RISC OS, the operating system for the original ARM computer, is still alive 35 years later.

Windows, macOS and Linux have monopolized all consumer PCs today, but there were times when other operating systems had their time in history. The RISC OS is part of this group of “alternatives” and could be much more important than thought given that it ran the original ARM-chip computer.

RISC OS is 35 years old, and The Register repeated the anniversary. Originally released as the “Arthur” system, it was developed by Acorn Computer for their line of Archimedes desktops released in June 1987 and was specifically designed to run on the 32-bit ARM chip they used. They said of these machines that they were radical and very fast, “downloading large programs in the blink of an eye.”

Its business history was short because Acorn Computer withdrew from the computer market in 2000 and spun off its ARM chip department. But the system is still alive, and one of its forks, designed for 32-bit ARM chip mode, is now owned by RISC OS Developments, who released it a few years ago as an open source license, and today anyone can use and modify it.

It is maintained and developed by RISC OS Developments and offers downloads for various modern ARM hardware such as Titanium computers or a special edition called RISC OS Direct that runs on almost all versions of the Raspberry Pi single board computer.

If you’re interested but don’t have that kind of hardware, there’s a FOSS emulator called RPCemu that can run modern versions of RISC OS. Obviously don’t require it to work like the current ones, as a system designed in the 80s doesn’t support SMP and only works with a single CPU core.


It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to this RISC OS if its developer Acorn Computer hadn’t spun off into Advanced RISC Machines, which we know as ARM and which eventually became an important company for the entire industry. Just remember that NVIDIA was willing to pay $40 billion for it.

Today, ARM has licensing agreements with hundreds of manufacturers, and its architecture is present in billions of devices, in 100% of smartphones sold on the planet, and in other mobile devices such as tablets and wearables, embedded devices, and data center servers. . it is NVIDIA’s greatest interest in buying it.

ARM is also present in personal computers running Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS. And, of course, in the most important group, in the Apple Mac, once from Cupertino, they decided to replace the Intel x86. Apple is not just anyone here, and when talking about how well Macs work with ARM, it should be remembered that in addition to her experience with mobile devices, she was involved in the initial development of the architecture with Acorn Computer.

It was at Acorn that they feared that the involvement of a hardware manufacturer like Apple would alienate other manufacturers from using their designs and, therefore, creating ARM. Otherwise history could change. As well as a tour of RISC OS, whose 35th anniversary we remember.

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