8-Bit Software Online Conversion

      By Silas S. Brown (With comments from D.G.Shimmin) I don't know very much about the Archimedes, but I must say that I'd rather have access to an A3010 than the PC I have access to at the moment (a 286 roughly equal in price to an A3010 but including extras like hard disk drive and monitor). Here are my reasons: Operating System Maybe not many people find multitasking helpful, but I do, as I often write programs that tend to tie up the computer in a long calculation. The file management, printing, etc. also benefits from multitasking, as you can be getting on with other stuff while it's going on in the background. Task switching, the user interface and the ability to 'drag' data around programs (as well as the ability to increase your productivity if you work with several programs on the same task. Fine, you can use Windows on the PC to do all that, but it's not as reliable as RISC OS is and it consumes a lot more resources to match the speed. OS/2 is even more so, and DesqView doesn't come anywhere near to its standards on a similarly priced machine. And in RISC-OS the command line is always available if you need to use it, and it works, too, unlike some MS-DOS sessions in things like Windows. Memory A lot of PCs have more memory than the A3010 has or can be expanded to, but the A3010 manages its memory more efficiently than PCs. Let's take an example. I switch the 1Mb 286 on and it goes through the bootup routines (which are quicker on the Archimedes so you don't have to wait for ages just to do a one minute job), loading DOS and loading drivers and pieces of software like that which are provided in ROM on the Archimedes anyway, and leaves me with about 540K free memory. The A3010, on the other hand, in the same status, gives 584K - and even more if you don't want things like fonts. I load QBasic to do some programming, and that leaves about 450K free. On the A3010, on the other hand, it's still 584K unless you want to speed the already fast micro up a bit and load it into RAM, and even then you have more than on the PC. Fine, you may say, who needs all this memory anyway? Well, if you're multitasking you do. Speed As I mentioned earlier, the A3010 boots faster than the 286. It also IS a lot faster in operation. Don't think that RISC is cheating - it's quite an adequate instruction set, especially with all the OS calls. This 286 runs at 16MHz and so does the ARM250. But the ARM250 handles instructions in less clock cycles and offers about twice the speed of a 286 - just the thing for multitasking. And as the ARM250 is integrated CPU, IOC, MEMC and VIDC, never mind any PC local bus and video cards because on the A3010 they're all there on the same chip, interfacing at the same fast speed. Sound There's no question about it - the Archimedes sound is far better than the PC's, unless you add a sound card to your PC, which costs about £100-£200 extra (more like £80 to £100, I've been told - DGS) and isn't well software implemented anyway (unless you program in machine code, that is). Graphics The Archimedes graphics matches, in some cases, SVGA standards (and long before SVGA was out) in 360K or so of memory. Also, you don't have to pick out a few more hundred pounds for a graphics card. The screen updating is, I believe, also a lot faster, and there is more OS support. (DGS says: I've been led to believe that the Archimedes gets 256 colours on screen at once, while £800+ PC's (colour SVGA) have millions, not that 256 colours doesn't look brilliant anyway, and few PC's are fast enough to use all their colours productively. Most new 386/486 PC's have graphics cards included). Mouse While this is supplied on all Archimedes models as standard, it costs extra on many PCs (except 'bundled' packages) and often has only 2 buttons. TV Modulator If you can't afford a monitor on PCs, you'll have to spend almost just as much buying an expansion card for a TV modulator, and all your expansion slots would probably be filled up by now so you can't fit it in anywhere! Ports With most PC ports you have to get ANOTHER - aargh! - expansion card! For the Archimedes, there is a device available which plugs in to one expansion slot and gives you four - mind you, you're not likely to use them, as all the ports you need (unless you're doing something like controling your house with your computer) are already there. Software The OS and many software items are ready on ROM in the A3010, whereas they often aren't even there on PCs. On the A3010 they can be shadowed for extra speed, or, if you prefer, left alone for extra memory. Just about all the software you need for 'everyday' things and more is included. Networking While the software for this is bundled on most Archimedes models, on the PC you need another....you should know the story by now! It's also compatible with both Econet and Ethernet in some of the later models. Compatibility I have heard that the Archimedes is compatible with both PC and BBC software, (to a limited extent) and the A5000 etc. may even run BBC software at the same speed as on a BBC. This gives you the best of all 3 worlds, though I'm not sure if the PC emulator is 'bundled' with the A3010. Why the A3010? It's the cheapist I've seen (the latest price I've seen advertised is £399 for an A3010 Family Solution and a few demonstrations of games, advertised as the A3010 action pack) and seems reasonable value for money. If I had the say and the money I'd much rather buy it than any other PC or Archimedes. Hard Disk Drive Yes, I know it doesn't come with the A3010 as standard, but you very rarely need one with most software and the OS on ROM, and the 'pinboard'. If you want one, though, they are available, and you don't need as many megabytes as on the PC, as, as well as many applications being on ROM, applications don't tend to have such huge data files and swap files as on the PC. Floppy Disk Drive Compatible with many 3.5" formats including a 2Mb one. You rarely need a second drive. A 5.25" drive is available. What about the BBC? If the 6502 Emulator can provide a 'virtual' BBC complete with all the Sideways RAM and things like that, I'd prefer the Archimedes. If it can't, though, (it can't - DGS) I really wouldn't be able to make a choice. For non-programming applications, the Archimedes would almost always be better, however, the BBC is actually 'there', ie. it's less virtual than the Archimedes is, and you can write code like LDA &355:CMP #7:BEQ inMode7 without the machine crashing on you. However, if you stick to structured Basic (dare I say those two words?), you'll probably find Basic V a better place to be. One other thing, too, if you want to fiddle about with the BBC's insides, it's easier and you can't invalidate a non - existant guarantee. And also, while the Archimedes hasn't got as many viruses as the PC, I don't know of any for the BBC. Surprising, really, because I would have thought that it would have been very easy to write one.... (DGS says: I have heard of three viruses for the BBC, two of them written by friends of mine, and one by someone who is now no longer a member of 8BS. So how many others are out there I really wouldn't know).                                    