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back to article The Oric-1 is 30

The Oric-1, which was formally launched 30 years ago this week, was produced with one thing in mind: to take on Sir Clive Sinclair at his own game. “The Oric is a competitor for the Spectrum,” one of Oric developer Tangerine Computer Systems’ software team, Paul Kaufman, emphatically told members of the press. “We are convinced …

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Sniff!

Sniff! —My first ever computer.

Chosen in preference to the Speccy because it had an amazing "hi-res" graphics mode.

This must be the first article I've ever read on the Oric which doesn't make the connection with the Orac computer from Blake's Seven.

Random memory: For some reason, you had to type "CLOAD" instead of "LOAD" to start loading something in from cassette.

Might have to fire up the Oric Emulator tonight, just for old times' sake.

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Re: Sniff!

'C' for cassette. As opposed to the disk drives that no-one could afford I suppose.

I owe my career in IT to my dad buying the 10 year old me an Oric... Once I'd bored of the handful of games I'd managed to find I had to have a go at learning to program. The awful fussy cassette interface taught me about audio signal paths, how to wield a soldering iron and how to get the best out of crappy cassette recorders. Ordering software from Eureka in France was my first attempt at conducting a business transaction in another language.

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After all this time, there are still people making new stuff for it..

There is still a very dedicated following, and they even produce new software for the Oric. Have some nice links.

http://space1999.defence-force.org/

http://oric30years.defence-force.org/index?page=main

Definitely not a dead platform here. I've also met a couple of them in the past, nice people too.

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Re: After all this time, there are still people making new stuff for it..

Most of the 8 bits still have a very active software scene. This is a rather nice new Spanish platform game for the Spectrum, CPC and MSX for example. CPC version was only completed a few weeks ago:

http://www.retroworks.es/php/game_en.php?id=6

I don't think the Oric scene is quite as vibrant as the major 8 bits, but there is this Space 1999 game:

http://space1999.defence-force.org

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Name?

"the Oric - the name, conjured up by Tullis from a partial anagram of ‘micro’"

Was it not taken from Orac, the supercomputer with a 'personality' of Blake's 7 fame?

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Re: Name?

No, it wasn't. Anyone ever involved with Tangerine seems to need to re-explain this in every single interview.

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Anonymous Coward

Awful design though. A tape CRC routine that didn't work, a power on initialisation process that was massively timing critical (you're supposed to let the PSU warm up a little first before plugging it into the computer). Lots of errata and modifications for stability.

I have one sitting about waiting to be fixed for a friend but I never seem to get around to doing it.

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Yep, a lovely machine

.. shame it didn't actually work properly.

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I remember them well

My best friend at school had one of these. I remember the many minutes waiting for Manic Minor to load. The sound quality from the Oric was very good, particularly the hall of the mountain king and the blue danube.

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No complaints about the serial attributes?

My understanding of the standard Oric conversation is that somebody has to point out that...

When the ULA scans a video byte it's either an instruction to change the current two-colour palette or to output pixels. The net effect is that you have to leave a gap anywhere you want to change output colours. Teletext did a similar thing but got away with it because words naturally have gaps between them. Video memory was more compact but it was very hard to write multicolour games when compared to the other micros of the day.

(and access to the sound chip was only through the versatile interface adaptor, which was a further pain)

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Holmes

Re: No complaints about the serial attributes?

The serial attributes indeed have been a pain for a while, but like many things they just required some lateral thinking to actually be no more than just a feature to use correctly.

Since then there's been quite many games that pushed the envelope in the graphical department, like Stormlord, Impossible Mission or SkoolDaze.

If you are interested about what changed on the Oric in the last 30 years, I invite you to take a look at the Oric Birthday page: https://www.facebook.com/OricBirthday (and associated site: http://oric30years.defence-force.org), there are some cool pictures and small articles explaining for example the issue you are talking about like that one about the graphics:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=135986573228240&set=a.132963460197218.28673.132958820197682&type=1&theater

Cheers!

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Ah, them were the days...

A nice trip down Memory (hah) Lane for me, too.

In 1978-80 I was transitioning from programmable calculators (PCW published my AI-like Noughts & Crosses program for the Casio fx502p) into computers and after a false start I ended up with the TI-99/4 (the chicklet keyboard precursor to the 4A, that in the UK came with a modified Skantic TV as a monitor) after selling my soul financially...

I remember the UK101, the Rockwell AIM65, and the excitement that "hobby" computing generated in the UK - it was a real compute-by-the-seat-of-your-pants time. All those ingenious tricks to reduce the size of programs - like LET A = SGN(PI) instead of LET A = 1 for the Sinclair - and the mean trick of turning a QL upside down to see if all the key caps fell off...

I ran a TI-99 group back then, and friends I made through using the TI in the early 1980s I still correspond with today. I got into a bunch of things including investigative journalism (even wrote a book on the TI) and eventually moved from working in an NHS research lab into what wasn't even called IT back then.

Almost 35 years later I don't regret one moment. It's been a blast.

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The C64 was the home computer on which I actually learned BASIC and assembler, but I remember one of my old teachers bringing his Oric-1 into class and having us take turns tapping a BASIC program in from a magazine, with him narrating what the code was actually doing and why. A very strong memory, and a defining moment, so even if my intersection with the Oric-1 was brief, it was incredibly important.

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Ahh the Oric

I had one briefly before upgrading to a C64... its an interesting machine...

Many years later, I wrote an emulator for it entirely from scratch, just for something to do on my train journey to work...

http://code.google.com/p/oriculator

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Re: Ahh the Oric

Thank you sir, I've just enjoyed a step back in time with a machine I owned briefly. Shame it never took off, as the graphics and sound were streets ahead of the Spectrum, but the Spectrum served me well.

How come no one has mentioned the pun that was used so often back then on its demise, "Alas poor Oric..", or does no one want dare mention it because it was such an awful and obvious pun?

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All three machines and others of the time, Johnson maintains, contain TV-out circuitry inspired by his pioneering work on the Microtan.

Cite? Everybody at the time just used an Astec modulator. The Microtan-65 photo even shows exactly that.

According to Paul Johnson, the ULA was originally created as a TTL (Transistor-Transistor Logic) integrated circuit.

Some confusion in this paragraph - the ULA emulator would have been a PCB with discrete TTL devices on it. The quote at the end of the paragraph doesn't make any sense.

I think Barry Muncaster was being a little disingenuous with this one:

“The 16K Oric [was] exactly the same design as the 48K Oric,” said Muncaster. “We would have had no problems if the specification of a particular chip had not altered just prior to manufacture. However, it did, which resulted in us having to change the 16K circuit board. This has meant a 12-week delay in production.”

The only thing that could have caused a 12-week delay would have a ULA re-spin. So, was it Tangerine's own spec alteration that caused the problem?

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Were they rubbish?

I had a 16k one, still have it boxed in the loft. I waited six months for it to be delivered then used it loads ...

I wrote loads of stuff in BASIC that could now be used as great examples of bad programming but I'd migrated from a ZX81 (which I hated and was almost impossible to use sensibly). I learned how to program (sort of) I learned assembler (sort of) and I learned how the hardware integrated with the firmware ... At that time I programmed the Oric-1 or I tried to get time on the 380Z and it's (black and white) basicsg interpreter at school ... the Oric inevitably won.

Clunky and made of plastic it might have been but it worked and, most importantly, I could afford it ...

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Headmaster

Graphics memory

It had stacks of Ram: 64KB attached to the Z80A for CP/M, programs and data, and 96KB given over to the hi-res, 512 x 512 colour graphics sub-system, plus 2KB for the 6809

512 x 512 is 256k pixels. How do you do high-res colour graphics at 3 bits per pixel? Is that red, green and blue each on or off?

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Re: Graphics memory

Yes, most likely. We're talking the early 80s here, colour graphics meant "not monochrome". And back then, monochrome meant "black and white, nothing inbetween".

And you were lucky if you got to specify colour on a per-pixel basis. The Spectrum could only do it on a per-8x8 basis, the underlying image was still monochrome, the attributes colourised that. Saves a lot of memory.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Tiger's graphics, even via the NEC chip, were monochrome at 512x512, and colour only comes into the equation at 256x256.

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and you can make toasted cheese sammies on the case...

The "original" Microtan seems to have twice as many RAM chips as the Speccy boards I've seen.

http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/images/speci1pcb-s.jpg is a pic of an issue 1, original Sinclair Spectrum.

I can only imagine the energy savings to anyone running one of THOSE in winter....

I owned the larger-cased but still-a-Speccy Timex/Sinclair 2068, which was one hell of a box for the time, had Turtle graphics, a ROM cartridge slot, and everything but a floppy drive control port...

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/timex/tc2068si.jpg

which might have been enough to help Timex Computer Company do some sales damage to its nearest competitor HERE, the Commodore. But Timex bailed before they could find out and went back to having automated BP cuffs, alarm clocks and other, more salable kitsch made for them in Korea.

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... easy to brick

Back in the 80's I bought an Oric Atmos for less than £30.

I bricked it by clumsily making brief contact between the power plug and the pins in the ports on the back when trying to push the plug into the power socket.

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Pint

The Tiger looks very much like my

266K Hyperion. Nice package, limited expansions. DOS 1.25. I may still have a 720K floppy around with a 3D spreadsheet AND the operating system on it.

This missive typed on a 12 GB 3 GHz quad core etc etc.

XYZZY, dammit!

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Happy

Brilliantly nostalgic..

What fond memories I have of this, my first computer. Got one in 1984 on the cheap from Dixons (£80 I think). Problem was that none of my mates had one, so couldn't swap games in the playground. With the lack of software available from WHSmith, Laskys etc., plus lack of funds, it meant I *had* to learn to program so I could create my own entertainment.

The Oric-1 manual is an amazing - takes you from PRINT "Hello" through to 6502 op-code in an appendix! I learnt programming with this manual as well as listings in magazines. I was hooked on programming and computing in general and wanted to do this as a career at the age of 13.

The sound effects BASIC commands were a great way to demonstrate the capabilities and ease of use of the machine. Funny thing happened though when I showed my mate PING, ZAP, EXPLODE and SHOOT - he was like 'great let me have a go!'. He proceeded to type in FART. The Oric's syntax error response cracked us up.

The Oric helped make it happen for me. Still have mine (and works), the most important memento I have.

Bless you Oric and all who sailed in her!

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Cuthbert

And all the Cuthbert games !!!!!

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