When the French company Euréka purchase Oric Products during
the summer 85, they also get the Stratos project with it. After having
changed their name for International Oric, the french staff decide to
continue the Stratos project under another name, because "Stratos" had
been deposited in France by the former importer, A.S.N.
So the project is continued but completely reorganized to
design a telematic oriented machine (that means able to communicate through
videotex standards). Fabrice Broche, a brilliant french Oric specialist,
is then charged to develop the beast.
beginning of the year 1986, the advertising campaign for the Telestrat
begins in the computing press, but unfortunately a little too prematurely,
as everything is not yet ready. However, the overall critics are rather
favorable to the Telestrat, and everyone is waving its opening to the
telematic / communication world, its doubles sided disk drive, its powerful
compiled BASIC, its numerous connections, its Midi plug, etc.
Well, first, the case is identical to the Stratos, i.e. a kind of Atmos
placed in a larger case, still black and red. At the top of the keyboard,
there are 2 cartridge slots for software or RAM upgrades. A true reset
button is placed on the right side of the case, not far from the two standard
joystick connectors. Another improvement compared to the other original
Oric machines, is that the scart plug is finally self-powered ! What an
improvement... (though latest Atmos produced by Euréka had already this
feature...). And oh, great luxury, the sound now goes through the scart
plug and comes out of the TV speakers.
Concerning sound, the Telestrat still uses the fantastic
AY-3-8912 chipset from General Instrument which allows rather fabulous
things... (3 sound channels + 1 white noise channel). While we're looking
inside, we can notice that the microprocessor is still this good old 6502A
running at 1Mhz. This was surely decided to keep compatibility between
all the Oric systems (via cartridges equiped with Oric-1 and Atmos ROMs).
About the memory, the Téléstrat offers 64 KB of RAM (37
KB left free without the graphic screen), but an additional cartridge
of 64 KB RAM was available in 1987, which made it possible to have a 128k
RAM Oric. Wow...
At the back of the beast one can find an expansion port compatible with
the Oric-1 and Atmos and a disk-drive connector. There is also a Parallel/Centronics
port to connect a wide range of printers, and a RS-232 port to connect
a lot of other useful stuff.
Speaking about "standard" connections, there is of course
a tape-recorder connector and RGB video output. More original, the Telestrat
has a MIDI plug which made it at that time one of the very few computer
originaly equipped with a MIDI plug (the Atari 520ST being the most popular),
but unfortunately the famous and long-awaited MIDI cartridge never made
it to the shelves, and the poor MIDI plug stayed inactive forever...
cool thing : the plug with allows to connect the Telestrat to a Minitel
(french videotext terminal), and to thus enable real cool communication
applications. As it is the main focus of the Telestrat, let's have a closer
look at this feature.
The best thing to do to understand the communication capabilities of the
Telestrat is to read the advertisement of that time :
"With Telestrat, the P&T (French Post Offices) offers you the monitor
and the modem ! Telestrat can use the Minitel as a videotext terminal,
its screen and even its keyboard, and can thus communicate by telephone
with the servers, with another Telestrat connected to another Minitel,
to exchange graphic screens, pages of texts, programs, music scores
(MIDI coded of course...). Telestrat can also be used as an intelligent
terminal for the Minitel: connected to a RGB monitor, it makes it possible
to have a color Minitel, to store videotext pages on disks or all that
can transit through a Minitel, and to print everything on a standard
printer. It can also be used as a particularly powerful and fast mono-channel
server, accessible from a simple Minitel".
In short : a lot of good things! I hope you have noticed the trick consisting
of using the Minitel as a modem for the Telestrat ! Because at that time,
it was VERY difficult to find a modem approved by the french P&T... but
the Minitel was. Ha, French administration...
Software provided to enjoy all these features (and in particular the
Telematic cartridge), was very easy to use and way ahead the competition
of that time. To such a degree that many servers used the Telestrat as
their micro-server (in particular the famous french newspaper Tilt), and
that even at the end of the 90's some Minitel servers were still powered
by Telestrat computers.
The Telestrat can also be used as an answering machine, demonstration:
You create a page like "I am not there, leave me a message". Then when
someone calls you (with a Videotext terminal), it receives the dial tone,
presses on "connexion/fin", sees this page and just has to press "suite"
to leave you a message which will be stored on disk. Moreover, this answering
machine, can be accessed via a remote Minitel. You can thus read your
messages by using your password... At that time it was excellent and smelled
good the future, Internet and all that stuff...
> THE HYPER BASIC
The Telestrat is equipped with a super BASIC delivered on a cartridge,
well, I should say Hyper Basic to be more exact. It inlcudes more than
200 statements. The cool thing is that it is a compiled language, i.e.
each typed line is interpreted during its validation and not during its
execution like most of the others BASICs of that time. Result : when the
program is launched, it is already "translated" completely by the system
into machine code language and is running thus up to 20 times faster than
on an Atmos for example...
Unfortunately the delivery of this Hyper-Basic took too
much time and delayed the sales of the machine. At the time of the advertisement
for the Telestrat (beginning of 1986), the advert promised a Hyper-Basic
with more than 250 statements. Summer 86, Telestrat is finally available
but with a Hyper-Basic of "only" 200 statements which is already a good
It should be noted that when then 250 statements were announced,
one among them was particularly original: the statement BAROUF
placed the BASIC in "comments" mode. From time to time, the Basic comments
what you type ("not very Nice line error", "rather strange
programming error", "who do you think you are to talk to me
like that error", "my tailor is rich error", etc...). Excellent
! Fabrice Broche, the author of the ROM, said that it was necessary to
put a funny statement among all the 249 serious ones. But after the delay
taken in the development of the Hyper-Basic, I don't know if this statement
THE DISK DRIVE
The disk drive controller is built-in the Telestrat, thus the only thing
that you have to connect at the rear of the machine is a slave disk drive.
Nowadays it seems obvious, but at the time it was not that common...
The disk drive is a 3" double head disk drive, just like
the one for the Atmos or the Amstrad. It is well known that this format
never became a standard and that there even was a shortage of these disks
at a time when they were the most used (mainly because of Amstrad success).
In short, this disk drive has a capacity of 418 KB per disk
spread on 19 sectors and 44 tracks, and can load 20 KB in one second,
which made it one of the fastest disk drive of its time. Visually, this
disk drive is identical to the Atmos' Microdisc, but the Stratsed, its
operating system, is only running on the Telestrat, although it is compatible
for the writing/reading format with the Sedoric, the Atmos operating system.
The additional disk drive cost 1790 FF in summer 1986, but
the power supply itself cost 500 FF !
Unfortunately, the Telestrat was too narrow targeted and too expensive.
The focus was too much made on its telematic specificities and not enough
on its "classic" computer possibilities. But it is true that the delay
in the delivery of the Hyper-Basic cartridge did not help a lot...
At that time, there was a kind of passion for the videotext
terminals and its applications and some french manufacturers believed
they could earn a lot of money by conceiving computers with telematic
features like the Telestrat, the Exeltel from Exelvision or the TO-9+
from Thomson. Unfortunately, the Minitel was not the Internet and the
number of potential buyers was not large enough...
technically, the Telestrat is only an improved version of the Atmos, therefore
not a great technical revolution, which is a pity at a time when the Atari
ST and Amiga were already on the shelves...
Apparently, Oric intended to launch a second version of
the Telestrat, a "pro" model equipped with a 80 columns card and two disk
drives, and mounted in a "PC" case like, for 15 000 FF (September 86).
Today, the Telestrat is a difficult to find computer in
France and impossible to find elsewhere. Everycollector having it in its
collection must be proud of it !
Its Telematic features|
+ Its compiled Hyper-Basic
+ Oric-1/Atmos compatibility
+ The keyboard
+ Good disk-drive
Its price |
- Not enough Telestrat specific software
- No sound / graphical evolution from the Atmos