Revisions to the range - the A30x0, A4000 and Pocket Book (1992), and the A5000 Alpha Variant (1993).

A few months after the introduction of the A4 in mid 1992, Acorn announced a revised range of RISC OS 3 based computers. The three main machines in the range were developments of the A3000, which each model in the revised range being aimed at a different segment of the market.

The three new machines were all based around the ARM 250 chip. This was essentially an ARM 2 with the VIDC, MEMC and IOC chips all included on the same piece of sillicon. The only difference between the separate chip and integrated chip systems was the clock speed - 12 MHz, as opposed to 8 MHz. The machines inherited the A5000's 1.6 Mb floppy drive and, like the A5000, the serial and parallel ports were also pin-compatible with the equivalent ports on a PC (unlike the earlier Archimedes and A3000 systems).

The low end machine, the A3010, was aimed at the home market. The case design was a bit of a departure from the norm for Acorn - like the A3000 it was a "one box" design with the floppy drive on the right side at the back, but rather than the standard "BBC beige" with red function keys the A3010 had a grey case with green function keys. The A3010 had all the standard connectors (monitor, mouse, headphones, parallel port and serial port) but because the machine was aimed at the home market it also had the ability to drive a standard TV, and featured two joystick ports. The A3010 could take 1 Mb or 2 Mb of memory, and had no hard disc upgrade option.

The next machine in the range, the A3020, was aimed at the education market. Apart from the colour (which was returned to BBC beige with red function keys) the case design was identical to the A3010. Most of the interfaces were identical as well, but there was no TV output and the joystick ports were replaced with a single 9 pin network socket, that could serve as either an Econet or Ethernet interface, depending on which interface card the user fitted to the machine. The A3020 came with 2 Mb of memory as standard (upgradable to 4 Mb), and there was an option to fit a 60 Mb IDE hard drive. Both the A3010 and A3020 could only accommodate one internal mini-podule, rather than the internal mini-podule and external full size podule that the A3000 could cope with.

The third new machine was the A4000. This machine was essentially an A3020 in a "three-box" format (which was in the same style as the A5000 but not as tall) and with an 80 Mb IDE hard drive as standard. The case design was very similar to the A5000, but was not as tall. This machine was aimed firmly at the home office market.

The basic machines cost £499.95 including VAT for the A3010 (1 Mb RAM), £880.08 including VAT for the A3020 (2 Mb RAM, CGA monitor, no hard drive, £1056.33 including VAT for the A3020 with 60 Mb hard drive, and £1115.08 including VAT for the A4000 (2 Mb RAM, 80 Mb hard drive, CGA monitor). Acorn also introduced the Family Solution (an A3010 bundled with Easiword and a game) and a new version of the Learning Curve (again, with an A3010 and some bundled software). The A4000 could also be provided with a selection of bundled software.

The final new machine was a radical departure for Acorn. It was called the Pocket Book and it was a re-badged version of the Psion Series 3. The main changes were the addition of a file transfer system (written by Computers Concepts) to allow Pocket Book files to be transferred to RISC OS machines, and the addition of the Acorn logo to the main startup screen. The machine had 256 Kb of RAM and cost about £250.

The A5000 was also upgraded at this time. The hard drive in the base model, previously a 40 Mb IDE unit, was replaced with an 80 Mb IDE unit. The memory remained the same, at 2 Mb. Several new models were introduced, one model with 4 Mb and a 120 Mb IDE hard drive, and two discless models, one with an Econet interface and one with an Ethernet interface, under the name A5000 NS. A Learning Curve package was also available. The upgraded range prices were £1299 (ex VAT) for the 2 Mb 80 Mb drive model, £1599 (ex VAT) for the 4 Mb 120 Mb drive model, £1299 (ex VAT) for the Econet A5000 NS, £1399 (ex VAT) for the Ethernet A5000 NS and £1445.96 (ex VAT) for the Learning Curve package.

The new Acorn range remained as it was until about September 1993 before the next update occurred. This time round, it was only the A5000 that was upgraded. Until this point, the A5000 had featured an ARM 3 clocked at 25 MHz. The revised A5000 included an ARM 3 that was clocked to 33 MHz, and could have a 33 MHz Floating Point Arithmetic unit added. The hard drive size of the 4 Mb model was also increased to 160 Mb. The 2 Mb model kept its 80 Mb drive. This upgrade was only a stop-gap measure, to help keep the A5000 looking competitive, until the new, second generation Acorn RISC OS machine arrived, in almost a year's time.

Next: The next generation - the RISC PC 600 (1994).

Click here to return home or here to return to the Technical History of Acorn.

Robert McMordie

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