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Acorn Computer
ABC 310

Acorn's ABC-310 was to be the flagship of the Acorn business computer range. As far as I can tell, the 310 is the rarest variant, and it is the only one to have no direct equivalent available via a 2nd Processor card.

When the ABC range was dissolved, Acorn already had 2nd Processors (a method of adding a new CPU to the BBC, similar to adding a Z80 on a card to an Apple II, but very different in execution and with far more applications) - the 65C02, the Z80, the Acorn Scientific 16032 (1MB RAM, compared to 4MB in the Cambridge Workstation/ABC-210).

However, the 80286 board in the 310 would never surface outside of these prototype machines. Acorn would indulge in Intel-based co-processors later, the 80186 in the BBC Master 512, and various 486/586 based cards for the Archimedes (3rd party, perhaps?) and the RiscPC.

Technically speaking, the 286 had more direct application support, was potentially faster, and was a smaller package than the ageing 16032. It was also more easily obtained. Why it was never released is beyond me - except that the 286 was a very new CPU at the time, and may have been expensive.

Running ABC-310s seem to be very hard to find, and information on them is scarce. They look identical, from the outside, to the ABC-110 and any other of the Cambridge Workstations.


Text and info by Richard Kilpatrick. Thanks a LOT !

Jules Richardson comments:
I'm told by an ex-Acorn engineer that only a handful of boards were commissioned - but that not all of these were assembled into complete machines. The design and code for the 80286 board fed into the later Master 512 coprocessor.

I'm only aware of two surviving machines - the one pictured here and one other in private hands, although one or two of the coprocessor boards themselves are known to have survived.

I *assume* that it just wasn't cost-effective to market the 310 machines - and that the 80286 board was never released as a separate coprocessor because Acorn wanted to protect their Master 512 interests, and a faster rival board that wasn't internal to the Master would not have helped this.

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.
MANUFACTURER  Acorn Computer
TYPE  Professional Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  October 1984
END OF PRODUCTION  1984, never mass produced
BUILT IN LANGUAGE  BBC Basic?, DR-DOS (Richard Kilpatrick's model appears to have no language)
KEYBOARD  Standard QWERTY, 10 function keys + arrows, plus numeric keypad and Tube switch
CPU  PLCC 80286
SPEED  Unknown
CO-PROCESSOR  MOS 65C02 (I/O board, essentially a BBC B+)
RAM  1Mb 286, 64K I/O Board
VRAM  Taken from main RAM, up to 44K?
ROM  32K, expandable
TEXT MODES  80 x 32/25 (2 colors) / 40 x 32/25 (2 or 4 colors) / 20 x 32 (16 colors) / 40 x 25 (Teletext display)
GRAPHIC MODES  640 x 256 (2 colors) / 320 x 256 (4 colors) / 160 x 256 (16 colors)
COLORS  16 (8 colors + flashing option)
SOUND  3 channels + noise & envelope control, 7 octaves, optional TMS5220 speech
SIZE / WEIGHT  A little larger than a 17'' monitor!
I/O PORTS  1MHz BUS, Analogue, RGB, Disk, RS423, Mouse (option), BT Link (option; modem?), User port, Econet, internally SCSI may be available
BUILT IN MEDIA  10Mb SCSI-MFM HD subsystem, 5.25'' FD
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in PSU, 240V AC - split to monitor power and a switch mode PSU to supply power to the computer and expansion boards.
PERIPHERALS  Most BBC accessories are suitable
PRICE  Unknown

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