Acorn Phoebe

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The Phoebe 2100 (or Risc PC 2) was to be Acorn Computers' next generation Risc PC, slated for release in late 1998. However in September 1998 Acorn cancelled the project as part of a restructuring of the company.

In November 1996, the design of what was to become Phoebe 2100 was started. The design took into account a number of perceived weaknesses of the Risc PC design, a slow memory architecture, limited I/O capability, limited expansion, and not adhering to industry standards. To overcome these weakness a number of design objectives were created; Harness the full potential of the StrongARM CPU, support multiple processors, add support for PCI expansion, offer the best possible graphics, run existing RISC OS applications and to provide enhanced RISC OS functionality. An additional design objective of reusing the same case as the Risc PC was dropped due to power supply requirements and electrical interference problems.

During 1997 and 1998 Acorn regularly took prototype and mock-up hardware to various Acorn computer shows, including Acorn World October 1997, Wakefield Acorn Spring Show May 1998 and the Acorn Southeast Show June 1998.

By May 1998 Acorn started to offer their 'Registered Developer' scheme members the chance to pre-order a pre-launch prototype for testing and development, these were offered at a £950 (ex VAT) a significant discount on the public price of £1500 (ex VAT) revealed in June.

On 15 September 1998, the first Phoebe 2100 motherboards with silicon (rather than FPGA) based IOMD2 chips were powered up. They successfully ran at the full front side bus speed of 64 MHz, and the improved performance of the video chip was also seen, however various bugs in the sound DMA were reported and general system instability was noted. As such, no shippable prototypes were yet available to send to the 'Registered Developers'.

Two days later, on 17 September 1998, the development of Phoebe 2100 was cancelled.

On 17 September 1998, Acorn finished a review of its business and decided to close the 'Workstation Division', the department developing Phoebe 2100, and all work stopped. Acorn Computers CEO, Stan Boland said "There is not a big enough market for the PC (Risc PC 2), which is largely for home use and games. It's an enthusiast's product. We are going to resize the rest of the company and concentrate on becoming a digital TV and thin client company", and Computerworld Online News reported an Acorn spokesman saying "The problem was that it would have had a retail cost about twice as high as for a comparable PC.".

After cancellation it came to light that as few as 150 to 300 pre-orders had been placed.

A small number of empty cases that Acorn had pre-ordered were sold to enthusiasts after the project was cancelled (and before the remaining stock was reportedly destroyed by a fire).

Our machine is one of the only complete machines that we know of. 

Kindly donated by Jason Keeler.

Manufacturer: Acorn Computers
Date: 1998

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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH16644. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.


Acorn Phoebe

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