Oric (1982-1989)


Oric’s Cambridge Factory

On October 1979 Dr. Paul Johnson and Barry Manchester set up Tangerine Computer Systems Ltd near Cambridge and produced the Microtan 65 Computer. By summer of 1981 Paul Kaufman joined the company, and was in charge of the editor of the Tansoft Gazette on its launch that October. By 1982 Tangerine had sold off their Tandata Prestel system, moved to the Cambridge Science Park and set up Tansoft as its software division.

Peter Harding & John Tullis

In April 1982 Oric products International Ltd was incorporated, and work started to design the Oric-1, Tangerine acting as the research and development house for the new Oric Company. The aim of the company was to produce a machine that would link to Prestel and compute. The Oric-1 was announced in the August/September 1982 edition of Tansoft Gazette, and by January 1983 the machine was launched with a price of £129 for the 16k version, and £169.95 for the 48k version. A modem was also announced for the price of £79.95. At the launch party Peter Harding promised that by end February a Pascal language will be available, but it never showed on the market. Financially Oric International was launched with £1250 of capital. The shareholding was split five ways between the directors, who were: Managing director John Tullis, Sales director Peter Harding, BCA financial director Ted Plumridge, Tangerine directors Paul Johnson and Berry Muncaster. Thanks to a friendship between John Tullis and British Car Auctions managing director and chairman David Wickens, BCA financed Tansoft. Tangerine ceased trading and Paul Kaufman became Managing director of Tansoft. Orders started to arrive and the company went into full production to supply clients, but soon the company was in trouble since the orders of ROM chips were delayed. The company started shipping to other countries. France showed a great interest on the machine and sales went up very well in this country. On July 1983 Allan Castle was appointed as a new financial director, and in Late September 1983 changes were made in the management. Philip Denyer 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. By this time Oric price was slashed to £99.95 for the 16k and £139.95 for the 48k including a £40 printer voucher.

The Atmos production line

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. The company needed money and here comes Edenspring Investments with a proposed cash injection of £2.25 million initially, with a commitment of up to £5.85 million, with a condition that Oric achieved pre-tax profits of £2 million for the two years ending June 30th, 1985. In the meantime in Japan a new company was formed called Oric Japan, half owned by Oric and half by a consortium including one of Oric’s far eastern manufacturers and Cosmic, a Japanese retail chain. Also in France the Oric-1 won the Best Home Computer Award, which busted up more sales in this country. The following month the factory of Kenure Plastics in Berkshire, where the Oric-1 was manufactured, burnt to the ground. The production restarted within 24 hours in a new factory. On the next day a neighboring warehouse went up in flames. Police were said to suspect that the arsonist got the wrong place first time round. At a shareholders meeting on November 1983 Edenspring approved the acquisition of Oric for shares, with an effect that the Oric shareholders (John Tullis, Barry Muncaster, Peter Harding, Paul Johnson, British Car Auctions and IEM Singapore) exchanged their shares for shares in Edenspring, who in return made up to £4 million available to fund expansion. By December the Atmos was already launched those who had obtained their Oric-1s directly from the company were sent a special Christmas offer in December 1983. For £49.95 they could upgrade to an Atmos and by January 1984 the Atmos went into full production, and the price was set to £170 from Tansoft. The following month the company set a demonstration for the Microdrive, but it was promptly cancelled. After 6 Months finally the drive was launched. Oric was producing 10,000 Atmos a month it seemed that the company was doing well, but the first indication of trouble was that the company owed £120,000 to Pan Books for the Atmos manual, and intended to serve a writ if payment was not made that week. They had talked to Allan Castle two weeks before, and had been told that Oric owed £2 million to 12 major suppliers. To add more to the pressure the company went to court to answer a writ from KMP, its advertising agency, claiming £200,000 in unpaid bills. The court threw out a counterclaim from Oric that KMP had provided it with wrongful advice and ordered the company to pay the money it owes along with KMP`s legal costs. Muncaster and Johnson bought the majority shareholding in Tansoft, and Paul Kaufman and Cathie Burrell promptly left to set up Orpheus with Geoffrey Guy and Geoff Phillips.

Tansoft was headed by Adrian Rushmore, its former marketing manager, and by November, 1984 Oric announced that by spring 1985 three new micros will be launched. The problems facing Oric now were highlighted in early January, 1985. Oric s head office in Ascot closed down, and the future of the U.K. factory was dependent on sales in the first half of 1985. Oric were negotiating in France for a production plant at Longwy, near the Luxembourg border.

Oric Stratos with Telestrat

The French government was to subsidies the operation with grants of some £150,000 and low interest loans. Oric decided to launch 5 new machines instead of 3, and on the 1st February 1985 the Oric Stratos was launched, complete with cartridge ports, extended Basic and a host of other excellent features. The next day shocking news hit Oric, Edenspring put Oric into receivership. Oric had debts of no less than £5.5 million and assets of only £3 million – well behind Edenspring s conditions. Heads started to fall and by June 1985 Tansoft had enough, and they too went into liquidation with Opel, who had long been Oric distributors to Europe outside France. On June S.P.I.D. had bought Oric for ‘several hundred thousand pounds’. Production of the Atmos was to be moved to its computer peripheral plant in Normandy by the end of the month, and by September Eureka will decide whether to go ahead with the Stratos. Eureka was set in France and which kept the name Oric International Fabrice Broche and Dennis Sebbage were employed to complete a new Disk Operating System for the Oric, codenamed Sedoric.

Meanwhile, Oric International had decided to press ahead with the Stratos, but except A.S.N. had registered the name as a trade mark of their own. In November 1985 Fabrice Broche started work on what was, not surprisingly, now to be called the ‘Telestrat’. He had finished Sedoric, which was duly launched that autumn to wholly justified approval and praise. The Microdisc was re-released in an improved form, with a heat sink and on/off switch added to the power unit. In April, 1987 Oric, true to form, opened a shop in Paris, launched a double-sided disc drive and launched the Telestrat. Cartridges that went on sale included Tele-Ass, Tele-forth, and a 64k RAM extension. A real-time clock card that functioned with both the Telestrat and the Atmos was released, but not a proposed 80-column card for the Telestrat. It was, as ever, a mixture of the good and the bad news. On December, 1987 Oric International went into receivership, owing substantial sums to the taxman.

Theoric Magazine

The final issue of Théoric appeared, only 700 subscriptions having been received. And to cap it all, the final issue of ‘Your Oric’, issue 8, appeared after a six month gap. Ken Smalldon announced a clearance sale, and in March, 1988 closed down, as that month did Phildata. Surprisingly, the Receiver in France continued to trade Oric, and on March, 1988 a 3.5″ disc drive was launched. It was a limbo that was to persist until as late as December, 1988, when the shop in Paris was finally closed, and a company named I.R.I. set up to dispose of the remaining stocks and the name. Oric had sold 6,000 Telestrats in all. In England Allan Whitaker took over F.G.C’s stock and started trading in July 1988 as H.G.C. H.G.C was sold for £40, an Opelco drive for £120-£140, and there was an abundance of software available. In March, 1989 Dave Utting bought Cumana’s remaining stock of disc interfaces, selling them for £49. In France, a major Oric retailer, Ordielec, negotiated to purchase substantial stocks of Oric bits from the receiver, and even spoke of resurrecting the Telestrat.

Today Oric disappeared almost completely, Till 1994 shares were spread to different companies. Other companies were involved with Oric but the club decided to mention the core of what happened in those days. Some fans are still producing software for almost all Oric Computers. Oric itself lasted two and a half years, but with companies buying its shares, Oric kept going. This showed that Oric had potential in the market.