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Oric 1

Martin has been a software developer for many years. This is mixed with a passion for retro machines and game,

The Oric 1 was a British computer that gained reasonable popularity in Europe during the early part of the 1980s. It was marketed as a direct competitor to the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 16, Commodore 64, Acorn Electron and the BBC Micro, but it never did it gain the intense rivalry that ensued between Sir Clive's baby and Commodore's 'Bullnose'.

However, it must be noted that the Oric 1 was a notable addition to the eight-bit range of home computers that were available at the time. So, it is time to have a look at a slightly lesser-known 8-bit machine that came along in the 1980s...

The Oric 1 Computer

The rather spiffy looking Oric 1

The rather spiffy looking Oric 1

Just like the ZX Spectrum, the machine came in both a 16K and 48K version. A small plotter-printer was also available, as well as microdrives for extra external storage.

The sound chip incorporated in the machine was the same one that was installed within Amstrad CPC range, MSX computers and the Vectrex console (The AY Chip). The 'chicklet' keyboard had a total of fifty-seven keys, including stand-alone cursor keys (which was always nice) and a large traditional space-bar; all of which gave it an advantage over the 'dead flesh' rubber keyed ZX Spectrum when it came to typing.

Having said all of that, every other computer at that time (apart from Sinclair's other machines the ZX80 and ZX81) had a better keyboard than the Spectrum.

The Oric 1 looked pretty good

The Oric 1 looked pretty good

Xenon 1 Game Running on the Oric 1

Some Good Things and Some Not So Good Things About the Oric 1

The computer was powered by the 6502a processor running at 1Mhz (far slower than the raw speed of a ZX Spectrum), although it did also have a co-processor to do some of the leg work. Text could be displayed at a resolution of 40X28 and graphics at 240X200, which was a high-resolution mode. Eight colours were available to the user, which was a pretty standard pallette for an 8-bit machine at the time.

The Oric 1 was a pretty cool looking machine back in 1983, but this cool exterior masked a less than cool interior ROM, which had more bugs therein than The Temple of Doom.

These ROM issues only served to hasten the Oric 1's demise, and a lot of users had problems when loading programs in from cassette, as the process could be very unreliable. Due to these niggling issues the machine never became known for classic arcade games.

The amount of software available for it was small beer when compared to the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and even the BBC Micro. Sadly, the Oric 1 came and went without much of a fanfare, and gave way to the increasing popularity of the Sinclair and Commodore machines.

The machine was superseded by the Oric Atmos in 1984, and by 1985 it had pretty much vanished from the home computing scene which, in my opinion was a real shame...

The Oric greets you as you power up the machine

The Oric greets you as you power up the machine

A Very Nice Oric 1 Brochure

A great advert for the Oric 1; note the price of the machine

A great advert for the Oric 1; note the price of the machine

The Oric 1 Was Supported by Various Publications

If you want to know how to use your Oric 1 computer this book is a good place to start

If you want to know how to use your Oric 1 computer this book is a good place to start

If Only the Oric 1's Problems Had Been Ironed Out

If only the machines Read Only Memory had been stabilised and the tape routines fixed, then the Oric 1 could have been a major player in the 8-bit generation of computers in the UK.

As it was, machines from Acorn, Sinclair and Commodore became the popular 8-bit players, and the CPC (Colour Personal Computer) range from Alan Sugar's Amstrad took off a little later too.

I think the Oric machines became a popular choice in France with the follow-up machine the Atmos doing particularly well over there.

It is a shame really, because all ROM problems aside, the Oric 1 was a decent machine that was comparable in capability and ease of use to other 8-bit computers of the era.

I myself came very close to owning one of these; after a lot of decisions, I eventually went for a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K for my first home computer.

In hindsight, I made the best choice, but at the time I wasn't so sure until six months down the line when the Speccy took off into the stratosphere and the poor old Oric 1 faded away into obscurity.

With a few more tweaks and quality control who knows what might have become of Oric and Tangerine?

Under the Hood of the Oric 1

The inside of an Oric 1 machine...

The inside of an Oric 1 machine...

A Humorous Demo on the Oric 1

© 2010 Martin Allan

Any fans of the Oric 1?

Stevenger on January 13, 2018:

I never knew what an Oric looked like until the Internet came along. I'd always assumed it was a foreign-made machine too. Only knew it from the occasional BASIC game listing in the magazines of the period. Thanks for the overview!