, 8 MB of RAM and 2 MB of VRAM. The StrongARM chip was a joint venture between ARM and Digital.

"The demise of the Risc PC is the end of an era", commented Castle's MD, Jack Lillingston. "It has served the RISC OS market for an incredibly long time and proved a wonderful tool for those who appreciate RISC OS systems. The increasing difficulty in obtaining components and its relative lack of speed in today's demanding markets, make it no longer viable.

"As far as Castle is concerned the future of RISC OS computing now lies with the IYONIX pc and the continuing development of RISC OS 5. Nevertheless, the Risc PC will be greatly missed for what it has allowed users to achieve during its long lifetime."

There appears to be no plans for a RiscPC 2 then, which could be something appealing and interesting like a low cost, cut down Iyonix. What is refreshing to spot is Castle's reassurance that there will be "continuing development of RISC OS 5", whatever that means. Is its brother RISC OS 4 invited for the ride or are Castle going to single handedly catch up on the past 3 years of Select development?

Surely the current absurd OS development split between RISC OS 5 and 4 has gone on long enough. Can someone glance at their wrist watch and tell us its time for the two OS developers to start thinking of customers rather than technicalities and decide on how the fork is going to be resolved? We've noticed people are asking questions that aren't being answered, unless everyone's agreed that "sort of, well, maybe, just wait a little" is a sufficient response.

What's also important is a question that should be answered by the userbase : what will make us happy and can we expect it? If Castle and RISCOS Ltd. do eventually team up to produce RISC OS 6, a combined RISC OS Select and 5 (fingers crossed while touching some serious amount of wood), will we be satisfied? Will we then demand PMT, full memory protection and a ia64 port?

The RiscPC, approaching its 10th birthday, has seen the Acorn platform through thick and thin and stayed strong despite the many changes sweeping the platform. What will pass by the Iyonix and the Omega over the next 10 years?


Castle website

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"are Castle going to single handedly catch up on the past 3 years of Select development?"

I don't think it will take Castle 3 years to give us a graduated Pinboard will it?

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 12/11/03 1:11AM
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Castle have made RPCs for about as long as Acorn did then.

What other machines have been made for more than 9 years?

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 12/11/03 1:30AM
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Castle should finish off the Phoebe project, but with an XScale this time :)

It's mucked up things a lot, Castle buying RISC OS. It really should have been ROL that bought it - then there'd be no split. Although having two parties developing their own versions isn't ideal, so long as they're both compatible, does it really matter?

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 12/11/03 4:41AM
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If ROL bought RISC OS would there have been an Iyonix? (More likely the extra resources would have been mothbaulded to stop anyone else using them (personel opinion)).

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 12/11/03 7:30AM
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timephoenix: Perhaps they should ship the Iyonix in the phoebe case, badged as a "Special Edition"?

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 12/11/03 8:27AM
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jlavallin: The Iyonix was released in November last year, Castle only bought RISC OS from Pace in July.

 is a RISC OS Userilludium on 12/11/03 10:24AM
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Does anyone know which parts of the RiscPC were becoming particularly hard to source? And were Castle manufacturing new cases for their RiscPCs, or was there a backlog of already produced cases that they were fitting new parts into? This is all 'just out of interest'...

 is a RISC OS Userlarryfi on 12/11/03 12:03PM
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The RISC PC when it was launched was an extremely expensive computer, however, it had the staying power than the cheap 486 pcs available at the time could not even dream of. However, imes have moved on, the entry level model is now a very basic machine, USB, Graphics Cards and Networking all being optional extras. Thank God for Castle and the Iyonix PC, which might be another extremely expensive machine, but it is one that people will still be using ten years from now. In the ned, you get what you pay for.

 is a RISC OS UserJWCR on 12/11/03 12:34PM
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simio: Maybe not, but it's not the graduated pinboard I want...

 is a RISC OS Usercmj on 12/11/03 12:46PM
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Castle and RO5 are the future of RISC OS. ROS Ltd ultimately did NOTHING to allow ROS to run on non-Acorn era hardware. No wonder ROS Ltd is so keen on flogging their dead horse to emulator users.

It's the 'not our responsibility' shoulder-shrugging of ROS Ltd that lost the market Imago/Nucleus/Evolution/Omega - what hardware development there was became wasted on just getting ROS to boot on non-Acorn hardware. Caslte have done more for RISC OS in a year than ROS Ltd ever have.

Caslte just need to find more ways to exploit the market than merely selling a 1249 computer - this excludes too many people from giving them revenue.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 12/11/03 12:53PM
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timephoenix: I can understand *why* Castle bought RISC OS though - out of frustration with the way the market was going - Omega seemingly nowhere in sight, ROL dallying about "making graduated pinboards" and denying any demand for a 32-bit ROS, RiscStation's laptop getting later and later - something drastic had to be done! So something was done - Castle developed the Iyonix and bought RISC OS 5 (which to this day remains the only 32-bit version of the OS for desktops).

I dislike the current forked situation as much as anyone else, but the only people who can actually change things are ROL and Castle, so perhaps it's best to leave the technicalities of merging the forks in their capable hands. I can't imagine either company is pleased with the fork either, as it means lower revenue for each of them as they lose customers to the other company.

andypoole: Are Phoebe cases still available from anywhere? I wouldn't mind putting my Iyonix in one :-)

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 12/11/03 1:09PM
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I remember that the real heart-wrench with the BBC Micro was when Acorn announced that spare parts would no longer be available. I'm sure that Castle will still stock and sell us the bits needed to keep the old machines ticking over for a few years yet. It's a shame the Kinetic upgrade is still so expensive - all those 1000s of RiscPC 600s and 700s would get such a boost even at this late stage. That could be a cheep way into RiscOS now; source a cheep PC700 and StrongArm it. Perhaps it is the StrongArm itself that is one of the hard to source parts ?

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 12/11/03 1:13PM
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tamias: They're coming from somewhere! They keep cropping up at Wakefield on a stand somewhere, don't know if they were there this year though.. I wasn't there. Can't remember which company it is that keeps selling them :|

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 12/11/03 1:17PM
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Well I would like a new RiscOS machine but there is no way I'm purchasing one whilst the OS is split. It's not only feature differences but the knock on consequences for applications and hardware expansion as well. We used to knock the PC world for having problems with incompatibility but they seem to be in a damn site better shape than we are right now. Given my intense dislike of PC's and M$ I find that admission a really worrying sign for the future.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 12/11/03 1:27PM
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andypoole - last I heard, CTA Direct had them for 37, incl. delivery and VAT.

 is a RISC OS Userrod on 12/11/03 1:31PM
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mripley: What software needs a specific RISC OS 5 version? All apps that have been made 32bit/ROS 5 compatible so far ALSO run on older machines (often all the way back to RISC OS 3.5, or even 3.1). Many Iyonix users report their machines are just as stable and reliable as their RPCs. In fact, Iyonix buyers that post in public forums seem a very satisfied bunch.

Things like USB are a bit foggier, though. Once a USB device is RISC OS compatible, it should be equally at home on a Simtec USB podule as an Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS UserJessFranco on 12/11/03 3:34PM
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DirSync needs RO5 if you want to use the plugins. This was unintentional, but the plugins are implemented as a savebox in the menutree. It is actually a window with a nested window owned by the plugin. This works in RO5, but RO4 and earlier see a click in a window from another app, and therefore close the menutree. Can that be called a bug? Maybe. I haven't checked the latest Select, but maybe I shouldn't expect things to change when I don't tell anyone that this is behaviour I'd like implemented... :-/

 is a RISC OS Userjjvdgeer on 12/11/03 4:18PM
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It's a real shame RISC OS machines are so expensive. It seems things haven't changed since the RISC PC was released; the Iyonix almost exactly the same price, and the Omega is even more. I reckon more people would switch to RO if the machines weren't so costly.

 is a RISC OS Usertimephoenix on 13/11/03 3:45AM
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Earlier you wanted a RISC OS company (e.g. Castle) to make their own ARM chip - apart from the numerous reasons why that's a bad idea, that would certainly drive up the price. And now you think they should be lower.

Back in the real world, the machines have to be priced realistically from a business viewpoint, no matter how many PCs you can buy from the local box shifter for 99p.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 13/11/03 12:02PM
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I still say Castle should resurrect the Acorn brand. It's a symbol of a united and indepedent computer manufacturer and developer that I think stands much more clearly distinct from PC/Mac than RISC OS - whatever which obviously changes with time

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 13/11/03 4:37PM
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Just like Amiga and Atari and Sinclair then

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 13/11/03 6:27PM
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But Acorn lives on with a capable machine...

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 14/11/03 11:48AM
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The fact that it's not financially viable to make machines cheaper doesn't invalidate timephoenix's point. It *is* a shame that RISC OS machines are expensive (I recently bought an Iyonix. I'd be better off :)), and I imagine more people would buy them if they were cheaper.

It's just not gonna happen.

 is a RISC OS Userrichcheng on 14/11/03 2:08PM
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Its a viscious circle. More people would buy a RISC OS machine if they were cheaper, but the manufacturers canot afford to make them any cheaper, so more people cannot by them.

 is a RISC OS UserJWCR on 14/11/03 7:21PM
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