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MicroBits waves goodbye to ROS

By Martin Hansen. Published: 18th Feb 2004, 12:57:27 | Permalink | Printable

Another dealer exits stage left

RISC OS friendly dealers form an essential contact point for many users by offering advice and RISC OS compatible products, despite the fact that they are a dying breed. Martin Hansen reflects on the trauma of the loss of another UK RISC OS dealer.

Small back street computer shops are two-a-penny in most towns. Often managed by a desperately busy computing enthusiast, they are inevitably somewhat shambolic and workshop like but that is a part of their charm. If you want specialist advice or an honest opinion of a current computing issue, then they are a great point of contact. Slick and polished and PC World like they are not. Well, thank goodness for that.

Recently, I've been making an effort to direct some of my computing funds towards the few of these shops that are supporters of RISC OS. So, when I was passing Coventry earlier this week I decided to call in on MicroBits, in Foleshill, just off the M6.

MicroBits are one of the RISC OS outlets that hopped on the VirtualRiscPC bandwagon last year with a powerful offering called "DarkStar". The creation of proprietor Rob Andrews, the top end model cost about a grand and zips along powered by a 3GHz Pentium 4 processor on a 533MHz front side bus and 333MHz DDR memory. Rob had been pushing the Darkstar before Christmas and had even sent me an invitation by email to pop in and try it out.

On the morning prior to my visit, I checked out the MicroBits website to print out the Darkstar information and check the address. Everything seemed normal. Even the usual live webcam video feed of the view out of the shop front door and into the street beyond was rolling along.

After an unplanned exploration of most of Coventry, I eventually found the shop with its large MicroBits sign outside and went in. Looking around there was no RISC OS to be seen. With a sinking heart I asked the guy inside if he had anything Acorn. The answer stunned me; "No." I mentioned Virtual RiscPC and he didn't know what I was talking about.

As is so often the case, the chap running the store was perfectly friendly and chatty. He informed me that the company he worked for, "Cabling and Networking Repair", had bought MicroBits out. Rob Andrews was currently in Australia on a long holiday. He said that Rob, 50, was intending to take "early retirement" and I joked that this must be on the proceeds of a long and profitable career with Acorn computing. He couldn't tell me anything about "Darkstar" which he had never heard of, or about what arrangements had been made by Rob to support those who had purchased one. Regarding school contracts, he seemed to think that the new owner, Peter Door, had taken these on, although Peter was out on a call. How many of these were Acorn based systems he couldn't say.

I felt rather sad as I looked more carefully around the shop. In a far back corner, in the workshop part of the shop, I could see a stack of around 14 RiscPCs, some with drive bays empty and bits of facia missing. They had definitely seen much better and happier days. With vague thoughts of there being a bargain to be had I asked how much they were going for, but they were already spoken for.

So, it looks like MicroBits are no more. The new owner seems totally PC based, and so there may be a small opening for an enterprising individual to pick up some Acorn school contract work, rather then let those schools, if any, be pressurised into going Microsoft. I must say though, that a part of the attraction of Acorn was always the fact that an enthusiast with an interest on the teaching staff could save the school thousands in contract fees. Not that it ever was, or is, appreciated.


MicroBits old website Take over company's website

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So much for the theory that companies selling Windows PCs with VirtualAcorn installed are making huge profits out of it...

Incidentally, do we know of anyone who bought a VirtualAcorn system from MicroBits?


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 18/2/04 1:27PM
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On the contrary, it sounds like the original owner of Microbits has just made himself a very large profit indeed! :)

 is a RISC OS Userrobert79 on 18/2/04 4:45PM
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If so, then it's surprising that whoever has taken over the business, has ditched the supposedly fortune-making product ;-)

(Then again, they may not have thought it out properly).


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 18/2/04 4:48PM
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Not knowing Rob Andrews, I've no idea of his profits. However, if I depended on the sale of RISC OS related product to fuel my van (never mind pay my wages), I'd be walking everywhere. There isn't enough business to support local dealers. I'm supporting a dwindling band of home users in my spare time, for free. It's all very sad, but that's life, and business.

 is a RISC OS Usermikeg on 18/2/04 10:50PM
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Hi all just to let you all know that the deskstar is still avilable but you will have to contact Microdigital for one. yes i am having a great time on my holidays. the first one for a long time i may add, & not from the profits of Acorn. I Will update the website with news of the deskstar as soon as i stop enjoying myself and put the stubie down. So I bid you gooday sport from down under. Regards to all rob

 is a RISC OS Usermicrobits on 18/2/04 11:49PM
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microbits: glad to hear all is well on holiday. I doubt I would be rushing to buy a Deskstar from MicroDigital! Can you give us an idea of how many were sold before the handover?


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 19/2/04 12:05AM
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What is wrong with buying a computer from microdigital you make a lot of noise about keeping RiscOS alive so go out and support it. don't let it become a one horse race nobody wins. where would AMD be now if there was no Intel you need to have more than one, take a look at Mickysoft they have been ruling the roost for so long. now the are feeling the pinch from Linux but the number of fixs and improvements for the OS is on the up, so they all improve. this gives people the choice. without choice you have stagnation do you want the Risc OS market to Die without a fight. People like me have been trying to keep the market alive for years and i will still keep trying because we love the way it works. But if there is no developments how can we move forwards. we need hardware & software to survive. progress is sometimes very slow but we must have some progress. you don's say to someone that is spending money on development that their product is no good they will just stop spending we all loose out. I will try to get one of the customer that bought a deskstar to do a revue for you to post. I for one would like to see more native Risc OS hardware not Less, If VA keeps people interested is Risc OS then it will continue. after all we all want the same thing. regards rob

 is a RISC OS Usermicrobits on 19/2/04 12:37AM
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microbits: "What is wrong with buying a computer from microdigital"

I tried that once. Never again.

"you make a lot of noise about keeping RISC OS alive"

I do?

"so go out and support it"

I find that comment somewhat humorous, under the circumstances :-)


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 19/2/04 8:27AM
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In reply to dgs Chill, dgs, chill.... The guy's on holiday - give him a break. It's not as if he's taken a load of folks down payments and fled the country never to be heard from again. (Which was a thought that crossed my mind). In fact, I'm quite looking forward to reading a darkstar review - I had put myself out in the hope of having a hands on with one, don't forget. See you at the the SouthWEst show !

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 19/2/04 10:24AM
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I never did like Coventry anyway.

As for schools using RISC OS, I'm sure there must be some left, but would wager it's less than 50 in the whole country. :-(

 is a RISC OS Userharmsy on 19/2/04 11:21AM
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martin: "It's not as if he's taken a load of folks down payments and fled the country never to be heard from again"

I don't believe anyone suggested that.

But saying I should buy a computer I don't want, from a supplier I don't trust, just to avoid a "one horse race", is utterly bizarre.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 19/2/04 11:53AM
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In reply to dgs

Yes, you are right - no one suggested that !

I must admit that if I was buying an Omega or a Darkstar from MicroDigital I'd want to hand over cash with one hand and receive the computer with the other, simultaneously. I suspect I'm not alone - MicroDigital not attending Wakefield will cost them lost cash sales.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 19/2/04 12:12PM
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so lets talk iyonix...


 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis@work on 19/2/04 5:58PM
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Schools using RISC OS? Oh, I used to go to a secondary school that used to use them. I got into a nice chat with the IT manager about them - "Oh, they were lovely machines, but they're just too slow and they won't work with Windows machines". *sigh* RiscPC SA 202MHz with 64MB of RAM and a slightly dodgy Ethernet card, but still going strong!

 is a RISC OS Userphilpem on 21/2/04 9:00PM
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