f



Acorn Electron

A bit of history on the silicon.com website:
http://hardware.silicon.com/desktops/0,39024645,39127081,00.htm
-- 
Edinburgh Music Theatre presents Godspell www.edinburghtheatre.co.uk
23-26 February 2005, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
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govind1 (60)
1/14/2005 9:53:02 PM
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On 14 Jan 2005 Govind Kharbanda <govind@kharbanda.co.uk> wrote:
> A bit of history on the silicon.com website:
> http://hardware.silicon.com/desktops/0,39024645,39127081,00.htm

As one of the first Electon owners due to skin flint parents, I have to
disagree with "in terms of power it matched the BBC B blow for blow",
unfortunately this was not the case and a constant source of dispointment
for me.

* Only half the speed in Modes 0 to 3, and 2/3 speed in the rest, due to the
  combined video and memory controller (UALA) which locked the processor out
  of memory for up to 40us every 64us. 

* No mode 7 (teletext graphics)

* Far more limited video control over hardware scrollnig

* Only one sound channel, rather than the 3 wave and 1 noise of the BBC B
  and vastly more limited ENVELOPE sound command.

Because of the above, it had poor compatibility with BBC software, especially
games. Much stuff would run, but not quite well enough to be usuable, either
because of the lack of speed, a mode 6 b/w mess of funny characters instead
of the colourful teletext, or rasping noises instead of nice tunes or sound
effects.

I did quite quite a bit of usage out of it though, adding Plus1 for analogue
joysticks and printer, and STL's EFS which allowed me to use 5.25" drives in
DFS or a massive 640K under ADFS. Where as everyone else with 5.25" drives
were still on 400K DFS, or incompatible 3.5" on the Plus 3 and later the
Compact.

Probably having to work around all these short comings in my own software and
patching alot of the BBC B stuff, got me more interesting in programming,
than those with rich parents who got a bough a beeb and everything just ran
on it (bastards).

---druck

-- 
The ARM Club Free Software - http://www.armclub.org.uk/free/
The 32bit Conversions Page - http://www.quantumsoft.co.uk/druck/
0
news5843 (7461)
1/14/2005 11:15:20 PM
In article <48a7592d4d.druck@druck.freeuk.net>,
   druck <news@druck.freeuk.com> wrote:
> As one of the first Electon owners due to skin flint parents

My skinflint parents wouldn't buy me a computer at all...

...though as it happens my father did agree to the purchase of a computer -
not for me but for the local tech where he was governor and at the time it
was one of very few computers in the whole region.


My daughters would comment that this is going back to when the dinosaurs
were around of course.  ;-)

-- 
	John Cartmell	john@ followed by finnybank.com	FAX +44 (0)8700-519-527
	Qercus magazine & FD Games	www.finnybank.com  www.acornuser.com
Qercus - a fusion of Acorn Publisher & Acorn User magazines
0
john233 (5650)
1/15/2005 1:21:23 AM
In article <gemini.iabu4e001eh4802mk.govind@kharbanda.co.uk>,
   Govind Kharbanda <govind@kharbanda.co.uk> wrote:
> A bit of history on the silicon.com website:
> http://hardware.silicon.com/desktops/0,39024645,39127081,00.htm

Hmm... obviously a review through rose tinted specs. A few glossed over
differences, and some major exaggerations. I worked on an Electron once or
twice, and still own a BBC Micro and I can honestly state that, although
the two were similar, they certainly did NOT trade blow for blow! 

In fact, the idea that the Electron was a cut down Beeb as the article
implies is a little wide of the mark, in the same way that an A3010/3020
is not just a repackaged A3000. As for the wait for a game to load, 10
minutes would certainly have been unacceptible to me, but I suppose it all
depends on what you wanted. 

The thing the article certainly does get right is that Acorn gaffed on
supply and marketing again here, a habit they had from start to finish,
IMO.

-- 
 //\  // Chika <zvlhxv@penfuarg.bet.hx. - ROT13>
//  \//  Hitting Googlespammers with hyper-hammers! 

.... A closed mouth gathers no feet
0
miyuki1 (1402)
1/15/2005 12:23:23 PM
In article <4d2da1cd44miyuki@no.spam.here>, Chika
<miyuki@spam-no-way.invalid> wrote:
> In article <gemini.iabu4e001eh4802mk.govind@kharbanda.co.uk>, Govind
>    Kharbanda <govind@kharbanda.co.uk> wrote:
> > A bit of history on the silicon.com website:
> > http://hardware.silicon.com/desktops/0,39024645,39127081,00.htm

> Hmm... obviously a review through rose tinted specs. A few glossed over
> differences, and some major exaggerations. I worked on an Electron once
> or twice, and still own a BBC Micro and I can honestly state that,
> although the two were similar, they certainly did NOT trade blow for
> blow! 

> In fact, the idea that the Electron was a cut down Beeb as the article
> implies is a little wide of the mark, in the same way that an A3010/3020
> is not just a repackaged A3000. As for the wait for a game to load, 10
> minutes would certainly have been unacceptible to me, but I suppose it
> all depends on what you wanted. 

> The thing the article certainly does get right is that Acorn gaffed on
> supply and marketing again here, a habit they had from start to finish,
> IMO.

Yes.
One reason that I got a CPC464 was because there was a waiting list to get
on the waiting list to be considered as a potential customer to buy an
Electron.

-- 
	John Cartmell	john@ followed by finnybank.com	FAX +44 (0)8700-519-527
	Qercus magazine & FD Games	www.finnybank.com  www.acornuser.com
Qercus - a fusion of Acorn Publisher & Acorn User magazines
0
john233 (5650)
1/15/2005 3:33:55 PM
In article <48a7592d4d.druck@druck.freeuk.net>,
   druck <news@druck.freeuk.com> wrote:

> As one of the first Electon owners due to skin flint parents,

Given a computer and he moans. Poor, petulant, little rich kid. ;-)

> I have to disagree with "in terms of power it matched the BBC B blow
> for blow", unfortunately this was not the case and a constant source of
> dispointment for me.

You may have been disappointed but one suited my budget at the time being
engaged on a degree course with a wife, four kids and a mortgage there
was no way I could afford a BBC B. But the Electron did allow me to run
much BBC software, I even managed to get DART to control a Turtle
although the drive power had to come from elsewhere as the Elk could not
provide.

> * Only half the speed in Modes 0 to 3, and 2/3 speed in the rest, due
>   to the combined video and memory controller (UALA) which locked the
>   processor out of memory for up to 40us every 64us.

Which was an acceptable limitation over no computer at all. 

> * No mode 7 (teletext graphics)

I added that to mine. 

> * Far more limited video control over hardware scrollnig

No spellchecker either. ;-)

> * Only one sound channel, rather than the 3 wave and 1 noise of the BBC
>   B and vastly more limited ENVELOPE sound command.

Which was an acceptable limitation over no computer at all. 

> Because of the above, it had poor compatibility with BBC software,
> especially games. 

> Much stuff would run, but not quite well enough to be usuable, either
> because of the lack of speed, a mode 6 b/w mess of funny characters
> instead of the colourful teletext, or rasping noises instead of nice
> tunes or sound effects.

Which is why Electron versions of games were produced, some of them very
good. Plan B and Plan B2 in B&W was superbly smooth and playable, a
classic.

> I did quite quite a bit of usage out of it though, adding Plus1 for
> analogue joysticks and printer, and STL's EFS which allowed me to use
> 5.25" drives in DFS or a massive 640K under ADFS. Where as everyone
> else with 5.25" drives were still on 400K DFS, or incompatible 3.5" on
> the Plus 3 and later the Compact.

Not me. I went for the ACP Plus4 when it first came out, buying one of
the first units just before supplies ran out on the first morning of the
Electron & BBC User show at the Royal Agricultural Halls in 86 (IIRC).

I stuck with standard format 40 or 80 track 5.25 inch floppy discs for
compatibility with school based BBC Bs.

> Probably having to work around all these short comings in my own
> software and patching alot of the BBC B stuff, got me more interesting
> in programming, than those with rich parents who got a bough a beeb and
> everything just ran on it (bastards).

Indeed. My approach and experience was similar, although I soon had other
issue controlling my life where software programming had to take an
increasingly back seat.

If you though programming for the Electron (or BBC B etc) was tough
should have had a go at an Apple ][ - nightmare memory architecture and
no built in assembler. I once assembled code for an Apple ][ on the Elk
(didn't attempt to run it of course not least because zero page memory
allocation was totally different between the two computers and that just
for starters) then printed out a hex code version and then fed that into
the Apple and then saved out the resultant code and test run it.

Lionel

-- 
    ___          ______
   /  /         /  ___/       4 children         | Sea Vixen for pugnacity
  /  / ionel A.|   \ mith     8 grandchildren,   | Hunter for elegance
 /  /____     __\   | no wonder life is a breeze | Phantom for clout 
/_______/    /_____/  http://www.argonet.co.uk/users/lionels  |  ZFC B+4+4

From an OS that Windows is too young to remember. ;-)
0
lionels (537)
1/15/2005 4:44:54 PM
In article <4d2db33ee0john@cartmell.demon.co.uk>,
   John Cartmell <john@cartmell.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> One reason that I got a CPC464 was because there was a waiting list to get
> on the waiting list to be considered as a potential customer to buy an
> Electron.

I did not realise that there was a waiting list for Electrons. I was
under the impression that they did not sell well.

This probably deserves a 'what colour is the sky on your planet?'-type
reply, but I thought that the number of Electrons left unsold was one
of the major contributors to Acorn nearly going out of business in the
mid-1980s when the original home computer market collapsed in the UK.
Companies sold huge numbers of computers Christmas 1983 and expected
the same thing to happen in 1984 and stocked up appropriately. The
expected sales failed to materialise and they were left with large
numbers of unsold machines. I think it nearly finished off both Acorn
and Sinclair.

Dave Daniels

0
1/16/2005 10:52:36 AM
In article <4d2e1d53a9dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk>,
   Dave Daniels <dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk> wrote:
> In article <4d2db33ee0john@cartmell.demon.co.uk>,
>    John Cartmell <john@cartmell.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> > One reason that I got a CPC464 was because there was a waiting list to
> > get on the waiting list to be considered as a potential customer
> > to buy an Electron.

> I did not realise that there was a waiting list for Electrons. I was
> under the impression that they did not sell well.

> This probably deserves a 'what colour is the sky on your planet?'-type
> reply, but I thought that the number of Electrons left unsold was one
> of the major contributors to Acorn nearly going out of business in the
> mid-1980s when the original home computer market collapsed in the UK.
> Companies sold huge numbers of computers Christmas 1983 and expected
> the same thing to happen in 1984 and stocked up appropriately. The
> expected sales failed to materialise and they were left with large
> numbers of unsold machines. I think it nearly finished off both Acorn
> and Sinclair.

I always understood that the main reason for Acorn needing rescuing in the
mid 80s was trying to sell the BBC Micro in the USA.  There was the
expensive office in New York - they already had one in Covent Garden, London
-  and then the technical effort needed to make the machine comply with the
FCC's emision regulations. ( It put out an enormous amount of rubbish all
over Band II. ).  The delay caused by this work meant they had been
overtaken by IBM clones.

0
charles7889 (2007)
1/16/2005 11:37:28 AM
In article <4d2e1d53a9dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk>, Dave Daniels
<dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk> wrote:
> In article <4d2db33ee0john@cartmell.demon.co.uk>, John Cartmell
>    <john@cartmell.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> > One reason that I got a CPC464 was because there was a waiting list to
> > get on the waiting list to be considered as a potential customer to
> > buy an Electron.

> I did not realise that there was a waiting list for Electrons. I was
> under the impression that they did not sell well.

Coming up to the Christmas after they were announced and on sale they could
have sold a thousand times more than they did. every shop had a waiting
list and then stopped bothering to put even more people on the waiting
list. Of course a large number of them found something else for Christmas
so when they arrived in large numbers 5 or 6 months later there wasn't the
sales there would have been.

> This probably deserves a 'what colour is the sky on your planet?'-type
> reply, but I thought that the number of Electrons left unsold was one of
> the major contributors to Acorn nearly going out of business in the
> mid-1980s when the original home computer market collapsed in the UK.
> Companies sold huge numbers of computers Christmas 1983 and expected the
> same thing to happen in 1984 and stocked up appropriately. The expected
> sales failed to materialise and they were left with large numbers of
> unsold machines. I think it nearly finished off both Acorn and Sinclair.

ISTR I checked every shop in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and
central Milton Keynes and they all had the same problem. They could sell
any number of Electrons but couldn't lay their hands on them. Of course I
didn't bother asking the following year as I already had an Amstrad CPC.
That was followed by an Amstrad PCW and, although I had some hands-on
experience with BBC Bs on courses, that was it until I encountered the
Acorn A3000s much later.

-- 
	John Cartmell	john@ followed by finnybank.com	FAX +44 (0)8700-519-527
	Qercus magazine & FD Games	www.finnybank.com  www.acornuser.com
Qercus - a fusion of Acorn Publisher & Acorn User magazines
0
john233 (5650)
1/16/2005 11:45:01 AM
In article <4d2e1d53a9dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk>,
   Dave Daniels <dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk> wrote:
> In article <4d2db33ee0john@cartmell.demon.co.uk>,
>    John Cartmell <john@cartmell.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> > One reason that I got a CPC464 was because there was a waiting
> > list to get on the waiting list to be considered as a potential
> > customer to buy an Electron.

> I did not realise that there was a waiting list for Electrons. I
> was under the impression that they did not sell well.

Not after the collapse of the market, no; but that was a bit later
than the Elk's launch time, I believe.

> This probably deserves a 'what colour is the sky on your
> planet?'-type reply, but I thought that the number of Electrons
> left unsold was one of the major contributors to Acorn nearly going
> out of business in the mid-1980s when the original home computer
> market collapsed in the UK. Companies sold huge numbers of
> computers Christmas 1983 and expected the same thing to happen in
> 1984 and stocked up appropriately. The expected sales failed to
> materialise and they were left with large numbers of unsold
> machines. I think it nearly finished off both Acorn and Sinclair.

Hmm.  It's just as well that I bought my Beeb in December 1984, by the
looks of things -- I might have single-handedly saved Acorn  ;-)

-- 
John M Ward : RISC OS computing since 1987, now Iyonix-powered!
Acorn/RISC OS web page: www.john-ward.org.uk/personal/john/computers
0
john6145 (907)
1/16/2005 11:49:08 AM
In message <4d2e1d53a9dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk>
          Dave Daniels <dave_daniels@argonet.co.uk> wrote:

> This probably deserves a 'what colour is the sky on your planet?'-type
> reply, but I thought that the number of Electrons left unsold was one
> of the major contributors to Acorn nearly going out of business in the
> mid-1980s when the original home computer market collapsed in the UK.
> Companies sold huge numbers of computers Christmas 1983 and expected
> the same thing to happen in 1984 and stocked up appropriately. The
> expected sales failed to materialise and they were left with large
> numbers of unsold machines. I think it nearly finished off both Acorn
> and Sinclair.

My recollection is that Acorn failed to get Electrons into the shops in
time for Christmas 1984. At around the same time a hugely influential
article appeared in the business pages of one of the Sunday papers
heralding the demise of the personal computer market in general, and
Acorn in particular. Investors got the jitters and Acorn shares
plummeted in early 1985.

Alan

-- 
RISC OS - you know it makes cents
0
spamhater1 (1060)
1/17/2005 11:29:15 AM
In article <ab84a42e4d.spamhater@keepyourfilthyspamtoyourself.co.uk>,
   Alan Wrigley <spamhater@keepyourfilthyspamtoyourself.co.uk> wrote:

> At around the same time a hugely influential article appeared in the
> business pages of one of the Sunday papers heralding the demise of the
> personal computer market in general, and Acorn in particular. Investors
> got the jitters and Acorn shares plummeted in early 1985.

By one Jane Bird, sure on that, in the Times or ST IIRC. It was reported
on in Electron User at the time.

Lionel

-- 
    ___          ______
   /  /         /  ___/       4 children         | Sea Vixen for pugnacity
  /  / ionel A.|   \ mith     8 grandchildren,   | Hunter for elegance
 /  /____     __\   | no wonder life is a breeze | Phantom for clout 
/_______/    /_____/  http://www.argonet.co.uk/users/lionels  |  ZFC B+4+4

From an OS that Windows is too young to remember. ;-)
0
lionels (537)
1/17/2005 4:12:23 PM
Hi,

John Cartmell wrote:

> ISTR I checked every shop in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and
> central Milton Keynes and they all had the same problem. They could sell
> any number of Electrons but couldn't lay their hands on them. Of course I
> didn't bother asking the following year as I already had an Amstrad CPC.
> That was followed by an Amstrad PCW and, although I had some hands-on
> experience with BBC Bs on courses, that was it until I encountered the
> Acorn A3000s much later.

History is littered with this sort of story where a supplier couldn't 
keep up with demand. Other classic examples included the Sinclair QL 
(Queue Long), the Oric Atmos, the SpectraVideo and who can forget the 
grate (that's not a typo!) MSX invasion of 6 months!

Even Commodore had problems getting machines out.

But wait, what's this I hear? For the THIRD year running there was a 
massive shortage of PS2's over the Christmas period.

All I can say is that though we decry them, that there isn't a shortage 
of PCs - pity the OS on them is usually so darned lousy!

TTFN

Paul
0
paul84 (611)
1/18/2005 1:58:40 PM
Paul F. Johnson wrote:
> Hi,
>
> John Cartmell wrote:
>
>> ISTR I checked every shop in Greater Manchester, Lancashire,
>> Cheshire and central Milton Keynes and they all had the same
>> problem. They could sell any number of Electrons but couldn't lay
>> their hands on them. Of course I didn't bother asking the following
>> year as I already had an Amstrad CPC. That was followed by an
>> Amstrad PCW and, although I had some hands-on experience with BBC Bs
>> on courses, that was it until I encountered the Acorn A3000s much
>> later.
>
> History is littered with this sort of story where a supplier couldn't
> keep up with demand. Other classic examples included the Sinclair QL
> (Queue Long), the Oric Atmos, the SpectraVideo and who can forget the
> grate (that's not a typo!) MSX invasion of 6 months!
>
> Even Commodore had problems getting machines out.
>
The difference was that for Acorn it was just one of a huge long string of
cock ups and blunders that they and subsequent RISC OS companies have made.
It's amazing that RISC OS lasted as long as it has (did?).
Cheers!
-- 
Graham
The Deathzone - www.thedeathzone.free-online.co.uk
Deathzone Emulation - www.thedeathzone.free-online.co.uk/emulation


0
thedoctor3 (634)
1/18/2005 4:08:02 PM
"Graham" <thedoctor@thedeathzone.free-online.co.uk> writes:

> Paul F. Johnson wrote:

> > Even Commodore had problems getting machines out.
> >
> The difference was that for Acorn it was just one of a huge long string of
> cock ups and blunders that they and subsequent RISC OS companies have made.
> It's amazing that RISC OS lasted as long as it has (did?).

Basically Acorn guessed wrong on a number of issues that in hindsight
seem obvious, but I'm sure they weren't at the time.  We can all get
wistful about "if Acorn had ..., then ...", but if they had done these
things, they might still have failed and we might be saying "if Acorn
had (the opposite of the above), then ...".  For example, if Acorn
hadn't tried to enter the US market, some people today may blame the
lack of continued success on Acorn not being international enough.

        Torben
0
torbenm265 (288)
1/19/2005 9:01:45 AM
=?iso-8859-1?q?Torben_=C6gidius_Mogensen?= <torbenm@diku.dk> wrote:
>"Graham" <thedoctor@thedeathzone.free-online.co.uk> writes:
>
>> Paul F. Johnson wrote:
>
>> > Even Commodore had problems getting machines out.
>> >
>> The difference was that for Acorn it was just one of a huge long string of
>> cock ups and blunders that they and subsequent RISC OS companies have made.

Equally, though, consider the huge blunders made by IBM, or Apple, or
Intel, or....  There are external factors, too.

>Basically Acorn guessed wrong on a number of issues that in hindsight
>seem obvious, but I'm sure they weren't at the time.  We can all get
>wistful about "if Acorn had ..., then ...", but if they had done these
>things, they might still have failed and we might be saying "if Acorn
>had (the opposite of the above), then ...".  For example, if Acorn
>hadn't tried to enter the US market, some people today may blame the
>lack of continued success on Acorn not being international enough.

It's always very easy to be absolutely right with hindsight.  How many
people here bought shares in Acorn at the very lowest price (4p, IIRC)
and then held on to those (and subsequently the equivalent ARM shares)
until the exact moment of the highest peak of the tech-boom in 2000?
(I believe the maximum possible return works out as something over
five hundred pounds for every one originally invested....)

I certainly wish I'd done it, and if everyone here who wants a Risc
OS portable had done it, paying the development costs would be easy.

Chris.
0
chrisj1 (269)
1/19/2005 3:18:38 PM
In message <Uec*t65Eq@news.chiark.greenend.org.uk>
          Chris Joseph <chrisj@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote:

> It's always very easy to be absolutely right with hindsight.  How many
> people here bought shares in Acorn at the very lowest price (4p, IIRC)
> and then held on to those (and subsequently the equivalent ARM shares)
> until the exact moment of the highest peak of the tech-boom in 2000?
> (I believe the maximum possible return works out as something over
> five hundred pounds for every one originally invested....)

I bought mine after the sharp fall in 1985 (after which they fell
further still) and sold them as ARM shares at the beginning of 2000. I
think I got back 10x my investment.

Alan

-- 
RISC OS - you know it makes cents
0
spamhater1 (1060)
1/19/2005 11:39:52 PM
Reply: