Archive woos ex-users with VirtualRPCBy Martin Hansen. Published: 10th Jan 2004, 15:54:56 | Permalink | Printable
Stopped using RISC OS? You'll want this emulator, mateI hate junk mail. I don't mind it quite so much if a flurry of quick scissor hand-action can shred it on its flight to the paper recycling-bin, but when it's encased in a tough polythene bag that has to be removed first and recycled separately to the paper; well, let's just say that it gets my day off to an irritating start. I never - no seriously; never - respond to junk mail and, in fact, I even resent the time it takes my eye-brain combination to realise it's junk.
But what's this I have before me that begins, "Dear Ex Archive Subscriber"? This is different; this is RISC OS junk mail. I don't recall receiving a RISC OS tasting mail-shot before. This is something to treasure; something to frame; up there, on the wall, next to the one of the wife and kids. Because this means that RISC OS is back in town and looking to party. Maybe I've been missing out, not opening my junk mail all these years.
This is not a mindless flyer saying "Buy me"; it's an intellectually stimulating, colour photocopied four page article written by Christopher Jarman and fired my way by a Mr Paul Beverly. He's quite right; I am an ex-Archive subscriber; a subscription I let slip several years ago when,although still using Acorn machines, I'd lost interest in the Acorn scene. Amusing, it was a friend's comment in 1998 that Acorn had just gone belly-up that festered in my mind and eventually re-kindled my curiosity and interest. In all of the time since I bailed, my details have been sitting in Mr Beverley's database. He must be a patient man to wait until now to try and reel me back in. What has he got that is special? Why is this junk mailing, and no other, well read and carefully filed?
The photocopied article is an extract from Archive sister publication, Living with Technology, and is the first serious review of Virtual RiscPC that I have come across. Most of the RISC OS press has either ignored VirtualAcorn, or reviewed it from a biased and extreme point of view. Nothing overly wrong with that; new ideas often take a while to fully grasp and can initially seem very threatening. People can and should say what they feel. Christopher Jarman's article is enticing, sympathetic and kind. It is written from the perspective of someone who loved their Acorn RiscPC, was sad to let it go but, "as with a second marriage, developed new affections and new relationships with Windows".
For Chris that would have been the end of the Acorn story but for the entrance of Virtual RiscPC. He's bought a copy and he clearly feels he has got his Acorn back along with "a shed-load of utilities and applications for free". He describes an effortless installation to get it running on a Windows XP machine that he had anyway. He talks through many of the issues likely to worry prospective users of "RISC OS under emulation" such as documentation, using a PC mouse, data and program transfer between the two OSs, printing, email and internet use. It's a well written, and thoughtful description of what this product has achieved.
What I really noticed with this mail-shot, though, is its target audience. The article is aimed directly at people who, like him, have moved on from Acorn badged machines but with regret. Regrets like, "compared with Artworks, both Corel Draw and XaraX are clumsy and complicated". This is a call to those who are most likely to lead the next phase of the current RISC OS revival; the reluctant leavers. It's a call to let them know that all of the time, effort and energy they put into Acorn was a good investment after all, and that for a modest outlay, it can be relevant to their future.
In fact, with Virtual Acorn's inclusion of RISC OS 4, and a fast Windows XP machine, those returning via Virtual RiscPC are going to be delighted when their virtual machine turns out to be better than their aging memory of the real thing. Of course, this is a mailing that wants your money. Included is an order form for Virtual RiscPC.
Living with technology
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