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Acorn revived to launch laptop PCs

UK home computer pioneer returns

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Updated That one-time pioneer of British home computing Acorn is to sprout once again. The creator of the Atom, Electron, Archimedes and BBC Micro machines, of the ARM chip company and of the RISC OS is to be revived next week as a purveyor of notebook PCs.

The company's refusing to say anything about the motivation behind the revival, or who's spearheading the move, until it's formally launched on 10 May. It has said it will offer four notebooks: the 12.1in Solo Note, 14.1in Solo Book, 15.4in Desk Note and 17in Desk Book, all equipped with WXGA displays, run Windows XP and will bundle Sun's Star Office.

acorn solo note laptop

Acorn said it would pitch the machines at home users, education buyers, small businesses and public sector purchasers. Its launch next week will be accompanied by a reseller recruitment drive.

acorn desk book laptop

Family tree

The original Acorn was founded in 1978 by Herman Hauser and Chris Curry. It went on to launch five incarnations of its System machine before debuting the Atom in 1980. A year later it launched the BBC Micro Models A and B, the latter one of the most popular home computers of the era.

In 1984, the now saturated home computer market crashed leaving many manufacturers, Acorn one of them, left with massive stocks built up in the anticipating of higher-than-ever sales. Acorn survived in part by striking a deal with Olivetti, a move that allowed it to look beyond the home to the education market, where it had already proved a strong player.

The Archimedes followed in 1987 on the back of the in-house development of a groundbreaking new chip based on RISC technology. In 1991, the chip division was spun off as ARM - originally Acorn Risc Machines - and continues to prosper today. Acorn, meanwhile, continued to offer ARM-based machines using its home-brewed RISC OS, but it dropped out of the hardware business in 1998. A year later, Acorn spun off its DSP chip business as Element 14 before being acquired by Broadcom two years later. ®

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