16/09/2021

Dragon 32

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I took on a part-time role as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Mettoy’s venture into computing.

ASIDE: I recall travelling on a motorway with the sales manager at Mettoy for Corgi cars. They were currently having a major slump – part of their reason for moving the business into computing. I asked him why this long-term success story was having this slump in sales. He pointed out several cars on the other carriageway and asked me to identify them, I had limited success. He explained that wind-tunnel design of current cars was making them all look the same and reducing the interest in collecting replicas. As a child the old Dinky toys had been an early pocket-money collecting habit. Who could resist the variety – a Beetle, a Mini, a Morris Traveller, a Land Rover, a Citroen DS, an E-Type, a Roller… However, this rich variety on our roads was disappearing quickly.
Corgi ‘James Bond’ Aston Martin DB5

One of Matt’s fondest toys was this Corgi James Bond Aston Martin DB5 with ejector seat, bullet shield and machine guns.

However, my role at Mettoy was to help define and launch its 6809 Dragon 32 computer, that 6809 processor developed many ardent fans.

The name had to some extent been obvious when the production facility was based in Swansea.

Dragon Data brochure
My Dragon business card

One of my first decisions, following on from my experience with TI, was to balance the then still slightly forbidding term ‘computer’ by declaring the Dragon was the ‘family computer’.

One of its problems was that there was very little inside its case and so a weighty material was sealed into the plastic casing to give it some heft. However, there was a large following for the benefits of the Motorola 6809 processor that was a step function better than the 6800 and 6502. It had two 8-bit accumulators that could be combined to give it some 16-bit features. It was the same processor that Commodore used in its SuperPET, and that Tandy used for its TRS-80 Color Computer, Tandy’s move to overcome its mono system that had become known by hobbyists as the ‘Trash-80’. Tandy in the UK never quite achieved the status it enjoyed in the USA.

Because it could not display lower-case letters, among other shortfalls, it never really took off and the production line was sold later to a Spanish operation, Eurohard SA. Eurohard went into receivership in 1987 and I was approached to assist in selling the whole on to a Chinese organisation – where, once again, Dragon was an appropriate name. I chose not to get involved and it appeared to disappear into the mists of time – as dragons often do!

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