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O > ORIC > STRATOS / IQ 164


Oric
STRATOS / IQ 164

stratos

 

Here we speak about a mythical computer: the Stratos, not to be confused with the Telestrat. The story starts at the end of the year 1984. Oric, after the relative success of the Oric-1 and the Atmos, especially in France, start to work on successors to these machines. They then have in project an IBM compatible based on the INTEL 8086 with a tape-recorder interface (!), a 8086 portable, a MSX, a competitor for the QL and finally a true successor to the Atmos: the Stratos, also code-named  IQ164.

It is then the beginning of the short life of the Stratos which will live only for a few months and will for wich only maybe 5 or 6 specimens will be created ! After the purchase of Oric by the French company Euréka in June 85, the Stratos project considered too weak, was completely re-examined to finally become the Telestrat, more known now than its obscure ancestor.

> WHAT DOES IT LOOKS LIKE ?
Well, we can say about its external aspect is that it is exactly the same thing as the Telestrat: red and black design like the Atmos, even the same keyboard though the touch seemed to be more pleasant (according to some journalists of the time); two Atari standard joystick plugs on each side of the beast, a reset button on the left side and two cartridge slots on the top.

The first Stratos specimen, in particular the one seen in December 84 inside the Oric Research Center buildings in Cambridge or the one presented by ASN at Micro-Expo in Paris in February 85, seemed to have a non-tilted surface where the cartridge slots are, whereas the model that have Euréka in March 85 or simply the Telestrat, have a tilted surface there. This small detail is for a lot of people the successful detail which makes the Telestrat design so nice.

> AND WHAT'S INSIDE ?
Well, inside it depends! Indeed as the Stratos is a prototype it did not stop to evolve during the few month of its short existence, and I don't speak here about the fact that there surely must have been various different models scattered between Oric U.K., ASN and Euréka, the two last being competitors for the purchase of Oric at the beginning of 85.

Thus the model presented by ASN to Micro-Expo in Paris in February 85 is just an empty case! The plugs are not welded and some are just missing! It should be noted that the underneath of this Stratos is black, as opposed to the Stratos owned by Euréka whose lower part was red (just like the forthcoming Telestrat).

In fact, the Stratos is only a "super" Atmos, nothing more. It uses a 6502 at 1mhz, It has 64 KB of RAM but only leaves 37 KB free to the user, less than the Oric-1 ! Thanks to "rom-packs" plugged into the cartridge ports, it can have up to 112 KB of ROM. Its graphic resolution is identical to those of its little brothers: 240x200 in 8 colors, and 40x28 in text mode. But a high-resolution / 80 col. mode was planned with 16 colors and no proximity-conflict.

For the sound, the Stratos still uses the same Yamaha processor (AY-3-8912) as the Atmos/Oric-1.

Other improvements compared to the Atmos must be noted : a real full page editor quite useful. The tape save/load code is supposed to have been completely rewritten and is now much more reliable. The transfer is done by blocks of 1,5 KB at a maximum speed of 2400 bauds.

For the connections there are :

a RF video output
a Péritel/Scart video output, self supplied (improvement compared to the Atmos)
a diskdrive port (Shugart standard)
an expansion port identical to the one of the Atmos/Oric-1
a RS232c plug
a Parallel/Centronics port
and a modem connector on the english model, since in France it was forbiden to use a modem not approved by the french PTT authorities.

Thus, from the very start of the project, the idea of a machine opened to the telecommunications is present. If the Telestrat is a " telematic " computer it is mainly because of the Stratos project...

> COMPATIBILITY
The Stratos is entirely compatible with the Atmos since both ROMs are integrated into the machine. You just have to type "ATMOS" and the computer becomes an Atmos!

> BASIC
The BASIC is stored in a rom-pack cartridge. It's the same BASIC as the Atmos but with about thirty new statements:

statements like XSAVE, XLOAD, SPRINT to communicate with an external device or another computer through the RS232 port,
a SETFUN statement which finally makes it possible to manage the function key (Funct),
surprising 3D statements like MOVE3D and DRAW3D which make it possible to define 3D plans and to draw directly on them,
and several other small additions to manage graphics and sound.

> THE OPERATING SYSTEM
The whole thing is managed by a powerful operating system, the RANDOS (Random Access Directory Operating System). The RANDOS is cool but needs room, that's why there's not much free memory left for the user (RANDOS was not specific to the Stratos and was written for the Atmos by G. Cornell.)

> CP/M COMPATIBLE ?
According to several sources, a CP/M cartridge using a Z80 was practically ready but nobody ever saw the color of it... The CPU would have run at 4 Mhz and the user would have had 52 KB of memory free. If this card existed, it would truly have given the Stratos an extra range of theoricaly compatible CP/M software.

> CONCLUSION
What one can say today is that the Stratos must have existed in very few specimens, each one being undoubtedly more or less different. The version which was given to Eureka when they bought back Oric U.K. proved to be insufficient. So they developped a new computer from it, and as ASN held the rights of the name "Stratos" in France, they called their new machine Telestrat ! But that's another story..

 

coin_vert_1.gif (126 octets) dotclear.gif (172 octets) coin_vert_2.gif (127 octets) coin_rouge_1.gif (147 octets) dotclear.gif (172 octets) coin_rouge_2.gif (146 octets)
Good points dotclear.gif (172 octets) + Cool design
+
Good mechanical keyboard
+ Powerful operating system
+ Interesting 3D statements
+ Built-in Modem
+ Compatibility with the Atmos
dotclear.gif (172 octets) Bad points dotclear.gif (172 octets) - Kill born, just a prototype
- Not much memory left under Basic
- Not much improvement in graphic resolution compared to the Atmos
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