Acorn Archimedes.. ARMed with Speed

Submitted by binaryvalue on Tue, 05/31/2022 - 09:51

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

  • ARM 32-bit RISC architecture, GUI with multitasking
  • 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 was 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.

Table: Acorn Computers

Acorn Computers

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
  • Arthur operating system (later upgraded to RISCOS 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

Archimedes 3000 was Acorn’s first attempt to get established in the general home computer market -Photo A3000/A3010 (first/second)

Released in 1989, the Archimedes 3000 was Acorn’s first attempt to get established in the general home computer market. Although A3000 was still very expensive for the average retail user, it 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-on 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 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
  • Starting price was £1399 plus VAT (2 MB of RAM)

Archimedes 3010 & 3020 (same for A4000)

The Archimedes 3010/3020 was Acorn’s second attempt to get established in the European home computing market. The two computers were almost the same, except that the A3020 featured an optional built-in 2.5-inch hard drive and some other small differences.

  • Resembling Archimedes 4000
  • ARM250 (the first ARM system-on-chip)
  • RISC OS 3.10 or 3.11
  • TV modulator
  • Standard 9-pin joystick ports
  • Starting price was £499 plus VAT (A3010)

A7000 and A7000+

RISCOS-4 running on WindowsXP

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 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


  • Autodesk, in 1988, released AutoSketch (£79 plus VAT) with similar functionality to AutoCad
  • PipeDream was released for the Archimedes (£114 plus VAT)
  • PC Emulator (software-based emulator) shipped with MS-DOS 3.21
  • Acorn Desktop Publisher (port of Timeworks Publisher)
  • Impression (desktop publishing)
  • Draw+ or DrawPlus (word processing)
  • First Word Plus (word processing)
  • Acorn Replay (Full-motion video editor with up to 25 frames per second)
  • ArtWorks by Computer Concepts (graphic illustration package)
  • ImagePro by Revelation (advanced image editor)
  • ProArtisan by Clares (256-colour image editor priced at £170)
  • ProArtisan 2 supporting 24-bit color and G8/G16 graphics cards
  • Art Nouveau from Computer Assisted Learning (256-colour image editor)
  • Atelier from Minerva (256-colour image editor, multi-task)


Acorn Archimedes (c)