This year it was a different story, with hardware on show from several different companies and a few surprises on the software front.
Castle were unsurprisingly the most prominent exhibitor at the show, occupying the whole front portion of the hall with their nicely designed display units and demo machines. The Kinetic RiscPCs and upgrades were on sale, and there were queues for most of the morning.
Jack Lillingston hosted a public presentation of the new machines in the show theatre in a similar vein to that held for the press the preceeding week. A new Iron Dignity demonstration was used during the presentation which was noted to be running far smoother than the current demo does on existing hardware. Whether this was because of Artex's optimisations or the Kinetic's speed increase remains to be seen.
Fresh from announcing a new 'memoradum of understanding' between themselves and RiscStation Ltd., David Atkins and the Microdigital team were at the show along with the Mico and a mock-up of a new portable device. Anyone who suspected that Microdigital's stand furniture was painted in the same colours as the proposed Medi machine would be right - David joked that 'nothing goes to waste' in Yorkshire.
The Mico machines were on sale in various configurations and a rather chunky laptop case was sat in one corner. Unfortunately, it was not functional at the time of the show due to a technical problem (deja-vu anyone?). However, Microdigital do hope to have the laptop, which is basically a Mico in a laptop case, on sale in two to three months' time for around £1,000 with a greyscale screen. A colour screen will be hopefully be available on a future model but the price difference is so profound that there are fears that it will be too expensive to produce.
As usual, RiscStation were out in force with their usual circular stand arrangement not far from their sister dealer, CTA's stall. Mal McClenaghan of RiscStation Australia was at the show demonstrating Possum, the new point of sale system using a RiscStation, cash drawer, barcode reader etc. to create a fully functional computerised cash register. The system seemed well-featured and was in active use on CTA's stand during the show. Mal is clearly a born salesperson; I think he could probably sell this system to people who don't even own shops so hopefully this venture will champion RISC OS technology in a new niche market.
The usual array of RiscStation flavours were on show including the Networkx, Lite and Lite+. Why they can't just keep things simple and have RiscStation Red, RiscStation Blue and RiscStation Mauve is beyond us.
Once again the upcoming PCI machine was on show but not yet in a functional state.
Millipede occupied their usual small but perfectly formed stand at the show. New prototypes of the Imago board were on display with things looking a little closer to release since our last peek at the South West show. They had a monitor displaying a mockup of the RISC OS desktop in 2048x1536 resolution, and Richard Jozefowski was on hand to answer questions.
The biggest software news at the show was of course the release of Castle's new browser Oregano. This was running on 8 (Kinetic?) RiscPC's as you entered the show hall in what the show booklet called an 'Internet cafe'. Speed wise the browser looks very impressive. Fetching was a little slow (probably because all eight machines were battling for use of a single ISDN line), but page rendering was very quick. The browser does have limited CSS support which was apparently only added in the middle of last week, but there are still a few basics that need to be implemented such as dithering of JPEGs in 256 colour modes and visited link colour changing.
Like Browse it doesn't yet support fixed width table cells, which will cause several sites (including this one) to be displayed a little oddly. It's also lacking a little in configuration options such as default font size settings and optional refusal of cookies. In terms of plugins, the Audi website (which uses Flash) was running quite happily on one machine, and apparently Chockcino was being demostrated on another (although I didn't see this myself). Castle do seem commited to development of the browser so this is certainly a big step forward.
Things were certainly looking up on the games front, with R-Comp Interactive, Artex and Paradise all at the show in full force. R-Comp Interactive were selling their new TBA games collection CD for the special show price of £20, which includes full versions of BHP, Cobalt Seed, FTT and Dragonball (and a few other old TBA products). RCI were also hosting the popular games arcade, which consisted of 4 machines running Doom, Chaos Engine and Heroes of Might and Magic 2.
Next door to the games arcade was Artex Software's stand. The german games company were demoing Iron Dignity and TEK, as well as Exodus and Botkiller2 which were available for special show prices. Iron Dignity looked very impressive indeed, although despite the fact that it was being displayed on a monitor sitting on top of a RiscPC case, the demo was actually running on a PC hidden under the desk. TEK also looked very impressive, and Artex hope to release it this Winter (more details on Acorn Arcade in the near future).
Paradise software made a welcome return, and had several machines running their new budget scrolling shoot'em up 'Overload'. Their new Playstation joypad interface proved very popular, and they had completely sold out by lunchtime on Saturday.
Cerilica, co-sponsors of the event had a large stand with several machines that allowed you to have a play on Vantage, and were providing an upgraded version of the program to existing users. They were also showing off RiScript and their Multi Media keyboards.
RISCOS Ltd. were selling the RISC OS programmers reference manual CDs, as well as RISC OS 4 and their RISC OS community wall chart. Justin Fletcher was demostrating the global clipboard features of RISC OS 4 in action by cutting and pasting sprites and text from various programs into draw.
Softease were showing off their new version of Textease, a program which they also had running on an iMac on their stand. WSS had cut-price network cards available, as well as new versions of many of their products such as CDRomFS and CDBurn.
The charity stand was larger than ever this year, with many old BBC and Acorn machines on sale and all proceeds going to the Wakefield hospice.
The RISC OS magazines were out in full force, with subscription offers available from Acorn User, Archive and RiscWorld. R-Comp were showing off new versions of many of their products, including WebsterXL v1.95 which offers SSL support and improved table and frames handling.
In the RiscStation village were small stands from RISC OS software authors such as Jonathon Duddington (showing off the new version of Pluto) and Chris Morison who was showing off his popular shareware personal organiser.
The show didn't seem as packed as it has done in previous years, but this may have been because the show theatre was always busy or people were just arriving and leaving throughout the day. The atmosphere was good though, and everyone seemed to be walking around with bags of recently purchased products. The organisation from the Wakefield user group was as usual spot on.
|Spot the icon bar...
|The charity stall
|A queue at the games arcade
|An alternative use for the Cerilica stand...
|Iron Dignity demo'd