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Long before the launch of the Power Macintosh range, the Archimedes was waving the flag for RISC based computing. Pitched against the Amiga and Atari ST, the sheer processing power of the Archie was hugely impressive. Despite the many innovations, Acorn struggled to break out of its traditional education stronghold.

Features

Acorn Archimedes A305/A310

0.5MB of RAM (1MB with the A310), expandable to 4MB
8MHz ARM2 processor
256 colours
Floppy drive but no hard disc
A300 series can be recognised by the red coloured function keys
The 305 originally ran a very buggy operating system called Arthur. This was soon ditched and replaced with RISC OS 2

Acorn Archimedes A410/A420/A440

1Mb of RAM (2MB in the A420, 4MB in the A440), expandable to 4MB
8MHz ARM2 processor
256 colours
Floppy drive and hard disc
A400 series can be recognised by the grey coloured function keys

Acorn Archimedes A540

ARM3 processor
Expandable to 16MB
The last in the series to carry the Archimedes name

Acorn Archimedes A3000

All-in-one case, similar to the Amiga A500
256 colours
The last in the series to feature BBC branding (but only on early models)

Acorn A5000

Expandable to 16MB
256 colours
25MHz ARM3 processor with cache
Initially released with RISC OS 3.00. This proved buggy and later A5000s were provided with RISC OS 3.1

Acorn A3010 and A3020

Steve Rich writes:
These machines were very similar to the A3000 except they had a refined case and had an ARM2.5 processor fitted. The A3010 looked like an A3000, except it had green function keys and was aimed at the home market. The A3020 had red function keys and was aimed at schools. As the names suggest, the A3010 came with 1MB and a HD disk drive, while the A3020 came with 2mb and a HD disk drive. The A3010 was sold in Dixons/Argos as well as through normal routes. Both machines featured RISC OS 3.1

Acorn A4000

Again, Steve Rich writes:
This was just like the A5000 except that is came with a ARM 2.5 processor. It was aimed at the home office. – 2mb and an 80mb hard disk was the basic model I think.

Acorn A4

Laptop model
ARM 3 processor
2MB RAM
HD floppy and a 80MB hard disk
Monochrome screen

Acorn RiscPC

Expandable to 256MB
Modular design, allowing expansion ‘slices’ to be plugged on top of the base unit
16-bit sound
32-bit true colour

The Games

Not a lot of games of note, but Zarch – written by Elite co-author David Braben impressed at the time of the Archie’s launch. Zarch was converted – none too successfully, by many accounts – to various other formats by Firebird, who released it under the name of Virus.

Continuing the Elite theme, the other co-author, Ian Bell has said that he believes that the Archimedes version of the space trading game is the best.

During the 16-bit era, a number of Atari ST and Amiga games were converted from companies such as the Bitmap Brothers, Bullfrog Productions, Core Design and Hewson Consultants.

According to mail sent from an anonymous source to Richard G. Hallas, the editor of RISC User magazine:

Just as an aside, there are actually quite a few Acorn fanatics at Microsoft, and it’s a little known fact that the Archimedes version of Lemmings was responsible for delaying Windows 3.1 by about a week because a bunch of Windows developers refused to get back to work until they’d completed all the levels!

“Fred Bloggs”
Windows UI Development

Curses! Just think, if only DMA had figured out how to create an infinite number of levels in Lemmings, we could have been saved from Windows.

People

The Bitmap Brothers released conversions of a number of their Amiga and Atari ST classics for the Archie.

Thanks

Huge thanks to Richard G. Hallas, Steve Rich and Katie for their help with this page.

Major events

1987
Archimedes A305 launched

1990
Acorn A5000 released
December 1991
Acorn A3010 and A3020 released

1994
RiscPC launch

September 1998
Acorn Computer withdrew from the computer workstation market and the Risc PC 2 project known as “Phoebe” was cancelled.

Emulators

Mac OS X

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iOS

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OUYA/Android

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