RISC OS goes Shared Source

History lesson. I grew up on Acorn computers. I started off with an Acorn Electron, which I took to pieces to solder in my own headphones and various other extensions. At school we used BBC Micros, and later BBC Masters, Acorn Archimedes and Risc PCs. I still own a Risc PC. At university, I wrote all my essays using Ovation Pro on an Acorn A4 laptop. 

A friend and I had a small business writing and selling educational software for RISC OS, the operating system that ran on the later Acorn machines. RISC OS was fast, easy to use, had drag-and-drop and antialiased fonts and all kinds of other features well ahead of the competition, and it owned the education market in the UK.

By the time I left university I was already used to Windows, Mac OS, UNIX and RISC OS… but I was kind of forced more deeply into Windows since I ended up porting UNIX code to Windows, and writing software installers for 3.11, NT4 and Windows 95 (and what fun that was…). Then I got into Linux. The point is, I haven’t touched RISC OS for about 10 years.

Acorn is no more, and the operating system passed on to two companies, Castle and RISCOS Ltd – who subsequently squabbled over how it should be developed further. I haven’t followed the story in detail. I’m aware that it is still out there, and machines have continued to be manufactured to run the operating system, but clearly it has been in decline – my old school switched over to PCs a good while back.

About a week ago, the companies involved announced a new shared source initiative around the operating system. It looks like the reaction has been mixed. I have to wonder how far this can take the operating system. Linux has a hard enough time winning share on the desktop from Windows, and I can’t see how this can make much difference either to development or to adoption. It’s a shame. Interesting to follow, but I moved on long ago.

2 thoughts on “RISC OS goes Shared Source”

  1. I realise its a very old article, but thought I’d reply.

    It’s taken until mid 2009 for the RISC OS Open initiative to actually start showing signs of momentum. They now have a version of RISC OS working on TI’s BeagleBoard (Cortex-A8). It’s not complete, but at least it works on some decent hardware now.

    I don’t think anyone seriously believes it has a future for desktop, but as a hobby OS, there is still a future for it

    1. Thanks for the update – to be honest this was something that was slipping under my radar. It’s a shame that RISC OS has become more of a hobby OS, but interesting to see that people are still looking at it!

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