TThe aftermath - RISC OS 4 and new systems (1998 to present day).

Immediately after Black Wednesday a number of groups were established to try to save Phoebe, but to no avail. RISC OS, however, was luckier.

One of the companies set up after Black Wednesday was RISCOS Ltd. After six or so months of negotiation, Acorn licenced RISC OS 4 to RISCOS Ltd to allow them to complete it. RISCOS Ltd agreed to produce an interim 26 bit verion (for compatibility with exising processors) with a full 32 bit version at some time in the future (following on from Intel's decision to drop the 26 bit modes and go for the full 32 bits - Digital's chipmaking concern was brought by Intel during 1997, I believe).

RISC OS 4 was finally released in July 1999, as an upgrade for A7000, A7000+ and Risc PC machines. The main features were a massive speed increase, full millennium compliancy, enhanced security, support for 256 Gb hard drives and compatibility with eariler software. At the time of writing (April 2002) RISC OS 4 is on version 4.03 and is still being developed. See my Acorn links page for a link to RISCOS Ltd.

Manufacturing the existing hardware, the A7000+ and StrongARM Risc PC, was eventually taken on by Castle Technology, and both the A7000+ and the Risc PC (now powered by a 300 MHz StrongARM and called the Kinetic Risc PC) is still in production.

These machines have been joined by a number of non-Acorn RISC OS-based systems. These have included the RiscStation R7500 and Microdigital's Mico machine. At the time of writing a glance at an advert in Acorn User reveals the Kinetic Risc PC, RiscStation R7500, netWORX, RiscStation Portable and Microdigital Omega machines for sale.

Today the Acorn market is still surviving, supported by both dedicated individuals such as Paul Vigay and David Pilling, and companies such as RISCOS Ltd, Castle and Microdigital. (See my Acorn links page for an incomplete list of Acorn companies.) Acorn User is still going strong and recently had a facelift. There are still regular shows, the most prominent being the annual Wakefield show. ARM Ltd is going from strength to strength, helped by the fact that ARM processors are very low power units, and are thus ideal for handheld machines and mobile phones.

And what of Acorn? Acorn rebranded as Element 14 in late 1998 or early 1999 and eventually sold its set top box concern to Pace Micro Technology Ltd for £200,000, positioning itself as a supplier of low-power digital subscriber line chipsets, software and technology. Element 14 ceased to be on 24th November 2000, when it was acquired by Broadvision. Acorn's products, however, live on.


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Robert McMordie

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