Well, helps your RiscPC connect to Econet, anyway
If you were a user of Acorn machines in the 8-bit era, you’ll almost certainly be aware of Econet, Acorn’s networking solution, which began life in the early 1980s. The concept didn’t end with the machines of that era, though, and was supported on Acorn’s ARM-based computers, right up to and including those from the RiscPC-era, with an Econet module available for them.
If you were at school or worked in education at the right time, there’s a good chance you have used an Acorn machine connected up that way. You may even have encountered such a network in the business world if working at a company that predominantly used Acorn computers.
The idea behind it was to network Acorn’s machines easily, and at low-cost – that’s where the ‘eco’ part of the name comes from; an economical network.
Those days have long past, and most people have a more modern network in their home – although not everyone understands that. However, amongst the retro community, Econet networks are still used – as this Stardot search shows.
And if you are one of those people, and you have a network of 8-bit computers, and have a RiscPC (or A7000/A7000+) that you’d like to connect to them, Elesar Ltd now has you covered, with a new Econet NIC (Network Interface Card) for those machines.
The software element – the Econet 5.81 driver – is included on a 64kB EPROM, and it will happily run in 26-bit mode if your computer is running older versions of RISC OS, but if you happen to have RISC OS 5 in ROM it is fully 32-bit compatible.
The hardware is visibly different from the Acorn device linked above, with all of the components mounted on one side, so it takes up a little less space in the computer’s case, and the line driver IC, which is directly coupled to the line, is in a turned pin socket, which means should it be damaged by an electrical surge it can be easily removed and replaced.
The NIC comes with an easy to follow pictorial instruction card for installation – which basically amounts to plugging it in and then securing it in place with two screws, which are included.
Also included is a 1.2 metre drop lead, with a standard 5-pin DIN, allowing it to be connected to a socket box.
The cost of Elesar’s Econet NIC is £111 including VAT (plus shipping) – which the company’s Rob Sprowson points out is approximately what Acorn’s AEH60 Econet NIC would cost now if its 1995 price of £49 is adjusted for inflation.