Chapter 3

Promises, promises

It wasn't until June/July 1983 that Oric Owner issue 2 appeared. The principal hard news item was that Paul Kaufman had shaved off his beard! The promises continued unabated:

"In the near future we should be seeing joysticks, light pens, I/O cards, memory expansion modules and perhaps even a speech module."
As we have seen, the Oric-1 had not been entirely enthusiastically received by the press, to say the least. The bugs were noted, deliveries were sporadic, and production of independent software was inhibited because programmers hadn't got a clue about machine code routines and entry points.

Mr. Kaufman responded with a will:

"Due to copyright and licence agreements Oric are only permitted to give out minimal information on the inside workings of Basic (!). Another reason is that as minor faults are corrected in the Basic so entry points may move up or down in memory."
That was my exclamation mark. It speaks volumes for the commercial instincts of the pioneers that Oric zealously guarded the details of the ROM - or perhaps as we have seen they had already realised the failings of the V1.0 ROM and decided not to encourage software for a machine they were even then deciding to replace? According to Paul Kaufman, however, there was a more simple reason. Tangerine had held a Microsoft licence for their BASIC. Oric did not bother to obtain their own licence, doubtless saving money, but forcing them to keep very quiet about the ROM code. This was not the official line, however:

"Problems causing delay in the production of Oric-1 have been resolved, which means that software and peripheral manufacturers can begin production of the goodies they have been promising. The mail order backlog is now cleared. Mail order is to be phased out over the next few weeks to allow dealers to take a greater share of the market."
Then Mr. Kaufman moved onto the attack:

"The printer is now in full production, at a cost of £169.95 plus £5.95 p&p,with a small quantity available mail order. 16k Orics are now in full production. Oric has cleared the backlog of 48k orders."
And back to the apologetic:

"The production of the 16k machine was delayed twelve weeks because the supplier altered the specification of the chip just prior to manufacture and we had to completely change the 16k circuit board."
It's an interesting mix of the good and bad, and typifies the up and down ride that Oric was having. And orders for delivery in 1983 now totalled 350,000 units ....

Tansoft weren't standing still either - Oricmon, House of Death, Multigames 2 and Oricmunch were announced. Other software was slowly trickling through, still mainly in Basic, such as Airline and Dallas . And that doyen of authors, Ian Sinclair, was the first to get a book in print, "The Oric and how to get the most from it" - it also wins the prize for the longest Oric book title ever! The main software advert that summer 1983 issue was from P.S.S. - Centipede, Invaders, Hopper, and Oric-Mon were available, with Light Cycle and The Ultra to follow. Arcadia advertised Invaders and Mushroom Mania for £5.50.

Sales Manager Peter Harding knew the sort of thing to say:

"We sold 25,000 in February and 32,000 in May. A number of software houses have been commissioned to write software which is even now becoming readily available via various outlets... Our micro floppy discs are still being finalised and the drive should be in production for sale during September/October 1983. We have opted for the 3" format. The long awaited Modem should also be available in July."
At least the 3" format was accurate. And what happened in March and April?! Mr. Harding now expected to sell 400,000 computers by February 1984 in the U.K. and Europe:

"This figure does not include the considerable product we expect to be sold in Japan, S.E. Asia, Australia/New Zealand & the U.S.A."
Such is the stuff of which dreams are made....

So that was the June/July issue. Significantly, perhaps, on the 1st July 1983 a new Financial Director was appointed, one Allan Castle.

A software house known to all Oric users is I.J.K. In an interview in Home Computing Weekly on the 2nd August, 1983 their managing director Ian Sinclair (no relation) provided some balance to the mounting press criticism:

"The machine's critics make far too much of the bugs in the machine and do it no justice in terms of its fantastic capabilities. We bought five Orics fairly early, and after spending a month finding its idiosyncrasies, we knew it had better graphics, keyboard and a more standard Basic than the ZX Spectrum and was the machine for us."
In that same issue Juniper Computing of Malmesbury advertised their word processor for £17.25, together with a list of 18 software titles. All are familiar titles except one - Amazea of Moonstar from Quark Data. Has anyone ever seen it? T.U.G. (the Tangerine User Group) advertised for Oric-1 recruits, and the Burslem Computer Centre offered the first bundle - an Oric-1 and '3 Games for Children' for £164.95 including post and packing.

Over in France, meanwhile, the importers, A.S.N., launched their own magazine, Micr'Oric, in June 1983. It was to last for ten issues. The equivalent there of I.J.K. was Loriciels, and this summer of 1983 the leading French software house was already advertising programs of the quality of 'Le Manoir de Dr. Genius'.

Oric Owner issue 3 duly appeared for August/September 1983. The printer resplendent in the grey and blue livery was seen in public for the first time at the Earls Court Computer Fair... and that was the news! I.J.K. (who had already released Candyfloss and 3D Maze) announced Xenon 1, Invaders, Fantasy Quest and Reverse, and PASE their joystick interface. A deal with Melbourne House to produce The Hobbit was revealed. And Paul Kaufman was not to be put down:

"The Micro-Discs and Modem are well on the way and could be released in late September........"
Changes were afoot at Oric. In late September Philip Denyer (ex-Laskys) joined the company as Sales Controller, as did Mike Prymaka as Manufacturing Manager. Promotions within the company were Rosalind Zawadska from Training Manager to Dealer Manager, and Greg Wood of Tandata as acting Export Manager. What a lot of managers!

Both Oric and Tansoft exhibited at the Personal Computer World show at the Barbican on the 2nd October. Rob Kimberley reminisced in Oric Computing:

"A bit of a disappointment really, as I half expected to see their new disc drives on show... I suppose I can wait another 6 months. No information available on a Version 2.0 operating system, but mind you it was a bit pointless asking, because most Oric sales staff don't seem to know the difference between a ROM and a hole in the head!..There were, however, some good points about the Stand, and these came in the form of the leggy young ladies in Majorette gear (that blonde one oh boy, the stuff that dreams are made of!!!)"
The real news, however, was that at about this time the price of the Oric was slashed to £99.95 for the 16k, and £139.95 for the 48k including a £40 printer voucher. The reality was that sales had just not happened as predicted, and Orics were by now lining the shelves of both dealers and Oric themselves. Significantly, shops like Rumbelows were advertising the VIC 20, Commodore 64, Texas TI994A and Spectrum to the buoyant market, but not a word for the Oric.

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