RISC World

Magazines for the Acorn user

David Bradforth takes a look at the current magazines available for the Acorn user. He's rather pleased with what he discovers.

If you were to take a time machine back to 1992, the magazine scene for Acorn users was full of activity. For those wandering around W.H.Smiths there was a choice of Acorn User, Acorn Computing and Archimedes World. Acorn User was the more serious title, with practical programming material in each issue; Acorn Computing was stronger in education and Archimedes World was renowned for its detailed games content.

For those interested in a subscription magazine, RISC User and Archive both offered their respective specialties. RISC User was essentially a newsstand magazine offered exclusively on subscription, using professional writers for its content, whereas Archive was written by enthusiasts for enthusiasts but with a professional editor.

Over the course of time we've lost the majority of these titles. However as the market has changed there have been a number of new releases along the way. Here we're bringing together details of the current magazine scene in printed form. The electronic magazines (RISC World and Foundation RISC User) will form an article in the next issue.

Qercus (

Back in December 2003, a newsgroup posting from Steve Turnbull of Tau Press and John Cartmell of Finnybank announced that Acorn User (as launched by Acorn in 1982) and Acorn Publisher (launched by Mike Williams in 1996) were to be merged into one title bringing together many different aspects of the RISC OS market.

At the time there was a lot of speculation as to how well this could work. For many years Acorn User had been a general interest RISC OS title but had suffered as a result of lack of investment from its publishers, whereas Acorn Publisher had long been dedicated to desktop publishing and web design using RISC OS computers.

Since then, the content hasn't been bad - it's a good mixture of elements from both Acorn Publisher and the better times of Acorn User, including tutorials from the likes of David Cowell, games articles exploring in somewhat more detail than before the origins of RISC OS and Acorn games and a selection of programming content.

Cover for the upcoming issue 278 of Qercus - highlights include an article by Peter Kilworth on the origins of Interactive Fiction. Peter Kilworth wrote Countdown to Doom for Acornsoft many years ago and this is still entertaining over twenty years later.

In the future it's promised that a selection of content from past issues of Acorn User, Archimedes World and Acorn Computing will be integrated into Qercus in a somewhat updated form. Given the huge library of content available, with the right selections this could make for interesting reading.

It's fair to say that Qercus has had its bad times as well as good - until September, there had not been a magazine published this year. Given that many believed the magazine would no longer be published it's pleasing to see otherwise. I have an involvement in the physical print management of the title and can say with confidence I'm pleased at what I'm seeing.

The current issue, 277, includes:

  • A creative imaging tutorial on vector imagery
  • A guide through Computer Aided Design
  • Programming tutorials on Lua, AppBasic and BBC Basic
  • An introduction to the secrets behind eBay
  • The history of type, covering the typefaces of Eric Gill
  • A practical EasiWriter tutorial
  • and more

You can get the current copy of Qercus from Finnybank by phoning 0161 969 9820 or your newsagent can order it from their local distributor. If you need to quote it, the ISSN number is 1472-7894. It's still £4.20 (the same price Acorn User had since 1999).


While there have been many publications launched over the years, it's fair to say that in the last two years there have been none that have achieved a regular production schedule. When Louie Smith, whose first introduction to the RISC OS world occured at the Southeast Show last year, announced her intention to launch a new RISC OS magazine there was a mixed reception. The post, released Friday July 28th, reads as follows:

My name is Louie Smith and I am going to launch a new bimonthly RISC OS programmers' and users' magazine; "RISC OS Now; For Users and Programmers". I am aiming the magazine at the existing user and programmer group but also with the aim of attracting new users.

I'm looking for anyone able to write articles and reviews aimed at experts and beginners alike. I am interested in articles about existing software and new releases. Also, if anyone is interested in writing a regular column please contact me.

As well as there being regular articles, news and reviews, there will also be competitions. The most important of these being an artwork competition for the front cover. The magazine will be A4 portrait. So get creative and submit artwork in either the form of drawings created on RISCOS Software, or photographs. A £20 prize will be issued for use of artwork in the magazine.

There will also be advertising space for companies associated with the RISC OS world. For a price list please email me directly. I'm also going to include a classified section for people who are wanting to sell second hand computer (RISC OS) equipment or make general announcements.

The cynics had their doubts that the magazine would appear, but at the Southeast Show it did just that. Ten minutes before the opening of the show, Louie walked in with the stand and magazines having picked them up on the morning of the show. The magazine had suffered a number of production difficulties, notably with the front cover photograph being monochrome instead of colour, but the stated aim had been achieved - a new magazine had been launched from scratch in two months flat.

The cover of RISC OS Now: how it should have appeared in print... Jack Lillingston unfortunately became monochrome in the printing process.

To work through the magazine, features in issue one include:

  • ArtWorks Tutorial, by Richard Ashberry. Richard is a professional graphic designer and uses ArtWorks for a good portion of his work so it will be interesting to see how this article develops over the coming issues. It starts by working through the basics of ArtWorks.
  • Outside-In, from Louie, is intended to take a look at things from the world outside of the RISC OS market. In this first issue, that's a review of Last Train to Memphis by Peter Gularnick, and Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Mans Chest (coming to DVD shortly). It's an interesting concept, one that has been tried before, but my personal opinion is that the space may be better used for other RISC OS relevant content.
  • Games Now, by Sion Clever, essentially brings the games market up to date for those picking up a RISC OS magazine for the first time. It includes details of commercial and public domain releases (including my own Desktop Repton product), and provides a good opportunity for those looking to take a look at games on their RISC OS desktop. The cheats, at the end of the article, could perhaps benefit from being a little larger - having a practical guide to the likes of Heroes of Might and Magic would perhaps address a need that the RISC OS community has, colourful guides to RISC OS games in printed form.
  • In the Diary of a Newbie, Mike Carter shares his experiences as a new user of RISC OS. It's interesting to read through, and provides guidance on where to buy a second hand or new computer plus where to get support through those initial complications.
  • In the Basic BASIC article, a first introduction to BASIC programming is provided. Having read through the listings, it's clear that the programming offered would work just as easily on the BBC Micro which is probably a good thing. BBC Basic has been copied but never bettered elsewhere in the big wide world.
  • The Directory page lists a selection of companies active within the RISC OS world. There are some missing - notably Liquid Silicon - but it's certainly a starting point. I'd like to see this expanded to include details of the current RISC OS user groups, perhaps to promote an active interest in goings on at a local basis.
  • The relevance of programming, by Gavin Wraith, attempts to show the relationship and relevance of lanugage in computer programming. Reading throught the piece it was a little hard to follow, but it essentially explores the relationship between what you, as a programmer, key into the computer and how the computer understands it.
  • Jack Lillingston is interviewed by Louie, covering the origins of Castle Technology and how he envisages the market developing.
  • How it Works, by Paul Vigay, explores how number bases work and how to count in hexidecimal.

There are printing errors throughout the magazine that do make some of the articles a little hard to read, but what we have here is a good first issue which shows very well the intention of the title and how Louie hopes to develop it in the future. We do wish her all the best of luck with it. A single issue is £4.20 whereas a UK subscription is £29.99. The website contains details on how to pay.. unfortunately the address to which payment was sent was missed from the payment slip within the first issue.

Louie is hoping to have RISC OS Now available through W.H.Smiths, so we'll keep you updated.

Archive (

For any computer magazine to be running for twenty years is nothing short of amazing, but to have had one editor at the helm since the day of its launch shows nothing short of dedication. Archive was launched in 1987, at the same time as the first Archimedes computer, as a practical user group for those new to RISC OS.

Since that time it's always relied on a selection of material from its readers (and hence audience) and the editor. This has the advantage of drawing upon the knowledge different individuals have of their respective markets, and because none of the contributors are paid for their work there's a quite amazing passion behind it.

At the start of its twentieth volume the magazine had a minor redesign to bring the contents page onto the front cover which certainly adds emphasis to the contents within. A number of items have been shuffled around but this is still a highly practical magazine covering everything from the Internet to Ovation Pro and more besides.

Certainly recommended for those looking to cover some of the more complicated programming elements of RISC OS. With such a dedicated audience there's a little more space available for things that may not suit a magazine with a broader readership aim.

A subscription to Archive is £45, with an annually updated CD-ROM available containing every article from every volume of Archive to date at £19. It's always updated at the start of a new volume, so the current edition contains everything up to the end of volume 19. Some of the multimedia materials will not work on current machines, but it certainly provides an interesting historical archive.

Eureka (

The ARM Club's magazine Eureka brings our roundup of printed media to a conclusion. Published quarterly, it's sent out to ARM Club members and, as with Archive, relies on a mixture of press releases and contributions from readers and members alike. It's got a usergroup feel to it, being mainly monochrome but with the occasional colour section, but as with many other aspects of this market shows a real passion for the platform.

You get it with an annual subscription to The ARM Club - £15 UK, £19 EU or £22 international. The ARM Club do have a healthy library of software available at a discount to members, and the enthuasism they have is evident in their many appearances at RISC OS shows.

David Bradforth