1. Not old. Vintage. :)

Oric Telestrat / Stratos – a review of the "Super" Oric

Discussion in 'SIG: 8-Bit Hardware' started by Andy Barr, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. by Andy Barr
    Andy Barr

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    A lot of you guys have asked about the "Super" Oric before - What was it? Any good? Why are they so expensive? etc etc.

    Here we go - a wee review for your to get your retro claws into, fellas:

    [​IMG]

    The Oric Telestrat is an unusual computer and did not at all experience the commercial success expected by the French distributor, probably because of the high price of its configuration and the competition it had to face from 1985-1986.

    Its creation was special because this machine is in fact the result of a previous intermediate version between the Atmos and the Telestrat, to which the name of Stratos had been given and which was presented for the first time to the public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in February 1985.

    Unfortunately, Oric Products International was at the end of its life, riddled with debt and losing market share in England. Through fear of filing for bankruptcy, Oric was bought by Eureka in mid-1985 and then became a French company. It should be remembered that at the start of the 1980s, France was Oric's biggest market. Eureka therefore received “baby Stratos” in the new bride's basket.

    The machine had been developed in England by the team of Peter Waterworth then research director of the project at Oric. It had impressive features even if it used the same 6502 at 1 Mhz as its predecessor. With the Stratos we now had two ports for pluggable Rom cartridges, one of which was designed to accommodate the Basic interpreter and the home OS. These Roms could go up to 120 KB; enough to develop very advanced applications! On the Ram side, the device had 176 KB broken down into a user portion of 64 KB and 7 switchable banks of 16 KB. To complete its connections to the outside, the Stratos had two joysticks connectors, an RS-232C socket, a modem connector (V23) and even an integrated disk controller.


    Indeed, from the start of the project, it was envisaged to add to Statos an expansion box equipped with a Z80 processor and floppy disk drives, thus opening the door to the CP / M standard. Oric took up an idea in vogue and already exploited by certain competitors such as Memotech for example or Spectravideo.

    Finally, after the takeover of Oric, the Stratos was to be somewhat redesigned by Eureka to make it compatible with French communication protocols. It was then renamed Telestrat, a name made up from TELEmatique and STRATos. At that time, the Minitel was beginning to impose itself in many homes and France was discovering teletext news services. Several manufacturers had therefore joined the bandwagon and had launched the fashion of communication machines such as the Exeltel or the Thomson TO9. Marketing of the Telestrat therefore began in the spring of 1986 but the enthusiasm of buyers was only moderate; the machine was quite expensive, and production ceased definitively in 1987 for lack of sufficient sales to meet the firm's expectations ...

    Oric Telestrat / Stratos - summary.

    The positive points :

    - Good development possibilities with its two cartridge ports and its bus.

    - Communications machine (via the modem of a Minitel) able to mount a mini PSTN server.


    - A new very extensive Basic interpreter, HyperBasic (on cartridge and accompanied by the OS).

    - A Basic compiled and no longer interpreted (therefore much faster).

    - Possibility to use the microdisc drive of the Atmos thanks to an emulation cartridge.



    The
    negative points :


    - High price.

    - Launched too late.

    - Technical flaws (pcb of non-functional Midi socket).

    - Joystick controller fault (impossible to connect 2 simultaneously).

    - Severe competition, especially from the Amiga.

    So there you have it. Come the end of lockdown, you'll be able to bluff your way as an Oric Telestrat expert the next time you're propping up the bar in the Retro Return.

    Translated from: http://mo5.com/musee-machines-telestrat.html

    All rights acknowledged to MO5.com

     
  2. by nysavant
    nysavant

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    Nice Andy. Another tale of too little too late on the home computer front. It'sa sexy beast sure enough with the best colour scheme of any micro, but I think I still prefer the simpler lines of the Atmos.
     
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  3. by kokkiklhs
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    Nice, Andy!
    This is the holy grail for the oricians, but even if someone manages to get himself one, I reckon that it's of little or no use... Such a sad thing, this beast was very promising, hardware-wise back then...
     
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  4. by Andy Barr
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    Hi, Dimitris.

    Great to hear from you and hope you are well.

    Yes, Oricians talk of this beast like it is something of legendary status!

    It looked to have such potential but launched too late in France as the Telestrat (after first threatening to emerge in the UK as the Stratos) - because the more advanced QL, ST and Amiga were all up and running - so it was never going to trouble the market and few were produced. From the sources I've been able to find, ie. Oric fanzines, it looks like less than 10,000, I am led to believe.

    If you see one on Feebay, and you don't see many (I'd guess at half a dozen in the past 5 years) you can bet it will go for anywhere between 300-900+ euros depending on condition, accessories, box & packing included etc.

    Personally, although it would be nice to have one to "complete the family" it would be a total white elephant - a pretty useless expensive paperweight as I don't think it would get much use around here. However, others might see owning one as an investment as it will only increase in rarity and monetary value.

    For me, unless I owned the micro back in the day, I have to try and find a lurve for the thing else it just sits there gathering dust. I was hoping that a Dragon 32 might do it for me and Richie's old CPC464 but I just couldn't find my mojo with these machines and I know it would be the same with one of these Telestrats, so for me... I'll leave it!

    Cheers and do get us up to speed with any of your new micro adventures, Mr K.

    Have a happy Easter break ahead, folks.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
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  5. by kokkiklhs
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    Yeah, I'm pretty well and I hope the same for you, Andy, and everyone in here as well...
    I understand what you say, it's hard to get some affection for some *unknown* machine that wasn't around back in the days. I more or less believe the same, but in a couples of cases I literally loved "new" retro machines that I had the chance to own decades after their glorious times! But most of the times, I just collect stuff which at the end is not of much interest to me and finally falls into oblivion...
    Soon I will post one om my newest retro-adventures with one rather unusual British piece of hardware... No Atari or even 6502-related, though!
    :D
    Stay tuned!!!
     
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  6. by Andy Barr
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    Yeah, we have ongoing works on here, Mr K, plasterers in today skimming hallway and ceilings to sort out some horrendous cracks and holes which Bev has decided must be put right, ie. if we're doing some of the house, we might as well now do ALL of the house. Bit fed up of living in a continuous building site with all the dust and mess but there you go. It could be worse. We could have neighbours like Paul's so I thank our lucky stars really.
    Aye, sometimes a new machine does indeed give you a buzz and I still recall being loaned an Atari 800XL and HERO cart back in 83-84, before I owned an Atari, and being absolutely blown away by it but that was back then when I was still a very easily influenced teen. These days, I dunno, I sometimes think I've got a bit past learning anything new or getting turned on by a new beast but who knows, maybe if I could get an Enterprise 64 or maybe a Commodore 128, all that would change??!! LOL.
    Dimitris, I think we all look forward to hearing more about your unusual bit of Brit kit...I mean what could it be, a Sinclair black watch? A Jupiter Ace? Yep, you've got our curiosity chips engaged now!
    Cheers, Mr K and enjoy Easter, fella.
     
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  7. by kokkiklhs
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    Hahahaha, I have this "permanently under construction site" chez moi some 10 years ago, I perfectly understand...
    Well, please a little patient, the surprise of my retro-presentation will be pretty interesting! ;)
    Happy Easter to you and to all people in this forum, our Greek Orthodox Easter is on the 2nd of May, so we have a little more time to wait...
    :)
     
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  8. by Vyper68
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    Camputers Lynx?
    Sam Coupe?
    Jupiter Ace?
    Or MTX512?
     
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  9. by Vyper68
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    The Commodore 128 is probably the best all round 8-Bit as a package with the ability to run in 128, 64 or CPM. Expandable to 512KB and a RGBI 80 column output. It’s certainly worth tracking down if you can, playing Uridium or Paradroid in 2Mhz mode makes them a lot smoother. Commodore Basic V7 is also miles better than the 64’s V2 which quite frankly, is abysmal. Atari Basic is a lot better than the 64 but it’s not very fast sadly.
    So the 128, It’s a really nice machine and I wish Atari had done something similar with their 8-Bits like a Super XL as I think the A8’s are better than the base C64 so you can only imagine what they could have done if they had gone the same route.

    As far as the Telestrat goes I still think we should club together and buy one and then each person gets a bit of time with it.
    The chances of me affording one are next to zero unless I sell a Kidney :)
     
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  10. by Andy Barr
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    LOL!
    Don't be selling any of your "bits", Rich - 8bits are quite enough without your personal ones being reduced, mate!
    Yeah, I do take your point on the C128 and you know where you're coming from as you speak from personal use/ownership and I know you've reported on how neat it is to set-up sprites effortlessly etc via the enhanced BASIC.
    There's a beaut modded example going for a song here at the mo on Feebay:

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Commodor...176924?hash=item1d06aee59c:g:~aIAAOSwagpgS04T

    Sadly at least £100 out of my reach though so I know where you're coming from in being short in the pocket when contemplating a punt at a Telestrat - they're typically £200-500 out of my reach.
    Anyway, who knows if we might go "shares" on one in the future - maybe our old pal Steve Muso Marshall can help source an affordable one? Unlikely, but you never know, mate.
     
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  11. by Vyper68
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    That custom Kernal looks a lot like the new Mega65 computers Kernal so I’m not sure what’s going on there.
    Mine, I have switchable JiffyDOS installed on both the 128 and 64 modes and the spare 32KB ROM socket is currently empty but it would be interesting to see what that Kernal is.
     
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  12. by kokkiklhs
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    Yesssssh, one of them, but please have a little patience and you'll see more, ASAP! ;)

    My all-time overall favorite machine and absolutely fabulous design (I especially love the standard 128 -not the D- along with 1571, what a gorgeous setup to sit on one's desk), BUT the pure 128 mode with the 80cols and 2MHz still have so few software which makes the new, improved personality of this machine more ill-fated even than the infamous Sinclair QL... Sigh... And as of CP/M on the 128, this is plainly a JOKE, it is totally unusable, DEAD slow and a genuine frustrating experience to anyone who will try to use it...
    Seems that the CBM engineers made a completely lame choice, using the 1MHz clock of the 64 circuitry to drive the mighty 4MHz Z80B...
    So the poor 128 was destined by its own mother company to be a luxurious 64 at 99.9% of the cases, and nothing more...
     
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  13. by Andy Barr
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    Enjoying your comments there, fellas, on the pluses (and 1-2 negatives) when it comes to owning a C128.
    Sounds like it could have/should have been THE ultimate 8bit but once more, design shortcomings and appearing too late to market seems like it is another flawed genius of a machine.
    Possibly, these mods are designed to give it much more clout and so make the negatives less of an issue?
    Cheers, Rich & Mr K.
     
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  14. by Vyper68
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    Mine is the Amiga style original 128 and not the 128D and combined with my Pi1541 emulating the 1581 disk drive. It’s a really nice setup but I agree about the CPM implementation, I think it was an afterthought as the Z80 was, I think put in to bootstrap the C128.
    I used to own all of those computers, and I did see a Lynx96K on feeBay recently so it will be interesting to see which one it is :)
     
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  15. by nysavant
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    Kind of hoping it's the MTX as I've always liked the industrial design.
     
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  16. by Vyper68
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  17. by Andy Barr
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    Well spotted, Richie.
    I have had dealings with this guy before and he is genuine and sincere.
    I'm sorry to hear he is having to sell his collection due to Covid.
    Well, there you go fellas - we're starting the bidding at a little under £900 or around $1200 WITHOUT any leads, accessories or software for this Telestrat!!

    [​IMG]

    Who's got the deep pockets and inclination on here to cut loose??

    Good luck, whoever wins it, as it isn't even 100% guaranteed to work...
     
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  18. by Vyper68
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    Doesn’t even have the HyperBasic cartridge included so not sure how useable it is.
     
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  19. by Vyper68
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    I don’t know if anyone has designed Gerbers for EPROM versions of the cartridges and like you say there is no power supply and there is no way to know if it works and it looks like there’s modifications made as well.
     
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  20. by Andy Barr
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    Too true, Richie - you'd need a mate who might loan you/sell you a cart or two to get ANYTHING out of it. It does have an ATMOS mode so I guess you could always CLOAD up some old Oric tape titles but it's an immense outlay JUST to have a glorified Atmos on your hands, yeah?
     
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  21. by Vyper68
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    Yeah, I can see a computer museum buying it for display only. It’s priced too high for the scalpers/breakers so only an Oric owner with VERY deep pockets or a museum would pick this up.
    Do you want to go halfies? :)
     
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  22. by Andy Barr
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    I'm writing out the pre-shared ownership prenuptials agreement contract now, Richie, for the Telestrat marriage.

    You can have full access every other odd weekend in seven and bank holidays in November plus Sheffield floods - am I OK with the old gal the rest of the year??!!

    LOL!

    As you say, someone will chase this bugger - and maybe all the way to £1000+ - but it won't be me and thee, I fear, pal.
     
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  23. by Paul "Mclaneinc" Irvine
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    A grand for a retro computer...No ta...

    You guys were talking about the C128, I did have one but it was binned along with all my gear back then... :(

    But oddly enough it's the one machine I simply don't miss, the size of it was too big for a desk along with a disk drive and the keyboard on mine was just not fun to type on, very dull thud when you typed. And as a gamer the CPM side did nothing for me and there were precious few 'enhanced' games for it....

    Don't even talk of the 128D, what a tank that was to carry, my mate Cosmo had a 128D, he would bring it down to Software City on a Saturday to copy and swap disks. Yup a shop that allowed folk to come in and swap disks as long as they got in on the deal..Oddly enough, they went out of business and were taken over by Computer Exchange...I refuse to use their rebranded name, tacky just like the business..
     
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  24. by Andy Barr
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    Funny how certain old retro "super" classics appeal to some of us and also get shown the red card by others.
    I recall my old mate Baldy Melv having a C128D and he loved it - more than his Amiga - but of course you make some decent points too, Paul...I mean, how many home users would look to use the CPM option? Probably only the absolute enthusiasts, die hards and business dabblers but I wouldn't imagine it would be much of a selling-point now as time has marched on and only those wishing to play some great Commodore game titles AND do some serious games/demo programming would seriously be in the market to chase a C128D to anywhere near as high as this Telestrat.

    Your thoughts, folks?
     
  25. by nysavant
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    Nice discover on Ebay, but if I'm being honest it looks a bit like a flattened out Atmos to me. A case of the bigger, uglier sister I think :)
     

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