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|Manufacturer||Acorn Computers, Castle Technology|
|Release date||15 April 1994|
|Discontinued||11 November 2003|
|Operating system||RISC OS|
|Successor||Phoebe, Iyonix PC, A9home|
The Risc PC is Acorn Computers's RISC OS/Acorn RISC Machine computer, launched on 15 April 1994, which superseded the Acorn Archimedes. The Acorn PC card and software allows PC compatible software to be run.
Like the Archimedes, the Risc PC continues the practice of having the RISC OS operating system in a ROM module. Risc PC augments the ROM-based core OS with a disk-based directory structure containing configuration information, and some applications which had previously been kept in ROM. At the 1996 BETT Educational Computing & Technology Awards, the machine was awarded Gold in the hardware category.
- CPU: Dual-processor slots, one host processor and one guest processor.
- Memory type: Two 72-pin FPM SIMM slots, supporting a maximum memory size of 256 MiB.
- Video subsystem: VIDC20 controller, with optional dual-port VRAM up to 2 MiB.
- Expansion: Eurocard-sized Podule support in common with Archimedes-series machines. The Risc PC also offers DMA support in the first two podules on the bus. Third parties produced similar cards.
- Operating system: RISC OS, stored in 4 MiB ROM (RISC OS 3.50 shipped on 2 MiB ROMs) supplemented by disc-based components.
- Fitted as standard:
- RISC OS 3.50 (Risc PC 600)
- RISC OS 3.60 (Risc PC 700)
- RISC OS 3.70 (StrongARM Risc PC)
- RISC OS 3.71 (StrongARM Risc PC J233)
- RISC OS 4.03 (Kinetic Risc PC)
- RISC OS 4, RISC OS Select, RISC OS Adjust and RISC OS 6 are available from RISCOS Ltd as a replacement for the Acorn-implemented versions.
- RISC OS 5 from RISC OS Open with the CPU running in 32-bit mode.
- Linux – no longer supported.
- Fitted as standard:
- Case: Designed by industrial designer Allen Boothroyd of Cambridge Product Design (designer of the BBC Micro case). Custom plastic-based design with a 'slice' feature which allows extra case modules to be added to increase internal expansion space. Each slice adds two podule bays at the rear, and two drive bays (one 3.5-inch, one 5.25-inch) at the front, covered by a retractable flap to hide cosmetic inconsistencies in hue. Some slices were internally sprayed with nickel paint to meet electromagnetic and radio emissions regulations.
- CD-ROM drive: Optional extra, offering limited compatibility with multimedia PC CD-ROMs.
- Ports: RS-232 serial, parallel, PS/2 keyboard, Acorn mouse, headphone audio out, DE15 VGA, network (optional).
- Hydra multi-processor development system from Simtec. This plugged into the front processor slot and propagated the two original slots from the standard Risc PC, adding five extra slots, four being used by processor cards (these being the existing ARM610 or ARM710 cards at that time) with one slot accepting a static RAM card acting as a cache or shared memory. The Hydra card provided arbitration logic to manage the multiprocessor functionality, avoiding the need for each processor card to have such logic (as was the case with the 486 processor card which had an ASIC for this purpose), thus providing the hardware basis of a multiprocessing solution for the Risc PC. Simtec were considering Taos and Helios as potential operating systems to make use of the card.
- Dimensions: 117 (182 for two centre-sections) × 355 × 384 mm (H×W×D).
- 1994 – Risc PC 600 launched, featuring a 30 MHz ARM610 CPU.
- 1995 – 40 MHz ARM710 CPU upgrade and Risc PC 700 model launched.
- 1996 – 200 MHz StrongARM CPU upgrade released, offering a five-fold increase in raw processing power compared to the ARM7 used in the previous high-end machines.
- 1997 – Acorn launch Acorn J233 StrongARM Risc PC, featuring an uprated 233 MHz model of StrongARM and including Browser and Java software.
- 1998 – Castle Technology acquire the rights to continue to market and produce the Risc PC during the breakup of Acorn Computers.
- 2000 – In May, Castle Technology reveal the Kinetic Risc PC range which included a faster processor card with onboard memory.
- 2001 – Viewfinder Podule, AGP adapter allows the use of IBM PC clone AGP graphics cards (e.g. a range of ATI Rage and Radeon).
- 2003 – Castle Technology announce the end of production and sale of the Risc PC.
Risc PC 2
Acorn set about designing the Risc PC 2, later renamed to Phoebe 2100 – a design with a 64 MHz front-side bus, PCI slots, and a yellow NLX form-factor case. Slated for release in late 1998, the project was abandoned just before completion, when Acorn's Workstation Division was closed. Only two prototypes were ever built, and one was publicly displayed for historical interest at the RISC OS 2001 show in Berkshire, England. The remaining cases were bought by CTA Direct who sold them off to the public.
In 2003 it was confirmed that no more Risc PCs would be produced. However RISC OS computers based on other ARM processors machines have been manufactured by companies since this date.
- Castle Technology – Iyonix PC based on the Intel XScale ARM processor and PCI bus
- Advantage Six – A9home based on the Samsung S3C2440 ARM processor
- RiscStation – R7500 based on the ARM7500-FE processor
Significantly better performance has been reached on the aged Risc PC design by using the newer 203 (and later 236) MHz StrongARM CPU, using third-party video cards, overclocking, and having specially-designed CPU cards with RAM located upon them to sidestep the speed bottleneck of the slow system bus.
The 16 MHz front-side bus is usually recognised as being the most significant fault of the computer; and the arrival of the (five times faster) StrongARM processor in 1996 meant that the Risc PC had a CPU significantly faster than the computer had been designed for. Acorn had originally expected ARM CPUs to progress from the 30 MHz ARM6 to the 40 MHz ARM7, and then onto the ARM8 cores, which at the time were clocked at around 50–80 MHz. In 2000, Castle released "Kinetic", a new StrongARM processor board with its own onboard memory slots augmenting main memory, reducing the need to negotiate the slow front-side bus for memory accesses.
The podule bus on the Risc PC can achieve a maximum data throughput of approximately 6100 KByte/s. It is 32-bit and Risc PC predecessors have a 16-bit bus. For comparison, the PCI bus, which was available in systems at the time of the Risc PC's introduction, is over 20 times faster. The transfer of 650 MB would take 2 minutes via podule, compared to 5 seconds via PCI.
- Acorn Computers Ltd (12 October 1998). "Acorn announces distribution deal with Castle Technology for RISC based products". Press release. Acorn Computers Ltd. Archived from the original on 6 May 1999. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
(October 12th 1998), Cambridge, UK-Acorn announced today that it has completed negotiations with Castle Technology for them to distribute Acorn products.
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... on Friday April 15th ...
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Acorn has been pressed to give its users access to Windows Multimedia PC CDs ... there are still doubts about full compatibility.
- Penman, Danny (15 April 1994). "Computers: System that holds the right cards". The Independent. London. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
The modular design of the new computer allows a PC 486 processor to be added using a card ...
- "Used Acorn 586 ACA57 Risc PC IBM 5x86C 100MHz Second Generation PC Card". eBay. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
IBM 5x86C 100MHz Second Generation PC Card
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Bourgeois, Derek (1 November 2001). "Score yourself an orchestra". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
Many composers bought an Archimedes simply to have access to the program.
- "Chris's Acorns: ART StrongARM CPU". Chris Whytehead. 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
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- "Viewfinder 2 revealed". Drobe. 19 January 2002. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
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