Acorn Archimedes

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The Acorn Archimedes 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.


Description and history

Early models

The first models were released in June 1987, as the 300 and 400 series. The 400 series included 4 expansion slots (although a 2 slot backplane could be added to the 300 series as an official upgrade, and third parties produced their own 4 slot backplanes) and an ST506 controller for an internal hard drive. Both models included the Arthur OS (later replaced by RISC OS as a paid-for upgrade), BBC BASIC and an emulator for Acorn's earlier BBC Micro, and were mounted in two-part cases with a small central unit, monitor on top, and a separate keyboard and three-button mouse. All models featured onboard 8 channel stereo sound and were capable of displaying 256 colours on screen.

Four models were initially released with different amounts of memory, the A305, A310, A410 and A440. The 300 and 400 were followed by a number of machines with minor changes and upgrades:

A3000 and A5000

Work began on a successor to the Arthur operating system, initially named Arthur 2, but with the release of the Hollywood movie of the same name it was renamed to RISC OS 2 and new computers were shipped with it pre-installed. A number of new machines were introduced along with it, and in May 1989 the 300 series was phased out in favour of the new Acorn A3000 (the 400 series was kept in production). Earlier models which shipped with Arthur could be upgraded to RISC OS 2 by replacing the ROM chips containing the operating system.

The A3000 used an 8 MHz ARM2 and was supplied with 1 MB of RAM. Unlike the previous models, the A3000 came in a single-part case similar to the Amiga 500 and Atari ST computers, with the keyboard integrated in the base unit. This kind of housing consumes a lot of desktop space, a problem that Acorn tried to overcome by offering a monitor stand that attached to the base unit. The new model only sported a single internal expansion slot, which was physically different from that of the earlier models, although electrically similar. An external connector could interface to existing expansion cards, although they really needed to be housed in an external case joined to the main unit.

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