Before the launch of the Dragon 32, the PAT team began revising the design for a 64KB model, which was hinted at as a "64KB upgrade" in the Information for Machine Code Users booklet supplied with the Dragon. The booklet also promised a disk-resident "Unix-like OS-9" operating system for the 64KB machine and a disk drive package comprising a controller that plugged into the machine's cartridge slot.
While PAT was creating what would become the Dragon 64, Mettoy was running into financial difficulties. To save Dragon Data, in October 1982 Clarke engineered investments from the Welsh Development Agency (WDA), a governmental body; Prudential Insurance's VC wing, Pru-Tech; and others.
Dragon Data separated from Mettoy, which would soon go into administration, selling its remaining stake in Dragon to Pru-Tech. Mettoy managers bought the what was left of the company and relaunched it as Corgi. Corgi still survives, though it has had many different owners in the years since then, including US toy giant Mattel and, now, Chinese company Zindart.
But by April 1983, 40,000 Dragon 32s had been sold, many in the run-up to Christmas 1982. Dragon Data had moved to larger premises - in order to bring manufacturing in-house - at the behest of the WDA, and it was eyeing output of 5000 units a month and a launch in the US.
Founder out: Tony Clarke's departure, reported in Dragon User, October 1983
New MD in: Brian Moore introduces himself in Dragon World, December 1983
The following August, a year on from the Dragon 32's debut, Dragon Data announced the Dragon 64 with a view to beginning shipments the following month. By now, the company had signed up New Orleans-based Tano to produce and sell the 32KB and 64KB machines in the US, and if the Dragon 64 was arriving later than promised, the outlook seemed good to the machine's many fans.
But Dragon Data's sales projections were not being achieved. The company was struggling against Sinclair's Spectrum, Commodore's 64 and Acorn's BBC Micro. While the coming Christmas sales season promised to be fruitful, shareholders were increasingly voicing their criticism of Dragon Data's management.
In September 1983, founder Tony Clarke was ousted. Brian Moore was brought in from electronics company GEC - with which Pru-Tech had a strong relationship - on a temporary basis as Clarke's replacement. His job: to focus on tightening Dragon Data's operations and to build a viable basis for the company's future development. The move soon yielded a £2.5m investment from GEC, which had by now realised it needed to enter the home computer business.
Dragon goes 64KB - and enters the GEC era
During 1984, GEC would tighten its hold on Dragon Data, first by taking on board the manufacturer's sales and marketing operations, and then by renaming the company GEC Dragon. It talked about a 64KB transportable with an on-board modem and a 3.5in Sony floppy drive. It pitched a dual-CPU machine, codenamed the Alpha and destined to be promoted as the Professional, with 256KB of Ram and two 3.5in floppy drives. The Alpha was based on the original Dragon case design, but a more PC-style unit, the Beta, was also created.
Next page: The next generation
Re: You've made a happy woman feel very old
'The Girl With The Dragon Thirty-Two', eh?
You've made a happy woman feel very old
This machine is where it started for me. If it hadn't been the Dragon then it would have been something else, but this was the first machine on which I cut any code of any sort, for which reason I feel very kindly inclined to it.
Memories of the Project Leader
I was the project leader for the Dragon 32 at PAT, or Patcentre as is was then known. I thought you might like to know what I remember of that time.
I remember spending a lot of time talking to a really helpful Motorola chip salesman called Robin Saxby. Yes, the same guy who later ran ARM and is now Sir Robin.
We certianly did not copy the CoCo. It was not really available in the UK because it had an NTSC video system which would not work on UK TVs in those days. The Motorola application for the SAM chip (synchronous address multiplxer) showed a complete home computer to which the CoCo was identical. We made numerous improvements to this app note. We included a real A/D and D/A convertors for generating the FSK signals used to store programs on tape. We added a parallel printer port and used the same chip to scan the keyboard. We had a separate power supply PCB which also contained the TV modulator. It was a single sided PCB so it saved cost but also allowed variants to different TV standards to be made cost effectively. We made a SECAM variant for France and also an RGB and US version.
I do not rmemeber Motorola suppying a BIOS. Microsoft wrote the Basic interpreter, which was essentially the same as the one they licensed to Tandy but with a few add-ons, but you were expected to create all your own peripheral drivers - a situation unchanged to this day. It was these drivers that Duncan (Smeed) wrote. I do not remeber the keyboard speed up being his alone. The nromal way to scan a key board is to activate a row and read the columns to see if a key has been pressed and repeat that for each row. Of course, most of the time there was no key pressed and this routine just wasted a lot of time getting a no key preessed result. We realised that becuase we had used the same chip to scan the keyboard as drive the parallel printer port, we could do one thing the CoCo could not, and that was activate all the rows at once. If you do this and then look at the columns, in one go you get to know if there are no keys pressed, the most common situation, and you can exit straight away. If you find a key has been pressed you scan as usual to find which one. This is what saved the time.
The PAL output had nothing to do with the CoCo. PAL was essntial for it to work on UK TVs. Few if any had SCART sockets so you had to create genuine PAL. Persuading a chip designed to make 525 line 60Hz NTSC to make 625 line 50Hz PAL instead is a non trivial exercise and needed a lot of descrete logic - ASICs were in their infancy then.
Two weeks before the official launch, the Spectrun 16K came out. The piggy back RAM PCB was designed, tested and ramped up for production in that two weeks. Later we used a bunch of Siemens 32K RAM chips that consisted of two 16K RAM chips literally piggy backed on eachother and later still upgraded the main PCB to 32K then 64K.
We then worked on the disk drive unit which was abandoned when Tony Clarke left and all development work went in house. What is probably not well known is that at the same time we were working on the successor to the Dragon, code named Draconis. This used a Motorola 68K processor and a very powerful graphics chip from NEC. Along with OS/9 as a true real time executive, this would have beaten the PC hands down as a business machine. But for the vagaries of the home computer market, we might all be using Dragons today.
I had one of those!
Somehow spending 4 hours typing in games, then finding out you mis-spelled "peek" at line 827, before you could play them created an enormous feeling of accomplishment. This stick in a disc and off it goes malarky we get these days is for noobs I say.
Don't think I'd want to turn back the clock, but somehow proud I was there at the time.
Re: It was *garbage*
What are you talking about? It worked fine. Sounds like you took a perfectly good computer back because you made a typo somewhere. I guess it's the 80s equivalent of blaming the compiler :)