The first Acorn computer I ever owned (and the third computer overall, after a Commodore VIC-20 and C64) was an A3010. It was bought for me in May 1993, purchased from Rapid Computers on Childwall Fiveways. It was a reward from my parents to celebrate my passing the entrance exam for Merchant Taylors School; had I known how that was going to turn out, I would probably have stuck with my Commodore 64 for another year or so.
The A3010 was the “budget” Acorn computer, an attempt by Acorn to escape from the classrooms and science labs where their computers were usually found and get into teenagers’ bedrooms with a games machine. There was no monitor supplied, but you could plug it into a TV for glorious 640×512 resolution. Only 1 megabyte of RAM, an ARM250 processor running at a blistering 12 Mhz, and no hard disc – why would you need one when an ADFS floppy could hold 1.6 megabytes?
It was cheap’n’cheerful and, to me, it was computer heaven. For a year or so before, I had gazed longingly at the BBC A3000 in the corner of my primary school classroom, enviously looking on as my fellow pupils typed away in the Phases 2 word processor, printing off their rubbish poems on the noisy Epson FX80 printer. Now, finally, I had a RISC OS machine to call my own.
A few years later I got a big power increase when I upgraded to a RiscPC, and the A3010 was relegated to a secondary machine. But it will always hold a special place for me. It was on this machine that I bashed out my first BBC BASIC programs. It was on this machine that I stayed up until 1am doing a project for History that I’d put off until the last minute. It was here that I wasted more than a few hours playing Sim City, and Lemmings, and probably my favourite of all, Fervour:-
When we moved to our current home there was no space to have my Aladdin’s Cave of computers on display, so the A3010 got put away in a cupboard. But it gained a new lease of life for a few years, as I wrote a program to run a game of Family Fortunes. Being able to code the game directly in BBC BASIC and then plug the computer straight into the TV to run it gave it a big advantage over the newer computers which we were using by now. It got dragged out regularly at Christmas get-togethers, with me playing the role of Les Dennis.
I thought long and hard about getting rid of this machine. Sentimentality can’t always win out, though: it’s been sitting in a cupboard for nearly three years. It needed to go, so tonight a nice man came and took it off my hands. I hope he loves and appreciates it as much as I did. Or uses it for parts. Whatever.
With the advent of the Raspberry Pi, I’m still using a distant relative of the A3010 every day, so I haven’t cut ties with that world completely. Even so… the feels.