Acorn to celebrate 30th anniversary

Acorn Computers marks 30 years since it helped put the silicon in Britain's soul

Thirteenth of September will see the 30th anniversary of UK technology company Acorn Computers, famous in the 1980s 8-bit boom for its 6502-based microcomputers such as the Electron, Atom and BBC Micro.

Some 400 previous employees and guests are expected at a celebratory party, which will be held in the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, close to the company's old HQ.

The party has been planned by a group of company old boys and is supported by the company's founders, Chris Curry and Hermann Hauser. "I hope as many ex-Acorn staff as possible will join us at this event," Hauser said on Thursday. "Together, we built a great company, which through ARM and many other businesses continues to impact the technology sector." ARM is one of the most successful designers and licensors of embedded processor IP globally, and grew from the Acorn Risc Machine, Acorn's only processor design, originally intended for PCs and workstations under the Archimedes brand.

Acorn Computers was founded in 1979 following a well-publicised split between Chris Curry and Clive (later Sir Clive) Sinclair at Sinclair's Science of Cambridge company. Acorn's early computers sold reasonably well but the company shot to fame when it won the contract to build a computer for the BBC to use in educational programs aimed at schools. The company's other computers included the Electron for home users, the ill-fated ABC (Acorn Business Computer) range, and the Archimedes — still considered by its surviving admirers to be one of the most elegant, efficient and far-sighted platforms ever lost under the rising floodwaters of Microsoft and Intel.

Co-founder Chris Curry said: "Winning the BBC contract was Acorn's big breakthrough and one of the achievements I am most proud of, and it showed that our business was a cut above the rest."

Those wishing to join the party must hurry, as already more than half of the 400 tickets have been sold. "A lot of people in Cambridge are getting quite excited about this," ex-Acorn employee, Chris Turner, told

Turner, who is one of the event organisers, was also one of the company's original employees. "I think I was one of the first people to formally join the company after Hermann and Chris," he said. Turner was a hardware engineer developing Acorn computers and also "worked on the BBC computer with Sophie Wilson". Wilson was the chief designer of the BBC Micro, and also designed the instruction set for the ARM.

During its lifetime Turner estimates that Acorn produced some two million computers, "and over half of them were in some way for the BBC", he said. Acorn was eventually bought by Olivetti before finally closing for business. Since then the company name was bought by a company that now manufactures computers based on Microsoft software. "I have mixed feelings about that," Turner said, "but really I think, 'Good luck to them'. It is good to see the Acorn name live on."