With no London Show today, it’s a perfect time to remember Wakefield!
This year’s Wakefield show was a slightly unusual one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the show was held around a month later than usual, on 21st May, rather than its traditional April slot – although you could also argue that it had returned to its original traditional month; the show started out in May back in 1996.
Secondly, while it was still referred to as the Wakefield Show (in order not to confuse people, obviously), it was actually held in Bradford (in order to confuse people, obviously).
What happened was that the original plans had the show taking place at its usual Wakefield venue in April, so everything would have been perfectly normal. However, in December 2021, the organisers – the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club (WROCC) – were informed that the hotel would be unavailable in April after all, and they were able to negotiate a May alternative.
As May drew closer and closer, it emerged that the hotel would still be unavailable, so it looked like WROCC would either have to cancel the show or find an alternative venue. Luckily, though, the hotel is part of a small group in the area, and they were able to offer an alternative.
And so it was that this year’s Wakefield Show was held in Bradford, just a few (okay, twenty-ish) miles away – the Wradfold Show, if you will.
Unfortunately, the Wakefield Woes don’t entirely end there, with the hotel taking more bookings than it could cope with – but that’s all about some of us staying for the show, rather than the show itself.
And speaking of the show, that’s clearly what you’re here for – so let’s begin with some historical information; this show was the 26th show hosted by its organisers, but with last year’s being a virtual one, that made this the 25th physical Wakefield Show – the anniversary event originally planned for 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic. Prices for both exhibitors and visitors reflected that, with reduced stand and entry fees.
At the normal venue, the show is held in a suite of rooms opened out into one, but in this case a single, larger hall was used, with the majority of exhibitors around the edges, and a small clutch in the middle. So this report will follow around the outside first, then move into the middle to finish off.
Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club
The show’s hosts, the Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club (WROCC) always have the stand immediately through the door at this show, as was the case here.
The stand offered visitors first and foremost the opportunity to join the club (and renew memberships), the price of which was recently reduced to £5.00 in the first year, and £10.00 per year thereafter. For that low price, membership includes access to their online discussion list, free access to physical meetings, and receipt of the Club’s monthly newsletter, The WROCC, as delivered as a PDF file by email.
A back-issues CD was available, offering a wealth of reading material – and a record of how the newsletter itself, and by extension the Club, has changed over the four decades it has been running. Well, almost four decades at the point of this show – it’s next year that the Club will be celebrating that anniversary.
But this year was itself also an anniversary: As noted above, although the pandemic has confused things slightly; the 2020 show would have been the 25th annual Wakefield Show, taking place 24 years after the first in 1996. The 2020 show didn’t happen, and there was no physical one during 2021, with a virtual Wakefield Show instead – so technically that was the 25th Wakefield Show, taking place 25 years after the first. However, because it was a virtual one, that means the 2022 show was the 26th show, but also the 25th physical show organised and hosted by WROCC, taking place some twenty six years after the first, in May 1996.
So, if you follow the pandemic-induced twists and turns, to mark this being an anniversary show, as well as the reduced entry prices, WROCC held a slightly bigger prize draw than usual, with a full seven prizes up for grabs. The tally of these – and the people who won them – is:
- First prize of a PiRO Noir from RISCOSbits went to Steve Fryatt.
- Second prize of a Pi 400 provided by RISC OS Open Ltd was won by Mark Stephens.
- Third prize of a £50.00 voucher, provided by WROCC, for use at the show was won by Chris Pennington.
- Fourth prize of a year’s subscription (or an extension if already a subscriber) to Archive magazine went to Emma Oyston.
- Fifth prize of a ‘Puzzle Collection’ USB stick from AMCOG Games was won by Rennie Hill.
- Sixth prize of The Advanced BASIC Editor and Toolkit for the BBC, Master 128, and Electron, from Retro Hardware, was won by Mik Towse.
- Seventh prize of a £50.00 voucher for use on Adrian Lees’ Sendiri webshop went to Peter Richmond.
The next exhibitor was Gavin Smith, the editor of Archive Magazine, except… hang on a cotton-pickin’ minute… that wasn’t Gavin, it was an impostor!
Gavin was unable to make it to the show, so asked Colin Piggott to step in and represent Archive Magazine on his behalf. Colin, who writes the retro column in Archive, is a bit of a retro enthusiast with a particular focus on the SAM Coupé, an 8-bit computer that first appeared at the tail-end of the 1980s, running on a Z80B CPU, and designed to be compatible with the Sinclair Spectrum, while also being a notable improvement on it – and was at the time something I had my eyes on, but never actually bought.
Under the name Quazar, Colin releases software, hardware, and a fanzine dedicated to the Coupé, so as well as the latest edition and back issues of the long-running RISC OS magazine, he also had some items of interest of his own, such as issues of that fanzine, SAM Revival.
Back to Archive, though, and (as I write this) the first issue of new editor Gavin Smith’s second volume is winging its way to people’s doorsteps – with the digital version already having arrived in people’s email inboxes. The magazine continues to be well worth a subscription – so if you haven’t done so, why not? Get it sorted!
Andy Marks was manning the RISCOSbits stand, which was home to a plethora of products with puntastic patronyms, with the range continuing to grow.
The additions at this show included the PiRO Noir and a new version of the Pi Harder, and arguably the FOURtress which was making its first appearance at a physical Wakefield Show, having been introduced mid-pandemic and so far only appearing in the flesh at London 2021.
The PiRO Noir builds on the Raspberry Pi-based system that was introduced only a few short years ago, the PiRO, and sees a suitably kitted out Raspberry Pi 4 housed in a sleek black case, with all the connectivity you need, and provided with a software bundle to add value to the overall package.
The FOURtress first appeared towards the end of the first pandemic year, in what was described as a small-footprint case, and it wasn’t until London 2021 that anyone who hadn’t bought one was able to marvel at just how small it is. As well as the standard FOURtress, Andy also had some ‘Lite’ models available – which could easily be upgraded to the full version at a later date.
There was also a new version of the Pi Harder, sporting a new aluminium case design described by Andy as a “rügged” version of the PiRo Noir, but with a built in SSD for storage and even more connectivity – and with the SimplEDOS dual operating system boot facilities thrown in as well.
Other products available from RISCOSbits include a new WiFi solution called Wispy X – a wireless bridging device for RISC OS systems that can’t benefit from a WiFi HAT (which is a Pi-specific product from Elesar), and the older Wispy V was also an option for those on a tighter budget, both of which came with a printed to guide users through the set up. And, of course, for anyone on an even tighter budget just looking to make their Pi-based system look snazzier, the usual range of skins etc., could be snapped up – and stuck on!
North One Communications – Organizer
Next to Andy, Nigel Gatherer was manning the North One Communications/Organizer stand, to talk about the – no, THE – personal information manager (PIM) for RISC OS.
The latest version of Organizer is 2.29b, and could be purchased on the day in its Dibbler edition – i.e. supplied ‘on a stick’ of the USB variety, along with a copy of RPCEmu, set up so that you can plug it into a host computer, and run it that way when not at your own machine.
Midlands User Group
The Midlands User Group (MUG) took the next stand to promote their group and meetings, which are currently held online, and their Midsummer Show, which hadn’t been run for a few years due to low attendance, but which had been resurrected as an online event for this year, and was set to take place in early July.
The virtual show explored a different format to the previous RISC OS virtual shows held in the UK – London 2020, and Wakefield 2021 – by offering each exhibitor their own virtual room (to serve as a show stand in the virtual world), and seems to have been a success. Recordings from the event are available in MUG’s newly launched RISC OS MUG Zone on YouTube.
Meanwhile, the group’s meetings are currently being held online via Zoom, so there’s no physical barrier for people to attend other than a suitable device on which to run Zoom. They take place on the first Saturday of the month, starting at 2:00pm, and sometimes feature a guest speaker, and sometimes a discussion of some form, with a possible return to physical meetings under consideration, along with the likely schedule if it does happen.
Baildon Electronics – Retro Hardware
When the show is held in its usual venue, the Cedar Court in Wakefield, the space used for the exhibitors consists of two rooms opened out into one, and the organisers tend to arrange for the main RISC OS exhibitors to be in one of those two rooms, and the retro exhibitors to be in the other – with some overlap as needed to fit everyone in. With the change of venue, and the use of a single, bigger exhibition space, that arrangement wasn’t necessary – but the hosts did still put a little thought into how exhibitors were arranged. The three main retro exhibitors all came next, starting with Baildon Electronics, aka Retro Hardware.
The company provides a wide range of hardware upgrades for Acorn’s old machines – which means both 8-bit and 32-bit; the Acorn Archimedes is now thirty five years old, only a smidgen younger than its most famous 8-bit sibling, the BBC Micro, which will be 41 years old in December of this year. An IDE interface is a work in progress for the younger machine.
There is a lot more available for the older computers, of course, with the Slogger Pegasus 400 disc interface for the Electron, an Advanced Plus 6 add-on, as well as software such as the Advanced BASIC Editor and Utilities, and more.
Flax Cottage Educational Archive
The next of the retro exhibitors was the Flax Cottage Educational Archive, where John Dale was demonstrating the wide selection of educational software available in the collection.
As well as bringing the archive along to be played from a native 8-bit machine, and a Raspberry Pi-based FUZE machine running old BBC software natively, it is all available online, sorted alphabetically and with a search facility – but it doesn’t end at just a collection of software for 8-bit machines; there is also a small archive of RISC OS software, and scans of a selection of books and magazines, and other resource material to boot.
North West Computer Museum
Continuing the nostalgia and historical interest aspect of the show, Stephen Barriball from the North West Computer Museum had the next stand.
At the time of the show, the North West Computer Museum was still working towards opening in Leigh, near Manchester, where it’s aiming to have usable exhibits from the 1970s right up to date, and educational workshops for the young and old, to train them in the use of retro computers, programming, and more – and even plans to progress this to be able to offer City & Guilds courses so that people can gain IT qualifications.
A couple of old computers – a Commodore Amiga and a ZX Spectrum +2 – were running software for people to play, but the exhibit didn’t just stop at computers, with such delights as an old rotary phone on display, and much more.
Sort of moving away from the retro exhibitors, the next stand belonged to CJE Micro’s.
I say ‘sort of’ because CJE caters not just to the modern user, with new computers such as the RapidO Ti (Titanium) and ig (IGEP) machines, as well as the Pi-based Raspberry RO range, but they also cater quite extensively to the retro market. According to Chris Evans, in fact, they do more business in the retro market than they do catering to modern RISC OS.
The stand was as well stocked as always with a range that covered just about every possible need at the show, from those new computers, to a selection of cases for Raspberry Pi users, keyboards and mice, KVMs to allow you to connect those keyboards and mice to multiple machines, a range of software, and much more – there was something for everyone.
A new addition to the company’s range this year included a device that connects to the keyboard socket on the Acorn Archimedes, A4000, and A5000 computers, and provides sockets for PS/2 keyboards and mice, converting their signals as necessary. If you have an Acorn computer of that era, if you ever need to replace they keyboard and mouse you might find it a bit costly – this provides an alternative, cheaper solution.
Chris Evans gave one of the day’s talks, in which he talked about this, and more besides.
Tony Bartram of AMCOG Games had (no real surprises here) brought a new game along for punters to play and purchase – 3D Pingo. Well, when I say ‘new’, it’s actually the sixth iteration of a game he first started writing in the mid-1980s, with the very first version – Vortexia – being just an idea and design on paper. Subsequent versions were developed on the BBC Micro and the Commodore Amiga under different titles, and some RISC OS users may have played the fifth version, which appeared as a ‘type in’ listing in Drag ‘n Drop magazine under the title Boing! And with the sixth version, the idea gained a little depth and, therefore, the reason for the new 3D-based name.
The game is a parallax scrolling 3D game, in which you guide Pingo – a shades-sporting cool blue ball – around the platforms, floating high in the air, avoiding all the bad guys and collecting all of the sky jewels, and then exiting to the next level.
AMCOG’s previous titles were also available, of course, so if you’d somehow missed any of them at previous shows, there was plenty for you to take away from this show to satisfy your gaming needs.
Tony has a home-made display stand that he’s been using for some years now, and which he calls ‘the Dalek’ – but (in-joke for Doctor Who fans coming up…) if so, it now looks like Ace has been at it with her baseball bat! It’s looking a lot worse for wear these days.
Soft Rock Software
Next door to Tony, I was manning the Soft Rock Software stand, with the usual small range of products to buy, and this year one new item.
The ‘usual’ range consists of the remaining stock of RiscPiC cases for the Raspberry Pi, all available at below-cost prices to encourage people to take them off my hands, and the Soft Rock Software Collection – a USB flash drive or CD, the contents of which is everything available for download from the Soft Rock Software website, along with a lot of things that aren’t, but should be!
And the new item was the new version of Escape from Exeria, released online at last year’s virtual Wakefield Show, and making its CD debut at this one. An updated version of the first game ever released by Soft Rock Software, the game features eighty levels of maze running fun, with new graphics and sound effects.
Moving further along, the next exhibitor was Sine Nomine Software, with both Matthew and Hilary Philips demonstrating their various products.
The outfit has a number of software items available, from a range of puzzle games to more powerful packages such as the database Impact and the mapping application RiscOSM. It is these latter two, and related items, that tend to grab the attention at shows, so in keeping with that they are unsurprisingly the main subject of this part of the show report!
RiscOSM can now display maps at a scale of up to one in eight million, which allows the whole of the British Isles to be displayed in a window on screen – although doing so will still be noticeably slow, especially on older machines. There is a spotlight tool that allows things to be highlighted on the map, either by way of a categorised menu of object types, or using a search facility, and it’s now possible to select an area of the map and confine the search to that. And thanks to OS improvements, map renderings can now be saved in PNG and JPEG formats, along with the Sprite and Drawfile options that were there before.
A new (free) application is in development that will be of use to people who make use of buses to get around. BusWatch makes use of the Department for Transport API to retrieve live bus locations in England and plot them on the map. This could save you having to venture out too soon on a wet and cold day to wait for a bus – just keep an eye out for it on the map, and head for the bus stop at just the right time!
Also in development is an update to ImpEmail so that, as well as mail-merging an email with a database (or CSV file), it should also be possible to mail-merge an attachment – though currently, only Ovation Pro and Impression files are supported.
All of this and more was covered by Matthew, when he delivered his talk in the show theatre.
RISC OS Open Ltd
The venue may have been a different one, but in a nod to the normal location, there was still a ‘ROOL corner’ where RISC OS Open Ltd, the company that looks after the operating system on behalf of its owners and users, was ready to tell visitors about the latest developments and plans for the future – as well as sell them the latest manuals, development suites, and so on.
To get the full gen on what you would have learnt when you reached the corner, you should watch the talk given by Steve Revill, in which he discussed how the company came up with its new mission statement (“Safeguarding the past, present and future of RISC OS for Everyone”), and summarised some of what they’ve done (the past), where they are at now (the present), and their plans going forward (the future).
This included, for example, the number of ‘stable’ releases of RISC OS so far – which means fixed, unchanging releases, as opposed to the frequently changing development versions, aka the nightly builds. For ‘the present’ Steve mentioned the Bounty scheme, the march towards the next stable release (RISC OS 5.30, which should hopefully happen by the end of this year), an update to the ABC BASIC Compiler to support vector floating point, and more.
For the future, Steve talked about things RISC OS needs and which they’d like to see done. Support for multiple monitors was the first example he gave of this, allowing for a desktop that extends over two displays, noting that it’s the sort of thing that users of other platforms just expect their systems to be able to cope with. This area didn’t only cover things like that, though, and also covered things like enhancing BBC BASIC, with structures being a particular feature it would be nice to have. (If you aren’t a programmer, just think of a structure as a useful way to store related information.)
And back on the stand, things you could buy included USB sticks with RPCEmu set up with RISC OS, the Desktop Development Environment, which includes the C tools, ABC, and more, RISC OS 5 on ROM for the RiscPC and A7000 machines, manuals, ePic SD cards for the Raspberry Pi, featuring the OS itself and a wealth of commercial software, as well as general merchandise such as RISC OS Open-branded T-shirts.
It’s been a good few years since Chris Hall first introduced his SatNav software to the RISC OS community, which made use of a GPS unit connected to a Raspberry Pi in order to establish its location. Making use of a suitable power source and appropriately small screens – including one using e-ink technology to extend battery life – he was able to produce a portable solution.
That isn’t his only project, though. He’s also put together another hardware project – a data logging system, also based around a Raspberry Pi, that picks up and records inputs from external sources connected to it. On the software front, Chris took one of his free applications, Cat, and from it developed a tool for producing family trees, which he released commercially, and he’s also brought out an updated manual for the Impression family of desktop publishing software.
For this year’s Wakefield show, though, his attention returned to SatNav, for which he’s designed and had produced a small printed circuit board to make it easier for other people to put together a system based around his designs, and using his software, to keep a track of their location. A number of these boards were available to buy on the day.
A RISC OS show wouldn’t be complete without a charity stand – somewhere you can free yourself of the burden of holding onto something you probably won’t ever use again, hoping it’ll then be found and bought by someone will, with the proceeds going to a good cause.
For the Wakefield Show – and the organising group, WROCC – the charity supported is always the Wakefield Hospice, for which over £26,000 has been raised prior to this year’s event. With this being the first physical Wakefield Show after the disruption caused by the pandemic, the attendance was notably low – yet WROCC reports that the charity stand managed to raise an impressive £1,055 to add to that total.
Orpheus Internet Services / Genesys
Moving inwards, the last few exhibitors occupied an ‘island’ in the centre of the hall, and the first of these was Richard Brown representing Orpheus Internet (now run as part of Genesys Developments).
The company offers a broad range of connectivity solutions, along with hosting, and so on – as you would expect of an ISP, but obviously run by someone who is heavily involved in the RISC OS world, which is a big factor in why it’s probably the most RISC OS-friendly ISP in the world!
At the time of the show, Orpheus’ servers were in the process of being replaced – so by now that process is likely to be complete – with some of the old ones having been used since the company was originally formed by the late Paul Vigay back in the mid-2000s.
Looking to the future, the company’s services may expand to include Voice Over IP (telephony, but over the internet instead of a traditional, dedicated line) and a cloud service, allowing people to share data between all of their devices, whether at home or out and about – with a key point being it would be hosted in the UK.
RISC OS Developments
After talking to Richard Brown of Orpheus Internet, the next port of call would have been the RISC OS Developments stall, where a (checks notes) Richard Brown was available to answer any questions.
Wearing that other hat, Richard was explaining the company’s recent efforts. This included the progress made on products such as Iris, the web browser that has come out of the project for which RISC OS Developments was originally formed, the new internet stack, the new Pinboard, and more. A good summary of all of this was provided by Richard in his theatre talk, with some time also given over to what’s going on at Orpheus Internet.
For people wishing to install the operating system on a Raspberry Pi, Richard also had RISC OS Direct SD cards available – the easiest way to get going if you’re a newcomer; just insert the card, switch on, and go.
RISC OS Direct, it should be noted, is not a different version of RISC OS to the one available from the RISC OS Open website – it’s simply a different distro, set up differently, and with more software included to make it easier for new users to get started.
This show saw the first live and in-person (er.. in PC?) appearance of R-Comp‘s new
1600 4té2 machine, the second generation of Raspberry Pi 4-based 4té system, launched a couple of months earlier. While the original 4té used a custom-designed, 3D-printed case courtesy of Wi-Fi Sheep, this new machine instead uses an off-the-shelf design, and as you would expect for a computer from R-Comp, comes with a raft of add-ons and bundled software to add value and make it a very capable choice for your RISC OS platform. A ‘Junior’ version was also available in limited numbers at the show, at a slightly lower price.
For users of other systems based on the Raspberry Pi, the custom software for the machine was also available separately in the form of PiTools. The software predates the 4té2, having originated with the original 4té but, with the release of the newer generation, has been updated to version 1.19, and includes support for different profiles, so the computer can be set up differently depending on what you’re going to use it for – including overclocking.
R-Comp also launched a new toy called SideKick (complete with unnecessary camel case, as sidekick is a valid word) and alternatively called UniBox (with camel case that is acceptable because it’s a made-up name). The SideKick is essentially a very small Windows PC intended to be run headless, and accessed from your RISC OS machine – although you can also run it in the normal way if you wish. It’s intended primarily as a host for R-Comp’s UniPrint and similar services, allowing you to print and scan from/to your RISC OS computer using devices for which RISC OS ordinarily doesn’t have driver software, but accessing it using VNC means you also gain other facilities that may be more problematic for RISC OS – such as web browsing with a more capable browser, playing videos, and so on.
Other hardware on the stand included a couple of of R-Comp’s current works-in-progress, a PineBook Pro running RISC OS – so hopefully at some not too distant point, there will be a new, better RISC OS laptop available – and their ITX motherboard for the Pi module.
And this beast:
The TiX Duet – assuming the name is no longer in flux; I think R-Comp were undecided at one point – is a large case housing two machines in one. Well, okay, two boards in one case. One of those boards is Arm-based, on which RISC OS is run, and the other can be based around either an Intel or AMD CPU, on which Windows or Linux can be run, with the full-spec being subject to the customers’ needs.
One of the show’s theatre presentations was delivered by R-Comp’s Andrew Rawnsley, so for more detail on many of the things reported here, that’s the one to watch.
So that was Wakefield 2022!
The 2022 show was an enjoyable event, as ever – in fact, I’m inclined to say the Bradford venue was a better choice than the usual Wakefield one, but that may be because I was there as an exhibitor, and setting up (and later packing away again) on the ground floor was considerably easier than doing so a couple of floors up. It was only really marred by the hotel booking issues I mentioned earlier.
It didn’t attract the usual number of visitors – I believe there were only around fifty or so – which is a pity, because the easier access and larger room meant many more could have been accommodated, but the reduced turn out is understandable after the last couple of years.
The next Wakefield Show has already been announced, so mark Saturday, 22nd April, 2023 in your diaries – and if you intend to make a weekend of it, note that it will take place in the Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford once again, not Wakefield.
Before that, though, there’s another date and place to note for your diaries – 25th February, 2023. That’s when the next Southwest Show will take place, returning – hopefully with a vengeance – to the Arnos Manor Hotel in Bristol.
I’ll be at both – and I look forward to seeing people at whichever of the two they can attend!
And finally… some more photos from Wakefield 2022!