Welcome to the How to Get a Copy of... page! I've been contacted by quite a few people for information on getting other versions of Elite, so in response I've done some research, and the info now appears on this page.
Please note that FFE was only released on the PC, and no Mac or Amiga versions were released.
Because FFE was withdrawn from sale shortly after it was released, it is now getting difficult to find. Some computer stores may have a few copies lying around in storage, and could be happy to unload them at a reduced price (I got my copy from a stock clearance sale in 1996 for a mere seven pounds!). However, it is now very unlikely that anyone has stock left so the most likely way of getting hold of a boxed retail version of FFE is through an online auction site such as eBay.
Other than rummaging through bargain bins or getting the game through an online auction, the only legal way to get FFE is to download it from the Elite Club. The games (FE2 is also available) are shareware - after 30 days of playing the game, you will have to pay £5 for a registered version. According to a representitive of Frontier Developments, posting to alt.fan.elite, "These [are] not updated versions of the games... First Encounters [is] version 1.06. The games will still need to be run in pure DOS mode - help with this will be included in the readme file."
Some people have expressed discontent that they're expected to pay for for the games. David Braben has responded by saying "I understand that you are a bit miffed that it is not an updated version, but we expect that will come with time. People's salaries have to come from somewhere, and it makes it easier to justify expenditure on maintaining these games in the future." My own opinion is that £5 is an exceptionally reasonable price as that is the lowest price for budget software in the UK. This is probably what you'd be paying had FFE been re-released as a budget title at retail.
While FE2 used to be a hell of a lot easier to get than FFE, which was released a couple of years later, it is now getting tricky to find also. Unlike FFE, the game was republished on budget in as part of Empire's Award Winners Platinum compilation, which also featured Lemmings and Civilization 1. The release date of that compilation was 1995. It was later included on another Empire compilation, but I cannot remember the title.
Given that it is 11 years since FE2 came out on the Amiga (1993, I'm not sure when the PC version was released) and 9 years since Award Winners Platinum, it is highly unlikely that you'll be able to buy it in the shops, so your best chance at getting hold of the boxed retail version is through an online auction. Note that it is probably going to be expensive to get the full package in good condition.
As with FFE, FE2 has been re-released as part of Frontier Developments' Elite Club. The game is shareware, so it will cost £5 for a registered version. It is the most recent version of the game.
The Amiga version of FE2 is no longer available for purchase new, although you may be able to pick it up second hand from auction sites. As for downloading it, it is available download from the Elite Club Like the PC versions of FFE and FE2, you will have to pay a £5 registration fee if you choose to keep using it after the 30 day evaluation period is over.
I have been contacted by Epic Marketing, who have confirmed that their Amiga Classix CD only contains the demo version of FE2.
As with the Amiga version of FE2, the version for the Atari ST is also no longer available for purchase. As far as I am aware, it has not yet been made available through the Elite Club. There is a copy available for download from the web, but due to the uncertain legal status of the file I cannot give you more detailed help with finding it other than to say that you may stumble upon it while looking for FE2 for the other 680x0-based computer platform.
Ian Bell's website has just about every single version of Elite 1 (platforms include Amiga, BBC, Mac, PC and wierd machines such as the Tatung Einstein) available for download, as well as an excellent HTML version of the manual. Many of the versions on the site are ready to use with the relevant emulators, and Ian gives info on what emulator should be used for each file. In some cases, using emulation may be easier than trying to transfer the files back to the original machine.
Originally produced for the glory that was the Acorn Archimedes series (hence 'ArcElite'), this is almost without doubt the best conversion of the original Elite ever made and still works on most modern RISC OS machines.
Filled 256 colour ships, seriously good AI (better than FFE!!), action that isn't centred round the player (the first time you see a pirate band arrive at a space station and start shooting at it you'll probably be very surprised - I was!), actual formations of ships (Anacondas with Sidewinder escorts, squadrons of Vipers on patrol, convoys of Pythons), new ships (including the rather cool Racer and the severely crap Hognose) and a whole host of other cool features mean that if you haven't got a copy by now you're either insane or only just bought a RISC OS computer.
This marvel of game design was published by Hybrid in 1991, and was given away free on the Acorn User cover disk with the August 1995 issue (number 158). It was also included on the Cover CD (AUCD 10) of the August 2000 issue of Acorn User. Acorn User was recently taken over by Finnybank Ltd, merged with Acorn Publisher and renamed Qercus. Their website is at http://www.qercus.com. I am not sure if they still have back issues left.
The game is also available from Ian Bell's website or Acorn Arcade. The Acorn Arcade version is pretty much identical to the distribution of v1.14 that appeared on the Acorn User cover disks.
Note that, as with the other non-PC versions of Elite, you will need an emulator if you don't have an Acorn or other RISC OS machine of your own. The best Acorn emulator for PCs around at the moment is the Virtual Acorn family, which come complete with full documentation, utilites and a licensed copy of the relevent version of RISC OS. Provided that your PC meets the system requirements, you should have no problem running ArcElite.
More information can be found at http://www.virtualacorn.co.uk.
Of course, you could always go out and buy a real Acorn computer. CJE Micros have a range of second-hand Acorn machines. ArcElite should run on just about any of them. As long as you have at least RISC OS 2, ARM2 and 2MB of memory you should be OK. Virtually all of the available Acorn badged RISC OS machines out there now meet this requirement, and the most recent version of ArcElite (v1.14, Acorn User Cover Disk version) works on RISC OS 4.02 machines (A7000, A7000+, all RISC PCs) and should also work on the latest versions of RISC OS Select.
You could also buy a brand new RISC OS machine, although compatability with ArcElite is not quite as straightforward as on Acorn machines. While the game will run on the Microdigital Omega without needing an emulator, the information screens suffer from an odd display glitch on my machine although the actual spaceflight section seems to work fairly well.
My enquiries on comp.sys.acorn.games have generated replies that ArcElite does not work natively on Castle's Iyonix PC or through the normal version of Aemulor. It will reportedly work on Aemulor Pro, which should cost £99 excluding VAT and delivery. The Aemulor website is at http://www.aemulor.com
I have not yet been able to confirm whether ArcElite will work on the A9 Home. The machine's developers, Advantage Six told me at the 2006 Wakefield Show that they believed it should work with the A9's version of Aemulor. I haven't had anyone confirming its status for sure, it's possible that an A9 Home version of Aemulor Pro may be required.