Acorn Advert - September 1979
From Personal Computer World
Three Trumps from Acorn: The Acorn Microcomputer
Acorn had been founded as Cambridge Processor Unit (CPU) in November 1978 by Hermann Hauser, who had moved to the UK from Vienna at the age of 15, and Chris Curry - a former Science of Cambridge, a.k.a. Sinclair (and before that Sinclair Radionics) employee. Curry, armed with one A-Level, had done stints as a student apprentice with Pye in Cambridge and as a scientific assistant at the Ministry of Defence before starting with Radionics in 1966 as a development engineer. Whilst there, as well as working on hi-fi, he designed the famous Sinclair Executive calculator in 1971. In 1976, as Radionics was being part-nationalised by the National Enterprise Board, Curry left under Clive Sinclair's direction to set up a shell company as Science of Cambridge. SoC went on to develop and launch the MK-14 microprocessor kit, which proved popular with a raft of previously undiscovered enthusiasts. To help with support, Curry hired his friend and PhD student Hauser out of Cambridge University, where the latter had studied Physics at the prestigious Cavendish Physics Laboratory - the pair meeting whilst Hauser was doing post-doctorate studies. Coming out of Curry's interest in home computers and Hauser's research in to the needs of home computer users, the pair left Science of Cambridge to start CPU, from which Acorn was born. Not unexpectedly, their first product was a kit-form micro not unlike the MK-14 and called the Acorn Microcomputer.
An apparently photo-shy and stern-looking Chris Curry, © Personal Computer News, Jan 7th 1984The Acorn Microcomputer, known later on as the Acorn Microcomputer System 1 or just Acorn System 1 was launched in March 1979. It was fundamentally an "Acorn Controller" - a board intended as an industrial control module, with its 32 lines of Input/Output - mounted on a Eurocard-format board with a keyboard, 8 digit 7-segment LED display and a tape interface for storage. It was also similar in concept to 1975's Mos KIM-1, not least as both shared the same 1975-designed 6502 CPU, although it benefitted from the four years since the KIM-1 was released by having a much lower chip count.
The Acorn Microcomputer was available both in kit form (which was a popular format and therefore more-or-less compulsory at the time) for £74.75 - about £420 in 2020 money - or £86.25 (£480 in 2020) pre-built. The unit shipped with a mere 1.25K memory, but an 8K module was available for £109.25, or £610 in 2020 - about 40% more than the entire kit computer cost.
Acorn's revenue for the whole of 1979 was £31,000, but by the end of 1984, Curry, head of a company thought to be worth around £100 million, was on a salary of £60,000 (£180,000 in 2020) and was living in a 15-bedroom mansion, which Curry described as "a totally unneccesary extravagance". He attributed his fame and fortune to long morning bathtime sessions, where we would often have his best ideas but which would often make him late for work. It was also revealed that Curry was "pretty hopeless" with computers. He said "I've got a computer at home. I play games on it, I'm afraid, and rather badly too". He continued "someone told Clive Sinclair once that I was starting to make quite a lot of money, and he said 'Chris Curry? Oh, he's always behaved like a rich man'".
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