Acorn World (1998)

The website for a show that never was.

Published , updated by Richard GoodwinFiled under Web design

So this was supposed to be my masterwork, as in, the work that proved, at least to myself, that I had made it.

Only a couple of years after I started work at ArgoNet, and I'm sitting there getting briefed by a guy sent from Acorn Computers.  My whole computing life - from the Acorn Electron that my parents bought me for Christmas when I was still at school, to learn programming; the BBC Masters and Archimedes machines I used at college, to learn graphics; the RiscPCs I used as a freelancer to get this job, and was still using at that very moment - everything involved Acorn computers.  And this guy was Acorn Computers, with a big C.

They were just about to launch a new computer, the Phoebe (AKA the RISC PC II) and wanted to tie the look of the site and all marketing material to this new machine.  I think I had already managed to blag an invite to the developer reveal, so I already knew what I was aiming for and it was down to the practicalities. Browsers in 1998 were fairly simplistic, especially the ones used by the target audience - it was all table layout and spacer GIFs back then kids, none of your modern CSS.

The links to sub-pages were to be shaped like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which I think tied in to the configuration options on the new OS - also puzzle piece shaped, although as I hadn't seen that yet my versions didn't come out quite the same. I came up with the images inside the puzzle pieces, some of which look suspiciously like bits from my library of useful stuff I put together so I never had to draw another pencil, newspaper or admission ticket ever again.

I also put together the sub pages based on a template that wouldn't look completely alien now - a header bar, a side nav, and a big info area.  A small copy of the drive-shaped logo was used in the top right, and the puzzle icon pulled in to the page on the left.

Finally to tie it all together I created some animated GIFs - web banners were the way of doing online advertising back then - and we were go for launch!

The only problem was, the show was in October, and Acorn Computers didn't make it past September.

In a shock move in September 1998 Acorn cancelled the Risc PC 2 (Phoebe) project and made 60 staff redundant. The Workstation division has effectively been closed down and Acorn have cancelled plans for any future desktop computers.


Acorn announced the Risc PC 2 (Phoebe) computer far too early and it is rumoured that it was leaked accidentally. This prompted a significant fall in the sale of Risc PCs as potential buyers decided to wait for the launch of the Risc PC 2 before buying a Risc PC. Ironically many of those buyers would probably still have bought a Risc PC when the Risc PC 2 was launched - but the announcement of a new computer made buyers postpone their decision.

The advanced orders placed for the Risc PC 2 were disappointing, although it could be argued that many existing users were waiting to see the reviews before committing themselves.

Octopus Systems news page, 1998

So yeah... no Acorn, no Acorn World.  The site stayed up, and there was a Java countdown timer that just kept on ticking;  and the users kept on doing what they do, with shows and new versions of the OS still happening even in 2019.  Professionally speaking, Argo went on to bigger things, working with the likes of Sony (SCEE), Apple, NTT Docomo and Amstrad. But through all that, the memory of this one has stuck with me.