May 10th, 2017

Hard Stare

Daydreaming of alternate universes & a tech marriage made in heaven: BeOS on Acorn


Acorn pulled out of making desktop computers in 1998, when it cancelled the Risc PC 2, the Acorn Phoebe.

The machine was complete, but the software wasn't. It was finished and released as RISC OS 4, an upgrade for existing Acorn machines, by RISC OS Ltd.

by that era, ARM had lost the desktop performance battle. If Acorn had switched to laptops by then, I think it could have remained competitive for some years longer -- 486-era PC laptops were pretty dreadful. But the Phoebe shows that what Acorn was actually trying to build was a next-generation powerful desktop workstation.

Tragically, I must concede that they were right to cancel it. If there had been a default version with 2 CPUs, upgradable to 4, and that were followed with 6- and 8-core models, they might have made it, but RISC OS couldn't do that, and Acorn didn't have the resources to rewrite RISC OS to do it. A dedicated Linux machine in 1998 would have been suicidal -- Linux didn't even have a FOSS desktop in those days. If you wanted a desktop Unix workstation, you still bought a Sun or the like.

(I wish I'd bought one of the ATX cases when they were on the market.)

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