Another vintage computer anniversary, the Dragon 32 turns 30


1982 was a busy year for the computer industry seeing the launch of the BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and maybe less well know the Dragon 32. The Dragon 32 was launched August 1982 and was initially a success but failed to make an impression with the games market like the Spectrum or the education market like the BBC Micro and Dragon  collapsed in 1984.

I can’t remember any of my friends having one which is probably a good indication of it’s popularity.


The Dragon 32 were home computers built in the 1980s. The Dragons were very similar to the TRS-80 Color Computer (CoCo), and were produced for the European market by Dragon Data, Ltd., in Port Talbot, Wales. The model numbers reflect the primary difference between the two machines, which had 32 and 64 kilobytes of RAM, respectively.

The Dragon was built around the Motorola MC6809E processor running at 0.89 MHz. This was the most advanced 8-bit CPU design of the time, having, among other things limited 16-bit capabilities. In terms of raw computational power, the Dragon beat most of its contemporary rivals (which were based on the older MOS Technology 6502 or Zilog Z80), but this made little difference in a market where graphical capabilities and software library were much more important to consumers.

Many Dragon 32s were upgraded by their owners to 64K. A few were further expanded to 128K, 256K, or 512K, with home-built memory controllers/memory management units (MMUs).

A broad range of peripherals existed for the Dragon 32/64, and on top of this there were add-ons such as the Dragon’s Claw which gave the Dragons access to the BBC Micro‘s large range of accessories (a particularly important factor in the UK home market). Although neither machine had a built-in disk operating system (cassette tapes being the default data-storage mechanism in the home computer market at the time), DragonDOS was supplied as part of the disk controller interface from Dragon Data Ltd. The numerous external ports (by the standards of the time), including the standard RS-232 on the 64, also allowed hobbyists to attach a diverse range of equipment.

An unusual feature was a monitor port for connection of a computer monitor, as an alternative to the TV output. This was rarely used due to the cost of dedicated monitors at that time. The port is actually a Composite Video port and can be used to connect the Dragon 32 to most modern TVs to deliver a much better picture.

The Dragon used analogue joysticks, unlike most systems of the time which used less versatile but cheaper digital systems. Other uses for the joystick ports included light pens.

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