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Support for 32-bit next-gen RISC OS announced: We give you the view from the Launchpad and what 32bit will mean to you..

By Chris Williams. Published: 22nd Nov 15:05:58 | Permalink | Printable

RISC OS ltd. like to keep a low profile- they don't enter public forum discussions and despite the pressure on them to move RISC OS on from its current state, they rarely speak of their internal developments. Hopefully this announcement will hold back the deconstructive usenet comments of late and give developers the chance to update their software when RISC OS embraces 32bit technology. If you are close to RISC OS ltd., you may have already been there and done that, bought the 32bit compatibilty t-shirt: if you are a ordinary user or developer I suggest you read on..

Firstly, in the olden days, RISC OS 2 and 3 ran on the ARM2 and ARM3 processors. These processors used a 26bit system to access system memory, the chips RISC OS was stored on and any devices connected to the processor, (such as harddiscs, printers, the video system- everything really). 26bit 'addressing' is a little odd but it worked and even the recent 233 Mhz StrongARM processors accept it. However, the newer and faster RISC processors from the likes of Intel use a 'Thumb Architecture' which is basically a more versatile 16bit addressing system. RISC OS and every piece of software written for it will not work on these new processors (ARM9, ARM10 and the Intel XScale CPU), as they demand full 32bit code execution.

Moving on up to full 32bit mode will do the RISC OS world a favour as it will allow us to use the newer and faster processors: however when the 32bit version of RISC OS is made available for computers with the new processors, all existing software will need converting to be able to work. It's a large task and it will require co-operation from both RISC OS ltd. and third party developers to pull this off.

To initiate what maybe the largest change for RISC OS since, well, ever, RISC OS ltd. and PACE, (the large telecommunications company that owns the source code to RISC OS), have released a beta
version of the components required for users of the Acorn C and C++ compiler package to produce RISC OS programs that will be
compatible with future 32-bit only versions of RISC OS. After agreeing to the terms of a Software License Agreement and providing full details of the machine on which you intend to run the update software, you can fetch the aforementioned components from:


The update package includes:

  • Shared C Library This provides basic access to RISC OS from C programs.
  • CallASWI This provides an easier route when asking RISC OS to perform a low level action for you, such as plotting a sprite or opening a window on the desktop.
  • FPEmulator Allow your computer to pretend it has a floating point maths chip, but in 32bit.
  • 32bitIntro This is a technical document for producing standard Desktop applications written in C or BASIC and for users of the Acorn C/C++ development environment. It will help them produce RISC OS programs that will be compatible with future 32-bit only versions of RISC OS.
  • 32bitTech This document summarises information on the changes to the RISC OS binary interfaces between 26 and 32-bit versions of RISC OS. It should provide a basis for developers to ensure that their software is compatible with future systems. It is very complex and 'low level'- the average software writer does not have to be aware of exactly how RISC OS will support 32bit.

This goes without saying: All software and documentation is 2000 Pace Micro Technology plc.

Useful Contacts

RISC OS ltd.
Paul Middleton
Tel 02920 464020
Fax 02920 440071

PACE Micros

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