RISC World

From the Cutting Edge March 2009

Paul Middleton

The recent RISC OS South West Show should have been a milestone for RISC OS Shows as it was the 11th time that the show had been held at the Webbington Hotel in Loxton, not far from Weston Super Mare.

The event had originally been started as the Acorn Southwest Show by ex-RAF cook John Stonier, who also ran the original Acorn (RISC OS) South East Show.

With the expected release of the Phoebe computer later in 1998, Acorn decided that it would be good to have a show to cover the West of England, for people who couldn't easily make it to the Midlands, or London, where the major Acorn exhibitions were held at that time.

So, in conjunction with the Bristol Acorn Risc User Group and with the support of Acorn Computers and Xemplar the new show was held at the Webbington Hotel, about 9 miles south of Weston Super Mare on Saturday 7th February 1998.

The list of exhibitors included:

  • Acorn
  • Xemplar
  • ARM Club
  • Look Systems
  • TBA Software
  • Spacetech
  • Sherston
  • Archimedes World
  • Akalat
  • Yellowstone
  • R Comp
  • Bajorasoft
  • APDL
  • Cambridgeshire Software House
  • HS Software
  • Argo Interactive
  • EFF
  • IMS
  • Circle Software
  • Jonathan Duddington
  • Datafile
  • CJE Micros
  • Acorn User
  • iSV Products
  • Mijas Software
  • Topologika
  • CTA Direct
  • Creative Curriculum Software
  • Raspsoft
  • Crow Associates
  • AAUG
  • Dalriada
  • Bristol Acorn Risc User Group
  • expLAN
  • Micro Laser Designs

That's quite a list...

This year CJE Micros and R-Comp were the only companies present at the show who are on this original list.

Some of the companies listed above are still around, but with little, or no, involvement in the RISC OS world. Some, such as APDL are still very active in the RISC OS world, but weren't able to make it this year for personal reasons.

It is however a good testament to the legacy that Acorn left to us that RISCOS Ltd, which was formed the following year, is still around and was running the show for the second time this year, and that any of those other companies are still active. We had excellent weather and a good turnout from the current RISC OS stalwarts as well as a new exhibitor from Germany.

Michael Gerbracht has set up a new company in Germany called LuaFox which, as the name suggests, is based on developing products using the Lua programming language. Lua is a lightweight scripting language which has many similarities to BASIC, but has many additional features, such as dynamically adjustable arrays. It is an interpreted language which has a reputation as being very fast, with a small footprint suitable for Unix, Windows and "embedded" processors such as ARM. The "World of Warcraft" system for example runs on Lua! So it can also be extended to very large scale applications. Michael has received good support from the German Government and the EU, and it is a pity that the UK government hasn't given the same encouragement to British software development over the past ten years.

How different it would have been if Labour hadn't come to power in 1997, and schools were still buying thousands of British Acorn computers each year!

This year's show was notable however for another much sadder reason, as the news broke, the day before the show, that Paul Vigay's body had been found on the shoreline in Southsea. Many people didn't get the news until the Saturday morning at the show, and it was subsequently a much quieter day, than might have otherwise been the case.

The positive side of the day, was that there was a good attendance in the theatre presentations and I got to talk to people about what their expectations were for the future of RISC OS Six, and the thorny issue of porting RISC OS to new hardware.

There has been much debate about getting RISC OS to run on the ARM 8 Cortex processors. Work has been started by Jeffrey Lee using the RISC OS Open sources and his progress can be seen at

If he succeeds then the result will be a version of RISC OS 5 running on a Beagle board. It's a shame that it won't be running RISC OS Six. The porting of RISC OS 5 to the Beagle board would be good news if RISCOS Open Ltd had taken advantage of RISCOS Ltd's recent offer of a licence agreement. As it stands the rights to licence and distribute any version of RISC OS for the Beagle board still rest exclusively with RISCOS Ltd. Let us all hope that any future potential problems can be resolved and don't delay this exciting project.

In the meantime RISCOS Ltd is continuing development of RISC OS Six at full speed. We hope to see everyone at the Wakefield show in just a few weeks time. You never know we might have some exciting new developments on show.

Paul Middleton