ARM’s original operating system goes open source


In today’s increasingly digital world, learning to code has become an integral part of STEM curriculums. Schools are using Raspberry Pi and other ARM-based hardware as a low-cost means of introducing students to coding.

Following the recent news that RISC OS, the original ARM operating system, is going open source, TechRadar Pro sat down with the Director of RISC OS Developments, Richard Brown to learn more about how the operating system is being used in schools and other hardware projects.

Can you tell us a little about RISC OS and how long you have been using it for?

RISC OS is a high performance and low footprint operating system. It provides a modern desktop interface coupled with easy access to programming, hardware and connectivity.  It continues to incorporate the world-renowned programming language, BBC BASIC, and is incredibly compact, fitting onto a tiny 16MB SD card. Originally developed in Cambridge, England, by Acorn Computers in 1987, RISC OS was specifically designed to work hand-in-hand with the ARM series of microprocessors.

I personally have been using RISC OS since version 3 on an A5000 system. It was the first operating system I had used with a graphical interface and it very naturally felt right as you used it. The process of learning the system was incredibly easy and even after a few hours you began to realise just how much you could do. The A5000 system with the then standard set of software, enabled the user to produce output with superfluous ease.

What prompted the move to open source?

When you have an operating system that you know is stable, long lasting and easy to use; it is only natural to want to share this with others. The most prolific software in the world is generally Open Source allowing for innovation and updates to reach an OS quickly. We want the same for RISC OS because it has the potential to be useful for so many people now that it has a clear and simple licence.

Do you think it will lead to more people using RISC OS?

Yes absolutely. We are already seeing this happening. Open sourcing has raised awareness of RISC OS around the world and people like what they see.