The Wakefield Show
Aaron Timbrell strolls around the Wakefield show
Well that's another Wakefield show been and gone. Once again the Wakefield Acorn User Group did everyone proud, as usual the show was perfectly managed, smoothly run and an absolute delight to attend. I drove up on the Friday afternoon, picking up Jim (my power packed assistant) on the way up. Parking the car in the Thornes Park car park resulted in a flurry of helpers ready to assist with carrying all the bits and bobs to the stand. Setting up was simple and then it was back to the hotel for a small restorative cordial.
Saturday morning was perfect show weather, too wet to go and see the mother in law, but not wet enough to stop people coming to the show. I was under the impression that the show was opening at ten, but ten came and went. At just before half ten the mayor opened the show, initially trying to use the same blunt pair of scissors that couldn't cut the ribbon last year. Luckily another pair was quickly found, and after a minutes silence in memory of Mike Wilson who tragically passed away last year we were off. A hoard of eager customers flowed into the hall and then promptly flowed straight past our stand, help! My record for the quickest purchase of any show is 20 seconds from the doors opening. Well this year it took 10 minutes, yes 10 whole minutes! Mind you after that both Jim and I were continually occupied until 4 o'clock. By this time the show was thinning out and I was able to get off the stand and take a gander round the show (luckily I had bought one with me).
So strolling round the show in an anti-clockwise direction the first port of call was a smiling Paul Beverley, selling lots of subscriptions to Archive, and his new magazine "Living with Technology". Paul was also doing a healthy business in Archive CDs. A quick chat revealed that Archive subscriptions are increasing, and as an Archive subscriber myself I can quite see why. Although perhaps there aren't enough articles about emulators at the moment!
Next to Paul was Mike Glover of Icon Technology. Mike was busy with TechWriter and EasiWriter upgrades. I understand that due to other commitments he hadn't planned to attend on the Sunday, but the level of sales had changed his mind and he was trying to re-arrange his diary. Opposite Mike was TextEase showing the latest versions of their multi award winning software. Just round the corner I bumped into a beaming Nic Van Der Walle. Indeed if his grin had been wider I suspect that the top of his head might have fallen off. And the reason for the grin, simple, he had sold out of copies of Vantage, and with the new features on show, and the special show price I am not at all surprised.
Opposite Cerilica were RiscStation, you had to get to the RiscStation stand at the right time, but if you did you would have seen not only the PC version of the RiscStation portable, but also the development version, complete with LCD screen running RISC OS 4. This rather put pay to the "..it's never going to happen....it's vapourware..." brigade. The development version was kept under close guard while it was on the stand, but potential customers were allowed to have a play so they could see it was really working. I know the laptop has been delayed for technical reasons, but it looks like nearly all of these have been solved. Indeed we are hoping that a goodly part of the next RISC World will actually be written on RiscStation laptops. Another interesting development was the new flash ROM card (read Sideways RAM on a BBC) for RiscStation machines, developed by Simtec.
The RiscStation latop
And talking of Simtec just across the isle was a working ExpLAN Solo, complete with solar panels, Stuart Tyrells on screen keyboard and a satellite link. A quick chat with a rather brightly coloured Paul Richardson kept getting interrupted by interested customers. Paul had just returned from a very successful trip to Africa, where the Solo had been in great demand. The choice of wood for the casing might have seemed a bit odd, but the dent in the bottom corner where the airline had tried to damage the machine is testament to the strength of the idea, and the wood. I can't help feeling that a plastic case would have just cracked had it been treated in the same way.
It's a Solo
Just next door was Stuart Tyrell himself, if you could get to speak to him, every time I went past the stand was three deep in people. Most of them seemed to be buying the new network cards. Indeed it wasn't until Sunday afternoon that I was able to have a quick chat. It seems the show went superbly and he was knackered, but happy. I even got given a little present, a couple of very nice plastic "Virtual Acorn Inside" stickers to go on PCs! I think I may have some made myself!
Moving on round I passed the CJE stand, which was piled high with everything, it seems that Chris "we have it in stock" Evans must have bought the shop with him. He had some very tasty looking deals on 21" monitors, ideal for use with a ViewFinder card, which strangely enough was also in stock. Chris also had over 700 special offers on all sorts of hardware and software. I must confess I couldn't help looking down the list to see what stuff I had written was on it. Although I think Chris would be luckily to sell many of my old floppy disc based font packs, still some of the other items were cracking bargains.
Next we have the colossus of the R-Comp stand, which seems to just get bigger and bigger every year. This time there was a massive number of machines all playing Tek, which was released at the show, for more details on this see the review in this issue. R-Comp were also showing the latest version of Webster with CSS support and a host of other improvements. Also making its first ever show appearance was Grapevine, a new messenger client for RISC OS.
Ohhhh, it's TEK!
Swinging past the charity stall which as per usual was packed with interesting looking items, including a rather natty BBC plotter and other items, which somehow seemed to find them selves on our stand later that day. Still moving on round I strolled past the RISC OS Ltd stand. The latest version of Select was on display, along with all sorts of odd RISC OS based hardware including what looked like an MP3 player. Although I was a bit disappointed not to see a PSION netbook running RISC OS, still never mind I am sure work is continuing.
Across from RISC OS Ltd were Acorn User, who were showing off the latest issues of the magazine after its re-design. I wasn't able to nab a copy as they all had post it notes stuck to them telling people not to take them, I did however manage to swipe one of the post it notes. Continuing the stroll round I reached the Castle stand, which was very busy. It seems that the new USB interface that Castle have launched is just what people are after. Admittedly at the moment its a very expensive way of attaching a keyboard, but it shows that USB works. Even better Castle have made the API for the USB interface publicly available from their website, so anyone who wants to write a driver can, that has to be an excellent policy. Expect to see drivers for lots more USB devices appearing very very soon.
My final port of call was the APDL stand. As usual Dave Holden had a massive collection of software products available under the APDL/ProAction/iSV Products brand names. It seems these days that although Chris Evans "has it in stock", Dave Holden owns it. On show was a new Celebration pack, featuring software originally published by Clares including GiftWrap, CardShop, Banner, DrawWorks SE, Calendar and a selection of fonts and clip art. Also on show was a new music pack with some old favourites including Re-Midi, VoxBox, Serenade and Rythm Bed. Also available were printed manuals for Mr Clippy, FontFiend and EasyFont Pro. A new CD version of Mr Clippy, with over 1800 clips, was also on sale. Dave was also doing a very brisk trade in CD Writers, hard discs and memory.
Going back round the corner left me back at our VirtualAcorn stand. I suppose I ought to mention that we had the new Version 1.2 on display and for sale. We were also showing the beta version of our Universal Printer Driver, which when its finished will allow VirtualAcorn to print to any Windows printer.
So there you go, that was my stroll around Wakefield. I am sure I must have missed some things, so if I have then I apologise to those concerned. The show felt very busy on Saturday, but slowed down on Sunday afternoon , which is what you would expect from a two day show. Wakefield always was my favourite show, although regretfully it does seem to get smaller every year, but thats just a reflection on the RISC OS market. All I can say is I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a nice wad of cheques to count after we came back, so what more could you ask for?