The beginings - The founding of Acorn and the System x machines (1978 to 1980).

Acorn Computers Ltd were founded in December 1978 in Cambridge, England, as Cambridge Processor Unit. The founders, Chris Curry and Herman Hauser, came from Sinclair Research and Cambridge University respectively. Their first contact was with Ace Coin Equipment, to provide fruit machines.

In 1979, Curry and Hauser were approached by Roger Wilson, who had developed a machine but had no OS ROM for it. The software had been written but not tested. Acorn's facilities were used to blow the operating system software in to a PROM. The PROM was plugged in and the machine switched on - and booted first time. It turned out that there were only two minor bugs in the software, both to do with LED configurations. This machine became known as the System 1.

The System 1 was based on the 8-bit Mostek 6502 processor and was supplied with 256 bytes of RAM, a 512 byte monitor in ROM, a keypad and a cassette interface. The System 1 was sold as a self assembly kit for £69. A variety of add-ons were produced for this machine, with one of the more interesting ones being a device that, when connected up and switched on, would play "God Save The Queen".

Systems 2, 3 and 4 followed in from the System 1, and were enhancements of the basic machine with up to 32 Kb of RAM, a variety of different computers and a selection of additional interfaces, including a VDU, analogue and disc interfaces. The System x range reached a peak in 1980, with the System 5. This was a rack-based modular system, based on a slightly faster version of the 6502 than the previous models in the range.

Next: The entry into the home market - The Acorn Atom (1980).

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Robert McMordie

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