Missed the biggest show of the year? Never mind let Aaron tell you about it...
So Wakefield has been and gone, and now I am back in my luxury, air conditioned, plush office I can tell you all about it. Well once again the Wakefield Acorn User Group did a sterling service in organising the show so smoothly. It does come as a real culture shock when helpers jump into the boot of your car and unload everything for you, before you have even had a chance to turn the engine off.
The show set up went as smoothly as ever and by opening time on Saturday everyone seemed ready for the off with exhibitors straining at their leashes. As is usual with 2 day shows the first day was manic, indeed I didn't get a chance to get off the stand until about 4 o'clock. We did a very very brisk trade in DrawWorks upgrades (OK we sold hundreds). However it wasn't until Sunday that I was able to get enough time to have a wander and see what else was on display.
Of course what everyone really wants is new hardware these days. The RISC PC may well be a fine machine but it is now 7 years old and is looking quite out of date. Castle Technology were showing off the latest version of their Kinetic RISC PC, now running at 300Mhz. However the new processors were not being sold as an upgrade for existing machines but only as complete new computers. This seems a little odd as overclocking a chip (which is what Castle seems to have done) isn't very difficult. Remove the old crystal, solder on a new one and away you go. Personally I was a little disappointed as I hoped the largest hardware manufacturer would have come up with something better, after all the Omega is coming.
The Castle Technology Stand
Moving over to the Microdigital stand a Mico was on display using the new Lighting graphics card (the same chipset as the Omega) and at last customers also had a chance to see a real live Omega working. However when I saw it it wasn't working, or at least was working but didn't want to display a picture properly. I know that Microdigital have had supply problems with some chips and I can only guess that a last minute design change was responsible. I was told the machine was got working again later in the day and that customers were very impressed. The graphics driver for the lightening ship set needs further optimisation before the machines can be shipped and this was apparently the problem. The Omega will now be shipping with a 287Mhz processor, which although slower than the new Castle RISC PC machines doesn't tell the full story. The Omega has much faster RAM and a much lower graphics overhead. I am still waiting for a full production machine to review, but indications are that the Omega may well be up to 4 times the speed of a 300Mhz Kinetic in desktop use.
Look mummy an Omega
The new PC card that fits in the Omega was also on display and was shown running to a few selected people. However much like the lightning card the drivers still needed to be completed.
Explan were also showing their new solar powered Solo computer. I hope to have a further article about this in the next issue and didn't want to interrupt Paul Richardson as he was busy selling printers hand over fist.
Strangely Millipede didn't make any kind of appearance at the show, perhaps this was due to other commitments, or perhaps the Imago motherboard still isn't working properly. For a couple of years now we have seen it displaying very impressive graphics, but not running any real operating system. When you consider that the Imago was supposed to ship with RISC OS 3.7 before RISC OS 4 had even been announced you have to wonder if the project has floundered.
If you missed Wakefield then you also missed Dave Walker bringing along some of his collection of ancient Acorn computers, stretching all the way back to the 1970s. The number of odd machines was staggering, I mean when did you last see a Master Communicator or a Cambridge Workstation?
Cerilica were supposed to be selling the first full release of Vantage, but were still selling a Beta version from their very impressive stand. However a number of key new features have been added to this release with customers promised an upgrade to the full release within the next couple of months.
Warm Silence software were selling new versions of many of their products, including the very popular CD Burn. Many other stands were selling CD Writers, these seem to be getting increasingly popular with RISC OS users due to their relative low cost and the low price of CD media.
APDL were snowed under with customers interested in their increasing range of software products. New releases included updated versions of RiscCAD and Personal Accounts. Also on display were Sleuth, Hard Disc Companion and Masterfile (which is on this issue of RISC World!). APDL were also selling copies of both Ovation and Ovation Pro.
R-Comp were demonstrating their latest games release with Descent II looking like an instant hit with the games buying public. This new version of Descent runs even better than the old one and was exceptionally smooth on the StrongARM RISC PC being used to demonstrate it. Also on display for the first time was a beta version of Tek, the long awaited strategy game.
The charity stall was packed with interesting bargains and a massive pile of older Acorn machines such as A3010 and A400 series computers. Paul Beverley was selling subscriptions to Archive as well as the latest Archive double CD compilation.
Paradise, famous for their budget games, were demonstrating the new PaintPal graphics tablet, including a version built into a keyboard! This pressure sensitive graphics tablet does look very nice and comes in at the right price. Judging by the show response they should sell a great many.
PaintPal graphics tablets from Paradise
On the subject of keyboards STD developments were showing off a new multimedia keyboard for RISC OS. This is based on the PC style multimedia keyboard you often see in shops. The driver software was really well engineered, if you pressed the Calc button on the keyboard the RISC OS calculator loaded, now thats neat.
RISC OS Ltd - no show!
For some reason RISC OS ltd did not attend the show. This is most odd as they really should make an effort to support those who spend their time organising such events. However they did issue a press release on Friday (while the important people in the market were away from their computers setting up stands) explaining the reasons and announcing the new RISC OS Select scheme. Perhaps they didn't attend for fear of getting lynched about the announcement?
So that was Wakefield 2001. A very popular show with a very good turn out of customers. However I am a bit concerned about the lack of new products from some developers and about the absence of RISC OS Ltd. Perhaps things will be a lot clearer by the RISC OS 2001 show in the autumn.