Raspberry Pi Gets RISC OS, Can Now Play Elite

The processor in the Raspberry Pi – an ARM11 built by Broadcom – actually has a long and storied history. Much as how the Intel i7 in a top-of-the-line desktop can still run code written for the original IBM PC, the ARM chip in the Raspberry Pi is also based on decades-old technology.

The first ARM-based computer was the Acorn Archimedes, a mid-80s computer with 512kB of RAM and no hard drive. The Archimedes ran RISC OS, a very nice graphical operating system written explicitly for the ARM architecture. RISC OS is now available for the Raspberry Pi, finally bridging the gap between educational computers from 1987 and 2012.

Of course, a very much updated version of 25-year-old operating system running on a Raspberry Pi doesn’t mean much without a ‘killer app,’ does it? For the original Acorn Archimedes the killer app – and one of the best video games of the 80s – was Elite, a space trading and combat game that featured vector-style ships. [Pete Taylor] downloaded the Raspi RISC OS image and got Elite running using an Archimedes emulator and, of course, the Archimedes port of Elite.

It’s a pretty neat development if you’re in to alternative OSes and one of the best space-based games ever made. Well worth a download, at the very least.

32 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Gets RISC OS, Can Now Play Elite

  1. I’m confused!

    RISC OS is the operating system *for* the archimedes so doesn’t need emulating. There was a version of Elite for RISC OS. It wasn’t just wireframe but had full surfaces so that graphic isn’t from that version but probably from the BBC Micro version.

    There was/is a BBC Micro emulator that will run on RISC OS so has he gotten the BBC MIcro emulator running and is running that version of Elite (the original, seminal and best version in my book).

    I’ve had earlier ports of RISC OS running on my Pi. I had to really. I still have my original BBC Micro, my original Acorn A3000 and my original RISC PC (which I had linux running on in 1998).

    1. First, apologies for the “report comment” – it’s where I expected “reply” to be…

      RISC OS /was/ the OS for the Archimedes. However, RISC OS for the Raspberry Pi is bound to be fairly different, if only to cope with the newer ARM architecture. As such, I’d not expect ArcElite to run without ‘real RISC OS’ emulation – which is where ArcEm comes in.

      ArcElite was considered by many as the best version overall.

    2. The problem is that ArcElite was written for 26-bit addressing ARM CPUs, which had the processor status in the top bits of the program counter.

      The ARM11 used in the RPi doesn’t support the 26-bit addressing mode, so programs that manipulate the status bits and aren’t aware of the 32-bit behavior won’t run.

      Hence needing to emulate in ArcEm. (That said, IIRC, ArcElite does run on the RiscPC, so you could probably emulate in Aemulor, which is a much lighter emulator – programs running in Aemulor are actually running on the host OS, IIRC, but a 26-bit CPU is being emulated.)

  2. Wow, that would have been something 512MB! :)

    It was 512KB. I think the max on the Archimedes series was 8MB toward the end, on the top end workstation.

    With 256 or 512MB of ram (even with the 128/128 memory split) and a way faster processor, that makes for a really fast user interaction on the Raspberry Pi.

    RISC OS boots in 10 seconds flat on it, on a cheap class 4 SD card.

    I got a few articles on RISC OS on raspberry pi here: http://raspberry-python.blogspot.com/search/label/riscos

    They are in various languages, but simply click on the title of one in particular, and use the google translate button if it is not in a language you can read :)

    1. From the top of my head: one could connect 4 memory controllers (MEMC) to the ARM2, each addressing 4MB of memory (total of 16MB). A 4MB upgrade card was available for the 440, if I recall correctly.

      I upgraded my 310 the hard way: cutting out the ram chips, cutting traces and creating new ones by soldering wire wrap wire :-). I also made my own ARM3 upgrade in a similar fashion.

      With large applications around 700 kilobyte (!) 4MB of memory was quite a lot.

      1. The A3xx/4xx topped out at 4Mb, but the later similar-looking-but-much-nicer A540 (and Unix R225/R260 versions) had higher memory capacity via the “extra MEMC per 4Mb” route. I *think* those could go to 16Mb if you had the spendies to hand. (There was an oddball prototype machineA680 with 8Mb in the box, but that’s another story.)

        Obviously it all changed A5000 and beyond.

        ObCaveat: it was a bloody long time ago.

  3. Man a 512MB Amiga would have rocked. With the reboot surviving HD it would have been reason enough to buy a UPS! Of course getting the 100 floppies to back up the ram disk before shutdown would have been a pain.

    1. 256MB is possible with a BlizzardPPC card in an A1200.. I used to play wipeout 2097 on such a machine. I think you can manage 1GB on Zorro machines with the recent Zorro RAM boards.. but I think they are considerably slowly than RAM on a turbo card.

  4. Ahh the Archimedes, remember playing on the one in the school computer room which was mostly filled with BBC Micros. The year I left they got the BBC Micros networked with everyone getting 100kb personal storage on the HUGE 32mb networked harddrive. Well it was 100kb until someone saw the computer teacher type his password in… :D

    Don’t forget David Braben wants to create a modern-day Elite for modern-day hardware with your help:

    1. Interesting. Now you have to pay a money to work for a company for free.

      Besides of that, they really are selling hot air here. That makes me wonder if there is some kind of milestone based funding option in the Kickstarter…

      The idea itself looks, like I told, interesting.

  5. The linked article implies that you need to use a RPi running RISC OS to emulate an Archimedes running RISC OS, which is a bit odd.

    In reality you can use arcem (or the other emus) on anything, e.g. x86 Linux box, SPARC workstation etc.

  6. What is the point of the first paragraph when you go on to state that Elite is being ran under an emulator?

    You are NOT running any 20+ years old code under the processor, you are running a modern emulator that emulates the instructions. Something you could of done under CPU to run Elite on, not just the ARM.

    While it’s cool you got a modern version of Risc OS running on PI, it has nothing to do with the original ARM processors other then you are running an emulator program for that.

    1. You expect too much if you expect anything with Brian Benchoff next to the date stamp to actually make any sense. I’m guessing the intro is filler to make the article longer and make it seem more than “some guy ran some game on an emulator on an updated version of the OS that the emulated machine ran”. IIRC MAME emulates some bootleg machines that run older versions of MAME.. MAME-ception if you will. That’s a little bit more impressive IMHO.

      ArcElite won’t run on 32bit ARM chips apparently:
      I wasn’t aware that RISCOS had “retargettable” graphics and I would have thought that these older games would be locked to the machines chipset anyhow.. but that doesn’t matter if the CPU can’t run the code.

  7. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Elite was the ‘killer app’ for the Archie. Elite first appeared on the Acorn built ‘BBC’ micro, and that thing was hugely successful anyway – due to the sponsorship of the BBC and the amount of schools that bought them.

    Elite on RPi? I think I may just buy a Pi for that alone.

    1. The Archie Killer App for me was, and still is, !Draw. I have searched the jungles of MS Software Land and I am yet to find a program with such an exquisite, compact, logical and powerful functionality packed into such a small program. I am going to get my R-pi running RISCOS just get that program.

  8. For students who rely on specialized programs such as such as MatLab, Eclipse, MathCAD, and SPSS, the school said it plans to negotiate licensing agreements so students could run the software on their own laptops through the university network. student who writes essays, etc. An engineering or science student, particularly the grad students, need horsepower that can’t normally be found on laptops.

  9. Eat violent sitcoms! ArcElite was the best Elite version. It is not a port of the original Elite: it originally started out as another game, but since it was so close to Elite, the makers (Warren Burch & Clive Gringras) contacted Ian Bell & David Braben, and the game became the official Archimedes version of Elite. It is a far richer game, with interactions between the NPCs, such as police escorting pilgrims and fighting pirates. Pirates also attacked the player as a team. Zarch was the iconic Archimedes game, but ArcElite was a lot more fun.

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