The 2013 RISC OS Survey

This was the first survey run by RISCOSitory on the new RISC OS Awards website, alongside the 2012/2013 awards poll. Apart from the initial receipt of the entries being on a Windows computer, all processing was carried out on a Raspberry Pi running RISC OS, using Fireworkz, Draw, Artworks2 and ConvImgs.

The idea of combining a survey with an annual awards poll should, in theory, provide a picture of how the RISC OS community looks, and allow developers and companies involved in the RISC OS platform to keep what they offer relevant - especially considering that it is an undeniable fact that the number of RISC OS users is low in the extreme.

With that in mind, as mentioned in the 2012/2013 Awards results, the number of people who voted in the awards and took part in the survey was notably low, at just under 150. Given the size of the RISC OS community, and that this is the first attempt by RISCOSitory to do such a thing, this isn't an especially discouraging result, and it is certainly a reasonable starting point to build upon in future years.

However, when reading these results, do consider that the number of survey results completed is low enough that it may not be statistically representative. This is particularly true if you consider that there are some distinct groups of people who may not have been aware of the survey, and so didn't take part as a result.

The common attribute amongst those groups of people - the reason they may not have been aware of the awards poll and survey - is that they may not read, or even be aware of, the various forums and newsgroups many of us use on a regular basis, and even take for granted; the comp.sys.acorn newsgroups, mailing lists such as Archive-on-Line, the RISC OS Open Ltd forums, and so on. They may not read the forums and newsgroups for any one or more of a number of reasons:

  • Perhaps their system 'just works' and they just get on with things, for example, which might be true for any number of people who have been using RISC OS for many years.
  • Maybe it's because they only read those forums and newsgroups that they consider relevant to their particular systems and how they use them, which might be true of VirtualRiscPC owners, for example, perhaps reading only the VirtualAcorn forums.
  • Or there may be new users, who have come to the platform through simply trying out RISC OS thanks to its easy availability on platforms such as the Raspberry Pi, but who have yet to discover the regularly used RISC OS discussion forums.

Having spoken to a small number of people at shows in the past who fall into these groups, it seems unlikely that they are the only ones; it is reasonable to believe that there may be many more like them - as well as other groups of people who, for whatever reason, may not have known about the survey.

The 2013 RISC OS Survey Results

How many RISC OS systems do you own?

Pie chart showing typical numbers of RISC OS
                                     computers owned.
Typical numbers of RISC OS computers owned.
There were six possible answers to this question, ranging from zero to four computers, and five or more. The results are broken down as follows:
  • 0.69% of people said they didn't own a RISC OS computer.
  • 8.28% said they owned just one RISC OS computer.
  • 17.93% said they owned two RISC OS computers.
  • 20.00% said they owned three RISC OS computers.
  • 17.24% said they owned four RISC OS computers.
  • 35.86% of people said they owned five or more RISC OS computers.

This shows that the majority of users - 91.03% of those who took part in the survey - own more than one RISC OS computer, with more than a third owning an impressive five or more. Whether more than one is in use, however, is another matter, and dealt with in the next question.

The tiny percentage who said they didn't own a RISC OS computer might seem odd at first, but there are possible explanations, such as using a computer belonging to another family member.

And of those, how many are in regular or semi-regular use?

Pie chart showing typical numbers of RISC OS
                                     computers in use.
Typical numbers of RISC OS computers in use.
There were again six possible answers to this question, matching the options in the previous question, and the results are broken down as follows:
  • 6.85% of people said they didn't make use of their RISC OS computers.
  • 27.40% said they used just one of their RISC OS computers.
  • 29.46% said they used two of their RISC OS computers.
  • 22.60% said they used three of their RISC OS computers.
  • 8.90% said they used four of their RISC OS computers.
  • 4.79% said they used five or more of their RISC OS computers.

While the previous question revealed that most users own more than one RISC OS computer, it isn't surprising to see that not all of those computers are used on a regular or semi-regular basis. Some of those computers, for example, may have been stored away in people's lofts.

Where people do use more than one, there are a number of possible reasons. Typical users might have multiple computers set up in different parts of the home, perhaps networked, and use whichever one is convenient, or to allow for compatibility problems with different software (and attached hardware). Another possibility is having one at home and one at the office.

Developers form another group of people who are very likely to have several RISC OS computers in use regularly or semi-regularly, so that they can test things on different versions of the operating system, or on different hardware and emulated platforms.

Which version of RISC OS do you use most?

Pie chart showing a breakdown of which versions
                                     of RISC OS are most used.
Breakdown of which versions of RISC OS are most used.
There were seven possible answers to this question, giving 'base' versions of RISC OS, and people were asked to select the closest version below the one they use the most. The results are:
  • 0.00% of people said they used RISC OS 2.0
  • 1.36% of people said they used RISC OS 3.0
  • 2.72% of people said they used RISC OS 3.5
  • 6.80% of people said they used RISC OS 4.0
  • 14.29% of people said they used RISC OS 4.2
  • 64.63% of people said they used RISC OS 5.0
  • 10.20% of people said they used RISC OS 6.0

That nobody said they used RISC OS 2.0 shouldn't come as much of a surprise - but it may be surprising that a small number gave RISC OS 3.0 as their answer, which means they are using older (pre-RiscPC) Acorn computers, or that they are emulating such machines on other platforms.

It's possible these people are retro enthusiasts, for example, or that they continue to use these older computers simply to play old games or to use other old solftware that isn't compatible with newer systems, and so may never have bothered upgrading. Similar might be true of the small number who said they use RISC OS 3.5 (which could also mean RISC OS 3.6 or 3.7).

RISC OS 5.0 shows the most widespread use by far, with 64.63% of users selecting it as the version they use most. However, bear in mind that RiscPC-era computers can run any version of RISC OS above RISC OS 3.5, including a version of RISC OS 5.0 (specifically, RISC OS 5.20, which was released on ROM, suitable for IOMD-based machines, during 2013), so this doesn't necessarily indicate such a high percentage of people using an IyonixPC or anything newer, as the results of the next question shows.

What is your main platform for using RISC OS?

Pie chart showing a breakdown of which platforms
                                     are used to run RISC OS.
Breakdown of what platforms are used most.
There were nine possible answers to this question, and the results can be broken down as follows:
  • 22.45% of people said they were using a Raspberry Pi-based system.
  • 14.97% of people said they were using a BeagleBoard-based system.
  • 9.52% of people said they were using a PandaBoard-based system.
  • 19.05% of people said they were using an IyonixPC.
  • 19.73% of people said they were using a RiscPC.
  • 1.36% of people said they were using an A7000
  • 8.84% said they were using VirtualAcorn or VirtualRiscPC.
  • 1.36% said they were using RPCEmu.
  • 2.72% of people said they were using something else.

A number of interesting things are shown here, such as the Raspberry Pi being the most popular platform amongst those who took part in the survey, and that there are more people still using RiscPCs as their main RISC OS system than there are using IyonixPCs.

The combined percentage of people using systems based around the newer ARM-based boards (the Raspberry Pi, BeagleBoard and PandaBoard) as their main RISC OS system is 46.94% of all the users who took part, while the combined percentage of people using RiscPC-era computers (and emulators) is 31.29%.

A small anomaly is apparent in the values when comparing the previous question with this one. Combining the 46.94% given above with the 19.05% who said they use an IyonixPC gives 65.99% of people whose main RISC OS computer should be running RISC OS 5.0 - but only 64.63% of users gave RISC OS 5.0 as the version of RISC OS they use most.

Further analysis of the votes shows a very small number of people who gave one of the new ARM-based boards as their most used platform confusingly said the version of RISC OS they used most was something other than 5.0, which is clearly incorrect. Interestingly, though, that same analysis also revealed a very small number of people who gave the RiscPC as their main platform, and RISC OS 5.0 as the version of RISC OS they use the most. This suggests the ROM-based RISC OS 5.20 is in use by some people on RiscPCs, which are being used as their main RISC OS system - something RISC OS Open Ltd will no doubt be pleased to know.

A point worth noting here, for both this question and the last, is that these figures shouldn't be interpreted as indicating which platforms are owned by the most people - the question specifically asked people to answer for the one they used the most, even if they owned more than one.

For example, just because 'only' 8.84% of people said they use VirtualAcorn or VirtualRiscPC as their main platform, and only 1.36% gave RPCEmu as their answer, doesn't mean that only 10.20% of people have and use one of the emulators - any number of those who said they have more than one RISC OS computer could have one or more of the emulators as a secondary system.

How long have you been a RISC OS user?

Pie chart showing how long people have
                                     been using RISC OS
Breakdown of the amount of time people have been using RISC OS
Offering fewer options, the possible answers to this question were that people had been using RISC OS since Acorn were around, between two and fifteen years, or fewer than two years. The results are as follows:
  • 84.03% of people said they had been using RISC OS since the Acorn days.
  • 13.89% said they had been using RISC OS for between two and fifteen years.
  • 2.08% said they had been using it for fewer than two years.

This plainly shows that the overwhelming majority of RISC OS users have been around for some time, having been users of the operating system since it was in the hands of the company that originally developed it - something anyone in that group would most likely have expected.

That there are people who are very new to the system, having started using it in the last two years, is encouraging - although the percentage is disappointingly small. However, as noted in the introductory text at the top of this page, it is likely that there are more new users of the system than those who took part in this survey, but who did not know about the survey in the first place, perhaps because they don't (yet) read the various forums on which it was publicised, and so whose voices we haven't heard.

By choice, do you use any platforms other than RISC OS?

The possible answers to this question were a straightforward yes or no - and 89.51% of people said that, yes, they do use another platform, which is unsurprisingly high, and means a remarkable 10.49% of people are still able to satisfy all of their computing needs on RISC OS alone.

If so, which operating system?

Pie chart showing which other platforms
                                     are used by RISC OS users
Breakdown of other platforms used by RISC OS users.
A follow-up to the previous question, this offered the most obvious three - Windows, MacOS and something Linux-based - as options, as well as an Other option for anything else. The three main systems were chosen because they are the most widely used in general, and therefore the most likely to be used alongside RISC OS systems. The results can be broken down as follows:
  • 53.33% of people who use another platform as well as RISC OS use Windows.
  • 17.04% of people use MacOS as well as RISC OS.
  • 25.93% use a Linux-based OS as well as RISC OS.
  • 3.70% of people use something else.

There are no real surprises here in terms of which of the three main systems given as options is the most widely used, and perhaps not in the spread, either. Windows is the platform most likely to be encountered on the typical desk in a work environment, and is the operating system most widely found pre-installed on computer systems, whether purchased over the counter or online.

MacOs also comes pre-installed, on Apple computer systems, but those systems tend to be more expensive, and while they can also be found on many desks in a work environment it is nowhere near as commonly found as Windows - both of which will be a factor in why it is used by a smaller percentage of RISC OS users as a second platform.

Linux-based operating systems are less easy to come by with the OS pre-installed, though some vendors do offer it as an option, and is more often installed by people themselves. As such, it seems less likely that 'ordinary' users would have it on their second computers, so it's quite probable that the quarter of RISC OS users who answered this question with a Linux-based OS as their second platform are more technical users.

On what processor do you use that operating system?

Another follow-up question, three options were offered; ARM, Intel/AMD or Other. The results are that for an unsurprisingly high 91.11% of people, that other platform runs on Intel/AMD processors, while for 6.67% of people it runs on ARM processors - for example ChromeOS, Android, iOS or WindowsRT - and for 2.22% it is something else.

And do you use it more than RISC OS?

Pie chart showing whether people use other
                                     platforms more or less than RISC OS.
Breakdown of whether are used more or less by RISC OS users.
The final follow-up question on the subject of other platforms offered three options; that people used another platform more than they used RISC OS, used them both about the same, or used RISC OS more than the other platform.

The results are that 41.18% of people use another platform more than they use RISC OS, while 28.67% of people use RISC OS and their other platform roughly equally, and 30.15% use RISC OS more.

As computing technologies have moved on, people are able to do so much more on their computer systems than they would have been able to do in the past, and there can be no denying that RISC OS has lagged behind the rest of the world in this respect: There are things that can be done on other platforms that just aren't possible, or which are much less practical to do, on RISC OS.

These can be extremely processor intensive tasks, involving large files, such as video processing and editing - which in a modern world is likely to be high definition video, with file sizes that RISC OS would even be able to touch. Even something much less ambitious such as encoding music as MP3s, which RISC OS can do, is more efficiently done on more powerful, modern PCs.

It is therefore quite surprising that the percentage of people who use another platform more than they use RISC OS isn't higher - but, at the same time, it is quite encouraging that this isn't the case.

In which age range do you fall?

Pie chart showing the age range of typical
                                     RISC OS users.
Breakdown of the age range of RISC OS users.
There were six options for this question, covering people under 20, then each decade from the 20s to the 50s, and finally those who were 60 or over. The results are:
  • 0.00% of RISC OS users are aged below 20.
  • 6.25% of RISC OS users are aged 20-29.
  • 17.36% of RISC OS users are aged 30-39.
  • 21.53% of RISC OS users are aged 40-49.
  • 15.97% of RISC OS users are aged 50-59.
  • 38.89% of RISC OS users are aged 60 or over.

With a hefty 84.03% of users having said, in a previous question, that they had been using RISC OS since the days of Acorn, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that there are more older users than younger. There is a clear lead in the number of users who are 60 or over, then a fairly even spread for users aged 30-39, 40-49 and 50-59.

The number of users who are younger than that is disappointing - but this, again, may be because of the possibility that there are new users out there who aren't aware of the various RISC OS forums and newsgroups and, therefore, the survey.

Are you male or female?

And the final question in the survey asked whether people were male or female, with the results being that 99.30% of those RISC OS users who answered are male, and 0.70% are female.