UK Computers 1978 to 1989

Camputers Lynx

The Lynx is one of those machines I never owned at the time and had difficulty in locating an example since (since resolved). The reason for both of these is to do with cost. The Lynx was the first, and last, computer produced by Camputers Ltd. It was very well specified with 48K of memory (upgradeable internally to 192K according to Camputers though actually to 96K for the 48K model). Later models provided 96K as standard and, eventually, 128K. As far as I know, none of them were actually upgradeable to the promised 192K. That said, this might have been a disappointment to purchasers but was still quite impressive for its day. On top of that, it came in a very tidy case with a good quality keyboard and even had a separate graphics processor like many other dearer computers to keep the workload away from the main processor. The cost, though, was a killer. £225 for a Lynx was a lot compared with around £99 for a Spectrum (which had dropped in price itself by that time). It came with very few games (and the ones which were available were not that good) and almost no business software. Accordingly, it sold just 30,000 units across Europe and went under in 1984. It was resurrected by a new owner but that also failed and the system was lost in 1986. In many ways, this was a shame. It was a well built and quite powerful system. Had it been priced a bit cheaper (or upgraded to compete with the BBC Model B or Commodore 64) then it might have been a success. It might also have done better if they had not continually been late with releases, missing key markets such as Christmas. They did, though, ship when promised.

One final novelty of the Lynx was that it only supported floating point numbers, to the point that even BASIC line numbers were held as floats. This meant that numbers need not be:

30 etc

But anything you liked:

3 etc

This, though, on probably the best version of BASIC available in 1982 other than the BBC B.

Mettoy Dragon 32

The Dragon 32 was the computer designed by the Dragon Data Ltd, a subsidiary of the Mettoy company, normally more associated with things like Corgi toy cars (which for those who remember them, were like Dinky cars though had things like opening doors, bonnet and boot which was all very exciting for a young child). So, in 1982, Mettoy branched out into modern toys and released the Dragon 32, 32 representing the amount of memory, 32K. The Dragon was, technically, almost identical to the Tandy Colour Computer and could run programs for it. This meant, though, that it had many limitations. It came with Microsoft Extended BASIC (which was not a patch on many UK-sourced BASICs) and a 6809 processor, similar but more powerful than the 6502 in the BBC Micro. It also had a good quality (though a bit "clattery") keyboard in an enormous, strong case. Downsides were no lower case letters and no graphics capability other than teletext style characters. With more effort, the Dragon could have been a British Apple 2. The case had plenty of room for expansion and the overall build quality was excellent. Sadly, the computer went no further than a Dragon 64 (offering 64K of memory) and Dragon went under in 1984, sadly, a year later, Mettoy itself suffered the same fate.