MicroBits waves goodbye to ROSBy Martin Hansen. Published: 18th Feb 2004, 12:57:27 | Permalink | Printable
Another dealer exits stage leftRISC 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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