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A > ACORN COMPUTER  > Archimedes   

Acorn Computer

The Archimedes was the first RISC home computer. There were three series, the 300, 400 and 500 which shared the same hardware basis: the ARM-2 processor (ARM-3 for the A500) and three custom chips dedicated to memory (MEMC), video (VIDC) and I/O (IOC) controls.

The ARM 2 RISC (8Mhz) had about 4 Mips, this means seven times faster than a Amiga 500 (68000 CPU)!

The 300 series had 512 KB to 1 MB of memory and two expansion slots (64 pin). The 400 series had 1 to 4 MB of memory and four slots (three 64 pin and one 96 pin). The 500 series had 16 MB of RAM.

The operating system, first named Arthur then subsequently RiscOS, was in ROM along with the WIMP graphic interface (Windows Menu Icon Pointer), the fast BBC BASIC V interpreter and various utility programs, among them a Paint package, a music editor and an Acorn BBC model 2 emulator.

The built-in 800 KB 3.5" floppy drive was compatible with the old 640 KB format. A lot of expansion cards were developed for the Archimedes : MIDI, SCSI, Oscilloscope, IEEE 488, speech recognition, scanner, floating point co-processor.

Many programming languages were released as well : BASIC (which could be loaded from disk and ran faster than the ROM BASIC), C, Fortran 77, Pascal, Prolog and Lisp.

Although it was at least two times faster than the Atari ST and Amiga models, the Archimedes had no real success because of its high price, except in its country of origin (Great Britain) where it was very well-known and commonly used (especially in schools).

These computers were followed by a great family of computers called RISC PC which are still in production.

Here are the different Archimedes A300 - A400 - A500 versions :

A305 - 512 KB RAM
A310 - 1 MB RAM
A410 - 1 MB RAM
A420 - 2 MB RAM, 20 MB Hard disk
A440 - 4 MB RAM, 40 MB Hard disk
A540 - 16 MB RAM, 120 MB Hard Disk

We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system, please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.
NAME  Archimedes
MANUFACTURER  Acorn Computer
TYPE  Home Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  1987
KEYBOARD  Complete 102 keys full-stroke keyboard - PC/AT layout
CPU  ARM-2 32 bit RISC (ARM-3 in the A500 series)
SPEED  4 / 8 mHz
CO-PROCESSOR  MEMC (memory), VIDC (Video and Sound), IOC (I/O)
RAM  512 KB (up to 16 MB)
ROM  512 KB
TEXT MODES  132 chars. x 32 lines maximum
GRAPHIC MODES  21 screen modes, including: 640x480 (256 colours), 640 x 512 (256 colours), 800x600 (16 colours), 896x352 (256 colours), 1280x960 (monochrome)
COLORS  256 maximum
SOUND  8 voices
I/O PORTS  Centronics, RS423, Video composite, RGB, Econet (network 250 KBits). Optional 4 expansion slots (podule slots), the 400/500 series came with 4 slots.
BUILT IN MEDIA  800 KB 3.5'' floppy drive, 3.5'' disk-drive, from 20 to 53 MB
OS  ARTHUR (and RISC OS later)
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in switching power supply unit
PERIPHERALS  Various expansion cards
PRICE  A300: from $800 to £1200 - A400: up to £3150, depending on the monitor supplied

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