The Oric-1 was a direct competitor the the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Like its rival, it was released in 1982, with a choice of 16 or 48 KB of RAM, and a similar price tag.
After finding out about the Oric’s superior sound facilities, I wished I’d chosen 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.)
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!
Once I placed the ZX Spectrum and the Oric next to each other, I was a little surprised that there’s a noticeable size difference between the two machines, with the Oric being somewhat larger.
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.
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.
Those BASIC sound commands made the Oric much easier for beginners to program, compared 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 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.
There were some initial bugs in the Oric’s ROM, and problems loading software from cassette.
Despite its problems, the Oric-1 was still a reasonably successful machine in the UK. Ultimately however, it didn’t manage to outsell the Spectrum.
Perhaps the Oric would have done better if the ROM bugs had been sorted out more quickly.
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.