"ARMed With Speed"

Released in June 1987, Acorn Archimedes was a family of educational computers manufactured by Acorn until the mid-1990s. Archimedes computers featured 32-bit ARM processors based on the revolutionary Acorn’s ARM architecture and the RISC OS (multitasking and a GUI).

  • ARM 32-bit RISC architecture
  • Mouse-driven GUI with multitasking capabilities
  • Mainly sold in the United Kingdom for educational purposes


The British Educational Market for Acorn Computers

Since the early 80s and the release of BBC Micro, Acorn has been a major computer supplier to educational organizations in the UK. Acorn’s market penetration in the British educational system was critical for the design and manufacturing of Archimedes' computers. Units sold to schools and universities were able to pay for the high manufacturing costs since Archimedes was extremely expensive for the average retail user. The Archimedes computers were mainly sold in the United Kingdom, but also in Germany, and other strong European marketplaces.

Acorn Sales Figures

Table: Acorn Computers


Operating System (RISC OS)

The fantastic RISC OSThe first Archimedes models featured the Arthur operating system, however, later they were upgraded to RISC OS 2. Acorn released the RISC OS in April 1989. RISC OS 2 was a fantastic mouse-driven operating system offering co-operative multitasking and a task manager. In late 1991, Acorn released the RISC OS 3 with keyboard shortcuts and other improved features.

  • Co-operative multitasking
  • Task manager monitor
  • Versatile file management
  • Lack of virtual memory support


Notable Archimedes Models

A300 and A400 series -The First Archimedes Computers

The first Archimedes models were the 300 and 400 series (A305, A310, and A440). These models had little variations between each other (expansion slots and memory). The first Archimedes (A305) with the ARM2 was as powerful as a 386-PC running at 16 MHz.

  • ARM2 32-bit processor
  • A305 offered 512K of RAM and A310 offered 1 MB of RAM
  • Up to 4 MB of RAM via third-party upgrades
  • Initially featured the Arthur operating system, later RISC OS 2
  • Boot instantly into GUI, as ROM chips are incorporated into the operating system
  • 8 channels (8-bit stereo sound)
  • 256 colors on screen out of a 4,096 palette
  • Up to 640x512 screen resolution
  • Emulating BBC Micro (through software)
  • Three-button mouse


A410/1, A420/1, and A440/1

Released in 1989, these newer desktop models offered the RISC OS and an upgraded MEMC. Officially limited to 4 MB of RAM, however, third-party vendors offered 8 MB RAM upgrades.


BBC Archimedes 3000

A3000 (top) and A3010 (bottom)Released in 1989, the Archimedes 3000 was Acorn’s first attempt to get established in the general home computer market. Although the A3000 was still very expensive for the average retail user, it has managed to sell strongly in British schools. The A3000 gained a 15% market share of the 500,000+ computers installed in 1991 in the UK's schools. Archimedes 3000 was based on the all-in-one concept, including the motherboard, disk drive, and keyboard in the same case. This design was already in use by Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga 500, and previously by several 8-bit computers.

  • RISCOS 2 on 512 KB of ROM (multitasking and GUI)
  • ARM2 32-bit processor running at 8 MHz
  • 1 MB of RAM is officially upgradable to 2 MB (third-party vendors offered 4 MB upgrades)
  • Eight 8-bit channels (stereo sound and an internal speaker)
  • 256 colors on screen out of a 4,096 palette
  • 1 internal expansion slot (different from earlier models)
  • Three-button mouse
  • PC and BBC emulator software



Released in late 1990, the A540 is a UNIX-based machine, running RISC iX.

  • ARM3 processor
  • 4 MB of RAM upgradeable to 16 MB
  • Higher speed SCSI
  • Slot for an FPA



Released in late 1991, the A5000 replaced the old A400/1 series.

  • ARM3 processor running at 25 MHz
  • RISCOS 3.0 and later 3.10/3.11
  • Higher-density floppy disc drive (1.6 MB)
  • 2 or 4 MB of RAM
  • 40 MB or 80 MB hard disk drive
  • Better graphics (1024 x 768 in 256 colors) and a 24-bit color palette
  • 15-pin VGA connector


A4 Laptop

Released in 1992, the A4 laptop was based on the A5000 featuring an ARM3 processor supporting a 6 MHz power-saving mode.

  • ARM3 processor (slower than A5000)
  • 2 MB or 4 MB of RAM
  • 9-inch LCD matrix display
  • 640 × 480 pixels in 15 levels of grey
  • Built-in pointing device
  • Serial and parallel ports, a PS/2 keyboard connector, and an Econet expansion
  • The starting price was £1399 plus VAT (2 MB of RAM)


Archimedes 3010 & 3020

Released in September 1992, the Archimedes 3010 and 3020 were Acorn’s second attempt to get established in the European home computing market. The two computers were the same, except that the A3020 featured an optional built-in hard drive and a network interface socket.

  • ARM250 (the first ARM system-on-chip) running at 12 MHz
  • 2 MB or RAM, upgraded to 4 MB with plug-in chips
  • RISC OS 3.10 or 3.11
  • On-board IDE (2.5 inches)
  • One (1) 'mini-podule" expansion slot.
  • TV modulator
  • Standard 9-pin joystick ports
  • Starting price was £499 plus VAT (A3010)
  • Resembling Archimedes 4000 which follows


Archimedes 4000

The Archimedes 4000 was a 3-box version of the Archimedes 3010/3020. The computer was released in September 1992.

  • ARM250 running at 12 MHz
  • RISC OS 3.10 or 3.11
  • On-board IDE (3.5 inches) and a 105 MB Hard Disk
  • One (1) slot like the A3010 and A3020
  • There was an additional model, the Archimedes 4000s


A7000 and A7000+

The A7000 was similar to the RISC PC. The SoC ARM7500 processor at 32 MHz was performing similarly to a 486DX running at 66 MHZ. The A7000+ was launched later, in 1997, and included an upgraded ARM7500FE SoC running at 48 MHz.

  • ARM7500 running at 32 MHz (system-on-a-chip)
  • 4/8 MB of RAM and up to 128 MB
  • DE15 VGA port
  • RISC OS 3.60 and up to RISC OS 3.71


Acorn Archimedes

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