Common sense and rugged good looks

Chris Drage

Acorn A7000, Acorn RiscOS computer: network model with 2 megabytes of memory and no hard, disc, Pounds 749; desktop model with 2 megabytes of memory and 425-megabyte, hard disc, Pounds 799: 4-megabyte memory425-megabyte hard disc, Pounds 875 Acorn Computers, Acorn House, Vision Park, Histon, Cambridge CB4 4AE. Tel: 01223 254222.

Acorn has recently reorganised its mid-range computers with the introduction of a new model, the A7000. There is a lot which is good about this new machine, the most obvious of which is its diminutive size. It will just fit on a primary desk with room for a mouse mat. Sturdily built, it should survive the rigours of classroom use well. It has a new, fast processor which offers improved performance. Similarly, there is enhanced screen resolution, memory and printer port performance.

Expansion the ability to connect to other devices is very limited. There is one bay which can take either a 32-bit expansion card or a 5.25-inch bay to hold, say, an optional CD-Rom drive.

The A7000's hardware provision will have a direct effect on your choice of model. For example, it does not have an auxiliary headphone or speaker socket so if you want one to form the basis of a multimedia CD-Rom workstation in the library, you have to rely on the computer's own rather limited internal speaker. Similarly, if you want access to the best Windows CD-Roms there's no second processor socket for you to add the necessary PC486 processor.

The network model (it doesn't have a hard disc) with its built-in Econet or Ethernet networking card is attractive if you already have, or are considering installing, a network. Its network socket removes the need to use the expansion slot for networking hardware. With suitable cable, a network of A7000s is straightforward to set up. Those not using the socket for that purpose can use it for a PC-style joystick. The top-of-the-range model is the one I would recommend for stand-alone primary classroom use.

The A700 comes with Acorn's latest operating system (RiscOS 3.6) which has a number of improvements helping to conserve precious memory and offering gains in speed. It includes Acorn Access networking and printing facilities. Printer driver files still need to be created and loaded into memory when used. Acorn's graphics programs, Paint and Draw, have also been improved so that they can handle the increasingly common JPEG graphic files.

The A7000 is a cut-down version of Acorn's Risc PC computer, with less expandability. It exceeds the A5000 it replaces in almost all respects and is an extremely useful, rugged little classrom computer placed between the A3020 and the Risc PC 600 in the Acorn range. It embodies common sense and offers schools more than enough computing power for the future. Never has Acorn developed such a network-friendly machine.

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