I had not been to a computer show featuring RISC OS for a few years so when I found out that there was to be one in Portsmouth I made sure I was available. The last time I had been to a show that featured RISC OS was the Acorn User show at Wembley Exhibition Hall in 1992 and I was not sure what to expect. Things have certainly changed during the last 21 years and Acorn no longer exist as a company but their legacy lives on in the ARM processor and RISC OS.
The show was a relatively low key event but the stalls certainly made the event worth a visit with free admission it was hosted by Innovation Warehouse Portsmouth.
The first stall I visited was CJE Micro’s who had a large range of hardware available including many items for the Raspberry Pi. I spoke to Chris Evans from CJE Micro’s about their Real Time Clock I2C module which provides a battery backed RTC that can be used with the Raspberry Pi but is also available as a replacement for the older Acorn machines. Apparently there is a common problem with the older machines where the backup battery can chemically break down resulting in failure of the on-board RTC. Simply replacing the battery in not always the best action and the replacement module they supply will restore the clock function. There is a small modification required the the main PCB of the computer which involves cutting two of the legs for the old RTC chip but as my son demonstrated, even an eight year old with no experience of PCB work can manage it.
Next there was Drag N Drop which is a 3 monthly magazine specifically for RISC OS users. It covers a wide range of topics including programming, product reviews and tutorials with the occasional article on the older 8-bit BBC Micro and Electron.
Organizer is a personal diary, contacts manager, journal, to do list and does pretty much everything you could want from a personal manager application. It has improved greatly since I used the earlier versions with many new features. This was one application that I used to use often.
No RISC OS show would be complete without RISC OS Open Limited (ROOL) who also organised this event with great success. The guys were set up with copies of RISC OS in various formats from SD cards for the Raspberry Pi, ROMS for the older Acorn machines and USB sticks with emulators for use on a Windows, Mac or Linux machine.
An interesting project to use the Lapdock with a Slimed down version of a Raspberry Pi, named the Raspberry Pip was on display from Steve Drain. He has removed most of the standard connectors and added a RTC from CJEMicros while keeping the package less than 10mm in depth including the case. There was also a demo of his Basalt module that provides additional commands for use in BASIC including commands to control an MCP23017 Expansion chip via the I2C GPIO lines on the Raspberry Pi. A simple basic program was then being run to control a sequence of LED’s when a push button was pressed.
In the middle of the area was a desk with a Raspberry Pi running on a flat screen but no mains power. This was the Power SupPi, a power converter that had been build to run a Raspberry Pi in marine environment by converting 12/24V DC from the battery into the 5V needed to run the Pi.
To the side of the room was an exhibition of digital are from The MathMagical Software Company. Some impressive colourful plots and what reminded me of strange attractors from an old computer magazine article.
My final stop was at the stand of the Southampton Acorn User Group where I talked to Dave about the User Group programming in general.
While RISC OS may not be a widely used as 20 years ago there is still a strong community of users and companies to support them.