For me the best point of the Atmos was the Keyboard which was leaps and bounds over the Oric-1, the V1.1 ROM and I also liked the styling too in the Red/Black colour scheme. Take all that away and it's an Oric-1 inside.
It's such a shame that "Oric-2" didn't offer more (eg. a structured BASIC with proper procedures and built-in Assembler - as was 'promised') and that the ridiculously over-twitchy and still bugged cassette-loading error checking routine in the ROM wasn't ironed-out... I mean, releasing that * bit of code as a pre-loader to prevent over-zealous loading-errors didn't kid anyone...
I guess it was the headlong rush to try and bring to market anything - even slightly - improved on Oric-1 which unfortunately didn't quite catch the micro public's imagination as it was still bugged and bedevilled from before.
Having an official Oric tape device would also have helped. When I try to load Oric games, one of my main issues is that need different volumes and azimuth settings for the various games: On my Binatone, I get 100% success loading Cobra Software games, and barely 20% on Loriciels, but on my old Philips one, it's different.
I don't think I knew the Atmos existed until I got a 48k Oric-1. I'd originally picked up the 16K version. I was swayed by the sound capabilities which seemed much better than the Speccy. I thought the Oric-1 keyboard was better than the Speccy rubber thing which didn't have a space bar. In those days I was interested in BASIC and learning programming. I couldn't afford to buy a load of games so it didn't matter if there more for the Speccy then the Oric. I think a lot of guys wanted to play the arcade machine games at home so that was Space Invaders and Galaxians, which you got on most home computers. The better software came later in the eighties. I liked the Oric plan to have various real peripherals to allow expandability. The Speccy had little crappy black boxes of their own design. Thermal printers and odd things like that. The Oric went for a real printer port, a modem to connect to the world, a plotter that was quite a cool thing that could draw as well as write. Oric seemed a lot more serious. I think if I had the money I'd have got a Commodore C64, but they were something like £364.
My first computer was a ZX81 brand new for £39. Then I got a 16K Oric-1 second-hand for £35 - I had to sell the ZX81 to be able to afford it !!! Then I got a 48k Oric-1 for £35 which came with Oric Computing mags showing the new Atmos on issue 3.
I thought the Atmos looked amazing. I got the impression it was an improved Oric with new features and hoped it would have sprites or more colours. I eventually got to see one for real in Edinburgh. Some years later when I was in Edinburgh again I bought an Atmos - I think for £35. I was a little disappointed to find it was pretty much the same as an Oric-1.
I think they missed trick there and should have produced a far better machine that could load Oric-1 software. Instead it had the same old loading problems, now made worse. Half the old Oric-1 games wouldn't work properly. The FUNCT button didn't work no matter how you pressed it. And Delta 4 and other games became next to impossible to play because they shifted the positions of the keys with the new keyboard.
The positives come though when you connect a disk drive. They system comes with an improved BASIC that works quicker. Games load in seconds. It was an absolute joy to use the disk system. Plugged into a real printer you could use the Atmos as a word processor. It did the job properly which Speccies would never be able to do with their crappy keyboards. Again, I think they missed a trick and should have improved the screen capabilities as it's better to have an 80- column screen, something they added to computers like the Einstein.
The cassette loading systems on other computers were far better than the Oric. I'd have liked something like the Electron block loading to allow faulty section to be reloaded. It should give you some feedback to show progress. Ultimately that all goes out the window with a disk system. Who cares what progress a tape takes when the disk version has loaded in less time than it takes to read this?
Some excellent points raised there, Dbug and Steve.
IF ONLY... if only the Atmos had been a solid success and made serious inroads into the Spectrum's, C64's and Amstrad's market raising much-needed cash sales - we might then have seen a successful tilt at the rest of the UK home games and serious application / small business market with the latter Telestrat's launch...
Yes, the Acorn tape-loading method of blocks - which we see with the Beeb and Elk - was a superb innovation as you just rewound the part back past the 'data?' error message and have a 2nd/3rd etc attempt to re-read the bad block.
I totally agree that the Atmos looked the more 'serious' proposition of just about all the sub-£200 basic unit micros, Steve.
I guess some would say the Dragon 64 (Vyper??!) could rival it and possibly the Electron but then again I'm red and black biased!!
ABOVE - The Elk can be expanded - with the Plus 1 - but you have to splash the cash before even buying a disk drive...
I guess there was too much competition. Dragon had a reasonable following but the smooth graphics seem limited to 4 colours(?) It's quite a hefty chunk to sit on your desk and more expensive. You've got the Beeb to contend with If you want to pay more and then more serious computer like the Einstein had the sprites and colours game players wanted, but the owners seemed more interested in databases and spreadsheets. (I had a frustrating time as a member of the Einstein User Group.) C64s kept dropping in price making them more of an option, and as they'd been a round for a while the software catalogue kept growing. Then you had newcomers like the Amstrad which did most things pretty well. The low-res screen was a bit chunky but you got more colours. Built-in tape made it pretty reliable and the disk version was a neater system than other machines which had to have various add-ons with cables all over the place. A slew of weird and wonderful new improved machines was turning up. Numerous MSX, Enterprise 64 and it wasn't long before Atari STs and Amigas were showing up.
Even if the Atmos had actually sorted the tape loading, instead of making it worse then it was still up against it. They should have been looking forward more. The Atmos used the same keyboard as the Telestrat and the Telestrat used the same screens as the Atmos, so that it could be Atmos compatible. The new CP/M board with Z80 was trying to be backwardly compatible with existing machines. Oric just weren't innovators looking to the newest technology. They produced a machine like a Spectrum which already had a big slice of the market, hoping only for a slice of what already existed. A better machine might have had a better chance at finding its own audience, but I think they maybe thought that was a risky venture and decided to play it safe. They played it safe going for a 6502 processor, the most commonly used at the time. They played it safe aiming for the Spectrum market which was the most popular machine. They played it safe using essentially the same Basic they'd used on the Microtan 65. They thought they were playing it safe using a tried and tested cassette loading routine. They used screen modes similar to the Apple II. It was not an innovative machine! By comparison almost every other machine had a unique selling point. Dragon had a fancy chip, Beeb was fast and supported by the BBC and backed by the education system. Spectrum was a cheap colour computer with its 'innovative' keyboard one-key Basic etc, Jupiter Ace was Forth-based, C64 has more colours, sprites and better sound. Oric strategy was to be cheap. The first colour computer under £100. They hadn't counted on there being a price war though. Spectrums soon matched their prices adn then Aquarius entered the market as a £50 colour coomputer. So Oric became a bit old very soon in a field that looked to the new.
Oric was never the best at anything, but like a Labrador puppy it tried to appeal to most people. (Some people like the looks of the original whilst some like the black version, but they are essentially the same.)