Meeting: John Cartmell and Qercus

March 2007

John Cartmell, editor of Qercus magazine and the man behind Finnybank Ltd, visited us to talk about the publication. Readers will not have failed to notice the recent delays between issues, and John explained these and outlined what was being done to avoid them recurring in the future. He then looked forward to Acorn User’s forthcoming 25th Anniversary in August and described what Qercus would be doing to celebrate its ancestor’s milestone.

Report by Steve Fryatt

The March meeting was another that was arranged at short notice, again due to planned presentations having to be cancelled. In the end, Qercus editor John Cartmell agreed to bring his visit forward from later in the year, to plug the gap in our schedule.

The meeting was opened by Chris Hughes, who was finally able to announce that the Wakefield Show will be taking place in May again this year – albeit at a different venue. As ever, Chris was looking for volunteers to help on the day: with the move away from Thornes Park, the task should be a lot less stressful.

With the preamble out of the way, John Cartmell stepped forward. His talk began with an apology for the delays experienced by Qercus subscribers last year. This, he said, was attributable to a couple of issues: technical difficulties, and illness.

A change of process at the printers had resulted in the need to supply the copy for Qercus in PDF format and, for a number of reasons, it had proved difficult to get suitable files from the RISC OS PDF generators. Sending new files to the printers – even if they were rejected as unsuitable – cost money and this, coupled with John’s health at the time, had resulted in a period when it was hard to see a way forward.

In the end, help came from David Bradforth. He had some experience of doing what John was attempting and, more usefully, had access to the necessary software on a Mac which he knew would do the trick with the files from RISC OS. Working together, John and David were able to produce copy that the printers would accept, and issue 277 of Qercus finally landed on subscribers’ doormats.

The good news for subscribers is that John now believes that they have a system in place which can produce data acceptable to most printers, and not just those who have heard of RISC OS. This should safeguard the magazine schedules in future, as Finnybank now have the ability to take their printing business elsewhere if necessary.

Having got the apology and explanation out of the way, John moved on to more positive subjects. As readers of the magazine will be aware, Qercus was born from the merger of Acorn Publisher and Acorn User. In August this year, the latter will be celebrating its 25th anniversary and, to mark the occasion, there will be a year of special articles in Qercus.

In addition, John has been working with volunteers to assemble an archive of old Acorn User material in an online resource. The site at contains a full index of all the issues, along with a picture of each cover. Work is underway to add complete articles to the collection, with priority being given to those that people request.

Where it is more appropriate to update articles so that they are relevant to a present day audience, these will appear in Qercus itself. The process has already started, and issue 280 contained two articles by Paul Beverley which originally appeared in 1982.

John then talked us through the current issue of Qercus, which contains articles on graphics, programming in Lua and BASIC, a history of typefaces, eBay, the Shouthwest Show, a beginner’s guide to using TableMate and more besides. Following that, he gave an idea of where he hoped to take the magazine in the future, and invited those present to give him their thoughts and suggestions.

Given the long-running controversy over Qercus, we should thank John for coming to give us his side of the story – particularly at short notice. Overall, the evening was an interesting one which seemed well-received by those present – particularly the free biscuits which John provided courtesy of his stationary supplier.