Acorn alumni to toast tech pioneer's 30th anniversary
Reunion bash planned
Some 400 staffers from that flag bearer of the 1980s UK home computing revolution, Acorn, are to gather next month to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the firm's foundation.
The original Acorn no longer exists, of course, but the company it ultimately evolved into, ARM, is hosting the gig, which will take place in Cambridge, near to the old company's one-time HQ.
Acorn the name wasn't coined until 1979 – the company was formed in 1978 as Cambridge Processor Unit (CPU).
Acorn founders Chris Curry and Hermann Hauser are expected to attend and join in a nostalgia-fest for 8-bit micros the Atom, BBC and Electron.
The Atom came first, the fifth machine developed by Acorn, but its first commercial success. The Atom led to the BBC signing Acorn in the early 1980s to produce a computer that would tie in with the Corporation's computer literacy initiative, and no small number of BBC Micro owners went on to achieve success in the IT field.
The BBC Micro: the machine that put Acorn on the map
Still, the Beeb was too pricey for some youngsters, and Acorn responded in 1983 with a cut-down version, the Electron.
Unfortunately, Acorn made too few Electrons to meet demand in the crucial Christmas 1983 sales period – although the BBC continued to be a runaway success. Learning from that experience, Curry and Hauser ensured plenty of Electrons were available for punters to buy in time for Christmas 1984. Alas, by then everyone who wanted a home computer had one and the market crashed, leaving Acorn deep in the red.
The following February, it was acquired by Italian office equipment maker Olivetti, which held a big stake in the firm until the late 1990s, when it morphed into Element 14. Nine years before, it had spun off ARM to focus on the Risc processor developed for the Archimedes, Acorn's BBC Micro successor. Element 14 would become the same kind of company: a creator of technology to be licensed to others.
A set-top box business, created in 1994, was sold to Pace after Element 14 was acquired by Morgan Stanley. Element 14 had a DSP business too, and that, along with the Element 14 name, was bought back off Morgan Stanley by the management. The following year it was swallowed up by Broadcom.
Ex-Acorn staffers keen to attend the reunion should visit Acorn Reunited for all the details.
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@ Mister Cheese
can't programme - but I did complete Citadel, which made full use of those colours in Mode 2, awesome stuff!
Such great times.
I had the great privilege of working at Acorn from early 1984 until late 1987 and, even though that time included the near-bankrupcy of the company and the Olivetti cash injection(s), it was still the best place I've ever worked. So many amazing memories and Hermann Hauser was a truly inspirational leader (the only person I've ever worked for that I can genuinely say that about).
When I joined the company Acorn was still held up as the main player (along with Sinclair) in the "Silicon Fenn" phenomena, the UK/Cambridge's attempt to create a local equivalent to California's Silicon Valley. I remember being amazed at the number of TV crews that always seemed to be in the building to shoot interviews for various news items and documentaries, at least two a week for a while.
I've booked my ticket for the event and I know at least one person who is flying over from California especially to be there.
Not sure about your comment about the paged ROM area being faster.
The Beeb did use fast (for it's time) RAM, but I'm fairly certain that the ROM area was slowed down to 1MHz, while the processor clock was 2MHz (although this may only have been the early systems with the OS and Basic in EEPROM). The speed was required for the RAM, because the CPU and Display ULA had interleved access to the memory, so that both the display hardware and the processor could access the memory at (their) full speed without slowing down the other.
Where the memory was improved was by bank-switch the language ROM (8000-BFFF hex), and OS ROM (C000-FFFF) with the dispay. Acorn did this with the BBC B+, and Master 128 with the Shadow screen, but it introduced compatibillity problems with programs that did not use the OS routines for writing to the display. I think that Acorn copied the idea from either a Solidisk or Watford hardware add-on to the original Beeb.
But these systems never really reached the same popularity level as the original BBC B. Probably, it's time had just come. I still think that there needs to be an education system as accessible as the Beeb for our schools. PCs just do not engage the same degree of enthusiasm in kids or teachers.
My first exposure to Acorn was at college, which had a room full of Atoms.
Then I went on to a work experience course at the local BBC dealership.
I have owned 3 Acorns in a row:-
1: BBC B with Music 500 MIDI synthesizer
2: Archimedes A3010 with HDD mod
3: Risc PC StrongArm with SCSI 2x CD burner (The only way to burn on Acorn back then)
I still have the RiscPC, but the CD burner was sold on many moons ago.
Good Times, good times.
Tux, because that's how I roll these days.
Can't find a case made specifically to pretend to be a BBC B, but you might find this interesting, where someones taken an old BBC and turned it into a PC (Seems like a waste of a perfectly good Beeb to me)