The Acorn Archimedes
In 1987 Acorn released a machine (with a non-scientific sounding name for a change!), the Archimedes.
It was Acorn Computers Ltd's first general purpose home computer based on their own 32-bit ARM RISC CPU.
The name is also commonly used to describe computers which were based on the same architecture, even where Acorn did not include 'Archimedes' in the official name. Many versions of the Archimedes would be released over the next couple of years.
This retro computer was one of the most powerful home computers available during the late 1980s and early 1990s and was Acorn's answer to the 16-bit machines from Atari and Commodore; The ST and the Amiga.
So let's take a look at yet another fantastic computer from Acorn, a company who's legacy of ARM processors lives on today.
Read on to find out a little about a lesser known yet excellent computer, the Acorn Archimedes.
Acorn Progress With The Archimedes
The Archimedes followed in the footsteps of the BBC Micro and Master), by winning a significant market share in the educational sector of the UK, Ireland and even Australia.
Many students and pupils in these countries during the late 1980's early 1990's were exposed to an Archimedes or an A-series computer.
Many students at that time had the opportunity to use the machine(s) to learn a variety of programming languages such as BASIC, Fortran, Pascal, LISP and even C!
It should be noted that Acorn's version of BASIC was absolutely brilliant and most would argue that it was the best version available at that time.
It incorporated proper structured programming allowing the user to create procedures complete with implemented error handling! These are techniques that still apply in software development today.
Anyway, back to the machine itself...
Despite having the technical edge over other machines, (the 8-Bit market while still being stong, was on the wane by this point in time) the Archimedes only ever met with moderate success beyond the education sector.
It did have some popularity in niche markets including professional work such as radio, medical and railway station management and also music publishing.
Another reason why schools and colleges chose the Acorn Archimedes over the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST was that students may have taken computer games into school from their collection; which would obviously have distracted them from school work!
The machine itself looked more like a PC and less like a home micro, which may have put off many potential buyers who did not require a 'business machine'.
The price of one was also astumbling block for many people, the first incarnation of the archimedes with 512KB of RAM retailed at an incredible £899.00 in the UK!
Not many people had the best part of nine hundred quid lying around to splurge on a home computer back then.
The Acorn Archimedes
Gaming On The Archimedes
Back in the 1980s and 1990s buyers wanted lots of good quality games for their computers and this is one area that Acorn never fully conquered.
Of course there were plenty of fantastic games for the BBC Micro - but as the 16-bit machines became more popular there were two at the forefront of gaming: The Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga.
On the Archimedes Computer games were few and far between.
One game (Zarch developed by the legendary David Braben of Elite fame) really showcased the machines capabilities, which gave many teenagers fantasies of patch-work three dimensional rolling landscapes.
A BBC emulator was also available for the Archimedes allowing it to load up those classic BBC Micro games, which was really important to those who had owned previous Acorn machines. It could not compete with hardcore games players who could access a vast and growing library for the cheaper priced Amiga and ST.
Despite having a superior Operating System when compared to it's 16-bit counterparts as well as sporting eight channel sound capability, it never managed to fully compete as machine for the home.
By the early 1990's the UK educational market began to turn away from the Archimedes, and veered towards Apple Macintosh computers or IBM compatible PCs.
Perhaps if it had been more competitively priced and more games had been developed for it, the machine may well have went on to be a fine all-rounder.
These newer IBM and Apple machines began to eclipse the Archimedes in multimedia capabilities as computing technolgy leaped forward once more.
This signalled the beginning of the end for the machine and indeed Acorn (which sadly was to break up as a company in 1998).
The Archimedes was a wonderful computer that many people will have fond memories of from their school days...
The Archimedes Was Setup For Business Use
The Launch Video For The Acorn Archimedes
Quality Gaming On The Acorn Archimedes
Okay, so there were not that many games released on the machine, but there are still some great titles that are well worth playing.
The Archimedes was blessed with a select number of quality gaming titles, and if you are a retro gaming fan then you must try the following titles:
- James Pond
- Pipe Mania
- Star Fighter 3000
- Stunt Racer
Fred Harris Gets To Know The Acorn Archimedes
There's No Stopping Fred Harris!
Zarch on the Acorn Archimedes
Zarch was a ground-breaking game that featured a rolling 3D landscape and for a time was only available on the Archimedes.
It was programmed by the legendary David Braben (who was already a god in the gaming world due to the seminal Elite) and was utterly jaw-dropping the first time you laid eyes on it.
It took the medium of 3D to a new level and proved just what this new (and expensive!) machine could do.
Zarch on the Acorn Archimedes
SWIV on the Acorn Archimedes
SWIV is one of those classic shooters that everyone remembers.
The version that graced the Archimedes is as good as any and proved that this was a machine that could slake the thirst of any arcade addict.
This is a title that was one of my all time favourite Amiga Games and the Archimedes version was just as good.
A fine game that still plays delightfully well all of these years later...
Emulating an Acorn Archimedes
It is possible to emulate one of these machines on your modern hardware via the use of emulators such as ArcEm and Arculator.
ArcEm is both MAC and Windows compatible, and can also be run on Amiga Operating Systems!
If you want to see what the machine was like without purchasing the actual hardware then emulation is the way to go.