Best value for money was 1040 ST and Amiga 500, both were affordable in 1987, Maybe also considering a few home PCs like Schneider Euro PC. The choice was if you want to play mostly games or doing something serious with your machine as well. That made the difference between ST and Amiga. The Archi was mostly out of both as the most games weren't published for it and no Signum, no Cubase, no Calamus for it. Even no MS-Word, no dBase, no Multiplan, no Lotus 1-2ö3 and such boring stuff which made some home users to choose a PC. The Archi was powerfull, but expensive and a niche system. Unfortunatelly, because it really was powerfull. Do you know how I call the Archi since a few years? "Father of all smartphones."
Unfortunately what you describe is the 'urban legend' about the Archie, and certainly comes from the fact piracy wasn't as spread as on the ST or Amiga (and I'll add : 'fortunately' otherwise with such a small user base the machine would have quickly died), so people said 'there's nothing available for the Archie' meaning 'I can't steal anything and don't have access to software I should pay for'.
If it's true the Archie hadn't many games in the first years
, you can check with this list in fact it has some games. I'll post a link to the full list later.
Now for the serious apps, how can you post such statement ?
From pipedream to techwriter (your Signum, I think), the Archie is blessed with 1st class 'productive' killer apps, ranked 1st when comparisons are made with their PC or Mac competitors (See Artworks for example, it's still being developped for RISC OS machine, but also on the PC under the name Photo And Graphic Designer by Xara https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArtWorks
I remember a commentary of a tester I think in Computer Shopper who was evaluating Corel Draw on the PC and wrote sthing like : 'I'm glad I've got Artworks on the Archimedes, so much more powerful, user-friendly with RISC OS, efficient and faster'). Yes : these were the days where Archie users could just laugh at people on other platforms with their 'toys' apps.
For DTP a postcript full solution with an Acorn Archimedes + Computer Concepts Impression II for example performs better and is cheaper than an Apple solution (yes : cheaper partly because on the Archie you don't need a 'normal' postcript printer like on the Mac : you can get rid of the postcript encoding electronics the MAC needs because this part is computed by the Archimedes thanks to its 4 MIPS CPU, and its tranparent to the Archie user).
For DTP the choice was wide : all the Impression series, Acorn own DTP software, Ovation Pro, EasyWriter, Tempest, and even in the early days we had the lame protext from the Amiga for simple text writing à la MS Word (a lame and bugged to death app btw, sthing we never ever had on the Archie : with a niche market and the schools spending a lot of money
to buy (and not steal) software the users were not beta testers, otherwise magazines like BBC Acorn User or Archive, Risc User, would 'kill' the product in their review.)
Remember RISC OS offers anti aliased fonts as a standard, it is of course a real plus.
I agree with you as far as music is concerned : no Cubase or Calamus.
The Archie had no MIDI interface as standard : this is a great thing for the ST to have one.
But Sibelius comes from the Archie.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibelius_(software)
It mustn't be that bad to have received more than 35 (thirty five !) awards.http://www.sibelius.com/products/sibelius/reviews/awards.html
'It is used by composers, arrangers, performers, music publishers, teachers and students, particularly for writing classical, jazz, band, vocal, film and television music. Beyond editing and printing scores, Sibelius can also play music back using synthesized sounds, produce legible scores for editing and printing,
The Wikipedia article is wrong as far as the date of availability on the Archie is concerned.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Sibelius_(software)#Acorn_.27version.27_numbers
I believe the 1st version of Sibelius appeared on the Archie in 1990 (the 1st version wasn't Sibelius 7, obviously).
The list goes on.
I could tell you about the expansion boards too : an area where too many people think there was nothing available for the Archie.
What a joke.
For example have you heard of the Millipede Electronics range of realtime graphics manipulation boards like the Apex, as used by the BBC and regional TVs : it was a niche market where the Archie and later the RISC PC excelled ... No Amiga for them, isn't that strange ?http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/24771/Apex-Imager-P3-Issue-4/
The man behind Millipede was such a brilliant electronics engineer that he also created the Imago :http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk/AfterAcorn/Millipede_Imago.html
and don't forget to read the specs : http://chrisacorns.computinghistory.org.uk/AfterAcorn/Millipede_Imago.html#spec
The Archie was also used by Reuters and the Stock Exchanges like the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Maybe the Amiga was used by the NASA to pilot a coffee machine, but the Archie was used by the RAF (with 3D software by Simis) and some astronomical observatories, and because it was FAST, it had lots of input/output boards for realtime data reading and manipulation, used by the industry and the research laboratories. Developping custom apps with a mix of BASIC and assembler was easy (both are standard in ROM and designed to work together) so it's why the Archie was a dream machine for developpers wanting speed and ease of development + usage.
It's not a surprise if the French Magazine ST Mag described the Archimedes as a logical choice for Atari users should they leave the Atari world and decide to buy a new machine (this was before the Falcon appeared). Many articles about the Archie hardware and software were published in ST Mag, where the Archie wasn't hated like in the U.K. because it was at 1st aimed at the education market (education being a terrible word, meaning 'dull and boring' : that's part of the modern age where values are reversed and a computer is praised for gaming).
Yes in a way the ST and Archie share part of the same philosophy : a computer to actually produce sthing, with a stock unexpanded machine.
Atari : computer for the masses. Acorn : workstations for ahem ... a third of the usual price for the same power.