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Many operating systems have been adapted for the Raspberry Pi and its many clones – there are more than a dozen versions of Linux versions alone. But there is in this series an original and almost forgotten OS, which received, with widespread use of raspberries, a second chance to be reborn from nonexistence. It's about RISC OS, a platform with a British accent from the eighties, which was once created by the developers of the ARM architecture themselves.
How it all began
A modest Cambridge company Acorn from the very first days of its existence has been subjected to severe pressure from firms – manufacturers of serial personal computers. Founded in 1978 by Herman Hauser and Chris Curry, at the initial stage of its development, Acorn released a total of only five hundred thousand PCs, most of which were sold in the UK, Ireland and Italy. A significant number of these machines were received in British schools as visual aids to study the principles of work with staff.
It is noteworthy that this company eventually became one of the few companies that, like Apple, created their computers completely – from processors and peripherals to the operating system and application software.
Until Acorn was founded, Chris Curry worked on creating a microcomputer assembly kit with Clive Sinclair, author of the legendary Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer. However, Sir Clive showed no desire to further develop this direction, while the friend of Carrie Herman Hauser became interested in business, and he became the co-founder of Acorn.
The name was chosen for two reasons: firstly, the acorn symbolized the company's focus on growth and development, and secondly, Acorn appeared in the alphabetical telephone directory before Apple Computers.
By the early eighties, virtually all UK schools were equipped with Acorn computers. One of the first-born was a machine with the simple name Micro, which Acorn developed by order of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). A bit later, Acorn engineers created an alternative to this machine called Electron. By and large, it was a budget version of BBC Micro, equipped with 32 KB of RAM and a MOS 6502 processor. It was with the help of Electron that English schoolchildren from the early 1980s learned the basics of programming using a built-in basic. Electron allowed you to download and record programs to a regular tape recorder, and instead of a monitor, a household TV was used. Due to its relatively low cost and excellent characteristics, Acorn Electron quickly gained popularity among users, competing with the ZX Spectrum.
The first operating system to be used on Acorn personal computers was a clone of the MOS platform, released in 1983 by the same BBC company. Acorn acquired a license from the BBC for the further development and operation of this system, so programmers got at their disposal the source code of the MOS kernel and several basic utilities. They could not only adapt them to their own hardware, but also improve the software at their discretion, which became a good help in the design of OSes. However, 8-bit processors no longer met the technical challenges of that time, the time has come to storm new horizons.
The advent of the RISC architecture allowed many companies, including giants like IBM and Sun, to create new-generation processors. Noted in a number of manufacturers and more modest Acorn. The company has formed a separate division for these purposes – Advanced RISC Machines (ARM). And the development and development of the operating system for ARM processors took up another division of the company – Acorn RISC Technologies (ART).
Acorn Archimedes PC, announced in 1987, became the company's new flagship. These machines were equipped with a 32-bit ARM3 processor, operating at frequencies up to 25 MHz. They made it possible to display on-screen graphics with a resolution of up to 800 × 600 pixels with a color palette of up to 256 colors, output 8-bit stereo audio through eight different channels and were equipped with 4 MB of RAM (up to 16 MB in later versions).
In terms of performance and technical characteristics, Acorn's Archimedes would have been easy to devote to IBM PC 386, which reigned supreme on the market, if not one. A powerful machine with a 32-bit processor required an appropriate operating system that could adequately use all the hardware resources at its disposal. However, by that time, the software department of the corporation had already completely exhausted the budget allotted to it for these purposes, and instead of a full-fledged multitask OS with a window graphical interface, users received its one-task and not very convenient replacement, which the developers called Arthur OS.
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