Emulate the Oric home computer with Linux

Last Updated on April 22, 2022

Emulation is the practice of using a program (called an emulator) on a PC to mimic the behaviour of a home computer or a video game console, in order to play (usually retro) games on a computer.

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single non-technical user.

Back in the 1980s, home computers came to the forefront of teenagers’ minds. Specifically, the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST were extremely popular. They were hugely popular home computers targeted heavily towards games, but they also ran other types of software.

The Oric-1 is a home computer that appeared in 1983 and was sold mainly in the UK and France. It was made by the British computer manufacturer Tangerine Computer Systems. The Oric-1 was the successor to the Microtan 65 and the predecessor of the Oric Atmos.

The Oric-1 is based on the 8-bit processor 6502A with 1 MHz clock frequency and was offered in two versions with 16 KB and 48 KB RAM. The graphics resolution is 38 × 27 characters in text mode and 240 × 200 pixels in graphics mode, with eight colors being displayed. Sound was fairly impressive with the computer using the AY-3-8912, a 3-voice programmable sound generator offering a range of 7 octaves and a noise generator. The Oric includes four predefined sound effects (ZAP, PING, SHOOT, EXPLODE). A loudspeaker is built in.

Oric ROM

The operating system with the basic interpreter Oric Extended Basic, a Microsoft BASIC V1.0, is housed in a 16 KB ROM chip.

Recommended Open Source Emulators

Clock Signal is a high quality open source emulator. It supports a wide number of home computers including the Oric-1, Oric Atmos and Pravetz 8D. Through static and runtime analysis CLK seeks automatically to select and configure the appropriate machine to run any provided disk, tape or ROM; to issue any commands necessary to run the software contained on the disk, tape or ROM; and to provide accelerated loading where feasible.

Clock Signal requires the user to provide images of the system ROMs. Unlike other emulators, you need an Oric colour ROM (a tiny palette file), in addition to the ROM providing the operating system (with Basic). You’ll also need other ROMs depending on what you want to emulator such as the Oric Microdisc ROM.

Clock Signal is available in 2 versions: a graphical Qt version and a Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) version. It’s by far the best emulator for the Oric home computers under Linux.

Another emulator to try is Oricutron. Unlike Clock Signal, the developer has decided to include all the ROMs, although it doesn’t provide the colour ROM currently required (but not used) by Clock Signal.

Oric games

Compared to the hugely successful ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, the Oric-1 had a brief commercial life with only a small range of games published. This was not surprising considering less than 100,000 units were sold.

While the Oric range was not a commercial success, there were some real gems developed. Notable titles include Xenon 1, Zorgan’s Revenge, and Don’t Press the Letter Q. The ubiquitous Manic Miner was also ported to the machine.

Home Computers
AmigaFamily of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985
Amstrad CPCCombined the computer, keyboard and data storage in a single unit
Atari STA popular line of personal computers from Atari Corporation
BBC MicroSeries of computers designed and built by Acorn
Commodore 64Hugely popular home computer
DragonBuilt around the Motorola MC6809E processor running at 0.89 MHz
ElectronA microcomputer sported a Synterek SY6502A CPU clocked at 2MHz
MSXA popular range particularly in Japan
OricThe underrated Oric-1 and Oric Atmos
QLBased on a Motorola 68008 CPU clocked at 7.5 MHz with 128KB of RAM
TRS-80Very early mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers
VIC-208-bit home computer that was released in 1980/1
ZX80Predecessor to the ZX81; ignited the UK's home computer market
ZX81Low-cost introduction to home computing notorious for its RAM pack wobble
ZX SpectrumOne of the biggest selling home computers
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