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On this page, by way of introducing RISC OS to newcomers, brief answers are given to the following four questions:
• What is RISC OS ?
• What is Raspberry Pi ?
• What is the brief history of RISC OS and Acorn Computers ?
• How do I install RISC OS on my computer ?
What is RISC OS ?
RISC OS provides an alternative way of controlling a computer. It appeals to those who want to understand their computer better by interacting with it at a more fundamental level. So, for example, RISC OS does not have hidden files and its applications typically have all necessary components in one directory rather than spread around several. Typically, it's easy to look at the components of an application such as the images (called sprites), the windows and even the program code itself. RISC OS encourages users to experiment and tinker.
RISC OS features a wonderful graphical interface, which uses windows in an ingenious manner, and makes clever use of context sensitive menus. Experienced users often comment on how efficiently RISC OS allows tasks to be tackled. This is partly because RISC OS facilitates users having several different applications open on the desktop at the same time, and using drag and drop to get these effortlessly interacting with one another. All applications work in a similar way, so getting to grips with new software is generally quick and easy.
RISC OS works well at different scales. This screen shot of a tiny (640 by 480 pixel) screen shows a typical RISC OS application in use. The large window contains the running application. The window top right shows a view of the contents of a USB pen drive where the !Flicker application is stored. The window lower right shows 'inside' the application and the individual files from which it is constructed. The file !Sprites contains the images used, while !Runimage is the program code. This code can be inspected by the curious to see how the application works. There is nothing to prevent !Flicker from being altered. The graphics can be changed, or sections of the modular program code can be taken out for use in another application. RISC OS (and this application) does not hide anything from the user.
Another account of 'What is RISC OS ?'
What is Raspberry Pi ?
Raspberry Pi is a computer attracting a lot of attention because of its low cost of around £28. It is being hailed as the device that will make writing computer code cool again, and around which the importance of understanding properly how a computer works will be reaffirmed. The UK used to be a world leader in computing technology but has recently been accused of having lost it's way, particularly in how computing is taught in schools. Demand for the Raspberry Pi has been substantial with 40000 units per week currently (May 2013) being manufactured in Wales. The high street chain, Maplin, now sell the Raspberry Pi, or it can be ordered online from Farnell Element 14. A 'beta' version of RISC OS is available to run on the Raspberry Pi from RISC OS Open Ltd. They offer RISC OS as a free download, or already set up on an SD card which, when inserted into the Raspberry Pi, effortlessly turns it into a RISC OS computer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Raspberry Pi
What is the brief history of RISC OS and Acorn Computers ?
Acorn Computers were one of several companies involved in the 1980s explosion in personal computing in the UK. They manufactured a string of 8-bit computers; Atom (1980), BBC Micro (1981), Acorn Electron (1984), and BBC Master (1986).
Acorn jumped from making 8-bit machines to 32-bit with the Acorn Archimedes (1987). The next major update came with the launch of the Risc PC (1994). This received a significant performance upgrade with the development of the StrongARM CPU card (1996).
In 1998 Acorn Computers unexpectedly abandoned the desktop computing market. A new machine, called Pheobe 2100, was cancelled at an advanced stage of development. Castle Technology took over manufacture of the Risc PC before producing a new machine, the Iyonix (2002).
It became possible to robustly run RISC OS on Microsoft Windows and Apple computers via Virtual Acorn (2004). Such emulation seemed to be the future of RISC OS until Jeffrey Lee succeeded in getting RISC OS to run on an open source hardware project, the Beagleboard (2009). This, in turn, led to a new 'proper' RISC OS machine, the ARMini (2011). Building upon these achievements, RISC OS is now making the Raspberry Pi its new home.
Chris Why's Acorn and RISC OS Collection
How do I install RISC OS on my computer ?
RISC OS can be installed on most computers and this need not cost anything. Effort by the RISC OS community during 2013 are focussed on making this straight-forward.
Latest : 6th May 2013
To install RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi either download the latest release (version 8) for free or purchase it pre-installed on an SD card from the RISC OS Open Ltd website. The NutPi is a collection of quality RISC OS software for the Raspberry Pi sold by RISC OS Open Ltd for a fraction of its previous price. Older (26-bit) RISC OS software can be run on the Raspberry Pi using Aemulor.
Latest : 6th May 2013
RISC OS Open Ltd sell a £10 'Native' USB pen drive containing RISC OS for the BeagleBoard. Alternatively, those with technical knowledge may download RISC OS, without cost, from the downloads page of the ROOL website.
Microsoft and Apple machines
Latest : 6th May 2013
1) Virtual Acorn sells an outstanding RISC OS emulation product.
2) Risc OS Open Ltd sells a £10 'Emulate' USB pen drive containing RISC OS for the Windows and Mac. Alternatively, those with technical knowledge may download RISC OS, without cost, from the downloads page of the ROOL website and use the open source RISC OS emulator, RPCEmu.
ARMini, Iyonix, StrongARM Risc PC, A9
Latest : 6th May 2013
1) The ARMini is the latest 'proper' RISC OS machine and is sold by R-Comp. This contains a BeagleBoard with 'value added' by R-Comp such as installation in a proper case, power supply, lots of extra software, etc. They also sell windows desktop & laptop machines with RISC OS emulation already installed.
2) CJEmicros, & APDL, sell second hand Risc PCs. eBay is another source of such machines. The 'charity stall' at each of the five annual RISC OS shows often features inexpensive hardware. A StrongARM Risc PC runs at a quarter of the speed of modern machines such as the ARMini, Beagleboard or a third of the speed of the Raspberry Pi. Risc PCs can be upgraded with USB, graphics cards and extra VRAM or RAM but this can end up being expensive. Seek advice on the RISC OS forums or from a dealer. The Iyonix is a desirable machine, but only available second hand and likely to cost around £300.
RISCOScode aims to cover all aspects of the RISC OS scene in a fun and lighthearted manner, in as much depth as required, but also in a way that makes the RISC OS world accessible to newcomers. Launched in June 2008, RISCOScode has been simplified and given a modern look for 2013.
Martin Hansen : Editor, News.
Helen Jones : Sub-editor.
Peter Shawbury : Features, Webmaster.
Alice Green : Advertising, Production.
Alan Howlett : Website advice.
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