Acorn Computers

Acorn Computers Ltd. was a British computer company established in Cambridge, England, in 1978. The company produced a number of computers which were especially popular in the UK, including the Acorn Electron and the Acorn Archimedes. Acorn's BBC Micro computer dominated the UK educational computer market during the 1980s.[1]

Acorn Computers Ltd.
IndustryComputer hardware
FoundedDecember 1978; 42 years ago (1978-12)
Founder
DefunctDecember 9, 2015; 5 years ago (2015-12-09)
FateBought by MSDW Investment Holdings Limited
HeadquartersCambridge, England, United Kingdom
Key people
Products

Though the company was broken up into several independent operations in 1998, its legacy includes the development of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) personal computers. One of its operating systems, RISC OS, continues to be developed by RISC OS Open. Some of Acorn's former subsidiaries lived on: ARM Holdings technology is dominant in the mobile phone and personal digital assistant (PDA) microprocessor market.[2]

Acorn is sometimes referred to as the "British Apple"[3][4] and has been compared to Fairchild Semiconductor for being a catalyst for start-ups.[5][6] In 2010, the company was listed by David Meyer in ZDNet as number nine in a feature of top ten "Dead IT giants".[7] Many British IT professionals gained their early experiences on Acorns, which were often more technically advanced than commercially successful US hardware.[8]

HistoryEdit

Early historyEdit

On 25 July 1961, Clive Sinclair founded Sinclair Radionics to develop and sell electronic devices such as calculators.[citation needed] The failure of the Black Watch wristwatch and the calculator market's move from LEDs to LCDs led to financial problems, and Sinclair approached government body the National Enterprise Board (NEB) for help.[citation needed] After losing control of the company to the NEB, Sinclair encouraged Chris Curry to leave Radionics and get Science of Cambridge (SoC—an early name for Sinclair Research) up and running. In June 1978, SoC launched a microcomputer kit, the Mk 14, that Curry wanted to develop further, but Sinclair could not be persuaded so Curry resigned.[9] During the development of the Mk 14, Hermann Hauser, a friend of Curry's, had been visiting SoC's offices and had grown interested in the product.

CPU Ltd. (1978–1983)Edit

 
Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry in Cambridge

Curry and Hauser decided to pursue their joint interest in microcomputers and, on 5 December 1978, they set up Cambridge Processor Unit Ltd. (CPU) as the vehicle with which to do this.[10] CPU soon obtained a consultancy contract to develop a microprocessor-based controller for a fruit machine for Ace Coin Equipment (ACE) of Wales. The ACE project was started at office space obtained at 4a Market Hill in Cambridge. Initially, the ACE controller was based on a National Semiconductor SC/MP microprocessor, but soon the switch to a MOS Technology 6502 was made.

The microcomputer systemsEdit

CPU had financed the development of a SC/MP based microcomputer system using the income from its design-and-build consultancy. This system was launched in January 1979 as the first product of Acorn Computer Ltd., a trading name used by CPU to keep the risks of the two different lines of business separate. The microcomputer kit was named as Acorn System 75. Acorn was chosen because the microcomputer system was to be expandable and growth-oriented. It also had the attraction of appearing before "Apple Computer" in a telephone directory.[11]

 
March 1979 price list

Around this time, CPU and Andy Hopper set up Orbis Ltd. to commercialise the Cambridge Ring networking system Hopper had worked on for his PhD, but it was soon decided to bring him into CPU as a director because he could promote CPU's interests at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory. CPU purchased Orbis, and Hopper's Orbis shares were exchanged for shares in CPU Ltd. CPU's role gradually changed as its Acorn brand grew, and soon CPU was simply the holding company and Acorn was responsible for development work. At some point, Curry had a disagreement with Sinclair and formally left Science of Cambridge, but did not join the other Acorn employees at Market Hill until a little while later.

 
The Acorn System 1, upper board; this one was shipped on 9 April 1979.

The Acorn Microcomputer, later renamed the Acorn System 1, was designed by Sophie Wilson (then Roger Wilson). It was a semi-professional system aimed at engineering and laboratory users, but its price was low enough, at around £80 (equivalent to £350 in 2019),[12] to appeal to the more serious enthusiast as well. It was a very small machine built on two cards, one with an LED display, keypad, and cassette interface (the circuitry to the left of the keypad), and the other with the rest of the computer (including the CPU). Almost all CPU signals were accessible via a Eurocard connector.

The System 2 made it easier to expand the system by putting the CPU card from the System 1 in a 19-inch (480 mm) Eurocard rack that allowed a number of optional additions.[13] The System 2 typically shipped with keyboard controller, external keyboard, a text display interface, and a cassette operating system with built-in BASIC interpreter.

The System 3 moved on by adding floppy disk support,[14] and the System 4 by including a larger case with a second drive.[15] The System 5 was largely similar to the System 4, but included a newer 2 MHz version of the 6502.[16]

The AtomEdit

 
The Acorn Atom

Development of the Sinclair ZX80 started at Science of Cambridge in May 1979. Learning of this probably prompted Curry to conceive the Atom project to target the consumer market. Curry and another designer, Nick Toop, worked from Curry's home in the Fens on the development of this machine. It was at this time that Acorn Computers Ltd. was incorporated and Curry moved to Acorn full-time.

It was Curry who wanted to target the consumer market—other factions within Acorn, including the engineers, were happy to be out of that market, considering a home computer to be a rather frivolous product for a company operating in the laboratory equipment market. To keep costs down and not give the doubters reason to object to the Atom, Curry asked industrial designer Allen Boothroyd to design a case that could also function as an external keyboard for the microcomputer systems. The internals of the System 3 were placed inside the keyboard, creating a quite typical set-up for an inexpensive home computer of the early 1980s—the relatively successful Acorn Atom. A Business model called the 'Prophet' was produced at this time.[17]

To facilitate software development, a proprietary local area network had been installed at Market Hill. It was decided to include this, the Econet, in the Atom, and at its launch at a computer show in March 1980, eight networked Atoms were demonstrated with functions that allowed files to be shared, screens to be remotely viewed and keyboards to be remotely slaved.

BBC Micro and the ElectronEdit

 
The BBC micro released by Acorn in 1981

After the Atom had been released into the market, Acorn contemplated building modern 16-bit processors to replace the Atom. After a great deal of discussion, Hauser suggested a compromise—an improved 6502-based machine with far greater expansion capabilities: the Proton. Acorn's technical staff had not wanted to do the Atom and they now saw the Proton as their opportunity to "do it right".[citation needed]

One of the developments proposed for the Proton was the Tube, a proprietary interface allowing a second processor to be added. This compromise would make for an affordable 6502 machine for the mass market which could be expanded with more sophisticated and expensive processors. The Tube enabled processing to be farmed out to the second processor leaving the 6502 to perform data input/output (I/O). The Tube would later be instrumental in the development of Acorn's ARM processor.[18]

In early 1980, the BBC Further Education department conceived the idea of a computer literacy programme, mostly as a follow-up to an ITV documentary, The Mighty Micro, in which Dr Christopher Evans from the UK National Physical Laboratory predicted the coming microcomputer revolution.[19] It was a very influential documentary—so much so that questions were asked in Parliament. As a result of these questions, the Department of Industry (DoI) became interested in the programme, as did BBC Enterprises, which saw an opportunity to sell a machine to go with the series. BBC Engineering was instructed to draw up an objective specification for a computer to accompany the series.

Eventually, under some pressure from the DoI to choose a British system, the BBC chose the NewBrain from Newbury Laboratories. This selection revealed the extent of the pressure brought to bear on the supposedly independent BBC's computer literacy project—Newbury was owned by the National Enterprise Board, a government agency operating in close collaboration with the DoI. The choice was also somewhat ironic given that the NewBrain started life as a Sinclair Radionics project, and it was Sinclair's preference for developing it over Science of Cambridge's MK14 that led to Curry leaving SoC to found CPU with Hauser.[citation needed] The NEB moved the NewBrain to Newbury after Sinclair left Radionics and went to SoC.

In 1980–1982, the British Department of Education and Science (DES) had begun the Microelectronics Education Programme to introduce microprocessing concepts and educational materials. In 1981 through to 1986, the DoI allocated funding to assist UK local education authorities to supply their schools with a range of computers, the BBC Micro being one of the most popular. Schools were offered 50% of the cost of computers, providing they chose one of three models: BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum or Research Machines 380Z.[20] In parallel, the DES continued to fund more materials for the computers, such as software and applied computing projects, plus teacher training.

 
The Electron, Acorn's sub-£200 competitor to the ZX Spectrum

Although the NewBrain was under heavy development by Newbury, it soon became clear that they were not going to be able to produce it—certainly not in time for the literacy programme nor to the BBC's specification. The BBC's programmes, initially scheduled for autumn 1981, were moved back to spring 1982. After Curry and Sinclair found out about the BBC's plans, the BBC allowed other manufacturers to submit their proposals. Hauser quickly drafted in Steve Furber (who had been working for Acorn on a voluntary basis since the ACE fruit machine project) and Sophie Wilson to help complete a revised version of the Proton which met the BBC's specifications. BBC visited Acorn and were given a demonstration of the Proton. Shortly afterwards, the literacy programme computer contract was awarded to Acorn, and the Proton was launched in December 1981 as the BBC Micro. In April 1984, Acorn won the Queen's Award for Technology for the BBC Micro. The award paid special tribute to the BBC Micro's advanced design, and it commended Acorn "for the development of a microcomputer system with many innovative features".

 
Principal creators of the BBC micro in 2008, some 26 years after its release

In April 1982, Sinclair launched the ZX Spectrum. Curry conceived of the Electron as Acorn's sub-£200 competitor. In many ways a cut-down BBC Micro, it used one Acorn-designed uncommitted logic array (ULA) to reproduce most of the functionality. But problems in producing the ULAs led to short supply, and the Electron, although launched in August 1983, was not on the market in sufficient numbers to capitalise on the 1983 Christmas sales period. Acorn resolved to avoid this problem in 1984 and negotiated new production contracts. Acorn became more known for its BBC Micro model B than for its other products.[21]

In 2008, the Computer Conservation Society organised an event at London's Science Museum to mark the legacy of the BBC Micro. A number of the BBC Micro's principal creators were present, and Sophie Wilson recounted to the BBC how Hermann Hauser tricked her and Steve Furber to agree to create the physical prototype in less than five days.[22] Also in 2008 a number of former staff organised a reunion event to mark the 30th anniversary of the company's formation.[23][24][25][26]

1983–1985: Acorn Computer GroupEdit

The BBC Micro sold well—so much so that Acorn's profits rose from £3000 in 1979 to £8.6m in July 1983. In September 1983, CPU shares were liquidated and Acorn was floated on the Unlisted Securities Market as Acorn Computer Group plc, with Acorn Computers Ltd. as the microcomputer division. With a minimum tender price of 120p, the group came into existence with a market capitalisation of about £135 million.[27] CPU founders Hermann Hauser and Chris Curry's stakes in the new company were worth £64m and £51m, respectively.[28] Ten percent of the equity was placed on the market, with the money raised from the flotation "mainly" directed towards establishing US and German subsidiaries, although some was directed towards research and product development.[29]

By the end of 1984, Acorn Computer Group was organised into several subsidiary companies. Acorn Computers Limited was responsible for the management of the microcomputer business, research and development, and UK sales and marketing, whereas Acorn Computer Corporation and Acorn Computers International Limited dealt with sales to the USA and to other international markets respectively. Acorn Computers (Far East) Limited focused on component procurement and manufacturing with some distribution responsibilities in local markets. Acornsoft Limited was responsible for development, production and marketing of software for Acorn's computer range. Vector Marketing Limited was established to handle distribution-related logistics and the increasing customer support burden. As part of Acorn's office automation aspirations, conducting "advanced software research and development", Acorn Research Center Incorporated was established in Palo Alto, California. Acorn Leasing Limited rounded out the portfolio.[30]

New RISC architectureEdit

Even from the time of the Atom, Acorn were considering how to move on from the 6502 processor: the 16-bit Acorn Communicator developed in 1985, using the 65816 being a key example.

The IBM PC was launched on 12 August 1981.[31] Although a version of that machine was aimed at the enthusiast market much like the BBC Micro, its real area of success was business. The successor to the PC, the XT (eXtended Technology) was introduced in early 1983. The success of these machines and the variety of Z80-based CP/M machines in the business sector demonstrated that it was a viable market, especially given that sector's ability to cope with premium prices. The development of a business machine looked like a good idea to Acorn. A development programme was started to create a business computer using Acorn's existing technology—the BBC Micro mainboard, the Tube and second processors to give CP/M, MS-DOS and Unix (Xenix) workstations.

This Acorn Business Computer (ABC) plan required a number of second processors to be made to work with the BBC Micro platform. In developing these, Acorn had to implement the Tube protocols on each processor chosen, in the process finding out, during 1983, that there were no obvious candidates to replace the 6502. Because of many-cycle uninterruptible instructions, for example, the interrupt response times of the Motorola 68000 were too slow to handle the communication protocol that the host 6502-based BBC Micro coped with easily. The National Semiconductor 32016-based model of the ABC range, was developed and later sold in 1985 as the Cambridge Workstation (using the Panos operating system).[32] Advertising for this machine in 1986 included an illustration of an office worker using the workstation. The advert claimed mainframe power at a price of £3,480 (excluding VAT). The main text of the advertisement referred to available mainframe languages, communication capabilities and the alternative option of upgrading a BBC Micro using a coprocessor.[33] The machine had shown Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber the value of memory bandwidth. It also showed that an 8 MHz 32016 was completely trounced in performance terms by a 4 MHz 6502. Furthermore, the Apple Lisa had shown the Acorn engineers that they needed to develop a windowing system—and this was not going to be easy with a 2–4 MHz 6502-based system doing the graphics. Acorn would need a new architecture.

 
Cambridge Workstation advert in New Scientist, 24 April 1986 issue

Acorn had investigated all of the readily available processors and found them wanting[9] or unavailable to them.[5] After testing all of the available processors and finding them lacking, Acorn decided that it needed a new architecture. Inspired by white papers on the Berkeley RISC project, Acorn seriously considered designing its own processor.[34] A visit to the Western Design Center in Phoenix, where the 6502 was being updated by what was effectively a single-person company, showed Acorn engineers Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson they did not need massive resources and state-of-the-art research and development facilities.[35]

Sophie Wilson set about developing the instruction set, writing a simulation of the processor in BBC Basic that ran on a BBC Micro with a 6502 second processor. It convinced the Acorn engineers that they were on the right track. Before they could go any further, however, they would need more resources. It was time for Wilson to approach Hauser and explain what was afoot. Once the go-ahead had been given, a small team was put together to implement Wilson's model in hardware.

 
Advert in New Scientist, 31 July 1986 issue

The official Acorn RISC Machine project started in October 1983,[specify] with Acorn spending £5 million on it by 1987.[36] VLSI Technology, Inc were chosen as silicon partner, since they already supplied Acorn with ROMs and some custom chips. VLSI produced the first ARM silicon on 26 April 1985[37]—it worked first time and came to be known as ARM1. Its first practical application was as a second processor to the BBC Micro, where it was used to develop the simulation software to finish work on the support chips (VIDC, IOC, MEMC) and to speed up the operation of the CAD software used in developing ARM2. The ARM evaluation system was promoted as a means for developers to try the system for themselves. This system was used with a BBC Micro and a PC compatible version was also planned.[clarification needed] Advertising was aimed at those with technical expertise, rather than consumers and the education market, with a number of technical specifications listed in the main text of the adverts.[38] Wilson subsequently coded BBC Basic in ARM assembly language, and the in-depth knowledge obtained from designing the instruction set allowed the code to be very dense, making ARM BBC Basic an extremely good test for any ARM emulator.

Such was the secrecy surrounding the ARM CPU project that when Olivetti were negotiating to take a controlling share of Acorn in 1985, they were not told about the development team until after the negotiations had been finalised. In 1992, Acorn once more won the Queen's Award for Technology for the ARM.[39] Acorn's development of their RISC OS operating system required around 200 OS development staff at its peak.[40] Acorn C/C++ was released commercially by Acorn, for developers to use to compile their own applications.

Financial problemsEdit

Having become a publicly traded company in 1983 during the home computer boom, Acorn's commercial performance in 1984 proved to be consequential. Many home computer manufacturers struggled to maintain customer enthusiasm, some offering unconvincing follow-up products that failed to appeal to buyers. The more successful manufacturers, like Amstrad, emphasised the bundling of computers with essential peripherals such as monitors and cassette recorders along with value for money. The collapse of the market from the manufacturers' perspective, it was argued, was due to the "neglect of the market by the manufacturers".[41] Market adversity had led to Atari being sold,[42] and Apple nearly went bankrupt.

The Electron had been launched in 1983, but problems with the supply of its ULA meant that Acorn was not able to capitalise on the 1983 Christmas selling period.[43] A successful advertising campaign, including TV advertisements, had led to 300,000 orders, but the Malaysian suppliers were only able to supply 30,000 machines.[citation needed] The apparently strong demand for Electrons proved to be ephemeral: rather than wait, parents bought Commodore 64s or ZX Spectrums for their children's presents. Ferranti solved the production problem and in 1984, production reached its anticipated volumes, but the contracts Acorn had negotiated with its suppliers were not flexible enough to allow volumes to be reduced quickly in this unanticipated situation, and supplies of the Electron built up. At the time of the eventual financial rescue of Acorn in early 1985, it still had 100,000 unsold Electrons plus an inventory of components which had all been paid for and needed to be stored at additional expense.[44] 40,000 BBC Micros also remained unsold.[29]

After a disappointing summer season in 1984, Acorn had evidently focused on making up for lost sales over the Christmas season, with the Electron being a particular focus. However, a refusal to discount the BBC Micro also appeared to inhibit sales of that machine, with some dealers expressing dissatisfaction to the point of considering abandoning the range altogether. With rumours of another, potentially cheaper, machine coming from Acorn,[41] dealers eventually started to discount heavily after Christmas.[45] For instance, high street retailer Rumbelows sought to clear unsold Christmas stocks of around 1500 machines priced at £299, offering a discount of around £100, also bundling them with a cassette recorder and software.[46] The rumoured machine turned out to be the BBC Model B+ which was a relatively conservative upgrade and more, not less, expensive than the machine it replaced.[47] It was speculated that the perception of a more competitive machine soon to be launched might well have kept potential purchasers away from the products that Acorn needed to sell.[48]

Acorn was also spending a large portion of its reserves on development: the BBC Master was being developed; the ARM project was underway; the Acorn Business Computer entailed a lot of development work but ultimately proved to be something of a flop, with only the 32016-based version ever being sold (as the Cambridge Workstation); and obtaining Federal approval for the BBC Micro in order to expand into the United States proved to be a drawn-out and expensive process that proved futile—all of the expansion devices that were intended to be sold with the BBC Micro had to be tested and radiation emissions had to be reduced. Around $20m was sunk into the U.S. operation, but the NTSC-modified BBC Micros sold barely at all. They did, however, make an appearance in the school of Supergirl in the 1984 film Supergirl: The Movie.[49]

Acorn also made or attempted various acquisitions. The Computer Education in Schools division of ICL was acquired by Acorn in late 1983 "reportedly for less than £100,000", transferring a staff of six to Acorn's Maidenhead office to form Acorn's Educational Services division and to provide "the core of education support development within Acorn".[50] Having had a close relationship with Torch Computers in the early 1980s, Acorn sought to acquire Torch in 1984 with the intention of making Torch "effectively the business arm" of Acorn, despite a lack of clarity about competing product lines and uncertainty about the future of Acorn's still-unreleased business machine within any rationalised product range,[51] although this acquisition was never completed,[52] with Torch having pulled out as Acorn's situation deteriorated.[53] At around the same time, Acorn also bought into Torus Systems - a company developing a "graphics-controlled local network called Icon" for the IBM PC platform - to broaden Acorn's networking expertise,[54] Icon being based on Ethernet as opposed to the Acorn-related Econet and Cambridge Ring technologies.[55] (Torus also released a network management solution called Tapestry.[56] The company eventually entered receivership in 1990 with Acorn reporting a £242,000 loss associated with the investment.[57])

In February 1985, speculation about the state of Acorn's finances intensified with the appointment of a temporary chief executive, Alexander Reid, to run the company, together with the announcement that Acorn had replaced its financial advisors, Lazards, and that the company's stockbrokers, Cazenove, had resigned, ultimately leading to the suspension of Acorn shares, these having fallen to a low of 23 pence per share. With these events reportedly being the result of disagreement between Acorn and Lazards over the measures needed to rescue the company, with Lazards favouring a sale or refinancing whereby the founders would lose control, Acorn and their replacement advisors, Close Brothers, were reported to be pursuing a "radical reorganisation of the company".[52] Lazards had sought to attract financing from GEC but had failed to do so. Close Brothers also found themselves in the position of seeking a financing partner for Acorn, but in a significantly more urgent timeframe, making "financial institutions or a large computer company" the most likely candidates, these having the necessary resources and decision-making agility for a timely intervention.[29]

1985–1998: Olivetti subsidiaryEdit

The dire financial situation was brought to a head in February 1985, when one of Acorn's creditors issued a winding-up petition.[58] It would eventually emerge that Acorn owed £31.1 million to various creditors including manufacturers AB Electronics and Wong's Electronics.[59] During the search for potential financing partners, an Olivetti director had approached Close Brothers, ostensibly as part of Olivetti's strategy of acquiring technologically advanced small companies.[29] After a short period of negotiations, Curry and Hauser signed an agreement with Olivetti on 20 February. With the founders relinquishing control of the company and seeing their combined stake fall from 85.7% to 36.5%, the Italian computer company took a 49.3% stake in Acorn for £10.39 million, which went some way to covering Acorn's £10.9 million losses in the previous six months,[60] effectively valuing Acorn at around a tenth of its valuation of £216 million the year before.[52]

In July 1985, Olivetti acquired an additional £4 million of Acorn shares, raising its ownership stake in the company to 79.8%. Major creditors agreed to write off £7.9 million in debts, and the BBC agreed to waive 50% of outstanding royalty payments[61] worth a reported £2 million. This second refinancing left the Acorn founders with less than 15% ownership of the company. Meanwhile, the financial difficulties had reduced the number of employees at Acorn from a peak of 480 to around 270.[62]

With Brian Long appointed as managing director, Acorn were set to move forward with a new OEM-focused computer named the Communicator and the Cambridge Workstation, whose launch had been delayed until the end of July 1985 due to the suspension of Acorn's shares. Of subsequent significance, Hermann Hauser was also expected to announce a "VLSI chip design using a reduced instruction set".[62] Unveiled towards the end of 1985,[63] the Communicator was Acorn's answer to ICL's One Per Desk initiative. This Acorn machine was based around a 16-bit 65SC816 CPU, 128 KB RAM, expandable to 512 KB, plus additional battery-backed RAM. It had a new multi-tasking OS, had 4x internal ROM sockets, and shipped with 'View' based software. It also had an attached telephone, communications software and auto-answer/auto-dial modem.[64]

In February 1986, Acorn announced that it was ceasing US sales operations, and sold its remaining US BBC Microcomputers for $1.25 million to a Texas company, Basic, which was a subsidiary of Datum, the Mexican manufacturer of the Spanish version of the BBC Microcomputer (with modified Spanish keyboards for the South American market). The sales office in Woburn, Massachusetts was closed at this time.[65] In 1990, in contrast, Acorn set up a sales and marketing operation in Australia and New Zealand by seeking to acquire long-time distributor Barson Computers Australasia, with Acorn managing director Sam Wauchope noting Acorn's presence in Australia since 1983 and being "the only computer manufacturer whose products are recommended by all Australian state education authorities".[66]

Olivetti would eventually relinquish majority control of Acorn in early 1996, selling shares to US and UK investment groups to leave the company with a shareholding in Acorn of around 45%.[67] In July 1996, Olivetti announced that it had sold 14.7% of the group to Lehman Brothers, reducing its stake at that time to 31.2%. Lehman said it planned to resell the shares to investors.[68]

BBC Master and ArchimedesEdit

 
Reader reply card in New Scientist, 9 September 1989 issue

The BBC Master[69] was launched in February 1986 and met with great success. From 1986 to 1989, about 200,000 systems were sold,[70] each costing £499, mainly to UK schools and universities. A number of enhanced versions were launched—for example, the Master 512,[71] which had 512 KB of RAM and an internal 80186 processor for MS-DOS compatibility, and the Master Turbo,[72] which had a 65C102 second processor.

The first commercial use of the ARM architecture was in the ARM Development System, a Tube-linked second processor for the BBC Master which allowed one to write programs for the new system. It sold for £4,500 and included the ARM processor, 4 MB of RAM and a set of development tools with an enhanced version of BBC BASIC. This system did not include the three support chips—VIDC, MEMC, and IOC—which were later to form part of the Archimedes system. They made their first appearance in the A500 second processor,[73] which was used internally within Acorn as a development platform, and had a similar form-factor to the ARM development system.

The second ARM-based product was the Acorn Archimedes desktop-computer, released in mid-1987, some 18 months after IBM launched their RISC-based RT PC.[74] The first RISC-based home computer,[75] the Archimedes was popular in the United Kingdom, Australasia and Ireland, and was considerably more powerful and advanced than most offerings of the day. The Archimedes was advertised in both printed[76] and broadcast media.[77] One example of such advertising is a mock-up of the RISC OS 2 desktop, showing some software application directories, with the advert text added within windows.[78] However, the vast majority of home users opted for an Atari ST or Commodore Amiga when looking to upgrade their 8-bit micros. As with the BBC, the Archimedes instead flourished in schools and other educational settings but just a few years later in the early 1990s this market began stratifying into the PC-dominated world. Acorn continued to produce updated models of the Archimedes, including a laptop (the A4), and in 1994 launched the Risc PC, whose top specification would later include a 233 MHz StrongARM processor. These were sold mainly into education, specialist and enthusiast markets, such as professional composers using Sibelius 7.

ARM Ltd.Edit

Acorn's silicon partner, VLSI, had been given the task of finding new applications for the ARM CPU and support chips. Hauser's Active Book company had been developing a handheld device and for this the ARM CPU developers had created a static version of their processor, the ARM2aS.

Members of Apple's Advanced Technology Group (ATG) had made initial contact with Acorn over use of the ARM in an experimental Apple II (2) style prototype called Möbius. Experiments done in the Möbius project proved that the ARM RISC architecture could be highly attractive for certain types of future products. The Möbius project was briefly considered as the basis for a new line of Apple computers but was killed for fear it would compete with the Macintosh and confuse the market. However, the Möbius project evolved awareness of the ARM processor within Apple. The Möbius Team made minor changes to the ARM registers, and used their working prototype to demonstrate a variety of impressive performance benchmarks.[79]

Later Apple was developing an entirely new computing platform for its Newton. Various requirements had been set for the processor in terms of power consumption, cost and performance, and there was also a need for fully static operation in which the clock could be stopped at any time. Only the Acorn RISC Machine came close to meeting all these demands, but there were still deficiencies. The ARM did not, for example, have an integral memory management unit, as this function was being provided by the MEMC support chip and Acorn did not have the resources to develop one.[80]

Apple and Acorn began to collaborate on developing the ARM, and it was decided that this would be best achieved by a separate company.[80] The bulk of the Advanced Research and Development section of Acorn that had developed the ARM CPU formed the basis of ARM Ltd. when that company was spun off in November 1990. Acorn Group and Apple Computer Inc. each had a 43% shareholding in ARM (in 1996),[81] while VLSI was an investor and first ARM licensee.[82]

Acorn Pocket BookEdit

 
Acorn Pocket Book

In 1993, Acorn decided to offer an Acorn branded Psion Series 3 PDA, badged as an Acorn Pocket Book, with a later variant branded the Acorn Pocket Book II. Essentially a rebadged OEM version of the Series 3 with slightly different on-board software, the device was marketed as an inexpensive computer for schoolchildren, rather than as an executive tool.[83] The hardware was the same as the Series 3, but the integrated applications were different; for instance, the Pocket Book omitted the Agenda diary and Spell dictionary applications, which became an optional application, supplied on ROM SSD which could be inserted into either of the ROM bays underneath the device. Other programs were renamed: 'System' became 'Desktop', 'Word' became 'Write', 'Sheet' became 'Abacus' and 'Data' became 'Cards'.[84][85]

Set-top boxesEdit

In 1994, a subsidiary of Acorn, Online Media, was founded. Online Media aimed to exploit the projected video-on-demand (VOD) boom, an interactive television system which would allow users to select and watch video content over a network.[86] In September 1994 the Cambridge Digital Interactive Television Trial of video-on-demand services was set up by Online Media, Anglia Television, Cambridge Cable (now part of Virgin Media) and Advanced Telecommunication Modules Ltd (ATML)[87]—the trial involved creating a wide area ATM network linking TV-company to subscribers' homes and delivering services such as home shopping, online education, software downloaded on-demand and the World Wide Web. The wide area network used a combination of fibre and coaxial cable, and the switches were housed in the roadside cabinets of Cambridge Cable's existing network.[88]Olivetti Research Laboratory developed the technology used by the trial. An ICL video server provided the service via ATM switches manufactured by ATML, another company set up by Hauser and Hopper. The trial commenced at a speed of 2 Mbit/s to the home, subsequently increased to 25 Mbit/s.[89]

Subscribers used Acorn Online Media Set Top Boxes. For the first six months the trial involved 10 VOD terminals;[89] the second phase was expanded to cover 100 homes and eight schools with a further 150 terminals in test labs. A number of other organisations gradually joined in, including the National Westminster Bank, the BBC, the Post Office, Tesco, and the local education authority.[which?]

BBC Education tested delivery of radio-on-demand programmes to primary schools, and a new educational service, Education Online, was established to deliver material such as Open University television programmes and educational software. Netherhall School was provided with an inexpensive video server and operated as a provider of trial services, with Anglia Polytechnic University taking up a similar role some time later.[88] It was hoped that Online Media could be floated as a separate company, and a share issue raising additional capital for the division was announced in 1995,[90] but the predicted video-on-demand boom never really materialised.

NewsPadEdit

 
Risc User: NewsPad – covered in the October 1996 issue

In 1994, the EU initiated the NewsPad[91] programme, with the aim of developing a common mechanism to author and deliver news electronically to consumer devices. The programme's name and format were inspired by the devices described and depicted in Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Acorn won a contract to develop a consumer device / receiver, and duly supplied a RISC OS-based touch-screen tablet computer for the pilot.[92][93][94] The device measured 8.5 × 11 inches (220 × 280 mm) and was being tried in 1996 in Spain by Ediciones Primera Plana.[95] The Barcelona-based pilot ended in 1997, but the tablet format and ARM architecture may have influenced Intel's 1999 WebPad / Web Tablet program.[96][97][98]

SchoolServerEdit

Although Acorn had largely focused on its ARM-based product range offering RISC OS (and, for a time, RISC iX), albeit with an increasing emphasis on DOS and Windows compatibility through its PC card products,[99][100] the emergence of larger networks in education connecting systems based on different computing platforms – typically Acorn, PC and Apple Macintosh – motivated the introduction of the SchoolServer product range in 1995. The range consisted of server systems manufactured by IBM running Windows NT Server (specifically Windows NT 3.5[101]), employing a single 100 MHz PowerPC processor, with 24 MB or 32 MB of RAM, one or two 1 GB hard drives, and built-in Ethernet interfaces.[102]

Acorn bundled ANT Limited's OmniClient software to provide the connectivity support required for Acorn's own computers to access the SchoolServer's facilities, these being based on Microsoft's own SchoolServer platform and proprietary networking technologies. The adoption of such hardware and software platforms, motivated by concerns about the capabilities of Acorn's existing products (such as the Risc PC) in the server role, even apparently led to Acorn becoming a Microsoft Solution Provider despite having been "very vocal critics" of Microsoft and its technologies in the past.[101]

Other companies in the educational market introduced similar products to the SchoolServer. For instance, Datathorn Systems introduced a solution called Super Server based on the Motorola PowerStack server system,[103] which was a PowerPC-based machine capable of running Windows NT 3.51 or AIX 4.1,[104] with the Super Server project reportedly being "the product of research at both Oxford and Cambridge universities". Having approval from Acorn and offering interoperability between Acorn and PC platforms, the solution was deployed at several sites.[105]

Xemplar EducationEdit

In 1996, Acorn entered into a joint venture with Apple Computer UK called Xemplar to provide computers and services to the UK education market.[106] A survey in 1998 found that Apple and Acorn systems at that time accounted for 47% and 13 of computers in UK primary and secondary schools respectively.[107] Acorn sold its remaining share in Xemplar to Apple in 1999 for £3 million,[108][109] and the company renamed itself to Apple Xemplar Education. Apple Xemplar was wound up in 2014.[110] Acorn Education and later Xemplar Education were heavily involved in Tesco's "Computers for Schools" programme in the UK, providing hardware and software in exchange for vouchers collected from Tesco purchases.[111]

The Welsh Office Multimedia/Portables Initiative (WOMPI), launched in 1996,[112] prescribed that Welsh schools choosing the multimedia option received multimedia PCs exclusively supplied by RM.[113] This upset other suppliers and members of the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE).[113]

Network computersEdit

 
Wired UK, September 1996 issue, "Five Go Nuts in Cambridge: Acorn's mad rush to build the world's first Network Computer"

When BBC2's The Money Programme screened an interview with Larry Ellison in October 1995, Acorn Online Media Managing Director Malcolm Bird realised that Ellison's network computer was, basically, an Acorn set-top box.[114] After initial discussions between Oracle Corporation and Olivetti, Hauser and Acorn a few weeks later, Bird was dispatched to San Francisco with Acorn's latest Set Top Box. Oracle had already talked seriously with computer manufacturers including Sun and Apple about the contract for putting together the NC blueprint machine; there were also rumours in the industry that said Oracle itself was working on the reference design. After Bird's visit to Oracle, Ellison visited Acorn and a deal was reached: Acorn would define the NC Reference Standard.

Ellison was expecting to announce the NC in February 1996. Sophie Wilson was put in charge of the NC project, and by mid-November a draft NC specification was ready. By January 1996 the formal details of the contract between Acorn and Oracle had been worked out,[115] and the PCB was designed and ready to be put into production.[114] In February 1996, Acorn Network Computing was founded.[81] In August 1996 it launched the Acorn Network Computer.

 
An Acorn NetStation NC

It was hoped that the Network Computer would create a significant new sector in which Acorn Network Computing would be a major player,[116] either selling its own products or earning money from licence fees paid by other manufacturers for the right to produce their own NCs. To that end, two of Acorn's major projects were the creation of a new 'consumer device' operating system named Galileo, and, in conjunction with Digital Semiconductor and ARM, a new StrongARM chipset consisting of the SA-1500 and SA-1501. Galileo's main feature was a guarantee of a certain quality of service to each process in which the resources (CPU, memory, etc.) required to ensure reliable operation would be kept available regardless of the behaviour of other processes.[117] The SA-1500 sported higher clock rates than existing StrongARM CPUs and, more importantly, a media-focussed coprocessor (the Attached Media Processor or AMP). The SA-1500 was to be the first release target for Galileo.[118]

After having incorporated its STB and NC business areas as separate companies, Acorn created a new wholly owned subsidiary, Acorn RISC Technologies (ART). ART focused on the development of other software and hardware technologies built on top of ARM processors.[81]

1998–2000: Element 14Edit

 
The distinctive yellow case of the Acorn Phoebe

During the first half of 1998 Acorn's management were heavily involved in the initial public offering of ARM Holdings plc which raised £18 million for Acorn throughout 1998.[119] In June 1998, Stan Boland took over as CEO of Acorn Computers from David Lee[120] who started a review of Acorn's core business.[119]

The company had losses of £9 million in the first nine months of the year[119] and in September 1998 the results of the review led to a significant restructuring of the company.[121] The Workstation division was to close,[122] a forty percent reduction in staff, and the Risc PC 2 code-named Phoebe that was nearing completion was cancelled.[123] These actions allowed the company to reduce ongoing losses and focus on other activities.[119][124] Acorn concentrated on development of digital TV set-top boxes and high performance media centric DSP (silicon and software). It also produced a reference design for a Windows NT thin client using a Cirrus Logic system on a chip.[125][126][127]

To concentrate on these two activities Acorn hired a group of former STMicroelectronics silicon-design engineers and they formed the basis of a £2 million silicon-design centre that Acorn set up in Bristol.[119][128] They also started to dispose of some of their interests in the former workstation market. It was reported that Stephen Streater of Eidos may have made a £0.5M bid for the rights to the PC range.[8] In October they granted distribution rights to the existing designs of machines to Castle Technology to supply the former workstation market's dealer network,[124][129][130] sold their 50% interest in Xemplar Education to Apple Computer in January 1999,[131][132] and in March 1999, RISCOS Ltd acquired a licence to develop and release RISC OS.[133][134] As part of the process leading to the acquisition of Acorn by MSDW Investment Holdings Limited, with the intention to "minimise the liabilities" of the group through the disposal of assets, Pace Micro Technology agreed to acquire Acorn's set-top box division for approximately £200,000,[119] also obtaining Acorn's rights and obligations with regard to RISC OS.[135]

[T]he future of this company lies as a leading player in the digital TV system components ...

Chief Executive, Stan Boland, in September 1998[136]

By January 1999, Acorn Computers Limited had renamed to Element 14 Limited (though still owned by Acorn Group plc), referring to the element silicon with atomic number 14; this change was to reflect the changed nature of the business and to distance itself from the education market that Acorn Computers was most known for.[124][137][138] Other names had been considered by the company, but the domain name e-14.com had been registered before the official announcement.[139]

In conjunction with the acquisition of Acorn, an offer was extended to a company "owned by Stan Boland and certain senior management to purchase ... the silicon and software design activity" for approximately £1 million. This distinct company (known as "New Jam Inc"[140]) effectively became the independent Element 14 venture,[119] acquiring the name from the former Acorn Computers Limited which then became known as Cabot 2 Limited.[141] A subsequent report put the sale price of this division of Acorn at £1.5 million, offering the prescient observation that this new business would itself be acquired for "several million pounds" by an established company in the industry,[135] as it indeed was.[142]

Acorn Group – the parent company of Acorn Computers Limited – had itself been renamed from Acorn Computer Group in 1997, and the company was subsequently renamed Cabot 1 Limited and taken private by MSDW in February 2000.[143] The company remained active until being dissolved in December 2015.[144]

LegacyEdit

The legacy[145] of the company's work is evidenced in spin-off technologies, with the company being described in 2013 as "the most influential business in the innovation cluster's history".[146]

Revival of the Acorn trademarkEdit

In early 2006, the dormant Acorn trademark was licensed from the French company Aristide & Co Antiquaire de Marques, by a new company based in Nottingham.[147] This company was dissolved in late 2009.

On 23 February 2018 the Acorn trademark made another return when a new company Acorn Inc. Ltd announced a brand new smartphone, the Acorn Micro C5.[148] The Acorn Micro C5 has since been discontinued.

Popular cultureEdit

In 2009, BBC4 screened Micro Men, a drama based on the rivalry between Acorn Computers and Sinclair's competing machines.[149]

TV seriesEdit

Acorn products featured prominently in a number of Educational television series, including:

MagazinesEdit

Acorn products spawned a series of dedicated publications, including:

They also featured in dedicated sections of:

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "History of ARM: from Acorn to Apple". 6 January 2011. Archived from the original on 16 March 2018 – via The Telegraph.
  2. ^ "ARM CPU Core Dominates Mobile Market". Tech-On!. Nikkei Electronics Asia. Archived from the original on 11 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Acorn founder advocates moving datacentres to NZ". Stuff.co.nz. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2012. Acorn Computers, once regarded as the UK's equivalent of Apple Computer ...
  4. ^ Report on Network Computer Technology Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Simon Booth, European Commission, 1999.
  5. ^ a b Shillingford, Joia (8 March 2001). "From the BBC Micro, little Acorns grew". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 May 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2011. Originally, Acorn planned to use Intel's 286 chip in its Archi-medes computer. But because Intel would not let it license the 286 core and adapt it, Acorn decided to design its own.
  6. ^ Athreye, Suma S. (18 July 2000). "Agglomeration and Growth: A Study of the Cambridge Hi-Tech Cluster" (PDF). SIEPR Discussion Paper No. 00-42. Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  7. ^ Meyer, David (19 November 2010). "Dead IT giants: A top 10 of the fallen". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Great oaks from little Acorns? No". Personal Computer World. 26 November 1998. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  9. ^ a b Sethi, Anand (15 April 2008). "UK electronics – a fallen or sleeping giant?". EMT WorldWide. IML Group. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2011. One of Sir Clive’s long term employees, Chris Curry quit because of differences over the technology roadmap [...] Finding nothing readily available on the market including from the leading US chip manufacturers [...] RISC processor called ARM which basically had the design ethos of the simple 6502 but in a 32 bit RISC environment making it that much simpler to fabricate and test.
  10. ^ Garnsey, Elizabeth; Lorenzoni, Gianni; Ferriani, Simone (2008). "Speciation through entrepreneurial choice: The Acorn-ARM story" (PDF). Research Policy. 37 (2). doi:10.1016/j.respol.2007.11.006.
  11. ^ "News - Business Weekly - Technology News - Business news - Cambridge and the East of England". businessweekly.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Acorn System 1 price list". speleotrove.com. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  13. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn System 2". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  14. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn System 3". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  15. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn System 4". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  16. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn System 5". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  17. ^ "Acorn (Was Re: Reading PDP-8 paper tapes)". mdfs.net. Archived from the original on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  18. ^ Attack, Carol (October–December 1988). "From Atom to Arc". Acorn User. Should Acorn abandon the 6502 processor which lay at the heart of all its machines? Should the next machine be full of the latest features or should it sacrifice advanced technology for the mass market?
  19. ^ Kibble-White, Jack (December 2005). "Standby for a Data-Blast". Off the Telly. Archived from the original on 28 November 2011.
  20. ^ Langley, Nick (9 September 1989). "Schools: the early learning curve". New Scientist. p. 65. In 1981 the British government launched a scheme which offered schools 50 per cent of the cost of a computer from one of three suppliers. The computers were the Sinclair Spectrum, the BBC Micro from Acorn and the Research Machines 380Z, all 8-bit machines.
  21. ^ Sadauskas, Andrew (27 July 2012). "BBC Micro B lives on: Strong growth for ARM after increased tablet and smartphone use". SmartCompany. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  22. ^ "BBC Micro ignites memories of revolution". BBC News. 21 March 2008. Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
  23. ^ "Acorn celebs to mark 30th anniversary with reunion". Drobe. 28 January 2008. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2011. Top Acorn Computers luminaries are planning a reunion for former company staff to mark the firm's 30th birthday, drobe.co.uk has learned.
  24. ^ Smith, Tony (28 August 2008). "Acorn alumni to toast tech pioneer's 30th anniversary". RegHardware, The Register. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011. Some 400 staffers from that flag bearer of the 1980s UK home computing revolution, Acorn, are to gather next month to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the firm's foundation.
  25. ^ Goodwins, Rupert; Barker, Colin (29 August 2008). "Acorn to celebrate 30th anniversary". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 1 July 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2011. Thirteenth of September will see the 30th anniversary of UK technology company Acorn Computers, famous in the 1980s 8-bit boom for its 6502-based microcomputers such as the Electron, Atom and BBC Micro. Some 400 previous employees and guests are expected at a celebratory party, which will be held in the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, close to the company's old HQ.
  26. ^ "Mighty Acorn holding 30th anniversary reunion bash". Business Weekly. 28 August 2008. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2011. Around 400 ex-Acorn employees and guests are expected to attend the event in Cambridge on September 13th. It will be held in the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall, close to the company’s old headquarters building.
  27. ^ "Editorial". Popular Computer Weekly. 6 October 1983. p. 3. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  28. ^ "October 6 1983 - Electronics Times - Find Articles". 11 July 2012. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012 – via Find Articles.
  29. ^ a b c d Fleck, Vivien; Garnsey, Elizabeth (1 March 1988). "Managing Growth at Acorn Computers". Journal of General Management. 13 (3): 4–23. doi:10.1177/030630708801300301. S2CID 168090550. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  30. ^ This is Acorn Computer (PDF). Acorn Computers Limited. p. 36. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  31. ^ "IBM's Invention of the First Personal Computer". about.com.
  32. ^ "Acorn re-enters the marketplace". New Scientist. 8 August 1985. p. 32. Acorn [...] unveiled two products last week – a cheap microprocessor chip and a range of scientific workstations. [...] called the Acorn Cambridge Workstation, was developed from Acorn's now defunct range of business micros and is compatible with the BBC Micro.
  33. ^ Acorn Cambridge Workstation, New Scientist, 24 April 1986, retrieved 17 October 2011, Happily, all the mainframe power you have been waiting for can now be found in a 32-bit micro – the Acorn Cambridge Workstation.
  34. ^ Chisnall, David (23 August 2010). "Understanding ARM Architectures". Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  35. ^ Furber, Stephen B. (2000). ARM system-on-chip architecture. Boston: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-67519-6.
  36. ^ Hammond, Ray (18 June 1987). "'Fastest' micro in the world". New Scientist. p. 41. Acorn first started working on its RISC research programme in 1983. [...] has spent £5 million developing the RISC microprocessor [...]
  37. ^ Garnsey, Elizabeth; Lorenzoni, Gianni; Ferriani, Simone (March 2008). "Speciation through entrepreneurial spin-off: The Acorn-ARM story" (PDF). Research Policy. 37 (2): 210–224. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2007.11.006. Retrieved 2 June 2011. [...] the first silicon was run on April 26th 1985.
  38. ^ Acorn Risc technology, New Scientist, 31 July 1986, retrieved 26 May 2011
  39. ^ "High hopes for Advanced Risc Machines Ltd as Acorn returns to the black". Computergram International. Computer Business Review. 26 April 1992. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  40. ^ Hansen, Martin (1 March 2004). "Castle, RISCOS Ltd., FinnyBank theatre report". Drobe. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2011. In Acorn's prime, 200 people worked on developing the OS [...]
  41. ^ a b Kewney, Guy (March 1985). "Unfinished business". Personal Computer World. pp. 94, 99. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  42. ^ Sanger, David E. (3 July 1984). "Warner Sells Atari To Tramiel". The New York Times. pp. Late City Final Edition, Section D, Page 1, Column 6, 1115 words. Archived from the original on 6 December 2008.
  43. ^ Chris's Acorns Archived 11 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine Acorn Electron - Release and ULA supply issues.
  44. ^ "Beeb safe, but ABCs under review". Acorn User. April 1985. p. 7. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  45. ^ Kewney, Guy (April 1985). "Acorn reprise". Personal Computer World. pp. 106–107. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  46. ^ "Cut price BBC B's". Popular Computing Weekly. 28 February 1985. p. 10. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  47. ^ Kewney, Guy (June 1985). "Acorn anti-climax". Personal Computer World. p. 124. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  48. ^ Kewney, Guy (July 1985). "Newsprint". Personal Computer World. p. 111. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  49. ^ "Starring the Computer - Supergirl". starringthecomputer.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  50. ^ "Acorn shot in the arm". Popular Computing Weekly. 17 November 1983. p. 1. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  51. ^ "Acorn acquires Torch". Acorn User. June 1984. p. 7. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  52. ^ a b c "Black week for Acorn". Popular Computing Weekly. 14 February 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  53. ^ "Acorn searches for way out of crisis". Personal Computer News. 16 February 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  54. ^ "Acorn's Icon". Acorn User. June 1984. p. 7. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  55. ^ Kewney, Guy (August 1988). "Newsprint". Personal Computer World. p. 94. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  56. ^ Kewney, Guy (May 1985). "Newsprint". Personal Computer World. p. 117. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  57. ^ "Hard Times". Acorn User. December 1990. p. 7. Retrieved 7 April 2021.
  58. ^ "Troubled Acorn faces winding-up order". Popular Computing Weekly. 21 February 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  59. ^ "Acorn's shares re-open on USM". Popular Computing Weekly. 14 March 1985. p. 4. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  60. ^ "Electron in doubt after rescue". Popular Computing Weekly. 28 February 1985. pp. 1, 4. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  61. ^ "Olivetti cash revives Acorn". Home Computing Weekly. 30 July 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  62. ^ a b "The saving of Acorn - part 2". Acorn User. September 1985. p. 7. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  63. ^ "Communicator's wide appeal". Acorn User. December 1985. p. 11. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  64. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Communicator". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  65. ^ "Acorn moves out of US". Acorn User. February 1986. p. 9. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  66. ^ "Acorn Enters the Land of Oz". Acorn User. July 1990. p. 7. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  67. ^ "Olivetti relinquishes majority control of Acorn". Acorn User. April 1996. p. 10. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  68. ^ "Olivetti Sells Shares in Acorn Computer". The New York Times. New York. 2 July 1996. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2011. Olivetti S.p.A. of Italy said yesterday that it had sold 14.7 percent of Acorn Computer Group P.L.C. to Lehman Brothers Inc. on Friday. Lehman did not disclose how much it paid, but at current market prices, the sale would have brought about L33.5 million ($52 million) to Olivetti, which has been posting losses. The purchase, representing 13.25 million of the British computer company's shares, reduced Olivetti's stake in Acorn to about 31.2 percent from 78.5 percent two years ago. Lehman said it intended to resell the shares to investors.
  69. ^ Whytehead, Chris (31 October 2008). "Master 128". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  70. ^ "The 200,000th Master finds a good home" (PDF). Acorn Newsletter. March 1989. p. 3. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  71. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Master 512". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021.
  72. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Master Turbo". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021.
  73. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "A500 second processor". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021.
  74. ^ "IBM's simple route to powerful computing". New Scientist. 30 January 1986. p. 36. ... new machine, the RT ... IBM has beaten the British computer firm Acorn in the race to incorporate RISC processors into products.
  75. ^ Pountain, Dick (October 1987). "The Archimedes A310". BYTE. p. 125. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  76. ^ "Acorn Print Adverts". 4corn Computers. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  77. ^ "The Learning Curve". YouTube. 1991. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  78. ^ "The Archimedes 400/1 Series". New Scientist. 9 September 1989. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  79. ^ "The RISC for the Rest of Us" Archived 9 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Art Sobel, in Advanced RISC Technology (ART), 1996. ARM Evangelist.
  80. ^ a b M. Culbert (1994). "Low power hardware for a high performance PDA". Low Power Electronics. Digest of Technical Papers. IEEE Symposium.
  81. ^ a b c Acorn Group and Apple Computer Dedicate Joint Venture to Transform IT in UK Education Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, press release from Acorn Computers, 1996
  82. ^ ARM milestones Archived 1 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine, ARM website
  83. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn Pocket Book". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021.
  84. ^ Alan Glover (27 August 1992). "Acorn Press Release 3 of 8 (Acorn Pocketbook)". Newsgroupcomp.sys.acorn.announce. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  85. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn Launches Pocket Book". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  86. ^ Sapsed, Jonathan (10 April 2001), "Strategizing under Uncertainty and Ignorance: The influence of knowledge and technological path-dependence on corporate strategies" (PDF), Managing Knowledge: Conversations and Critiques, Brighton, UK: CENTRIM, p. 13, retrieved 31 May 2011
  87. ^ ARM7500 Press Release Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Advanced RISC Machines Ltd press release, 18 October 1994
  88. ^ a b Lessons in Learning Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, white paper, Mediation Technology, last modified 18 June 1999
  89. ^ a b Cambridge Corners the Future in Networking Archived 15 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, TUANZ Topics, Volume 05, No. 10, November 1995
  90. ^ "Acorn takes shares to City". Computer Shopper. May 1995.
  91. ^ "European Commission : CORDIS : Help : : Archives". cordis.europa.eu. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
  92. ^ Whytehead, Chris. "Acorn NCs, STBs & Prototypes: NewsPAD". Chris's Acorns. The Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 13 June 2021.
  93. ^ http://adrenaline.ucsd.edu/onr/annotation%20devices.html#newspad[permanent dead link] Annotation devices
  94. ^ Roger, James-Yves; Roger, Jean-Yves; Stanford-Smith, Brian; Kidd, Paul T. (12 May 1998). Technologies for the Information Society: Developments and Opportunities. IOS Press. ISBN 9789051994506 – via Google Books.
  95. ^ Pelline, Jeff (5 November 1996). ""Daily me" device on horizon". CNET. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  96. ^ "Intel's NewsPad from Acorn... the saga continues..." The Register. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017.
  97. ^ "Home - Intel Web Tablet". 15 December 2013. Archived from the original on 15 December 2013.
  98. ^ "European Commission : CORDIS : Help : : Archives". cordis.europa.eu. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  99. ^ "Acorns and PCs Meet". Acorn User. March 1993. p. 10. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  100. ^ Burley, Ian (March 1995). "Cuckoo in the nest?". Acorn User. pp. 50–51. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  101. ^ a b "Two-page Acorn update". Acorn User. August 1995. p. 9. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  102. ^ Acorn SchoolServer (PDF) (Technical report). Acorn Computers Limited. July 1995 – via Chris's Acorns.
  103. ^ "Whole school networking - impressive connectivity" (PDF). Arc (10). Acorn Computers Limited. Spring 1996. p. 46. Retrieved 22 August 2021 – via Chris's Acorns.
  104. ^ Rowell, Dave (November 1995). "NT Roars on the 604". Byte. pp. 209–212. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  105. ^ "Datathorn lands first big Super Server contract in Scotland". Acorn User. February 1995. p. 14. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  106. ^ Acorn Press Release Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Acorn/Apple press release on joint venture
  107. ^ Cole, George (12 February 1999). "Apple's bigger bite;Market Moves". Times Educational Supplement. TSL Education. Archived from the original on 5 October 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2011. A survey last year, found that there were 126,000 Acorn machines and 22,000 Apple computers in primary schools; in secondaries the figures were 98,000 and 45,000 respectively. So Apple and Acorn account for 47 per cent of computers in primary schools and a third of those in secondary – a very large proportion.
  108. ^ "Acorn Xemplar Matrix NC". Centre for Computing History website.
  109. ^ "Acorn falls off education tree". The Register. 11 January 1999. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2011. Acorn ... selling its half of Xemplar. The other joint owner, Apple, now takes full charge of the educational supplier. The deal valued Xemplar at £6 million, with Acorn bagging £3 million for its share.
  110. ^ Companies House Archived 29 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine Webcheck service, search for previous company names
  111. ^ SourceWire Archived 2 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Thursday, 17 September 1998. Xemplar press release.
  112. ^ "Projects". Rhondda Cynon Taff Education & Children's Services. 2001. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2011. The Welsh Office Multimedia and Portables Initiative (WOMPI), launched in 1996 ...
  113. ^ a b Evans, Arnold (1 March 1996). "When a PC is non-PC". Times Educational Supplement. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2011. But in Wales the schools that chose the multimedia option (93 per cent of some 1,700 schools) will all receive Research Machines Pentium Multimedia PCs ... has upset not only other suppliers, but also teachers and the professionals in charge of promoting IT in schools. A conference of the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE) has demanded a radical overhaul of the way decisions about Government IT schemes are made ...
  114. ^ a b Five Go Nuts in Cambridge Archived 18 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Wired UK magazine 2.09, September 1996
  115. ^ "Oracle signs up Acorn for Net devices". CNET.com. 10 January 1996. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2011. Oracle has signed up a small British computer design firm called Acorn Computer Group to come up with a blueprint for an inexpensive Internet access device.
  116. ^ "Five years ago: Acorn fights back with reduced losses". ZDNet. 8 March 2002. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2011. Developing and licensing technologies for Internet solutions and interactive TV has also lead us to markets in the US, Japan and Korea, whereas before, we were primarily involved in dealing with UK schools and colleges.
  117. ^ Acorn Looks to the Stars With New Galileo Operating System Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Acorn Computer Group press release, 10 February 1997
  118. ^ "TopixWEB - Acorn World '97 Transcripts". dnd.utwente.nl. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2005.
  119. ^ a b c d e f g "Acorn Group PLC - Preliminary Announcement of Audited Results for the Year Ended 31 December 1998" (PDF). marutan.net. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  120. ^ "Google Groups". groups.google.com.
  121. ^ Boland, Stan; Rollo Head, Sarah Pascoe (Shandwick Consultants) (17 September 1998). "Result of strategic review and implementation of fundamental restructuring programme". Acorn Computers. Archived from the original on 28 January 1999. Retrieved 10 May 2011. Acorn Group plc [...] today announced that following a strategic review of its operations, it is implementing a fundamental restructuring programme which will enable the Company to become more focused as a digital TV and thin-client components company.
  122. ^ Clark, Etelka (4 October 1998). "Acorn stops making desktop PCs". Personal Computer World. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  123. ^ "Stuart Halliday - Acorn Cybervillage Announcement - Workstation Division to close, Risc PC 2 work stopped, Acorn World Show postponed". atterer.org. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  124. ^ a b c "Acorn : Acorn and Element 14 - Questions and Answers". 6 May 1999. Archived from the original on 6 May 1999.
  125. ^ "Chris's Acorns: Acorn DeskLite". chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016.
  126. ^ "Cirrus Logic Enables Reference Design Targeting $199 Information Appliances for the Windows NT Environment". 29 May 2009. Archived from the original on 29 May 2009.
  127. ^ "Acorn DeskLite Prototype - Computing History". computinghistory.org.uk. Archived from the original on 19 March 2016.
  128. ^ Cullen, Drew (15 December 1998). "Acorn poaches ST Microelectronics design team". The Register. The Register. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2011. Acorn Group PLC is beefing up its digital TV business by poaching a seven strong chip design team from ST Microelectronics. ... setting up a £2 million chip research centre in Bristol.
  129. ^ "Acorn builds Castles in the Air". The Register. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017.
  130. ^ "Acorn Computers Press Release – Acorn announces distribution deal with Castle Technology for RISC based products" (Press release). Archived from the original on 6 May 1999.
  131. ^ "Acorn falls off education tree". The Register. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012.
  132. ^ "Acorn : Acorn Sells Xemplar Stake". 6 May 1999. Archived from the original on 6 May 1999.
  133. ^ "RISCOS to continue OS 4 development". theregister.co.uk. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012.
  134. ^ "RISCOS Ltd Press Release 05/03/1999". riscos.com.
  135. ^ a b Cullen, Drew (24 April 1999). "ARM denies role in Acorn dismemberment". The Register. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  136. ^ "Result of strategic review and implementation of fundamental restructuring programme". Element 14. 17 September 1998. Archived from the original on 28 January 1999. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  137. ^ Clarke, Peter (14 January 1999). "Acorn renamed, refocused as Element 14". EE Times. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2011. Acorn Computers Ltd. has changed its name to Element 14 Ltd. as part of its conversion from a computer designer and manufacturer to a developer of software and silicon intellectual property (IP).
  138. ^ Santarini, Mike (25 January 1999). "Acorn reinvents itself as IP-vendor Element 14". EE Times. Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2011. Acorn Computers Ltd. (Cambridge, England) has changed its name to Element 14 Ltd. as part of its conversion from a computer designer and manufacturer to a developer of software and silicon intellectual property (IP).
  139. ^ "Acorn plans name change to reflect new ambitions". Computergram International. 5 January 1999. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2013 – via HighBeam Research.
  140. ^ "Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 1998". Companies House. p. 24. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  141. ^ "Cabot 2 Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  142. ^ Cullen, Drew (14 October 2000). "Broadcom eats Element 14". The Register. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  143. ^ "Certificate of Incorporation on Change of Name and Re-Registration of a Public Company as a Private Company". Companies House. 15 February 2000. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  144. ^ "Cabot 1 Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  145. ^ Clark, Etelka (1 July 1999). "Acorn dies but legacy lives on". Personal Computer World. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  146. ^ Quested, Tony (15 November 2013). "Acorn legacy still earning billions". Business Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 December 2013. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  147. ^ "DRS Number 03682, Acorn Computers Limited and Roy Johnson, Nominet UK Dispute Resolution Service and Companies House WebCheck". bailii.org.
  148. ^ "Historic UK Tech Brand Acorn is Back With a New Smartphone". Everything Tech. 23 February 2018. Archived from the original on 24 February 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  149. ^ "Micro Men - BBC Four". BBC. Archived from the original on 25 January 2018.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit