The Risc PC (codenamed Medusa) was Acorn Computers's next generation RISC OS/Acorn RISC Machine computer, launched in 1994, which superseded the Acorn Archimedes.
Like the Archimedes, the Risc PC continued the practice of having the RISC OS operating system in a ROM module. Risc PC augmented the ROM-based core OS with a disk-based directory structure containing configuration information, and some applications which had previously been kept in ROM.
Specifications and technical details
- Memory type: SIMM, 2 slots, supporting a maximum memory size of 256 MB.
- Video subsystem: VIDC20 controller, with optional dual-port VRAM up to 2 MB.
- Expansion: Eurocard-sized Podule support in common with Archimedes-series machines. The Risc PC also offers DMA support in the first two podules on the bus.
- Operating System: RISC OS 3.5 (Risc PC 600), RISC OS 3.6 (Risc PC 700), RISC OS 3.7 (StrongARM Risc PC). RISC OS 4 is available as a replacement for the Acorn-implemented versions which came fitted as standard.
- Case: Designed by industrial designer Allen Boothroyd of Cambridge Product Design (designer of the BBC Micro case). Custom plastic-based design with a novel 'slice' feature which allows extra case modules to be added to increase internal expansion space. Each slice adds 2 podule bays at the rear, and two drive bays (one 3.5 inch, one 5.25 inch) at the front, covered by a retractable flap to hide cosmetic inconsistencies in hue. The inside of the case is sprayed with nickel paint to meet electromagnetic and radio emissions regulations.
- Ports: Serial, Parallel, PS/2 keyboard, Acorn mouse, headphone audio out, DE15 VGA, network (optional).
- CPU: Dual-processor slots, accepting the following chips on a special daughterboard: ARM610 at 30 MHz or 33 MHz, ARM700 at 33 MHz (only as prototype), ARM710 at 40 MHz, ARM810 at 55 MHz (only as prototype), StrongARM at 203 MHz, 236 MHz or 300 MHz. 486 and 586-based co-processors at up to 133 MHz, and DSP chips (third party) were also available. A "Hydra (Simtec)" multi-processor development system from Simtec allowed an extra four ARM6 or ARM7 CPU cards, mainly using the Linux OS.
- Dimensions: 117 (182 two centre-sections) x 355 x 384 mm (HxWxD).
1994 - Risc PC 600 launched, featuring a 30 MHz ARM6 CPU.
1995 - ARM7 CPU upgrade and Risc PC 700 model launched.
1996 - StrongARM CPU upgrade released, offering a fivefold increase in raw processing power compared to the ARM7 used in the previous high-end machines.
2000 - In May, Castle Technology
revealed the Kinetic Risc PC range which included a faster processor card with onboard memory.
2001 - Viewfinder Podule, AGP adapter allows the use of IBM P.C. clone AGP graphics cards (e.g. a range of ATI Rage and Radeon).
2003 - The cease of manufacturing RiscPC machines due to the release of the Iyonix
Risc PC 2
Acorn set about designing the Risc PC 2
, later renamed to Phoebe 2100 - a design with a 64 MHz front side bus, PCI
slots, and a yellow-coloured NLX form-factor
case. Slated for release in late 1998
, the project was abandoned just before completion, when Acorn's Workstation Division was closed. Only two prototypes were ever built, and were shown at the RISC OS 2001 show in Berkshire
, England; the remaining cases were sold off as collector's items, without the computer itself.
Risc PC today
Variants of the Risc PC design are still sold today , but Risc PCs have reached the end of their production cycle with the advent of RISC OS computers based around other ARM processors machines such as
Second-hand Risc PCs command very high prices relative to PCs of similar age and specifications . Significantly better performance has been pulled out of the aged Risc PC design by using the newer 203 (and later 236) MHz StrongARM CPU, using third-party video cards, overclocking, and having specially-designed CPU cards with RAM located upon them to sidestep the speed bottleneck of the slow system bus.
The front side bus
is usually recognised as being the most significant fault of the computer; and the arrival of the (five times faster) StrongARM
processor in 1996
meant that the Risc PC had a CPU
vastly faster than that for which the computer had been designed. Acorn had originally expected ARM CPUs to progress from the 30 MHz ARM6 to the 40 MHz ARM7, and then onto the ARM8 cores, which at the time were clocked at around 50-80 MHz. In 2000, Castle released "Kinetic", a new StrongARM processor board with its own onboard memory slots augmenting main memory, reducing the need to negotiate the slow front side bus for memory accesses.