Oric series of computers
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The Oric series of computers is a series of home computers produced by Tangerine Computer Systems. With the success of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Tangerine's backers suggested a home computer and Tangerine formed Oric Products International Ltd to develop and release the Oric-1 in 1983. Further computers in the Oric range were released through to 1987 with Eastern European clones being produced into the 1990s.
Based on a 1 MHz 6502A CPU, the Oric-1 came in 16 KB or 48 KB RAM  variants for £129 and £169 respectively, matching the models available for the popular ZX Spectrum and undercutting the price of the 48K Spectrum by a few pounds. Both Oric-1 versions had a 16 KB ROM containing the operating system and a modified BASIC interpreter.
The Oric-1 improved somewhat over the Spectrum with a different keyboard design replacing the Spectrum's renowned "dead flesh" one. In addition the Oric had a true sound chip, the programmable GI 8912, and two graphical modes handled by a semi-custom ASIC (ULA) which also managed the interface between the processor and memory. The two modes were a LORES text only mode (though the character set could be redefined to produce graphics) with 28 rows of 40 characters and a HIRES mode with 200 rows of 240 pixels above three lines of text. Like the Spectrum, the Oric-1 suffered from attribute clash—albeit to a lesser degree in HIRES mode, when a single row of pixels could be coloured differently from the one below in contrast to the Spectrum, which applied foreground and background color in 8 x 8 pixel blocks. As it was meant for the home market, it had a built in television RF modulator as well as RGB output and was meant to work with a basic audio tape recorder to save and load data. Error-checking of recorded programs was bugged, frequently causing user-created programs to fail when loaded back in. A nice feature was an almost standard (except for the connector) Centronics printer interface.
According to the Oric World website (see External links, below), about 160,000 Oric-1s were sold in the UK in 1983 with another 50,000 sold in France (where it was the top-selling machine that year). Although not the 350,000 predicted, it was enough for Oric International to be bought out by Edenspring and given £4m in funding.
The Prestel adaptor produced by Eureaka (Informatika) was the first adaptor produced for the Oric 1 and Atmos computers. However this adaptor was only furnished with very limited software, which was not suitable for the market at that specific moment in time. John Henry Patrick Rushton was rumoured to have hacked the circuit -by meticulously removing the 'security compressed resin' surrounding the circuit board- and apparently discovering the 6522 and its workings. It is also believed that this is why he had taught himself 6502 Assembly Language (for the purpose of writing the necessary software, that a local software-house had refused to write for him, when requested). It was then. In 1983, that the first fully comprehensive communications software for both the Oric 1 and Oric Atmos was produced (Oricoms and Atcoms - Distributed by FGC Publications of Euxton, Preston, U.K.). This software, entirely designed and written by John Henry Patrick Rushton and the accompanying manual ( which was written by Trevor F Shaw) - both of Telford, Shropshire - utilised the 6522 ACIA (Asynchronous Communications Interface Adaptor which served as a I/O port controller for the 6502 family of microprocessors). This software (the first of its type for the Oric series of computers and was indeed one of the early pioneers of home computer communications) enabled the Oric 1 and Atmos to communicate with Prestel (a fore-runner of the Internet-which used Ceefax style graphics), with Bulletin Boards and facilitated the transfer of files from one Oric/Atmos to another, via the public telephone system. The transfer speeds being either 300 or 1200 baud (this could occur at both full and half duplex). J H P Rushton was later - in the spring of 1984- to produce the first (for the Oric 1 and Atmos) 'true' high resolution Computer Aided Design utilities (C.A.D.) known as Oricad and Atcad respectively.
On the 13th October, 1983 the factory of Kenure Plastics in Berkshire, where the Oric-1 was manufactured, burnt to the ground. The factory was rebuilt, minus a considerable stock of bits (including 15,000 old ROMs) that went to make up the Oric-1. In the meantime production was said to have restarted within 24 hours in a new factory; And just a day later, a neighbouring warehouse went up in flames. Police were said at the time to suspect that the arsonist got the wrong place first time round. It was about this time, too, that Tansoft upped sticks and moved to co-exist with Oric Research at the Techno Park, Cambridge.
The Edenspring money enabled Oric International to release the Oric Atmos, which added a true keyboard and an updated V1.1 ROM to the Oric-1. The faulty tape error checking routine was still there. Soon after the Atmos was released, the modem, printer and 3.5 -inch floppy disk drive originally promised for the Oric-1 were announced and released by the end of 1984. A short time after the release of the Atmos machine, a modification for the Oric-1 was issued and advertised in magazines and bulletin boards. This modification enabled the Oric-1 user to add a second rom (containing the Oric Atmos system) to a spare rom socket on the Oric-1 circuit board. Then, using a basic DPST (double pole single toggle) switch, the users could then switch between the new Oric Atmos rom and the original Oric-1 rom at their leisure.
Stratos, Telestrat, and the end
The Atmos failed to turn around Oric International's fortunes, but they persevered and in early 1985 Oric announced several new machines were on the way, including an IBM compatible and an MSX-compatible computer. On February 1 it demonstrated the Oric Stratos/IQ164 at the Frankfurt Computer Show; on the 2nd however, Edenspring put Oric International into receivership with Tansoft, by then a company in its own right, following in May. French company Eureka bought the remains of Oric and, after renaming itself, continued to produce the Stratos under that name, followed by the Oric Telestrat in late 1986. In December 1987 after announcing the Telestrat 2, Oric International went into receivership for the second and final time.
A Yugoslavian company (believed to be Avtotehna, based in Ljubljana) obtained a licence to make just 5000 machines. Machines were made, but whether they were under license or not is not known in any detail. It is thought[by whom?] that they assembled parts shipped from the UK. They were Atmos based, the only difference being the logo indicating Oric Nova 64 instead of Oric Atmos 48k. Nova had 64K of RAM, 16K of which was masked by the ROM at startup, leaving 48K to work with the BASIC language.
A Bulgarian machine called the Pravetz 8D was produced between 1985 and 1991. The Pravetz is entirely hardware and software compatible with the Oric Atmos. The biggest change on the hardware side is the larger white case that hosts a comfortable mechanical keyboard and an integrated power supply. The BASIC ROM has been patched to host both a Western European and Cyrillic alphabet – the upper case character set produces Western European characters, while lower case gives Cyrillic letters. In order to ease the use of the two alphabets, the Pravetz 8D is fitted with a Caps Lock key. A Disk II compatible interface and a custom DOS, called DOS-8D, were created in 1987-1988 by Borislav Zahariev.
- ^ The 48K Oric machines are actually 64K machines. The top 16K of memory are masked by the BASIC ROM and thus normally not available for the user. The disc drive unit contains some additional hardware that allows it to enable or disable the ROM, effectively adding 16K of RAM to the machine. This additional memory is used by the system to store the Oric DOS software.
- Oric.org – The main Oric community portal
- The Oric FAQ – For Microtan 65, Oric 1, Oric Atmos & Stratos IQ164/Telestrat; website by James Groom
- Defence-Force: Oric Forums – The main Oric discussion forum
- Oric games – specialised for games (tests & forums)
- Oric World – Including an online version of the book by Haworth
- Oric Atmos review – By David Scobie, Your Computer, March 1984 (text stored at the Home Computer Hall of Fame)
- Microtan 65 – Oric-1 – Oric Atmos – At the Old Computers Museum
- Oric Nova - licensed machine, exact copy of Atmos, at the Old Computers Museum
- Pravetz 8D - the only clone of Oric, at the Old Computers Museum
- Emulators – Links to up-to-date versions of Euphoric, Amoric, Atoric, Arcoric and Mess emulators
- Oricutron - A new multiplatform Oric emulator
- Defence-Force: Oric page – By Mickaël Pointier