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Section 8 - Compatibility with other Machines.

 Q8.1) How compatible with other systems is an Acorn machine?
 Q8.2) Is there a BBC BASIC for other machines?
 Q8.3) Can I run 65Host on the Risc PC?
 Q8.4) Can I read Acorn format discs on a PC?
 Q8.5) What software handles files with this extension?
 Q8.6) Is there a version of Draw for Windows?
 Q8.7) Can I run Windows software on a RISC OS machine?

Q8.1) How compatible with other systems is an Acorn machine?

This is a fairly brief introduction to the issue. If your question isn't answered below than it is well worthwhile going to the Acorn Emulation Pages at, which cover this subject in some detail.

PC - The early 'Archimedes' machines can handle 720K DOS discs and all machines since the A5000 can also handle 1.44MB discs. In RISC OS since version 3.0, DOS compatibility is built in, whereas under the older RISC OS 2 you have to use one of the (PD) utilities. There are two PC (software) emulators that can handle most PC software, three if you count the fact that Acorn's offering is split into two emulator programs. There are also PC cards, containing an 80x86 processor and other PC hardware, which uses the main computers' disc and video. All emulators are multitasking (and not PD). RiscPC machines, by adding a 486 or 586 'second processor' card, can fully emulate a PC. However, these are still quite slow by todays PC standards.

Unix - Unix software can be ported (and in fact many packages already have been) with the help of UnixLib. Memory-hungry ports, such as gcc, can be run with the aid of !Virtual (also PD). Of course if you are really desperate to run Unix software it might be advisable to buy RISCiX (only available second hand now), the Acorn flavour of Unix (suitable only for A540 or older machines), or perhaps use linux (compatible with all 32bit Acorn machines) or NetBSD/arm32 (for RiscPC machines).

Further information on NetBSD/arm32 is available from

Mac - Commercial software is available that can read HFS format discs, including hard drives and CDROMs. For floppy discs this generally encompasses high density discs (1.44 MB format) and a limited subset of double density (720 kb) discs. Essentially the software can read the disc if the tracks have been laid down with constant angular velocity, rather than constant linear velocity - which requires a variable speed drive to work.

Most Macintoshes default to CLV format discs when formatting double density discs but some Mac software exists to override this and, in theory, such discs are readable using the Acorn software. To be sure that the double density disc is a CAV format disc, then formatting it first in your Acorn machine is a good step and the disc will then work with Macintosh machines.

Also most modern Macintoshes can, like Acorn machines, read and write PC format discs so transfer is possible via that medium as well. There is no Mac emulator available natively. However if you have a PC card in your RiscPC it is possible to run Executor 2.0 under the PC Emulation to then emulate a Mac. However this approach is likely to be fairly slow.

A shareware application called ExMac is available from which will allow you to read, write and format Apple Mac discs under RISC OS.

Atari ST - Like PC floppies, the Archimedes can read, write and format ST-format floppies. An Atari emulator is available, called STem, which is of limited utility is currently under development and improvement.

Amiga - The amiga uses an unusual disc format that is not easily read by other machines. Accordingly there is currently no Amiga format disc reader available. But Amiga's can read PC and Macintosh format discs, so again transfers can occur via that medium. There is one Amiga emulator available, a port of the Unix Amiga Emulator, but it is somewhat CPU intensive and really requires a StrongARM to be useful.

Spectrum - There are emulators around for this and Amstrad, the owners of the Sinclair copyright, have released permission for the ROM images, needed to run these emulators, to be copied and released with the emulators.

See for more information.

Apple][ - Again emulators are available for this. However they, like the Spectrum emulators, require a copy of the ROM image to work. The copyright of the ROM image for these machines, as far as I am aware, prevents them being distributed, so you have to source your own copy of them.

BBC B - Once again emulators exist, including Acorn's own effort of 6502Host. The emulators are fairly good, offering a high level of compatibility. See question 8.3 for more details about two commercially available emulators. Also various programs do exist that allow the newer Acorn machines to read BBC B format floppy discs.

GameBoy - An emulator exists for this, capable of loading and using most snapshots with sound correctly emulated. Snapshots seem to be fairly freely available on the Internet and a search in any of the more capable search engines should quickly turn up a set of sites with downloadable snapshot images.

Amstrad CPC - Emulators exist for these machines and Amstrad & Locomotive Software have given their permission for the ROM images, needed to make them work, to be freely distributable with the emulators.

Q8.2) Is there a BBC BASIC for other machines?

The short answer is, yes.

Macintosh - A BBC BASIC environment was released some years back as a commercial product featuring compatibility with a limited subset of OS_Bytes and other features for limited compatibility with a BBC Model B. More information is available from

IBM Compats - There was a version of BBC Basic written for Windows machines by R.T.Russell. More information can be obtained from his homepage at

J.G.Harston maintains the most complete catalogue availiable of implementations of BBC BASIC available for over thirty platforms. Contains a wealth of documentation and links to available downloads.

Q8.3) Can I run 65Host on the Risc PC?

Officially, no. Unofficially there is a patch that enables the Emulator to run fairly well. Unfortunately the patch does not correctly enable the break key; however, it does substitute the Scroll Lock key, so you can reset the emulator easily from inside the emulator. On a StrongARM equipped RiscPC you need to disable all but the instruction cache while running the emulator. (An '*Cache I' will do this.)

Here is the patch :-

REM <HostPatch
REM RISC PC !65Host patch
REM Obtained from
REM Provided by (Tim Gladding)
REM of Cambridge, England
REM Tweaked to substitute ScrollLock for Break
REM by (Darren Salt)
SYS "OS_File",5,"<65Host$Dir>.!RunImage" TO t,,,,len
DIM data len
SYS "OS_File",255,"<65Host$Dir>.!RunImage",data
FOR ptr=0 TO len-4 STEP 4
  CASE word OF
    WHEN &E3520402, &E2600402, &E3510402: data?ptr=&05
    WHEN &13A0000F: data?ptr=&0E: REM key code for ScrollLock
NEXT ptr
SYS "OS_File",10,"<65Host$Dir>.!RunImage",&FFA,,data,data+len

It is a BASIC program - simply enter it into the BASIC editor of your choice, let the filer see the copy of 65Host that is to be patched and run it. A copy of the 65Host emulator can be found on the Acorn FTP site.

A PD BBC Emulator, called !BeebIt, is available to download from, but this doesn't include the ROM images due to copyright reasons, so you will need to obtain these seperately.

There is also a commercially available BBC emulator, called 6502Em, available that works on the RiscPC range and boasts improved compatibility, mostly with games, over the Acorn effort. It also is StrongARM compatible.

Contact Murklesoft for details.

Q8.4) Can I read Acorn format discs on a PC?

Yes, there are a number of utilities available, such as ArcDisc or ArcImg. A good first port of call is which also includes other useful links to emulating RISC OS machines under Windows.

I don't know if any of these utilities will read the latest F+ format discs, as used by RISC OS 4.

Q8.5) What software handles files with this extension?

This really depends on what the extension is. Most popular extensions and file formats are catered for, either natively or by third-party utilities.

Presented below is a list of common file extensions and the software that, in some way, handles the file. It is recommended, especially for commercial software, that you verify that software will indeed perform the functions you require on the file format. This list is intended as a starting point to give the reader a pointer towards suitable software, nothing more.

N.B. This list is primarily for programs that convert foreign file formats into Acorn usable data - not the other way round. Some programs listed will export as well as import but this is by no means guaranteed.

* AVI (.avi) , &FB2, Audio Visual file.

* BMP (.bmp) , &69C, Bitmap file (Windows).

* CGM (.cgm) , &B2B, Computer Graphics Metafile.

* DXF (.dxf) , &DEA, Drawing eXchange Format file.

* FLIC (.fli, .flc) , &B9F, Autodesk flic animation.

* GIF (.gif), &695 , Graphics Interchange Format picture.

* GZIP (.gz), &F89, Archive format.

* HTML (.htm, .html) , &FAF, Hyper Text Markup Language document.

* JPEG (.jpg, .jpeg) , &C85, JPEG format picture.

* Metafile (.met), &B2C, OS/2 Metafile.

* MIDI (.mid, .midi), &FD4, Musical Instrument Digital Interface file.

* MPEG (.mpg, .mpeg) , &BF8, Motion Picture Experts Group movie file.

* PDF (.pdf), &ADF, Adobe's Portable Document Format.

* Perl (.pl) , &102, Practical Extraction and Report Language file.

* PostScript (.eps, .ps) , &FF5, Adobe's printer graphics language.

* Quicktime (.mov) , &FB2, Macintosh movie file.

* SoundTracker (.mod) , &CB6, Sound Tracker file.

* Tar (.tar) , &C46, Tape Archive.

* Text (.txt, .text), &FFF, text file.

* TIFF (.tif, .tiff) , &FF0, Tagged Image File Format.

* Wave (.wav) , &FB1, Chunk based sound file.

* WMF (.wmf) ,&B2F, Windows Meta File.

* ZIP (.zip) , &DDC, Archive format.

Q8.6) Is there a version of Draw for Windows?

Yes. Oak released a program called Oak-Draw for Windows. This program can load, save and manipulate Acorn Draw format files in the Windows environment. The commercial program CorelXara can also load and manipulate Draw files.

Q8.7) Can I run Windows software on a RISC OS machine?

The Risc PC machines had the ability to add an x86 co-processor card in order to run Windows applications and add a level of 'PC compatibility'. A 486 card and a faster 586 card were available. Neither are in production any more.

For more information, see the x86card FAQ at

Part 7 - Online Resources | Part 9 - Common Questions about the FAQ

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 Last edit: 10th Apr 2016 at 4:55pm (2996 days ago)

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