RISC World

Nostalgia World

Were you a RISC User subscriber? David Bradforth was, and here - with the help of the RISC User: In a Nutshell CD-ROM - he gets all nostalgic.

Back in 1982, two contributors to Personal Computer World, Sheridan Williams and Lee Calcraft, met properly for the first time. Sheridan was PCW's Agony Aunt, and Lee occasionally helped out with the hardware questions; but up until that point their conversations had mainly been by telephone. And just who was this David Graham?

As we would later find out, David Graham was a pen name Lee chose to give the impression that more people would be writing articles than actually were: the same technique was used by Acorn User (under Tony Quinn) and Micro User (with Mike Bibby).

Ultimately, this meeting between Sheridan and Lee led to the formation of BEEBUG Limited, which along the way became a major force within the Acorn software market; as well as a publisher of BEEBUG, ELBUG, RISC User and Acorn Action magazines.

BEEBUG survived twelve years, until 1994, and it has to be said that when it ceased publication there was very little in the way of commercial BBC software available. ELBUG - BEEBUG's first sister magazine - lasted for fourteen issues, before being merged with BEEBUG magazine. ELBUG was designed to cater for the Electron user, but the market just didn't justify a subscription magazine dedicated to this machine.

In 1987, RISC User was launched. The only gap is Acorn Action, which lasted for one issue. In fact, less than 200 people subscribed to the magazine; making it perhaps the biggest risk to never come off - largely due to the small nature of the Acorn games market.

A potted history of RISC User

At its launch, RISC User was co-edited by Mike Williams (of Acorn Publisher) and Lee Calcraft, the co-founder of BEEBUG. During its first year, the articles were largely concerned with getting used to the 32-bit technology: better was to follow as from year two RISC OS became available.

Throughout the life of the magazine BEEBUG chose to make the magazine disc an optional item; and quite expensive too. This gave them the budget to produce a magazine disc to a usually high standard, which was reflected in the reception by readers of the magazine. (During the last year, RISC User's disc budget did reduce, but I feel that the magazine discs still had a certain something).

When RISC User did finally cease, in February of this year, the promised Nutshell CD-ROM; containing a simple history of RISC User in the form of software, magazine articles and more, was released by BEEBUG. The reception was superb, and now R-Comp have a few copies left which justify the inclusion of a this review.

From small beginnings...

Contained within the RISC User: In a Nutshell selection is every magazine disc published; the Quark X Press layouts for issues 1.1 through to 8.1; plus the available Acorn format files for every issue from then until its closure. I have, of course, forgotten to mention that also included is all of Beebug's so-called publications department software (the likes of DeskEdit, ArcScan) as well as a few other selections, including PlayBack (which I own), PolyGlot and others.

Just in case you missed them, the full text is included for most of the books published by Beebug, including Wimp Programming for All and Getting Into Ovation. If indeed you did miss them, these books are each a very good introduction to a certain aspect of Acorn computers. With Wimp Programming for All, Alan Wrigley produced a masterpiece which gave me my first introduction to WIMP programming; the result of which can be seen in the Sleuth 3 installer.

Navigation is easy, with the help of a smartly designed, very intuitive, interface which does more than ample justice to the author.

The author is, of course, Richard Hallas. When interviewed for Acorn User in 1999, Jill Regan quoted that he's a perfectionist. Fair comment, really. The RISC User: In a Nutshell disc was late in arriving, but it lived up to the promise very well, and is a great credit to Richard.

...grow strong interests in Acorn

Of course, at this point I'd like to point out that a magazine benefits most from having a wide variety of contributors. This was no exception for RISC User, and over the years the likes of Mark Moxon (ex-Acorn User) editor, Matt Browne, Andrew Clover of DoggySoft and David Bradforth (erm... yes) contributed all manner of items to the magazine and disc, of which I have chosen a few for a visual representation here.

The conclusion is very simple. The RISC User: In a Nutshell CD-ROM is a wonderful way to gain twelve years of features, reviews, hints & tips as well as tons of useful software for a stunning price.

Product details

Product: RISC User: In a Nutshell
Supplier: R-Comp Interactive
Price: £30 (add £2 for overseas postage)
Address: 22 Robert Moffat, High Legh, Knutsford WA16 6PS
Tel: 01925 755043
Fax: 01925 757377

David Bradforth

Ex-Disc Editor, RISC User