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Oric Products History

Oric Products International was formed by Tangerine Computer Systems in April 1982, with backing from British Car Auctions. The aim of Oric Products (the name is an anagram of micro without the m) was to make a mass-market home computer, based on the Tangerine Tiger design.

The Oric computer was intended to compete with the Sinclair Spectrum which had just been launched, with a similar size, keyboard and price, but to have an improved hardware specification. The new machine, named the Oric 1, duly arrived in January 1983, costing £100 for a 16 kilobyte memory version and £170 with 48 kilobytes.

The Oric 1 had a plain but neat appearance, a moderately better keyboard than the Spectrum, much better sound capabilities and was fitted with a Centronics printer port as standard, all for a slightly lower price than Sinclair's machine. On paper the Oric looked the better choice, but whilst it sold quite well (about 160,000 units), it did not displace the Spectrum from its position as the top-selling computer in the UK. There were several reasons for this:

  • When the Oric 1 was launched the Spectrum had already been on sale for 9 months and thus had a large amount of software available.
  • In the Summer of 1983, when the Oric 1 was beginning to build up market share, Sinclair cut the price of the 48K Spectrum to £130, undercutting the Oric.
  • The early Oric 1 user manuals were inadequate.
  • There were some design faults with the Oric 1. Tape loading was unreliable and there were significant bugs in the ROM.

Nevertheless sales of the Oric 1 were sufficient to justify a follow-up model, the Oric Atmos, launched in January 1984 at £170 with 48 kilobytes of RAM. The Atmos was essentially the Oric 1 with most of the faults put right. It featured a good quality keyboard, striking red and black colour scheme, and a corrected ROM. However the Atmos still used the original Oric 1 circuit board and so offered no new capabilities.

The Oric Atmos overall had distinct advantages over the Spectrum, and if both had been launched at the same time it is possible the Atmos would have been the most popular British computer. In reality though the Spectrum had almost two years head start on the Atmos and had gained a huge amount of third party support, including a vast array of software and numerous hardware add-ons. In 1984 the Atmos was more expensive than the Spectrum and not sufficiently better to persuade buyers to risk switching away from the market leader.

A new Oric computer, the Stratos, was officially launched on 1st February 1985 and was essentially an enhanced Atmos, with a floppy disk interface and ROM cartridge ports. Unfortunately the UK arm of Oric Products was forced by mounting debts to go into receivership the following day and the Stratos was never sold. In France, where Oric computers had been more successful than in the UK, the International arm of Oric continued for a couple more years, launching their own version of the Stratos (the 'Telestrat') in September 1986 for £399, before succumbing to receivership in December 1987.

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