A Slayed Beast - History of the Dragon computer
Written by David Linsley
1. The conception, the formative months and the birth.
Rumours abounded in the summer of 1982 that a little known UK toy manufacturer
was about to make an entrance into the home computer market. At that time Sinclair
Research, pioneers of the early home computing scene in the UK, were having
difficulties with there new machine - the Spectrum - and it was doubtful that
a newcomer with such a lack of experience would be able to break into such a
competitive market. Then the Dragon 32 was launched in August by Dragon Data
(a subsiduary of Mettoy). For its time it was a good and powerful design but
many were sceptical as the parent toy company appeared to be in serious financial
The Dragon 32 was a revolutionary design - for the UK at least - in that it
broke away from tradition and offered a Motorola 6809 microprocessor at its
heart instead of the more popular, but less powerful, Zilog Z80 and Mostek 6502
ICs. This would appear to be a wise decision for it would make the programmers'
tasks less daunting, but not many had seen these devices before - the popular
machines of the market were the 6502 based Apple II and Commodore PET ranges,
plus the early Tandy and Sinclair models of Z80 origin. But in the United States,
Tandy had 2 years earlier released their Color Computer to great success - and
this was a 6809 design using a standard Motorola chipset for the video display
Mettoy's staff were in close contact with Motorola at their UK semi-conductor
base in Strathclyde (Scotland), and with their help (and offer of bigger discounts
for purchasing more Motorola products) they constructed the Dragon from the
same chipset as Tandy were using. The machine of questionable copyright even
used the same keyboard layout, cartridge connector, joystick ports (Tandy 5-pin
could be used, but not 6-pin due the Dragon's use of 5-pin DIN sockets), and
memory map. You could also say that the tape connector was the same but as this
was a standard, its hardly worth mentioning. Dragon Data; like Tandy/Radio Shack;
enlisted Microsoft to provide the computer's Basic interpreter, but unlike Tandy
they chose Extended Basic so all of the machines features could be unleashed
with no upgrades necessary - witness the early Tandy models with no hires graphics.
Admittadly this was partly due to these machines possesing pitiful amounts of
memory (4K or 16K), but Mettoy worked around this by making their machine 32K:
it was to be 16K, but Sinclair announced that another Spectrum model would be
launched soon after the 16K version had arrived, and that it would have an extra
32K of RAM on board. Mettoy didn't want to be left behind in the technological
To solve possible legal action from Tandy, the Dragon engineers came up with
a work-around solution. A parallel printer socket would be included instead
of the serial device on their counterparts machine; this was a better solution
for the end-user wishing to connect a printer because no setting up is needed
- plug in and go - no messy dip switches to set baud rate and parity etc. So
that the electronics would be simpler, the printer data lines would use the
same Motorola 6821 PIA port as the keyboard - this allowed the keyboard to be
remapped also, so that it looked the same as a Tandy, but operated differently
(eg Dragon Q is Tandy 1). Most importantly though the Basic ROM had the keyword
'tokens' reworked and re-assembled so that both the Basic and Extended Basic
parts were mixed, and as Tandy's were seperate the routines addresses would
be at different locations. Part of this re-assembly included a partially re-written
BIOS (the original belonged to Tandy) - witness the the letters DNS apperring
for no-reason, as these are the authors initials; Duncan Smeed who before joining
Dragon lectured in computing at Strathcylde University (were he has since returned).
So the Dragon had been born. The idea of getting into the lucrative home computer
market by a Mettoy employee keen to save the company had been conceptualized
and launched to a waiting public. Although they had pulled a large coup by persauding
Boots; the large high-street chain whose stores were traditionally pharmacies
which stocked health and beauty products too, but now also included photographic
equipment, calculators, tape-recorders and toys (including Mettoy's products);
to take their machine, the unexpectadly high demand (mostly due to the problems
Acorn and Sinclair had in supplying Electrons and Spectrums to shops - concentrating
on mail-order instead) outstripped supply, and the fairy tale for Mettoy was
not to last.
2. The adoption pt I and the early growth - the Tony Clarke year.
Come October 1982, Mettoy's finances were getting worse. If only the banks
would provide them with the money to finance the expansion of the Dragon production
lines everything would be okay. But they said no. Dragon Data management knew
that a takeover was the only option and that they needed to take it.
Managing Director, Mr. Tony Clarke, talked to many financial institutions and
persauded them to buy into and re-finance Dragon Data. This left Mettoy with
only a 15.5% shareholding after the Welsh Development Agency bought 23% and
Pru-tech (the high-tech investment division of Prudential Insurance) the largest
holding with 42%. With new money being ploughed in, Dragon Data would be able
to contract out work (to Race Electronics who also built BBCs for Acorn), enabling
them to build up the production rate to come closer to meeting the high demand
for their product.
As part of the deal with the Welsh Development Agency, Dragon Data would prepare
to move to a larger factory with increased manufacturing capacity compared to
the current site within Mettoy - this being the imfamous factory at Kenfig near
Port Talbot which eventually led to their downfall.
Come Spring 1983 everything looked rosey. Forty Thousand Dragon 32s had been
sold, Dragon Data had bceome the largest privately owned company in Wales and
high-street shops were queing up to stock the popular machine; Dixons, Comet
and Spectrum joining Boots as a Dragon retailer though the stationers WH Smith
and John Menzies both gave Dragon Data the thumbs down, complaining they had
enough on their plate with the Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Oric. Dragon Data
weren't too worried as it wasn't in their interests to have too many retailers
competing on price, and with the capacity at the plant not large enough for
demand others were only receiving a restricted allocation.
March saw the completion of the move to the new premises and 5,000 Dragons
rolled off the production line every week, and this was to be increased to 10,000
units - Dragon Data rather nievely believing that sales would continue strongly
during the summer as they had on the run-up to Christmas. Although extra capacity
did allow Dragon Data to extend its range and a formidable hardware expansion
was planned for the rest of '83.
A single-disc system with interface would arrive in April at a cost of £275
and the OS9 operating system would be licensed from Microware and made available
shortly afterwards, but they didn't. Although they would come to market later,
many of the planned releases never made it. This included a 64K upgrade also
adding twin RS232 interfaces at a cost of £30 and a monochrome 80-column
card for increased usefulness of OS9 and the Dragon as a business solution,
together with two new computers - the first a £400 BBC model B competitor
and the second a full-blown business system aimed at the IBM PC/Sirius market.
April saw two major announcements for Dragon Data - even if the Disc system
was delayed by a few months; this being a good time for Premier Microsystems
who had been offering a disc drive for the Dragon for several months, as Dragon
Data hit a technical difficulty which Premier themselves had previously solved,
this doing their sales no harm. Dragon Data announced that the 32 would be launched
in the US that year, and after discussion with three interested American companies
it would be manufactured in the US for economic reasons as a joint venture with
the chosen US company. More importantly though the path to the US markets was
eased, when Tandy denied claims that they were planning legal action against
Dragon Data (for the similarirty of the 32 and the Color Computer), due to Tandy
not owning any patents on its machine in the UK and that by the time it would
be settled out of court, both machines would be out of date.
An enormously welcomed Dragon Data independant product was launched that month
- Dragon User hit the shelves of newsagents nationwide and acheived respectable
sales of 36,000 for the first 2 years of sale. Providing all users with something
it had an excellant mix of news, help, program listings, reviews of games, hardware
and utilities, interviews with prominent people in the world of Dragon and a
competition which always required a well ordered approach to solve by computer
program. This format of magazine is now sadly lacking in the current market
- even for machine specific magazines - which is a great shame because it catered
for new and more experience users alike. For users wanting something extra from
a magazine, Elkan Electronics imported 4 Color Computer magzines from the US
- The Rainbow, Colour Computer News, The Color Computer Magazine and Hot Co-Co.
Having personally only seen 2 issues of The Rainbow I can't comment on these
magazines, but The Rainbow impressed me from what I saw - it was thick and had
plenty of articles and listings.
By May the 64K upgrade board for the Dragon 32 became a mainboard swap at an
increased cost of £75, the board also being used in the newly announced
Dragon 64 which was to priced at £250-300 but with extras such as an RS232
interface included. A month later this had changed again, and Dragon Data were
now going to offer a mainboard swap as before, but this would be a full Dragon
64 mainboard with RS232 interface and second Basic ROM onboard. (the first ROM
was Dragon 32 mode, and the second a Dragon 64 mode with Basic occupying the
upper 16K of 64K RAM). To facilitate the use of the serial port, service agents
would also change the bottom half of the 32's moudling (adding an extra hole),
at a total cost of £100 for the upgrade; the Dragon 64 was now expected
to cost less than £275.
Although this upgrade would be costly for Dragon 32 owners, this method of
upgrade would give them the new machine (but in a 32 case), enabling them to
run the OS9 operating system when it arrived and any other 64 specific software
(which was little). It was mainly a user decision by Dragon Data, it making
more sense to produce a new machine which had software and hardware compatibility
with the Dragon 32 than having to produce two versions of products (by them
or third-party suppliers).
From that point the US was Dragon Data's goal and it had been decided that
the Tano Corporation of New Orleans would be the Dragon manufacturer and distributer
for the Americas and Caribbean Basin. The Dragon 64 would be avialable in the
US from August at a cost of $399, with the first few thousand machines being
made in Wales and the rest in the US once Tano's production was upto speed.
Tano was the chosen company ahead of five others, due to its background in marine
automation systems with the 6809 microprocessor and that it already had experience
of selling a micro - an Apple II clone designed in Holland and manufactured
in Korea. When Dragon Data showed the 32 at an American computer show in April,
4000 dealers made enquires about the machine and although Dragon-Tano would
only invlove 400-500 initially (rising to 1,500 once production rose from 2000
machines a week), the partnership believed that they would sell alot of machines.
Dealers had been losing margins as both Commodore, Atari and Texas Instruments
cut the price of their machines and this would make then keen to stock the Dragon
and promote it more than other brands - higher profit margins and a machine
which had greater reliability than others, instigating in fewer returns. And
higher prices can be an asset with many customers believing that they are getting
something better - especially if the dealer persaudes them so.
So August came and the Dragon 64 was launched on the 26th with a retail price
of $399 in the US and £225 in the UK where it could be bought from early
September, but the US package would also include a much improved manual, spreadsheet,
mail-merge and Telewriter 64 word processor). A statement by Dragon Data's marketing
director Richard Wadman (who also wrote the manuals) told that this was due
to that the US tv circuitry was easier to construct than for the UK, and so
it could be done more quickly (shame they didn't mention that it was because
the US standard is simple and crap), but apart from this the european and american
machines would be identical.
Tano's production of the Dragon began in Spetember and by October was upto
capacity of the 48,000 square foot new plant where the lines were housed. Being
a large coprate of 20 years with divisions in oil and gasoline (who design systems
for flow measurement on oil lines, ala the Alaskan pipeline), reliability of
their products needed to be high and the Dragon was no different - each machine
being soak-tested to hunt out any defects. Not to be out done, their design
team began working closely with Dragon Data on the new machines that had been
previously planned. First to arrive would be the Dragon 128 in Novemeber (in
the US). Featuring dual 6809 processors, a numeric keypad, 128K ram and OS9
selectable on power-up it seemed as if both companies had got their act together
and times looked rosy.
3. The adoption pt2 - GEC take charge as Clarke is ousted.
Dragon Data's earlier decisions began back-firing for them in the late summer
of 83. The thought that sales would continue through spring and summer at the
level as at Christmas had proved to be a major misjudgement and it came as no
suprise to industry analysts when Managing Director Tony Clarke was asked to
resign by the shareholders - of course it was reported to the public that he
had "previously indicated to the board that he wished to resign for personnal
With this position clear, the shareholders asked GEC (General Electric Company
- the largest electrical company in the UK with its fingers in many pies including
defence, satellites, home-entertainment, industrial computing, power generation
and many more) to provide a senior executive to become the new chief executive
of Dragon Data on "temporary secondment", and they duely obliged with
Brian Moore appointed to the post on September 12th, until a new business plan
for the company had been worked out - though Brian could not put a time on this.
It was no shock decision to appoint a GEC executive - Prutech who held 42% of
Dragon shares were also the major investor in GEC - but he was suitable for
the job, moving from a deputy managing directorship post at a GEC subsidiary
speciallising in microprocessor controlled heating and ventilation systems,
together with his experience in general electronic engineering, financial management
and business applications for computers.
Following on from this announcement came the news that a £2.5 million
investment package for Dragon Data had been made. With it came the clame "It's
business as usual" or more specifically "It's business as it was earlier
this year and not as it was this summer". The shortfall between sales fact
and forecast placed a greater "strain on the company's immediate cash and
borrowing facilities", because at the time "it was gearing up production
to meet pre-Christmas demand". The link between a bad summer and the need
for more money coloured reactions to the investment so that it was more interpreted
as a rescue package, but the package in the form of loans (or loan guarantees)
would enable Dragon Data to continue work on the next generation of home and
small business machines which were said to be in the late stages of development.
A Dragon spokesman also countered the bad reactions by arguing that further
investment was natural at the current stage of development, and that the company
expected a profit for its first year of operation, on a turn-over of £18-20
million. It was also reported that although sales had dropped, Dragon's market
share had stayed constant, proving that times were difficult for even the market
Although GEC had taken their time in entering the home-computer market, it
was not unexpected. Earlier in the year the electronics giant were involoved
in talks with Torch - another British microcomputer manufacturer. But when these
came to nothing it was thought they would soon invest in another company; particularly
when there rivals' were making progress in this area; and Dragon Data would
seem the obvious choice with the Prutech connection. With hindsight, the problems
at Dragon Data should have been expected. An increasingly competitive market
saw many companies going to the wall, or to the brink of it - even Sinclair
was struggling in the US and Acorn couldn't even break into any other markets.
To this day their machines are still over-priced and only bought by educational
establishments (for pupils upto the age of 18) and Acorn enthuisiasts. But remember,
Dragon Data had an unorthodox start going independant from Mettoy after only
3 months of product launch and it transpires that they may have been under-capitalised
from the beginning. At least with the investment and new management the shareholders
made their postion clear, in that they were confident Dragon Data could turn
it around with the product they had and the new machines in development.
Previous to this the long awaited disc system appeared on the shelves of Boots
and Dixons at a cost of £275 (or £475 for twin drives), for a single-sided
5.25" double density drive (180K formatted capacity) in a case with space
for a second drive and built in PSU, together with a controller interface with
software on ROM. The controller could control upto four 40 or 80 track, single
or double sided drives interfaced via a standard Shugart interface, by using
a Western Digital 2797 controller IC.
Although it had arrived late, it beat Cumana's system to the shelves, who were
offering a Premier MicroSystems DeltaDos cartrige (which had been available
for several months with a Cumana drive direct from Premier), together with a
Cumana drive (of similar specs to Dragon's drive) inside a single drive case
with inbuilt PSU. Their system was also more expensive than the official system
at £300, but everyone agreed that DeltaDos was a better system than DragonDos,
being bug-free (totally unlike DragonDos), easier to use and offerring more
features; eg a second ROM socket in the DOS cartridge for addition of utility
ROMs such as Premier's Encoder09 assembler and Toolkit their Basic add-on. It's
also widely accepeted that the Delta documentaion is in a different class to
the Alan Mayer offering with the Dragon Data system. Although this was meant
to be only a preliminary document it was never replaced.
Eventually the Dragon 64 made its UK public appearance, but not until the PCW
show on 29th September (till 2nd October); a month later than planned. Costing
a reasonable £225 it was escenially a Dragon 32 with 32K of extra memory,
a second Basic ROM for 64K operation (tape only - doesn't work with discs since
the Basic maps into where the cartrdige port is), and an RS232C interface. The
case also changed colour to a professional shade of grey (with blue hint), and
on most machines a new keyobard was used with the lettering being smaller which
looked smart - though many had the original 32 keyboard which has the bigger
and uglier lettering by comparison. It was unfortunate that Dragon Data decided
not to rewrite the original 32 Basic manual (which was regarded as poor by many),
but they supplied that manual (but debugged) with a seperate 64 specific supplement
instead. Even though the latest Dragon was the only new machine on display at
the show, not many heads were turned by it; an upgraded Dragon 32 was all it
was, but then not many really knew the power the beast had. Although the Dragon
had been a success, the Tandy CoCo had flopped in the UK (£400 for a 16K
machine when a Dragon 32 was £169) and no other popular machine used the
6809 and its capabilities had yet to be unleashed. The highlight of the show
must surely have been Dragon Data's public relations - they turned off an arcade
game running on a display Dragon so that a Dragon employee could talk to a deaf
and dumb user via the montior and keyboard. Dragon Data wanting to help and
care for their customers in any way they could - free information was always
available; just write and circuit-diagrams and info for machine code programmers
was sent out free of charge. How many other major computer manufacturers have
employed this policy?
Eventually, the Dragon 64 hit the UK shops in November - 2 months later than
in the US - but the promise of OS9 being available at the same time was not
fullfilled. Dragon Data's enthusiasm for the product not matching its launch
schedule. Richard Wadman, marketing director, was quoted as saying "The
combination of the 64, OS-9 and drives gives the company the means to enter
other markets". He was also sure that Dragon Data's move upwards would
be as successful as its home-computing entry - if Dragon Data could keep to
its launch times or not announce products till they were ready, maybe it would.
Together with the UK arrival of the Dragon 64, Dragon Data (France) announced
that they had sold 5,000 Dragon 32s and that by Christmas 20,000 would have
been shipped, and the US situation seemed even more rosey: Dragon/Tano held
a booth at the three day Color Computer Exposition '83 in Pasedena, with the
64 together with disc drive being the main display item even out-doing Tandy/Radio
Shack's launch of a 64K CoCo, and linked with good sales figures the future
looked good. With the thoughts of that a British firm selling home-computers
to the US was like 'carrying coals to Newcastle' seemingly dumb-founded, the
return cargo for the UK would proove to be good news for UK users. Having the
Dragon available in the US moved many more programmers writing CoCo games and
utilities to convert them for the Dragon than what had already been, and so
the range of software available grew. Unfortunately, not many UK Dragon programmers
made the corresponding decision; if a good Dragon game or utility was converted
to run on a Tandy and then sold to a US software house the rewards could be
huge, but this never happened (or if it was, it was never publicised). Ironically,
most of the software sold by Dragon/Tano in the US consisted of CoCo software
orignally from the US, and converted in the UK by Dragon Data or Microdeal to
the Dragon and then sold in the UK and shipped back to the US for sale there
November also saw a sad day in the history of the Dragon. Toy-maker Mettoy,
a shareholder in Dragon Data and the founder of Dragon computers called in the
receivers - a year after selling Dragon Data to the current consortium of investors.
Although the news was received with regret, Brian Moore; the new Dragon Data
MD; emphasised that his company would not be affected. With Mettoy holding just
a 15.5% stake, no significant difference in Dragon Data would effect. With these
shares now being available for purchase, the receivers gave the Dragon Data
shareholders first option, and it looked as if GEC missed a change to invest
when Pru-tech increased their holding to 49% by taking half of the Mettoy shares.
Talking in an interview for Dragon User (December 1983), Brian Moore officially
announced in the UK that a Dragon 128 was underdevelopment (though it was a
working title), and that it would be compatible with the Dragon 64 through the
use of OS9 - not Dragon Basic. Together with the new home-computer which was
announced at the same time, the future for 32 owners seemed bleak. But for Dragon
users showing so much affection for their machines, he intended to support all
users by offering upgrades to the 64 for 32 owners. Other avenues which the
company were looking into included a WIMP driven computer, after Brian saw an
Apple Lisa and viewed it as an "exciting system of the future"; this
proved to be one vision by Dragon Data management which turned out as they had
thought! Sales of the Dragon 64 were reported to be excellant, with "the
order book full, and everything built being despatched" and that the company
had already sold all the machines that it could produce for Christmas. The 64
had also been "very well received in the US".
4. More Products hit the shops as GEC wind the screw.
Come December Dragon Data had finally made a decision regarding the upgrading
of a Dragon 32 to a 64. After the scrapping of both an add-on board or main-board
swap, ex MD Tony Clarke made it public that a CPU board and bottom of the case
swap would be the method of upgrading. But now with Brian Moore in charge the
company had further second thoughts - preferring to exchange Dragon 32s for
64s rather than upgrade them. Logistically this would proove to be a simpler
option without the need for service agents - dealers could do the swap.
For the user this would be a painless operation - but not in the wallet. Simply
by taking your Dragon 32 to a local dealer with £140 you could walk away
with a 64. Part exchange was a new idea in this country, although Commodore
had used the method in the US, reducing the price of its 64 to Vic20 owners
who returned their machines. But with the move to the 64 Commodore broke with
Vic20 software compatibility, instead producing a more advanced machine. With
the Dragon 64 this wasn't the case and many users were disgruntled about the
cost - many users preferring an allowance of £100 rather than £85
(for a Dragon 32 used basically constantly for a year) and £140 for a
seven month-old machine, leaving £85 to be paid. The main problem was
users not realising that Dragon Data couldn't do much with the returned 32 -
they cost £169 to buy, so how much did they sell to retailers for? £100?
£80? And remember that Dragon Data did not have to offer an upgrade, but
they cared about their customers and it was the self-same customers who were
disgruntled that they cared. If they could raise more by selling their machine
second hand then they could if they want, but Dragon Data offered them an easy
path to upgrade.
Several users wrote letters of complaint to Dragon User, saying that "it
would be better to sell your 32 and buy a higher specification computer with
improved display and sound" and to "sell your 32 and buy a machine
from a manufacturer that will be thruthful to its supporters", but its
difficult to think of the manufacturers they had in mind.
And one letter to the editor of Dragon User had this to say: "One of the
reasons we bought a Dragon in the first place was that Dragon Data looked like
a company that wasn't out to rip off its customers. For example, it actually
launched the Dragon by selling working computers in shops. You paid your money
and carried one away. We wouldn't touch Commodore products with a barge pole
precisely because of that company's attitude to its customers. Ditto Acorn."
(commenting on that to buy a Commodre or Acorn you paid your money and waited
a month for it to arrive, and then when it did, bits were usually missing from
the box - eg manuals or a lead, or the computer was faulty.)
The problem for Dragon Data was that many micro buyers either disagreed with
that reader or owned something longer than a barge pole. No matter what, opinions
from businessmen in the micro industry suggested that Dragon Data's intentions
may be too honourable for their own good.
February saw two major launches for Dragon Data with a technical book and after
a long wait the OS9 operating system hitting the shelves. "Inside the Dragon"
was written by Dragon Data's technical software manager Duncan Smeed and an
ex-colleague of his; Ian Sommerville a computer science lecturer at Strathcylde
University; and published by Addison-Wesley who described it as "No one
who wants to do more with their Dragon than play games can afford to be without
it". Duncan himself said that "the book contains virtually everything
I know about the insides of the Dragon" - and that's from the design consultant
of the Dragon 32 and 64 who was now working on the system software for the "128".
Details on how to access and make use of the Basic ROM and all the hardware
are covered, and together with data sheets for the Motorola chipset made it
a book that has furthered Dragon users learning machine code like no other book
did or could. It was testimony to that point, that all print runs of the book
Eventually Dragon Data got OS-9 into the shops. The modular, multi-tasking,
multi-user, real-time and Unix-like operating system was released for £40
and with the single disc came the User manual. For £20 more a programmers
manual could be purchased with application software extra; Stylograph (word
processor) £80, Dynacalc (spreadsheet) £60 and RMS (Database) £55
with more to come such as 'Cash and VAT' and 'Stock Control'. Both of these
appeared soon afterwards together with the programming langauges; Basic09, Pascal
and the C compiler - ranging in price from £40 for Basic to £80
for C. Although the pricing may appear steep considering the usual cost of Dragon
software, it must be born out that this was high-quality and usually expensive
applications running on equally expensive business computers. Dragon Data's
policy on recovering the huge licensing fee payable to the owners was the "pile
it high and sell it cheap" method; their thinking that it was better to
get lots of cheap sales than few expensive. The OS9 system was well received
by the reviewer for Dragon User and by the buying public, and it proved to be
a popular purchase for 64 owners with a disc drive - although it later transpired
that Dragon Data never got around to paying Microware (OS9's author) any of
the license fees owed.
March 1984 saw GEC tightening their screw on the control of Dragon Data when
it was announced that sales and marketing of all Dragon Data products would
be handled by a GEC subsidiary - GEC McMichael (who had expertise in both defence
and cosumer electronics. The latter including radio, television, video recorders,
intelligent telephones, viewdata, teletext, laser-disc players and cable and
satellite tv) - and over the next few months, double page spread adverts appeared
in the national computing press, with Dragon Data products going under the GEC
Dragon brandname. GEC's activities before this, being very diverse within the
whole electronics area, but they were now widespread in the computing side alone
ranging from specialised chip manufacture to viewdata systems. Although it wasn't
clear what the GEC strategy was, they certainly had enough cash to support any
move that they cared to make, and were willing to play a waiting game to get
what they wanted - remember that they waited to invest after long talks with
Torch broke down.
For Dragon Data, GEC's marketing influence seemed likely to benefit their push
into the business computer market, with the giant's power probably having little
effect on the home-computer market; apart from suggesting that the partnership
was a stable operation. Interactivity between the two companies would be the
key to their future: Dragon Data would obviously concentrate on developing products
that GEC would be keen to market. So in this way GEC would be controlling Dragon
Data's future direction without having a major financial stake invested in them.
Allowing Dragon Data to concentrate on developing computers was definitely
GEC's plan when they announced that the McMichael subsidiary would introduce
a range of printers, montiors and cassette decks for the Dragon, together with
their sales and marketing tasks. A good Dragon compatible data-recorder had
been on Dragon Data's drawing-board for a while, with one being expected to
have been released during summer '83. But this failed to materialize and so
GEC were set to fill in here, although the products would be marketed under
the GEC McMichael banner due to their compatibility with other machines.
5. Dragon Data announce the future - as they collapse one month later.
May 1984 saw the official annoucement that a new micro was ready to be launched
by Dragon Data. The transportable 64K machine was expected to include a built
in modem and would come with either one or two integral Sony 3.5" disc
drives at a cost of £700. Making its public debut at the Consumer Electronics
Trade Exhibition at the end of May, production samples would be available to
the public some time around August/September. Although Dragon Data were reluctant
to release further information until launch (the reason being late product launches
after announcements in the past), managing director Brian Moore explained that
the package would be marketed as part of Dragon Data's belief that micros should
be "communications based" - that is future machines must have communication
hardware installed as standard.
Speaking publicly for the first time about this machine - at the RETRA (Radio,
Electrical and Television Retailers Association) annual conference in Torquay
- GEC Dragon's (as Dragon Data was now called) Brian Moore spoke about what
the market had in store and that this computer supplied it. About the computer
market in general he commented that: "The home computer, together with
all its support products, represents a retailing opportunity that cannot be
ignored. The technology available, together with forecast explosive growth in
home communications and information technology, will result in every retailer
having to deal in computer-based products in order to survive."
Strong words and probably true in that all major retailers sold computers and
all survived, but on on the subject of the home computer business he said: "It's
totally crazy, consisting of seventeen-year-old millionaires and big businesses
failing to make a profit. Businesses producing peripherals, utilities, software
and magazines are making money and the only people who aren't are the actual
To be of value a computer manufacturer needed to offer a package, and Dragon
Data did with their "Passport to Professional Software". Consisting
of a Dragon 64, GEC McMichael TV, OS-9, Dragon disk drive, joysticks, three
tape games (!) and several business programs, this was aimed at the small business
market that GEC Dragon believed to be the key to the future - games were considered
to be have an "uncertain" market position. Little did they realise
what a huge market it was actually about to be.
Perhaps the most apt quote of Brian's speech at RETRA was that "undoubtedly
there will be a shake out of manufacturers over the next few years" - though
doubtless excluding his company from within that trend.
Late May saw the public display of the new machine along with the announcement
of yet another new computer. Project-named Alpha, the new transportable machine
that had already been announced would be launched as the GEC Dragon Professional.
Basically an upgraded Dragon 64 it contained an integral Sony single-sided 3.5"
disk drive (with room for another), built-in dos and disk interface, on-board
three channel programmable sound-generator, internal BT-approved modem, RGB
monitor socket and built-in power supply (as well as the other ports and features
of the Dragon 64). Costing £700 for the single-drive version and £850
for two, Dragon Data's technical director Derek Williams described the micro
as having "improved and expanded the 64 to the optimum, providing a neat
package without wires trailing everywhere". Basically it looked like a
Dragon 64 with a bit ontop where the two drives were fitted, facing the user.
Basic on the new machine had also been re-worked so that a hi-res text screen
of 51*24 or 40*24 could be utilised (ala Microdeal's Rainbow Writer and Compusense's
Hi-Res and Edit+ programs) instead of the usual and mundane 32*16, and on power-up
the user could choose to use Basic or load a disk-based operating system. With
the on-board floppy controller to run upto two external 5.25" drives, the
Professional remained highly compatible with existing Dragon 32, 64 and OS-9
Project Beta was something altogether different, and saw GEC Dragon really
wanting to hit the big time. Expecting to retail at £2500-3000, the micro
used twin 6809 processors, had 256K RAM (expandable to 768K) and offered two
internal 3.5" floppy drives with an external hard disc available as an
add-on. Together with an on-board power supply the machine also incorparated
an 80-column display and an RGB monitor connection with the following display
resolutions: 320*256*16 colours, 640*512*4, 640*256*4, 320*256*4 and a teletext
mode of 160*72 (teletext being 40*24 with each character a 4*3 block).
The main CPU unit had a flat-top to support a monitor and the detached keyboard
also featured a separate numeric pad. Together with a parallel Centronics, RS232,
light-pen and mouse port, a mother-card was supplied providing expansion boards
to be fitted. At the time of announcment only three had been fully developed:
1200/75 1200/1200 and 300/300 baud modem, quad serial port for OS-9 allowing
multiple terminal access and a networking card allowing one machine to be used
as a file-server to the others.
With pre-production models already out both machines were due to go into full
production in July, but in the same issue of Dragon User as these announcements
took place (July '84), the editorial changed just before going to print to bring
the devastating news that at the beginning of June the receivers had been called
into Dragon Data. The comapany announced that "the continuing difficulties
of establishing profitable trading in the UK and other parts of the world"
was the reason for the decision. Although a huge blow to the future release
of the new machines, the forever financially-troubled firm said that "it
has confidence in its new products and the market opportunities they represent
and will be using its best endeavours in helping the receivers to explore ways
of continuing trading." And this was followed up by one executive commenting
that "the home computer market was not as buoyant as people believed".
Earlier in the year British Home Stores (a large department store chain) had
decided to stop selling the Dragon 32, and cleared its shelves by offering the
machine at a bargain basement price. Rival chain Boots; responsible for so many
Dragon sales; was also expected to drop the 32 within the coming months too,
even before the news of Dragon Data came through, though they would still stock
software. The decision of the dealers was aroused by the fact that in microcomputing
terms, the 32 was now an old machine. Dragon Data's problems of the prolonged
delay of the disk drive system hindered the 32s growth, and their attempt to
move upmarket produced the 64 - little more than an upgraded 32. Then the gap
between the arrival of the 64 and its "killer" applications in OS-9
resulted in further damage.
The wheel of fortune had turned full-circle, and unfortunately for Dragon Data
it landed on the Brankrupt zone. Original developer Mettoy were faced with their
own financial problems and sold the Dragon 32 to a consortium of backers. A
year later they called in the receivers. Now the continuing problems of finance,
mismanagement and market predications had caught up with Dragon Data, and the
fate of Mettoy had befallen the new company too.
6. Tandy take a look but the Armada rescues the sinking ship.
With the news of Dragon Data's demise spreading, Dixons; the high-street electrical
chain; responded by cutting the price of all Dragon Data products. A Dragon
32 with five pieces of software would cost £79.99, a Dragon 64 was £169.99
and disk drives went for under £100. If anything positive was to come
from the demise of the computer manufacturer, alot more disk users was certainly
one, with the systems selling out in most stores within days of Dixons announcement.
With this in mind it came as a surprise that Boots did not alter their prices.
Accountants Touche Ross with receiver Robert Ellis had received serveral offers
for Dragon Data, and it was known that both Tandy and GEC had expressed a very
strong interest in aquiring the company. GEC had infact paid for the GEC Dragon
stand at the Earls Court Computer fair held just weeks before the news came
through, and it was thought that they would concentrate on the Dragon Professional
and an MSX type machine if they took-over.
MSX is a concept that micros with broadly the same hardware will all run the
same software, and although it was a success in its native Japan and Holland
(the manufactures of the range of machines were Sony, Sanyo, Hitachi, Toshiba
and Philips etc) it was not so else where, with only a small user-base after
several years in the UK - even with such a large advertising campaign and large
range of machines, but they were quite expensive at an average of £250.
Earlier in the year GEC Dragon MD Brian Moore spoke at a major conference about
the dangers of MSX to UK manufacturers, saying "that predications indicated
the Japanese will take 30-35 per cent of the home computer market - and that's
for a product that hasn't even arrived in this country yet." The rumours
that Dragon Data were thinking of producing an MSX computer were comfirmed by
John Sayers, Tandy UK managing director, who revealed that GEC had acquired
the rights from Microsoft to be the sole producer of MSX machines in Britain.
If GEC came to market with an MSX micro, it was thought that they would include
an option to make it compatible with Dragon software also.
Tandy's interest in Dragon Data lied mainly with the 32, 64 and, importantly
for users, service and support and to this they flew people over from the USA
and Europe to have a look at the plant. Although unexpired warrenties are legally
unenforceable against a company in receivership, if Tandy had bought Dragon
Data they would have been expected to fulfill any outstanding to maintain goodwill.
At this time it was known that another company was interested in buying the
rights to the Dragon, and Philips was the name on most peoples' lips. But with
only 52 staff remaining at the plant (after a further 100 had been made redundant),
it was not known where manufacture of future micros would take place if the
company were being taken over.
By August Tandy had withdrawn from negotiations after its final bid was rejected
by the receiver. Hoping to acquire the Dragon name and remaining stock to support
end users, the receiver turned down the bid in hoping to find a buyer for the
whole company. The bid the receivers wished for came through when Spanish firm
Eurohard SA appeared with an agreeable settlement, making them the first micro
manufacturer in Spain.
Eurohard had many similar parallels to Dragon Data. With help in setting them
up in business from government agencies they both set their manufacturing base
in a regional development area - manufacture of the Dragon 32 and 64 in Spain
would move to the new company's factory in Extre Madura, Caceres a development
area 180 miles south west of Madrid, close to the the border with Portugal,
with the company's public relations and marketing based in Madrid. Funding for
the venture was from two Spanish public sector development agencies - Soviex
and Ini - and also privately from a large financial group headed by Spanish
Visa card chairman Eduardo Merigo, though Visa card itself had no connection
with Eurohard. Soviex is a local development agency and help 40% of Eurohard,
and Ini is the national development agency with a 10% stake (but they own half
of Soviex too).
Acquiring the assets of Dragon Data for a reported £1 million, Eurohard
owned Dragon Data "lock stock and barrel" with rights to the Kenfig
plant, machinery and intellectual property. It later transpired that prior to
the receivers being called in, Eurohard had actually signed a licence with Dragon
Data to manufacture Dragons in Spain for the spanish home market and spanish
speaking countries, though this now meant nothing.
The deal between Eurohard and the receivers Touche Ross was actually a tripartite
arrangement with GEC continuing with the UK marketing and a new company, Touchmaster,
providing after-sales support and distribution of Eurohard products to all territories
other than Spain and Italy. Touchmaster was located in Dragon Data's old premises
in Margam in Port Talbort, and made up of ex-Dragon Data employees, and headed
by ex-managing director Brian Moore and former marketing director Richard Wadman.
The main backer of this new firm once again was Pru-tech and the first project
was to manufacture a touch-tablet (designed by Information Entry of Reading),
that was first seen previewed at the CETEX show in May and from the September
PCW show, interfaces for the Dragon, Commodore, MSX and BBC machines would be
available. Dragon Data's existing stock of software and peripherals would also
be sold by Touchamster - at discount prices, though it was still not certain
whether they or Eurohard would take over Dragon Data's existing liabillities.
Come September and the new deal was beginning to take full swing. Senor Alvarez
of Eurohard (with four Touchmaster and ex-Dragon Data employees) began organising
and overseeing the 6 week transfer of machinery and products from Dragon's UK
plant to the new Spanish factory, with the hope that full production in Spain
; for world-wide distribution; could begin by the end of October. Although the
company would start by producing Dragon Data spec 32s and 64s, they were "finishing
perfecting" of the Professional design and hoped to have new machines including
an MSX out in six months: Eurohard conceding that in their plans "Alpha
(Dragon Professional) is not so important, we are more concerned with MSX and
peripherals". As part of the Dragon Data package, Eurohard retained Dragon
Data's share in the GEC Dragon MSX machines, though it was eventually leaked
that GEC had not signed a licensing arrangement with Microsoft, but that Eurohard
had. The confusion arising from that GEC had signed an agreement to distribute
and manufacture Eurohard's products in the UK through GEC Radio and Television.
October saw GEC tie up a deal with the receivers to buy the remainding Dragon
Data stock after Eurohard had taken what it had wanted, and they were also in
negotiations with Boots, Comet and Dixons to sell it through the high-street.
Only Comet agreed to take the stock - Dixons and Boots preferring to clear their
lines and leave them cleared - and they offered it at exceptional prices; Dragon
64s were available for £130. And Eurohard announced their major marketing
plans: In association with the Spanish goverment they would begin a computer
education based televsion programme, in a similar role to what Acorn took in
the UK with the BBC computer show - the programme in Spain would use Dragons
and Dragons would also be sold to schools with a goverment subsidy resulting
in very low cost machines. The programme trying to attract buyers to choose
the Dragon because it was what was on tv and their children used them in schools
- so it would help their education if they had one at home too.
In the UK there had been no news of the US scene since late 1983, and in the
December '84 issue of Dragon User a letter was printed asking for companies
to write to him with what they sold because the Tano Corporation was no longer
supporting the Dragon. As a dealer this left him with little hardware and software
available to sell to his frustrated customers. Realistically it was never thought
that Dragon Data could truely break into the US market, and more bad news came
with that issue with the news that GEC had sold all its stocks of Dragon products
and had no immediate plans to promote the Dragon; it appeared that they were
trying to cut loose of the home computer market that they had twice failed to
get into successfully (Torch then Dragon). Although they were trying to establish
a repair and warrenty service; in conjunction with Touchmaster; to serve their
customers needs (of GEC Dragon).
With sales of Dragon products falling for some following the demise of Dragon
Data, Premier Microsystems, manufacturer of DeltaDos the first Dragon disk system,
ceased trading in December '84. Fortunately for many firms this was not the
case and at the first 6809 show (16-17th November at the Royal Horticultural
Halls in London) for Dragon and Tandy owners, over 7000 people turned up. With
all major Dragon retailers there (except for new entrants Eurohard and Touchmaster),
business was busy and many wondered if the closure of Dragon Data had any effect
on the market what-so-ever.
For others not quite so sure there was some good news. Dragon User January
'85 featured an article with Eurohard chairman Eduardo Merigo. Dragon production
in Spain started in November (due to "teething" problems), and so
to solve their advance sales order of 25,000 units they purchased 13,000 Dragon
32s, 64s and disk drives from GEC - all at marked down prices. With the Dragon
32 retailing at £200 in Spain and the 64 at £300 business was busy
(the prices were slightly less than competitors products), and Eurohard were
producing 500 units a day at their Caceres plant.
Eduardo went on to talk about how this venture into the micro-computer world
began, saying that "the initiative to actually start manufacturing Dragons
in Spain came from a number of people working for ICS - the Spanish importer
of the Dragon". A spark fired his imagination and Eurohard SA was formed
in May 1984 with the intention of obtaining a licence to produce Dragons in
Spain. Just before Dragon Data went into liquidation, an agreement with them
was signed so that the company obtained the sole rights to manufacture Dragons
in Spain for Spain and the Spanish speaking world at a cost of £7 per
micro. But Dragon Data went into receivership and Eurohard bought them for £1
Their future plans included selling enhanced Dragon 32 and 64 models (called
the 100 and 200), a new Dragon with 128K RAM, networking and a harddisk and
also new Dragon peripherals; a 4-colour plotter, 2 printers, a slim-line 5.25"
floppy drive and a 2.8" sequential floppy drive (operates like a tape)
with a maximum loading time of 8 seconds for a 32K program. These announcements
coincided with the news that Eurohard had now appointed long-time Dragon software
house and developer Compusense as the UK distributer for the Dragon (though
the MSX would still be pushed by GEC) - because of their competence and independant
retailer status. Eurohard wanting to distribute the Dragon through specialist
dealers and not large retails stores where there's little after-sales support.
Dragon 64s would cost £195, single drives were £240 and the double
drives £450. Compusense decided against importing the 32, wishing to push
the 64 with drive as an entry-level business machine while lobbying Eurohard
to develop new generations of Dragons and peripherals.
With Eurohard's Dragon products being sold in Spain, France, Italy, Greece,
Isreal and the Scandinavian countries, they intended to start producing add-on
boards for the IBM PC and the MSX once their new board manufacturing plant began
operation. And real big time looked their way when they announced that they
had already signed a licence with two US manufacturers for Eurohard to produce
their boards in Spain for the European market.
7. Eurohard goes quiet as the beast dies a slow death.
From April 1985, Dragon life was constantly good then bad. Compusense announced
that the new machine would have 128K RAM and run OS9 Level II as an operating
system and they as the UK distributers would not be importing the 2.8"
tape drive. But that "Towards the end of the year, some fairly attractive
systems should be produced, especailly if Eurohard put in the networking system".
The UK firm also confirmed that Eurohard had sold 20,000 machines in Spain before
Christmas, and although January and February were obviously slow, they were
going to try a new marketing tactic (in Spain) - door to door sales of the Dragon.
My view is that this would seem to be a joke - though obviously not.
The Dragon MSX made its entrance in May '85 and was manufactured by Radofin
of Hong Kong for Eurohard - the same company which produced the Aquarius computer
for Mattel. Being based around a Z80 processor it was totally incompatible with
the Dragon - Eurohard deciding against making it compatible with the Dragon
as well as the MSX standard. Worse news was to come that month though - one
of the bigggest software distributors, Websters, stopped handling Dragon software.
To users this would mean that Dragon software would be even harder to find in
the high-street - although Boots stressed that they would still stock Dragon
programs in their 150 top stores while there was a demand for it.
Compusense took delivery of a 128K Dragon prototype in June, although this
was to little fan-fare because it was simply bank-switched by the SAM chip already
present in all Dragon models. Compusense took advantage of Eurohard's development
when they released their Plus board later in the year. Also that month, Compusense
appointed Race Electroincs (one time sub-contractor to Dragon Data - making
Dragons for them when many machines had to be made) as the National Service
Centre for all Dragon/Eurohard products. Race too had their own news with the
release of an RS232 interface, Sideways ROM cartrdige, EPROM programmer, four
cartidge expansion (similar to Tandy Mulitpak), and floppy tape drive all for
Competition for Race, with the floppy tape drive, arrived in July with the
news that Radofin had launched the Triton Quick Disk (to be marketed in Europe
by Eurohard). Files would load form the 2.8" double-sided disks in a minimum
of 2 seconds and a maxiumum of 8. The price of the unit was a very reasonable
£119.95, for which u got the drive, interface, cables and instructions.
On a working August holdiay to London, Eurohard's cheif of development; Jordi
Martinez; brought the news that 2 new machines were due to be launched and that
another was in development. The first was a Spanish machine - the Dragon 200
- which was basically a revamped Dragon 64 with a Spanish keyboard, and the
second was called the 200-E and would also contain a piggyback board with built-in
80 column card. In development was the 128K Dragon, though Eurohard had not
decided whether it should use a 6809 to remain compatible with older models,
or a 68000 to make the machine more advanced and in line with new machines from
Atari and Commodore (the ST and Amiga respectively).
With another announcement that month, it appeared that Compusense had developed
the 128K and 6809 Dragon for Eurohard, or at least an upgrade for older Dragons.
The Dragon Plus was released at a cost of £100 and with a simple installation
procedure ( take 2 chips out of the main board, plug them into the add-on and
plug two cables from it into the main board, then wire up a simple socket for
the monitor), your 64K Dragon would now have 128K RAM and an 80-column display
(text only). Soon they would also have a hard disc interface available (to plug
into a connector on the Plus board), but this was never marketed because Compusense
thought users wouldn't pay the then high costs for a hard disc - although the
unit was much cheaper than comparable systems for the Acorn BBC machines.
From August nothing was heard in the UK from Eurohard and the June '86 issue
of Dragon User brought devastating news, but not about the prolific Spanish
company. Instead they announced that Dragon User would be going Subscription
Only from the next issue. This was a crazy situation and more notice should
have been given. What would happen to those who only bought the magazine occassionally?
The next time they tried to buy a copy they were told it didn't exist - Newsagents
weren't told it had gone subscription, just that it was off the shelves. Surely
Sunshine Publications had known for a few months that sales had dropped, and
so could have given readers a 2 or 3 issue warning - but they didn't. Fortunately
this reader of the magazine bought every issue and got his mother to write him
a cheque and send it off straight away - even though £12 was a lot to
an eleven year old then!
An even bigger shock was to come the next month, when in the first sub-only
issue of Dragon User (now a black-and white on not too good paper affair, rather
than the previous glossy colour magazine), ran a story where Compusense broke
the news that Eurohard had "closed their Madrid premises and withdrawn
to their factory. I've had a 1986 price list, but importing prices just aren't
economic. I can't get through to anyone there". It now seemed that the
end was nigh - like all before them, Eurohard's bubble had burst.
Nothing was to be heard again, until the December 1987 issue which carried
a readers letter by Josep Jane of Barcelona, Spain which was written on September
the 21st. It transpired that Eurohard had not been as succesful as at frist
thought, or reported. Between November 1984 and October '85 they had sold only
17,000 Dragons, but had given away another 20,000 to institutes and schools.
Although the Spanish governament paid the deficit from October, they would not
invest further when Eurohard needed serious amounts of money for expansion and
entrance into the South American market, and so Eurohard arose a huge deficit.
President Eduardo Merigo resigned, with Eurohard owing money to Soviex, Planeta
and TV3 - the TV company of Catalonia which broadcast the program on learning
Basic on the Dragon computer. During October 85 to March 87, all the distributers
sold their stocks of Dragons at ridicuously low prices, and at the end,the last
Barcelona dealer was giving away his stock to Dragon users. The letter then
went on to mention that Eurohard closed their Madrid base in November 1985,
followed by the Barcelona facility in March 1986, and finally the Caceres factory
in May 1987.
1988 was probavly the worst year in the Dragon's chequered history since the
disaster times of 1984. Microdeal; the software house who released about 200
Dragon games among a few utilities and peripherals (Tandy Speech/Sound cart
and Electronic Book, plus their own Joysticks), and also a few products for
other popular 8-bits but wuth not much success; announced that from January
1st 1988 they would be pulling out of the Dragon market. Commenting on that
the lack of good new material was the reason for this, Microdeal owner John
Symes said, "This time in 1987 we had 50 reasonable tapes to look at. This
year we only had 10. There just isn't the material about any more."
Microdeal's stock of Dragon products were taken by mail order Dragon dealer
Computape, and contained such titles as Telewriter, Rainbow Writer, Composer,
ShockTrooper, Speed Racer, Tanglewood and Airball (both of which were later
converted to the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga), among many more of both UK Dragon
and American Tandy origin. John thanked all Dragon owners for their support
and hoped that when they retired their beasts that they moved to the two machines
they now supported - the ST and Amiga. Note that Microdeal were taken over by
HiSoft in 1993, who are a UK company specialising in programming tools and utilities
for the ST and Amiga. Their range includes assemblers, C, Pascal and Basic compilers
together with video digitisers and sound samplers (provided by Microdeal).
May saw Sunshine Publications give up on producing Dragon User - it not being
economically viable for a magazine producer to produce anymore. Fortunately
for users around the world, Bob Harris of Harris Micro Software (a Dragon software
house offering business programs for the previous three years), took over control.
This was entirely off his own back, and he was offered no cash to take it off
Sunshine's hands - though editor Helen Armstrong decided to stay and edit the
magazine, which had always been on a part-time basis anyway.
Just 7 issues later, Dragon User died a quick death with the January 1989 issue
being the last one to make it off the press. At the time of the take over in
May, there were 2400 subscribers but this had fallen to a paltry 1450 by November.
Take up rate of new subscriptions had also fallen from 65% to just 20%. Bob
Harris was rightfully angry at this situation, after having typed in the name
and addresses of the 2400 subscribers and paid for part of the final issue out
of his own pockets, so that no debt would be incurred with the printers by the
windup. Greater love had no Dragon User.
With this the only contact was with the user groups, and the National Dragon
User Group benefited most (Bob Harris urged all who hadn't to join them). Membership
skyed to a high of about 3000, though this has dropped at an alarming rate with
only 300 members now in 1994; though this has stabalised with as user drops
out, another re-discovers their machine (or buys one for £1 at a junk
sale) and joins the group.
Support wise there are still a few people selling software and hardware, though
no new items have appeared for a while. Except for the NDUG Up-2-Date disc magazine
(which alternates monthly with NDUGs Dragon Update newsletter) which costs £2
bi-monthly and is always full of interesting items. Having started in September
1991 its now in its fourth year and still going strong.
The last Dragon show has probably taken place now too - held at the end of
September 1994 in Liverpool, it was expected that if there wasn't enough support
then it would be the last. This is even with it being at a cheap venue - held
at a school on the same day as their autumn fayre. Previous shows were held
in Ossett-Yorkshire (April 1993 was the last), London (last December 1987),
and a few at other locations such as Cardiff Airport.