The Acorn Archimedes is the second series of personal computers developed by the British company Acorn Computers during the 1980s and 1990s, succeeding Acorn Computers BBC Mico.
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About The Acorn Archimedes
The Archimedes was one of the first computers to feature a 32-bit RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) processor, the Archimedes was designed to be a powerful, yet affordable, alternative to the dominant IBM PC and Macintosh systems of the time.
The Archimedes was first launched in 1987, with the release of the A305. This was followed by a number of other models, including the A310, A410, and A440.
All of these models featured the same 32-bit RISC processor, known as the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM), which was designed and manufactured by Acorn itself. This processor was a high-performing CPU and established itself as an attractive part of owning an Archimedes computer.
One of the key features of the Acorn Archimedes was its operating system, known as RISC OS. This was a compact, efficient, and simple operating system that was designed to work with the ARM processor.
It featured a simple, intuitive user interface and was able to run a wide range of software, including educational and business applications. RISC OS was booted from an onboard ROM, but had the most features and functionality when used with the supplementary RISC OS floppy discs.
The Acorn Archimedes was built with expansion in mind and the early versions of the Acorn Archimedes included several expansion slots.
Over 15 variants of the system were released from 1987 to 1992 and competed mainly with a number of similarly positioned systems of the era. Namely the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and developing PC markets.
However, the release of the A3010 & A3020 were more focused on the home user. These systems took their form factor more from the likes of the Amiga and Atari ST and also included a built-in TV modulator, making the computers able to be used on regular consumer televisions, making it more attractive to the average consumer who would not have to fork out extra cash for a computer monitor.
The Acorn Archimedes Mouse
The Acorn Archimedes used a unique three-button mouse designed specifically for the computer’s RISC OS operating system. This Acorn Archimedes mouse was different from most other computer mice of the time, which would often have one or two mouse buttons.
By default, the left-hand button acts as the select button and is simply used to interact with things and select on-screen icons. The middle is the menu button which makes a menu appear where available when pressed and the right-hand button is the adjust button, which is used for varying bespoke functions in applications.
The Acorn Archimedes In Schools
The Archimedes quickly became popular in the UK education market, thanks primarily to it being the successor to the UK school’s favourite, BBC Micro.
Acorn worked with software developers to create educational software that was optimised for the Archimedes. This was a big success, as the Archimedes quickly became the standard for primary and secondary school computer labs in the UK, but it must be said that the adoption rate of the Archimedes was not as high as that of the BBC Micro.
The Archimedes was easy to use, had a great graphical interface, and was able to run a wide range of software that was used in the classroom, such as word processors and databases.
In addition to its popularity in schools, the Archimedes was also adopted by a number of other organizations and institutions, including businesses and government agencies. This was due in part to its powerful and flexible architecture, as well as its ability to run a wide range of software.
Acorn Archimedes Educational Games & Software
The Archimedes was positioned as a successor to the BBC Micro for schools, so it was inevitable educational software would be developed.
There were a variety of educational games and software available for the Acorn Archimedes during its time in the market. Educational games are designed to teach a wide range of subjects, such as math, science, and languages, and are intended to be fun and engaging for students.
The Educational Software Archive website hosts a range of educational games available for the Acorn Archimedes available for download, these games include:-
- Dread Dragon Droom
- Fun School 3 (Over 7s)
- Landmark Project: Egypt
- 10/10 Software
- The Somme
- Pinpoint Junior
Acorn Archimedes Games
The Archimedes had many games commercially released during its lifetime, many of which also appeared on competing systems of the time such as the Amiga & Atari ST.
Many classic 2D games made an appearance on the Archimedes, but it also had an ace up its sleeve when it came to 3D games, thanks to its RISC processor being able to provide way more power than competing systems at the time, aside from purchasing a 3D capable PC, which was very expensive.
Some of the best Acorn Archimedes games include:
- Cannon Fodder
- The Chaos Engine
- Chocks Away
- James Pond 2: Robocod
- Lotus Turbo Challenge 2
- Rick Dangerous
- Sensible Soccer
- SimCity 2000
- Simon The Sorcerer
- Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
- Wolfenstein 3D
What Happened To The Acorn Archimedes?
Ultimately Acorn’s market share diminished in the early 1990s. This was due to the increase in popularity and functionality of Windows-based PCs and Apple’s Macintosh computers, so was unable to compete with these up-and-coming systems.
Whilst Acorn had huge success in the 80s and 90s, an overreliance on the education sector ultimately meant a quick downfall as schools gradually adopted PCs as their computers of choice.
The A3000 series of home computers just did not get the market share to compete with the Amiga & Atari ST. Although technically a strong offering, pricing and developer support not being large enough contributed heavily to the inability of the Archimedes to compete.