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Tangerine History

Dr Paul Johnson had studied digital audio and television electronics and was working for a firm called Cambridge Consultants. In his spare time he started another company, called Tangerine, with a former school friend and sold kits to allow a normal television to be used as a computer terminal display. Johnson then developed a computer which would use a TV as its display and with support from Barry Muncaster he set up a new company named Tangerine Computer Systems in October 1979. (The 'fruit' name was chosen because of the success of Apple Computers.)

Development of the machine was soon completed and it was named the Microtan 65, from Microprocessor and Tangerine, and because it used a MOSTEK 6502 processor. It was launched in December 1979 at £75 for the simplest kit, which consisted of just a printed circuit board and a 20-key hexadecimal keypad. The Microtan 65 was an immediate success and Paul Johnson left Cambridge Consultants in January 1980 to devote all his time to Tangerine.

Whilst the basic kit was very limited it was designed to be expanded with such extras as a full size keyboard, a rack-style case with expansion slots, input/output boards etc. This meant the Microtan 65 was potentially much more capable than other early computer kits such as the Sinclair MK14 and Acorn System 1. Sinclair's ZX80 appeared on the market not long after the Microtan 65 and was more usable straight out of the box since it included a full keyboard (of sorts), but it had very limited expansion potential and perhaps was not aimed at the same market.

1980 was also the year that British Telecom launched its Prestel service, providing pages of textual information which could be downloaded to a suitable display device through the telephone line, and could be seen as a forerunner of the internet. Tangerine created the Tantel Prestel adaptor, based partly on the Microtan 65, which was sold for the very competitive price of £170.

Tangerine Computer Systems developed a CP/M business computer design called the Tiger which was sold to HH Microcomputers, who marketed it in 1983. Tangerine sold the rights to the Microtan 65 to Microtanic Computer Products, who continued to develop expansion cards for it for several years. Meanwhile, in April 1982, Tangerine formed Oric Computer Products to enter the thriving home/games computer sector.

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