Tangerine Computer Systems

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Tangerine Computer Systems[1] was a British microcomputer company founded in 1979 by Dr. Paul Johnson, Mark Rainer and Nigel Penton Tilbury in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire.

The very first product was the successful TAN1648 VDU kit which received much acclaim in the technical press.

The home computer market was beginning to move, albeit slowly, and it was essential to establish a presence. Development and expansion was imperative. It was decided that the latter two partners would relinquish their involvement in order to focus on their consultancy work.

Barry Muncaster became involved operationally and the company moved to new premises in Ely, Cambridgeshire. The company was later renamed, and was known for most of the 1980s as Oric Products International.

Early years: Microtan 65[edit]

The Microtan 65 in the full System Rack enclosure and with the ASCII keyboard

Tangerine produced one of the first 6502-based kit computers, the Microtan 65. It had a 3U form factor, a small amount of memory (RAM), a video character generator and UHF modulator for use with a TV set, and a simple latch for entering hex data from a keypad, and the computer was designed to be expandable. The manual came with a one-kilobyte listing of Conway's Game of Life. An optional expansion board could be built with a UART, more memory and BASIC ROMs. Additional expansion boards became available later, offering more RAM, dedicated serial and parallel I/O boards, etc.

After the Microtan 65, Tangerine planned to build a desktop machine and managed to get as far as selling the design for the Microtan 2 also known as Tangerine Tiger to HH Electronics, better known for building amplifiers. They released it as the HH Tiger, but it was not a commercial success.

1983 onwards: The Oric family[edit]

See also: Oric

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. A series of Oric computers (including the Atmos) followed through to 1987.

On 13 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] It was about this time, too, that Tansoft upped sticks and moved to co-exist with Oric Research at the Techno Park, Cambridge.

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. This enabled the release of the Oric Atmos, an improved successor to the Oric-1 which added a true keyboard and improved ROM.

Although the Atmos failed to turn around Oric's fortunes, in early 1985 they announced several forthcoming models, including an IBM-compatible and an MSX-compatible. On 1 February they 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The choice of the company's name, Tangerine, was inspired by the success of the-then already famous (in the computer business world) Apple Computer.