Chapter 11

Plus ça change...


The Oric Telestrat


Come April the Telestrat had still not appeared. Théoric was getting impatient:

"The machines on show in the dealers' shops have demonstrated the capabilities of the telecommunications cartridge; it is the Basic that is late, but we are told it will as a result be free of bugs. Why such a delay?"
The cause in fact was yet another company going into receivership, this time ATV in Normandy. Eureka swiftly established a production facility at Livarot, which was intended to begin manufacturing at the end of May.

And an interesting release 'announced' in that month of April was a liquid crystal screen for the Oric! Manufactured by S.O.L.E. of Essonne, it plugged into the Atmos expansion port and gave a display of 24 lines by 80 columns in text mode, and 640 x 192 in 8 grey scales in Hires mode. The predicted cost was under 70. Also released in April, 1986 was 'Nibble', the well known disc editor.

Opelco entered the U.K. market in March, 1986 with their first mail shot; in April 1986 the inimitable Fabrice Broche published the best ever Oric book, 'L'Oric a Nu' (the Naked Oric), a fully commented disassembly of both V1.0 and V1.1 ROMs, and in June W.E. Software primly announced that they had accepted the U.K. agency for Eureka Informatique - and promptly mirrored every Oric announcement ever made:

"We shall launch the Telestrat in five weeks for 420, and are considering producing a Prestel cartridge."
And still the receiver struck, this time at Dattel, the company that made the Jasmin drives for TRAN. All that TRAN could do was to assure users that it would continue to provide a repair service. At the same time they announced that they would not be proceeding with the PC-card - it would cost more than a PC! Instead they were launching... a PC.

To be fair, though, the latter half of 1986 saw a marked revival in Oric fortunes. 'Your Oric' magazine was launched in the U.K. in June. In the same month Théoric reduced its price by 50 pence. The Telestrat did finally appear in late September (just as French Telecom upped the price of local calls), going on sale in France for 399; the Atmos was still selling there (and here) for 99. Indeed that summer I personally saw the Atmos on sale in Andorra!

Oric International, who planned to sell 10,000 Telestrats in the first year, offered shares to the public on the French stock exchange in October, and they quickly doubled in value. W.E. Software provided a comprehensive service (at a price), and began to sell some of the excellent French software, and even a Telestrat or two.

In November, 1986 Opelco launched a new range of disc drives - 184 for a single drive, 235 for a double, with two DOS variants. And I.N., publishers of 'Nibble', offered an Atmos 2 - a sort of one-way mini Telestrat to be connected to the Minitel network.

In January, 1987 Club Oric International was launched in France, with a quarterly magazine on tape or disc and a catalogue of over 600 software titles. And Théoric went from strength to strength. It was a time when all the tribulations of the previous year faded into the background, and one just dared to hope....

In France, however, opportunities were once again being lost. The Telestrat was too specific to one market, and too expensive, an adventurous product at a time when consolidation was needed. If only the Stratos had been produced straightaway in July, 1985 for 200... if only Eureka had supported the Atmos properly... but in March, 1987, production of the Atmos ceased, never to be restarted.

In April, 1987 Oric, true to form, opened a shop in Paris (shades of the Oric Club?) and launched a double-sided disc drive - both 18 months too late. They did, however, then produce an increasing range of cartridges and peripherals for the Telestrat. Cartridges that went on sale included Tele-Ass (an assembler), Tele-forth, and a 64k RAM extension. A proposed Midi cartridge never did appear. 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 Teletrat. It was, as ever, a mixture of the good and the bad news.

By June, 1987 'Your Oric', now on issue 7, was asking "Is this the last issue?". Response and letters from the readership of 250 had fallen dramatically.

It is quite remarkable how history repeats itself. In September, 1987 Oric International announced a new machine for November release, the Telestrat 2, with a metal case, two 800k disc drives, a separate key board and an 80 column screen....

However, the first note of concern was struck that month in Théoric:

"We require 4000 subscriptions to continue publication beyond December,1987; sales are down 50% since December, 1986."
In the same month the first issue of Robert Cook's Oric User Monthly appeared. It was possible to buy an Atmos from Opelco for 49.

And then, in December, 1987 came the second crash. Oric International went into receivership, owing substantial sums to the taxman. 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.

The general downturn was reflected in O.U.M. in May, 1988:

"O.U.M. doesn't want to finish, but it seems that even our most loyal readers are giving up. I don t want to close, O.U.M. does desperately want to expand, slowly at first, but eventually reach 25 pages long. That might well seem like an impossibility..."
O.U.M. was then a regular five pages long!

Surprisingly, the Receiver in France continued to trade Oric. In March, 1988 a 3.5" disc drive was launched, and the final classic game, 'Willy', was released. It was a limbo that was to persist until as late as December, 1988, when the shop in Paris was finally closed, the company wound up, 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.


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