Dragon 32 Project Leader

A place to discuss everything Dragon related that doesn't fall into the other categories.
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IanBell
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Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2019 10:43 pm

Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by IanBell »

Hello. I just joined this group and I thought I should introduce myself. My name is Ian Thompson-Bell and I was the project leader for the design of the original Dragon 32 at PA Technology. It is good to see there is still so much interest in the Dragon so many years later. If you have any question about the development please feel free to ask.

Cheers

Ian
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robcfg
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Joined: Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:16 pm
Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by robcfg »

Hi Ian, welcome to the Dragon Archive!

I feel that the Dragon had a lot to offer but didn't have the chance back in the days.

For me it's a great machine for learning, as everything is easy to do and the 6809 is a great processor.

It would be nice if you remember some anecdotes of the development of the Dragon, and if you still have any documentation that is nowhere to be found, we can help you preserve it so the Dragon can claim its place in history.

Best regards,
Rob
linville
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Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:01 pm

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by linville »

Ian,

I'm one of the hosts of The CoCo Crew Podcast (http://cococrew.org/). While our name suggests a heavy slant toward Tandy and the Color Computer, we definitely count the Dragon as part of the family. We would be happy to have more Dragon-oriented content on the show!

I wonder if you would be interested in recording an audio interview with the CoCo Crew hosts?

John
admin
Site Admin
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Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by admin »

Ian,

Nice to hear from you again - we were in contact some years ago over email. You were going to see if you had any notebooks/notes in your archives from your time working on the various projects for Dragon Data.

Would love to hear anything at all that adds some detail to the history we already have.

Regards
Simon
Simon Hardy
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Bosco
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Location: Nottingham, UK

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by Bosco »

Hi Ian and welcome. :)

It would be cool to hear a first-hand account of how the Dragon came to fruition from the point where Mettoy approached PA Technology.

The Dragon is a great computer (IMO) but was largely overlooked by the burgeoning but also dominant games development industry of its day.

With the enviable 6809 processor the Dragon could have been a market leader but it's limited graphics capabilities and lack of a simple sound chip makes me feel the `ship was spoiled for a hap'orth of tar'.

So I'm curious to know what drove the Dragon's design amidst stiff competition from Sinclair, Commodore, Acorn etc.?

Thanks,
Steve.
bluearcus
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Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:45 pm

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by bluearcus »

Hello Ian and welcome!

If you are on Facebook, you may find some interesting bits and pieces in the Dragon 32/64 Owners/Users Facebook group. It has a fair amount of daily activity.

We now have an annual Dragon meetup too, which has been at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge in previous years and will be again this year. It's expected to be on the 4th and 5th July.

Kind regards,

Mike
tjewell
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Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:58 pm
Location: Cambridge, England

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by tjewell »

Hi Ian, just spotted your message.

We'd love to have you come to this year's Meetup - here's the details - http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/ ... -6th-2020/ - I think you'd be surprised at how active our little community is and what we're doing with this wonderful old machine.

Oh and take a look at this too - http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/ ... -6th-2019/ - just for the photos! We think we managed to get every type of Dragon together in one room for the first time, from the Pippin to the MSX.

Hope we'll see you in July,

Cheers,
Tony Jewell

Ps. I'm the organiser of the Meetup, so please feel free to drop me a line here, or at the email address in the pages above, if you have any questions about the event.
IanBell
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Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2019 10:43 pm

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by IanBell »

Hello everyone. Apologies for not posting at all since I introduced myself. I guess the pandemic didn't help either. Anyway, I rediscovered this site and thought I should get back in touch. Someone said they would like to hear any anecdotes I have about the development process. It was over forty years ago so the old memories are little vague but I am happy to give it a go. I do rememeber Tony Clarke was fond of 9am meetings which meant I left home near Cambridge at 5am and hammered down the M4. This was before the M25 was open and also before speed cameras on the M4. I drove an Austin Princess, a lovely wedge shaped car, that was capable of a ton. Meetings usually finished after lunch so I just drove home again.

Cheers

Ian
IanBell
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Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2019 10:43 pm

Re: Dragon 32 Project Leader

Post by IanBell »

admin wrote: Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:27 pm Ian,

Nice to hear from you again - we were in contact some years ago over email. You were going to see if you had any notebooks/notes in your archives from your time working on the various projects for Dragon Data.

Would love to hear anything at all that adds some detail to the history we already have.

Regards
Simon
HI Simon,

I do rememeber our conversation. I did not have any documentation of my own but I managed to track down Gary, the guy who did all the early PCB layouts for the Dragon. In those days, CAD was not common, and the original Dragon PCBs were laid out by hand, first as a 'blue and red', two sheets of film with the tracks drawn on in red and blue pencil at double actual size. That was then taped up manually using tape that I think was supplied by Letraset. The taped layout was then photographed and reduced to actual size. Anyway I asked Gary if he had any of the layouts from those days but unfortunately he did not.

Although this method of PCB layout seems primitive by today's standards, it did lend itself to quick modification. This became important when Clive SInclair announced the 16K ZX spectrum a couple of weeks before we had to commit the design for production. Tony decided the Dragon had to be 32K so in very short order we designed a daughter board to add another 16K of RAM and tweaked the main PCB to accommodate it. We later found some weird 32K RAM chips made by Siemens (I think) that consisted on a pair of special 16K chips welded one on top of the other for which we did yet another PXB revision .

Cheers

Ian
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