The annual Wakefield event, organised and run by the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club under the careful leadership of Chris Hughes, is one of the best. Although this year it's only taking place for one day there's plenty to see, and as can be seen from the companies exhibiting, attendance is a great way to show your commitment to the platform.
There's lots going on so for your convenience we've split things up into different categories. The stand numbers are in bold. If this is just the preview, just think what the after show party - I mean report - will be like.
Loads of prizes
The exhibitors have put together a stunning array of prizes for a lucky dip. Here's what's up for grabs (in no particular order):
Star prize: Omega computer • CD Writer • 5.1 sound system • Oregano 2 • ArtWorks 2 • Photodesk • £50 APDL vouchers • Aemulor • MP3 player and Simtec USB card • PS2MouseMini and optical mouse • Simtec IDE podule • Acorn Publisher subscription • Archive subscription • Living with Technology subscription • RISC User Font pack • Quake • DiscKnight • ARM Club membership • Brain Games CD • Circular chess boards • Fleur board games • Fleur bear • PolyNet • Bell ringing software • IC Software CD • Web writing CD • Unix Porting Project CD • NoticeBoard Professional • Picture Book 2 • WROCC membership
The major players
A year ago it would be hard to imagine such progress. Both Castle and Microdigital will be showing off new computers at the show - and for most people this will be the first opportunity to compare the Iyonix and Omega outright. Best bring a stopwatch. But the showdown isn't just between the hardware competitors; visitors will also be able to compare the features of the Iyonix's RISC OS 5 against RISCOS Ltd's latest Select 3. Is it mere coincidence that Castle's stand is as far away as possible from RISCOS Ltd and Microdigital? ;-) Yes, probably it is.
In addition to the Iyonix, now sporting a fast UDMA100 hard disc interface, Castle (1) will be demonstrating their Pop-Up Printers, USB hardware and SCSI devices - as announced in their flurry of pre-show press releases. Microdigital (5), somewhat of a stranger to RISC OS shows in the past, will certainly have Omega computers on display - dare we ask about the XScale? When we spoke to them a few weeks ago they made mention of some rather unconventional hardware that may appear on their stand, and it's likely to draw a crowd. Microdigital are being very supportive towards this year's show, not least by giving away Omega computers to visitors and exhibitors in prize draws. Just don't lose your ticket!
RISCOS Ltd (7) will be on hand to discuss the next installment of their subscription funded operating system - Select 3. You could try asking about the "secret major features" alluded to in their recent press release.
The show doesn't look at RISC OS computers in isolation. There are also chances to see how you can integrate your RISC OS machine with other platforms.
Virtual Acorn (12) will be demonstrating their Windows based A5000 emulator. David Holden (left) has spoken before about how the emulator allows programmers who have moved away from RISC OS hardware to continue development of older software - citing examples within his own APDL range. Virtual Acorn's functionality can be further improved by installing the latest version of UniPrint, as R-Comp (27) say their universal printer driver (that sends output via a Windows computer) will run happily with the VA emulator, and with PC cards too.
RISC OS isn't the only operating system you can run on your ARM processor - visit the NetBSD stand (35) to see how this Unix variant performs, and maybe roll up your sleeves and get dirty at the command line. More and more Unix programs can now be run on RISC OS directly thanks to Drobe writer Peter Naulls and his Unix Porting Project (14).
If you like your computers to be dusty, to have fewer bits and 12 inch disc drives, then pay a visit to the organisers of the show. The Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club (6) will have a working BBC Domesday system, a state of the art multimedia experience from the mid 1980's and a classic piece of Acorn history. Use it to see your area how local schoolchildren did 15 years ago, or just laugh at the hair styles and trousers (on the Domesday photographs, not the people hosting the stand!)
Okay, so you've got your new computer - now you need the software to run on it. If you've bought an Iyonix you'll ideally want 32 bit safe software, and luckily lots of work is being done to bring our favourite packages in line. For the rest you need Aemulor (2) which you can get at a 10% discount - but remember to make a note of your Iyonix MAC address before turning up on the day.
Icon Technology (30) will be showing the excellent EasiWriter and TechWriter word processors. Datapower 2 has been made 32 bit compatible by R-Comp (27) and will be on sale to people who need to store their bases of data. You might not recognise Accountz.com (21) - it's the new name for the authors of Prophet.
APDL (10) have been snapping up older software titles like there's no tomorrow (and, in the process, ensuring that there is a tomorrow for them). They now have over 80 titles and will need plenty of stand space just to list them.
The theatre has a packed programme of events to inform and entertain. This year it will be held on the main floor, as the room used in previous years is no longer available.
Spellings Computer Services (2) will be launching the new AAUG.net e-mail service, which filters spam and viruses. Special one-off prices will be offered to those who sign up at the show. If you're looking for something to organise your e-mail check out Jonathan Duddington's stand (22) for the Pluto text database.
RISC OS is still strong in the graphic design field. The proof for this claim is obvious on many stands at the show. Martin Wurthener (29) should have ArtWorks 2 ready for demonstration - 32 bit safe, and with lots of new features. Contender to the vector graphics throne is Vantage; and Cerilica (tbc) have been so busy working on it that they almost forgot to book exhibition space at Wakefield!
The good news from Photodesk Ltd (31) is that a 32 bit version of Photodesk will be available (and at a discount) at the show. OHP has also been made 32 bit friendly, as has it's rival Noticeboard 2 from the Really Good Software Company (26). Meanwhile The Electronic Font Foundry (32) will be offering typographical advice and quality typefaces.
ICSoft (14) are a new name to the market and are the official distributors of two "exciting graphics/web packages". We're not ones for speculation, but have noticed that New Zealand developer DanSoft is no longer selling WebFX3D or SiteWriter from its web site. Hmmm....
Fleur Designs and FD Games (18) provide final proof of the pudding - their unusual board games and designs are all produced using RISC OS technology.
Exhibitors and stands
Fun and games
As far as we know, there aren't any major new games being released at this year's show, but it will be jolly good to play R-Comp's (27) 32 bit versions of Quake and Descent on an Iyonix. If you're more an intellectual than a barbarian you might be interested in the bumper CD from Brain Games (15). It contains new versions of Solitare, Tiles, and Vingt et Un.
Fortran Friends (24) have a new set of 'cut out' 3D crystal models and updated 32 bit versions of the natty software that creates them. They'll also be giving away free polyhedral calendars.
Archive magazine (34) will have 16 years of back issues on CD. Purveyors of DTP and design tricks, Acorn Publisher (18), will be selling subscriptions. And while you're at it, why not take a look at the latest, redesigned, issue of Acorn User on the Tau Press stand (16)? You can keep track of your subscription on their computer database.
Stuart Tyrrell (28) will be showing off his eponymous developments; expect to see all manner of USB gadgets - MP3 players, Compact Flash and Smart Media readers, pen drives, and wireless networking kits - as well as fast Ethernet cards, keyboard controlled switches and mouse interfaces.
If you're involved with digital photography you need to talk to Photodesk Ltd (31). Their programmer Jason Perry will be demonstrating his new Cameradesk application, which provides support for USB digital cameras.
APDL (10) will be selling their range of hard drives, CD ROMs and RAM. ExpLAN (29) will be bringing along some Kyocera laser printers at their special offer prices - RISC OS drivers included. (The prices last all May, so don't worry if you can't make it to the show). If you're tempted into buying an LCD monitor, ExpLAN can help you with that too.
CJE Micros (36) are a RISC OS dealer with a reputation for having everything "in stock" - and they'll be bringing as much of it with them as they can. Etc Systems (11) don't claim to "have it all in stock" but they say they try. ITC (33) will have a number of second hand, network enabled Risc PCs in excellent condition, as well as their usual range of spare parts and second hand items. They say this might be the last RISC OS show that they visit. Discounts are offered for those who pay in cash (saving on credit card fees).
The Wakefield Charity Stand (19) is perhaps the best place to grab a bargain; last year I got hold of some old Fourth Dimension games and a pre-print edition of the Programmers Reference Manuals - a pristine boxed copy of Elite was snaffled by a lucky punter, and of course there were several suitable computers available for running all the software on. It's a good place to pick up an obscure expansion card, CD ROM or spare part. The charity stand has raised over ¬£10,500 for good causes - you can also support it by donating items for sale.
For more information...
...visit the show website which has more details on the venue and comprehensive travel information and directions.
The show takes place on Saturday, May 10th, from 10:00am until 4:30pm. If you can't make it to the show - and please try, it'll be a great day out - The Icon Bar will have a full report and updates on the day's events.
Many thanks to the companies who assisted during the production of this article.