RISC OS South West Show 2004


In association with Bristol Acorn Risc User Group
and Wessex ARM User Group

Saturday 28th February 2004
The Webbington Hotel
Loxton, nr Axbridge
North Somerset

I have been involved with Acorn machines for 20 years now and I have to admit that I have never been to an official show, mainly due to transport not being available to me. But this year I decided I had to put things right, and where better than the 2004 South West show. And only a 63 mile journey from my base here on the South Coast.

The journey up from Weymouth was very quiet. Set off at 8am, roads pretty deserted all the way. With remenants of snowfall visible on surrounding hills, the roads damp but fortunatly clear of ice.

The venue is a very nice rural setting on the side of a hill with incredible views towards Burnham-on-sea.

Enterance to the main exhibition hall was a very reasonable 3GBP with a 2GBP for members of User groups.

There were 21 exhibitor's in total, they were, in alphabetical order;

Aemulator/Cino, APDL, Archive Publications, Association of Acorn User Groups, BARUG, Castle Technology Ltd, CJE Micro's/4th Dimension, David Snell, Electronic Font Foundry, Fortran Friends, ITC, Oregano, Peter Naulls, Qercus, R-Comp Interactive, Ray Favre, RISCOS Ltd, Serious Stastistical Software, StrongArm Systems, The ARM Club and Virtual Acorn

Brief comments on some of the Exhibitors I visited.

Castle Technology Ltd - A fair scrum of people gathering around castle's central position in the hall. On display, the Iyonix, and in my opinion presented in a non-desirable "cheap PeeCee" looking tower case. But to better this, Castle have put on display their "new" Iyonix entitled the X100. This machine uses the traditional "desktop" case. I have always been a "tower" person in the PeeCee world, but this new X100 really looks the part with a two-tone black/beige case. Without sounding to old-fashion it "could" resemble the old Risc-PC but without that flip-up drive bay door. It can also be stood vertically using the supplied base without any loss of character.
The machine is identical in spec to the standard "tower" Iyonix, with a claimed new design mainboard ie it does away with the legacy podule bus, and will only take low-profile pci expansion cards. I really think the machine in its new guise will sell really well.

The ARM Club - I visited this Exhibitor for a reason. A few weeks back I was having difficulty with one of my A3020's hard disc. So using a free-ware "check-only" version of their DiscKnight program and several emails to the creators of this fine piece of software I managed to get the A3020 running again. In my thanks email to Mr Ruck I told him that I would look into obtaining a full version of the software. I delayed the mail-order route and instead decided to go to this show to thank him personally for the help he gave me in his own personal time and subsequently purchased the Full Version. My thanks again.

CJE Micro's/4th Dimension - Its just one of those things, you talk to people on the telephone, miles away, get comprehensive help and advice in choosing the product you require and a super impressive delivery time on goods ordered. So its a duty to meet them in person and browse there wares first hand.

Qercus - This is the "new" Acorn User/Acorn Publisher merger magazine. I have to admit that the last time that I bought an "Acorn" magazine was June 1993 ehem! So I got to meet the man behind this publication, Mr John Cartmell and purchase the latest issue (number 168 - 2004). Things have certainly moved on in 11 years! I have now read the magazine and despite its rather "unusual" title does still seem to have the "feel" that I remember. I did not at the time sign up for a subscription, this being only due to the fact that I always buy a couple of copies of any magazine before going through that process. But I will give it an open mind (as a returning full-time Acorn/Risc-OS user) and make a decision at a later date.

R-Comp Interactive - Another company that I had to visit. I have recently bought there Internet suite for use on my StrongArm Risc-PC. Tho' switching from M$ to Risc-OS has been a learning curve after such a long time I can see a truly well thought out, and professional product this is, especially MessengerPro. I also had a demonstration of their HTML Edit Studio, as I wish to move maintenance of this website from my PeeCee to my Risc-PC. This software likewise, when given a demonstration, shows its quality. I needed the demo as looking at the product information on the R-Comp website I couldnt get a "feel" for the software as no screenshots were available, unlike when I was choosing the Internet suite with WebsterXL and MessengerPro.
R-Comp were also premiering a new piece of software at this show entitled "Music Man", a complete CD audio/MP3 package.

Theatre Presentations

There were 3 presentation during the day;

The Iyonix Machine, by Jack Lillingston ( M.D. of Castle technology Ltd )

Taking the U out of Qercus, by John Cartmell, introducing the new RISC OS magazine

Future of RISC OS, Paul Middleton ( RISC OS Ltd ) talking about RISC OS developments.

I sat in on the first of these, a 1 hour presentation by Jack Lillingston of Castle Technology Ltd. I would estimate 50-60 people in the room. Mr Lillinston had a desk up-front with an Iyonix running a projector for all of us to see what was going on on-screen. Connected to this was a scanner and a new printer for printing photo-quality images.
The first part of the presentation gave us a display of the speed of the Iyonix, from loading large images to resizing the text in a huge (300 page if I remember correctly) PDF document.
Next, a demonstration of the new printer. Printing out a photo-quality image of a city-scape. The original image was shown on screen and zoomed-in on many times to read a small sign on the side of one building. The newly printed photo was then re-scanned into the Iyonix then enlarged and the sign on the building could still be read. This sign, was unreadable with the naked eye looking at the standard 6x4" print used for the demonstration.
A description of the new X100 Iyonix was given and I couldn't see any "negative" reaction from the room, which is a very good sign.
The presentation over, Mr Lillingston ended with a short Q and A session to which some very good questions were asked and clear an positive answer's given.
The presentation alone was worth the trip, just to hear from the man himself.

Final Thoughts of the Day.

This was my first ever Acorn/Risc-OS show. It was within easy distance ( 130 miles round trip ) and well worth it. I got to see a lot of new developments and meet some of the people behind some of the excellent companies supporting this platform. When you have been away from the Acorn/RISC-OS scene like I have for such a long period ( PeeCee without parole!! ) It really brings you back into the loop.

My main observation which I think needs addressing by the main players in this market is "target audience". What I mean by this is, just from my observations in the Theatre session, I would estimate the audience to be aged between mid 30's (myself included) to 60's. From this I concluded that the people present were also using these machines back in the height of Acorn's reign.
We need younger people to take up RISC-OS as an alternative OS or things could fall apart. Younger people today only know M$ and P$tation. I suppose its because RISC-OS is thought of as "old stuff I used at school". So come on developers, start thinking of how to grab that new generation.

Rich - Classic Acorn

Below are images of the event and items I picked up on the day.

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Front view of the Webbington Hotel.

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A general shot looking down through the show. Castle Technology stand on the right and Oregano in the centre.
The two machines left-rear were set up for gaming. I saw Doom being played on one machine.

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CJE Micro's (Left wall) and R-Comp (Rear wall) had a large crowd throughout the show.
I should have taken many more pictures, will do at my next show.

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A supurb and still shrink-wrapped prior to this photo, Risc-PC x86 upgrade pack.
My Risc-PC 600 has the original 486 sx40 CPU.
This is the second generation 486 dx4-100. It comes complete with an OEM version of IBM's PC-DOS 7.

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A closeup view of the PC card package, consisting of processor card, software disc,
user manual and guarantee registration card. A bit late to fill that in I think!

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A closeup view of the Processor card.

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A view of the side of the box showing Acorn's product code for the package, ACA56

acorn_training_1.jpg - 13Kb
Invaluable resource this. Acorn Training manual, given to service engineers and dealers. It covers all
aspects of fault finding and testing of machines like the A300, A400, A3000, A4000, A5000, A3020 etc.

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A view of one of the fold-out sections showing the chassis components of a A410 machine.

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The required fist-full of brochures that anyone should be armed with whilst browsing a show.
Also my first copy of Qercus magazine.

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Three final items I picked up.
"A Step By Step Guide To The Acorn BBC A3000 And Archimedes Range + Applications, No.3 Data Handling" video.
I remember these being advertised years ago. Dated but interesting to watch.

My full copy of DiscKnight, and a copy of that excellent Archi game "Chocks Away - Compendium".


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