Why the Dragon?
I’ve been an owner of a Dragon 32 since December 1983 at the tender age of ten. Well, I think the machine actually took up residence at our house in October or November of that year – and I was allowed to look at it just the once before Christmas, but not use it until the big day – when it was probably the best present ever from my mum & dad. Below is a picture from soon after that event – with me taking up residence in front of the family colour TV.
The Dragon was chosen for two main reasons…
- My parents would not have stretched to getting me a BBC Micro Model B.
- It looked like a proper computer did at that time – i.e. like a BBC or an Apple II.
Sadly Dragon Data went bust just six months or so later – and I remember my parents being very sympathetic about this. Perhaps they thought that the computer would now be of no use without support from a manufacturer. Little did any of us know back then, that nearly 36 years later, the retro-computing world would be so vibrant.
I think I amassed about 15-20 games for my Dragon. I didn’t have a joystick…or a disk drive. In fact, it was literally the computer, cassette recorder and a black & white Ferguson 12″ TV for day-to-day use. I used it lot though. Frogger, Chuckie Egg, Quest, The Ring of Darkness, Mined Out – and later, Back Track and Manic Miner. All games that could be played with the keyboard. I did a lot of coding though. Much of it from magazines and books – but a fair bit of my own stuff too. I used to write little BASIC programs where I could pretend I was hacking into a supercomputer somewhere. Clearly the film Wargames had an effect on me.
During senior school I think I knew just one other person who had a Dragon computer. But he had a Dragon 64, and had an air of superiority about him as a result. It was probably also that guy that fed me one of my biggest misunderstandings about the Dragon – one which was to remain with me for around 30 years. I actually believed that there was no point in having a disk drive with a Dragon 32. That turned out to be almost complete nonsense.
I somehow managed to re-discover the Dragon, and re-kindle that flame around about 1999, when I stumbled across some fellow users, and a new Yahoo group was being set up. The group pretty much reflected what I would call the golden age of the Internet – that period when everything seemed excellent online. You’d found people with what would previously been minority interests – and in the instance of the Dragon, if you were not already a member of the National Dragon Users Group (or NDUG), then you’d previously had little chance of finding like-minded individuals.
That Yahoo group continued to be the main communication medium for all things Dragon to me. Until early 2017, when the group seemed to be getting quieter – almost lifeless, but someone posted about another group on Facebook.
As of November 2019, the Yahoo! Groups are due to be reduced in functionality somewhat next month. So that medium has almost come full circle as well.
The Facebook Group
For all of Facebook’s faults, it’s group function is pretty damned good. Having now found this new group – with many people from the original Yahoo group already present, the amount of Dragon-related conversation going on must have increased 10- or 20-fold. Being much more pictorial, and with the enhanced message threads, discussions went far deeper than they had tended to on Yahoo.
It was whilst participating in that group, that I suddenly felt a resurgence in my old interest in electronics. Initially I wanted to recreate a DragonDOS cartridge. I played around in Eagle, but didn’t quite get to the point where I felt I was ready to produce any boards. I then became just a teensy bit obsessed with a rather legendary board called the DragonPlus.