Background Information


Although I've been on the Net since 1994, it's taken me until late 2002 to actually create a home page for myself on the Web. This is partly because I consider home pages to be terribly narcissistic, and partly because I've generally wanted to spend my time working on things that were useful rather than merely self-serving. However, I've finally given in. Various people have remarked to me recently that they were surprised to find that I didn't have a home page, and as I seem to be doing a lot of Web-related things at the moment, it did seem a little silly for me not to have a site about myself. So, here it is at long last.

  Richard Hallas

Who is Richard? What is he?

("...that all the saints commend him"? No, I don't suppose that they do! And if you don't understand that reference, you should listen to more Schubert.)

Well, my full name is Richard Geoffrey Hallas, and I was born on 21st March 1969, a birthday which I am proud to share with both J.S.Bach (the greatest composer who ever lived, as far as I'm concerned) and Modest Mussorgsky (wonderful Russian composer of Pictures at an Exhibition etc.). With birthday companions like those, it's a good job that music happens to be a particular interest of mine. My other main interest, though, is computing. I have been addicted to computers ever since my first experiences with a Commodore Pet which my uncle borrowed from work in 1981, when I was 12.

Most of my school life was spent in varying shades of misery at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS), Wakefield. Mine were not happy school days, unfortunately, though the world turned out to be a massively nicer place once I left school at 18 and went to university.

The silver lining to the cloud of my school days was choir practice after school. I joined Wakefield Cathedral Choir at the age of 8, where I sang treble until my voice broke. For my last year as a treble I was Head Chorister of the choir, a position of responsibility which I thoroughly enjoyed. I remained in the choir after my voice broke, singing counter-tenor, until I left a few years ago following 21 years of more or less unbroken service. (I had time out while at university, but went back during the holidays.)

My first taste of undergraduate life was studying for a degree in Music at Lancaster University, an experience which was as enjoyable as my school life had been unpleasant. I graduated from Lancaster in 1990 and almost immediately went on to study part-time for an Open University degree in Computational Mathematics, which I obtained in 1994.

During my time at Lancaster I had joined The Lancaster Singers during term-time, and shortly after graduating and returning home I joined another local chamber choir, The Huddersfield Singers. I have been a member of this choir for around 15 years, and have produced a variety of publicity material for it over that time. In order to learn how to write HTML in 1999, I produced a Web site for the choir.

Whilst studying for my OU degree, I was also running a small business, KeyNote, which was devoted to editing and typesetting musical scores and a certain amount of (often music-related) desktop publishing. I pursued my KeyNote interests as my main activity while writing for a number of computer magazines as a sideline until 1995, when I was made a couple of interesting offers.

The first of these offers was to run the Opus user group and music library for Sibelius Software, whose world-famous music typesetting software, Sibelius 7, I had been using and beta-testing for several years. However, after initially agreeing to this, I was unable to take up the position because at around the same time I was offered the editorship of RISC User, my favourite computer magazine (and the one for which I was writing most articles). The opportunity was too good to miss, and I edited RISC User for three years, until early 1999.

Towards the end of 1998 I was commissioned by Acorn Computer Group plc to organise, design and produce the show guide for its Acorn World '98 show. This was a very prestigious commission, as the show was intended as a special celebration of Acorn's 20th anniversary. I had also been asked to give a presentation at the show about my work with RISC User. At the same time, I was also in discussion with Acorn about the creation of a new corporate magazine for its workstation, network computer and interactive set-top box markets, with which it was enjoying considerable success.

Unfortunately, in the midst of these discussions, Acorn's upper management (which had recently been taken over by an accountant who appeared to have no real understanding of the true nature or worth of the company) decided to cancel the landmark show, close the workstations division and, in effect, kill off the company.

This meant that most of what I was trying to do at the time (not to mention all the things that I really cared about) went up in smoke, and I spent most of 1999 in a state of mild depression, although this didn't prevent me from pursuing other interests. One highlight of 1999, though, was that I won the RISC OS '99 Award for Editorial Excellence in recognition of my work with RISC User. This award, which was associated with the main Acorn/RISC OS event of the year (successor to the cancelled Acorn World show), was devised especially for me, which I found most flattering.

The circumstances in the Acorn computer market unfortunately forced the closure of RISC User magazine in early 2000, after twelve years of publication. However, I was able to acquire the rights to the magazine from its owner, BEEBUG Ltd, which enabled me to use the name of the magazine as an element in a new project.

That project was Foundation RISC User, a new magazine on CD-ROM that I set up at the end of 1999 for the core RISC OS enthusiast market. Foundation RISC User (FRU) is, at the time of writing, in its third year of publication, and is published by RISCOS Ltd, the company set up to take over development of the RISC OS operating system from Acorn.

Foundation RISC User was in fact strongly inspired by the magazine I had been planning to create for Acorn, although it's in a totally different format (on CD rather than on paper). In fact, it's very much a 'first': not only was it the first true CD-ROM magazine on the Acorn/RISC OS platform, but I also believe it to be one of the very first genuine magazines on CD-ROM to be published on a regular basis for any market.

Another major innovation of FRU is its ability to run software from within Web pages. Each magazine is effectively a Web site on CD, but as well as being able to read the articles in a Web browser, the reader can click on links to load resource files or run applications, which gives the magazine a great deal of flexibility. (This is quite different from running Java applets etc. from Web pages, and is an advantage that's currently exclusive to RISC OS-based systems, though the other aspects of the magazine can be used on any computer.) The end result is a highly integrated combination of magazine, resource files and useful software, and FRU has certainly been well-received thus far.

So, that's what I'm doing at the moment. However, editing Foundation RISC User is only a part-time activity (as the magazine is published quarterly), so I'm always open to offers of further employment! Please have a look at the other pages of this site to see what other kinds of things I do, and examples of my work in various fields.

If you would like to contact me, please email; I'm a friendly soul, and would love to hear from you!