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Remembering the Oric-1

Looking back at the Oric-1, one of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum's rivals in the 1980s.

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Oric 1 Computer
Oric-1 Computer. More

School Rivalry

The Oric-1 was a direct competitor the the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and — like its rival — it was released in 1982. These 8-bit machines both offered with a choice of 16 or 48 KB of RAM, and were similar in price. The Oric was somewhat larger than the Spectrum.

At my high school, quite a lot of children had either a ZX Spectrum or an Oric-1. A few seemed to have other machines, such as the BBC Micro or VIC-20.

Programmer's Mug 6502 Chip
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After finding out about the Oric’s superior sound facilities, I wished I’d had one instead of a Spectrum. I always wanted to try one out, but I never did back then.

I was also interested in seeing how the Oric’s 6502 microprocessor — clocked at 1 MHz — compared to the Z80 found in the Spectrum. (I would eventually learn more about 6502 when I got a Commodore 64.)

Sinclair ZX Spectrum vs Oric 1
ZX Spectrum vs Oric 1. The Oric was a little larger, but the machines were fairly similar in price and capability. More

Many Years Later

Around 15–20 years later, I finally got my hands on an Oric-1, when my wife bought me one as a gift. I couldn’t wait to try it out!

I found that the Oric’s chiclet keyboard was very different to the rubber one on the Spectrum, with the keys being fairly small and made of plastic. They had with quite a precise feel, but neither machine was very good for typing on.

The later Oric Atmos model had a proper keyboard; later Spectrum models also had much improved keyboards.


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Sound

The Oric’s BASIC had good support for its 4-channel sound generator chip, with its SOUND, MUSIC and PLAY commands. In addition, there were some predefined sound effects intended for games: EXPLODE, PING, SHOOT and ZAP. That was very different to the primitive BASIC found in the Commodore 64. However, the 64 was capable of more sophisticated sounds than the Oric, thanks to its choice of waveforms, filters and other effects.

Graphics

Graphics on the Oric were somewhat similar to the Spectrum, with eight colours, and built-in support for drawing things like lines and circles in BASIC. However, with the Oric, you had to choose either LORES for text mode, or HIRES for graphics. In the text mode, it was possible to redefine characters, making some graphics possible.

Both machines used an attribute system to assign colours to groups of pixels. With the Oric in HIRES mode, it had higher colour resolution on the vertical axis than the Spectrum.

Initial Problems

The Oric-1 was a reasonably successful machine in the UK. However, it didn’t ultimately manage to outsell the Spectrum. There were some initial bugs in the ROM and problems loading software from cassette. Perhaps it would have done better if these things had been sorted out more quickly.

Conclusion

I think the Oric-1 was a worthy rival to the ZX Spectrum, and I’m pleased to have one after so many years.

Do you have memories of using the Oric-1?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Related Articles

Memorable 1980s Home and Personal Computers

Remembering the Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Remembering the BBC Micro
Remembering the Commodore 64

External Links

Story of the Oric-1 (The Register)
Oric (Wikipedia)


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