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Toby Smith

Feb 15, 1995, 6:03:12 AM2/15/95
In article <>, (Valentin Bolam) wrote:

> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> We envisage equipping the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum with 6
> networked Acorns with one acting as the network controller - Acorns,
> because we want local school children to use the Museum to research
> projects, and because the systems at their schools are Acorn systems.
> We need advice on 'compatibility issues'.
> The Brief
> ^^^^^^^^^
> We will need to have an IBM/IBM-clone for admin. purposes, at
> least - and to provide interface with the DOS-based MODES (Museum
> Object Data Entry System). But we also need the network to be
> able to interface with the General Public, who may wish to take
> information away on diskette to use on their IBM-type/Apple/Other
> PCs. Pupils may wish to do this also - for project/homework.
> So ... we want the Acorn network:-
> a) to interface with the IBM-type admin. machine running
> standard Windows business wp, spreadsheet, database, Internet, etc
> software;

With the new Risc PCs, you can have a PC processor card in the machine, and
hence it will run as either RISC OS or DOS machine (in fact it can do both
at the same time, but that's a technicality)

With an Acorn, there is little need for IBM-type business wp, spreadsheet,
database software, as there are Acorn native equivalents that are usually
better, and definately a lot easier to use. Please don't get stuck in the
computer = IBM dominance rut!

As for internet acess, you can do that from the Acorns as well, as shown
perfectly by many people posting to this group via assorted methods from

> b) to be able to offload to whatever type of diskette, database,
> wp, spreadsheet, etc information, which would be compatible with
> non-Acorn (above all IBM-type and Apple) machines. It would be
> useful if this process could be reversed, also.

DOS disc reading & writing is included as standard in the Acorn Operating
Mac discs are handled by software available commercially from Computer
Concepts (email about macFS)
(At least I think that's the email address, if not, someoe will correct me!)

> ! HELP !
> ^^^^^^^^
> We know little about Acorns, apart from the fact that they have
> evidently got a dedicated following - a fact I have gleaned
> from reading this BBS for a few days.

It's a newsgroup, not a BBS. (pedantic!)

We do have support from local
> Primary Schools. My own computing background is IBM/IBM-clone and I
> myself am running a Gateway2000 (humerous jeers, boos, and heckling
> accepted) 486 Dx2 66 PCI 16Mb/1Gb (compressed) with internal
> CD-ROM, tape-backup, and faxmodem, with Epson laser-printer and
> HPIIcx colour scanner - and this represents more or less the
> limits of my understanding. I am not a programmer (except for
> application-based progs/macros and DOS batchfiles). I'm not hot on
> chip architecture or the deeper physiology of my PC, so please talk
> to me in idiotproof language.

Aha, a brialliant reason for going for Acorns - any idiot can undersant what
they are doing, without needing to re-process the configuration in falming
binary and other such overestimated nasties we get on PCs

> May I draw upon the collective expertise for an answer to the
> following questions:-
> 1. Are we posting these questions to the right place ?

Yes. You could try comp.sys.acorn for the more general questions, (this
isn't a true advocacy point) or for complicated details
about the networking, and PCs on the net if you absolutely insist on that
stupid idea.

> 2. If so, please give us the benefit of your advice - if you will
> - by posting to this BBS and _not_, please, to my personal e-mail
> address. This is voluntary work, and I need to keep my own e-mail
> address free for business purposes.

What else are we here for? Our health (looks at clock...)

-(o o)-
----Toby Smith
PocketBook columist for The ARM Club (
I read Usenet News - obvoiusly I speak for myself, and am possibly wrong!
... Screenwriters apply character personalities like Post-It notes.

Patrick McTiernan x8738

Feb 17, 1995, 8:14:40 AM2/17/95
I didn't originally reply when I first read the Octavia posting. I notice that
the first followup I see is a little aggressive on the anti-PC front without
really making clear what the relevant issues are.

Acorn computers make great use of the fact that they have large OS's on ROM,
and don't actually need to have disk drives in them to be useful (although
quite a lot of operating system extensions are supplied on disk with the latest
machine, the RISC-PC).

Configuration can mean setting up software on hard disks, but in the Acorn
world, it has traditionally referred to changing configuration bits in the
CMOS RAM; installed cards (such as network cards) store hardware configuration
items in CMOS RAM bits which Acorn allocate for them. Most software gets
paths by using the OS to supply the directory path of the current application
being invoked; this means that "installing" a new piece of software involves little
more than copying it onto the disk, in some cases; and most applications will run
from network, floppy or CD-ROM drives with no "installation" of any kind...

For the PC user, it may be hard to appreciate just what a difference it makes
not having to worry where drivers go in memory, or indeed how interrupts are
handled; the OS handles the claiming and releasing of interrupt vectors. This
means that more than one claimant can queue up on a single vector.. and new and
old cards can go in the same machine without the familiar PC worries of link-
setting. An OS designed with modularity and expandability in mind makes life so
much simpler; and having the Windowing truly integrated makes the integration
with the underlying OS much smoother.

Many of us here have some experience of installing or maintaining PCs, many
of us on networks. I don't know how your experiences compare, but my own
position is that of considering the setting-up of a PC network to be a
nightmarish experience, to be avoided when there's any alternative. Having a
PC as a file-server is a very worrying idea, as a result of the rapid rate of
change, large profusion (and horrible complexity) of PC network protocols.
As a nice example, Novell appear to go to some lengths to make it very difficult
indeed for anything other than a PC to access one of their networks (without
paying them an enormous fee to licence network security validation code). Still,
there is some software allowing Acorns to access some PC server mechanisms, I
am told. Access to UNIX/internet networks is much more straightforward, according
to my friends who use Acorn machines on UNIX networks. I have no access to
networked Acorn machines myself, so cannot help much with information in this area.

You seem to be one of the many people in a position where you have a specific
set of tools you use which you believe are only available (or affordable) on
PCs. Sadly, there are some areas where this is actually true; nonetheless, there
are numerous areas of computing where the Acorn tools available compare very
favourably with the PC equivalents. There are even some area where the state-
of-the-art tool is only available on Acorn machines (music processing software
is the obvious example). In the more common areas, like word-processing,
spreadsheeting, databases, programming and graphics, there is a choice of some very
competitive and innovative tools. Writing your own code is so much easier on
Acorn machines that many users (especially schools and radio stations) choose them
to either aid in the teaching of programming/computing or to develop highly
specialised software quickly and reliably. I accept, there are some very powerful
(and expensive) software development systems available for PC; but the very need
for the power (and expense) of the system arises from the horrible complexity of
the modern PC clone.

I hope that my contribution clarifies some points. I might be able to help
on specific issues if you want to e-mail me, but not on any large scale.

The opinions expressed here are entirely personal, and do not reflect those of
my company (except by coincidence).

Sep 7, 2014, 3:14:57 PM9/7/14
What a fascinating thread, albeit a little dated! Are you there Val? Or have you moved, along with your books to somewhere else?

All the best

Charles (Keyes)
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