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Dragon Data History

Phillipp Ullmann, a toy maker from Nuremburg, came to Britain as a refugee from Nazi Germany, and in 1933 set up a business in Northampton making models. He called his company Mettoy (Metal Toy), since it specialised in tin plate toys, and he made toys under contract for Marks and Spencer. The profits allowed the business to expand and in 1949 it moved to new premises in Swansea, South Wales, which had previously been used to make war munitions.

Mettoy bought Playcraft in 1954 and in 1955 began selling diecast metal toys under the highly successful Corgi brand name. As Mettoy grew it set up its own computer bureau to act as a data processor for smaller companies. Being based in Wales it was named after that country's emblem, the dragon, and so became Dragon Data.

In the early 1980s demand for traditional toys was falling as children became more interested in electronic games and computers, thus Mettoy decided to introduce a home computer under the Dragon Data brand name. Outside designers were used for the project as Mettoy had no experience of electronics, and the designers had considerable help from Motorola, since the computer used a Motorola microprocessor.

The design of the Mettoy computer was based on one which Motorola had helped design for Tandy (the Tandy Color Computer) and in fact ended up as almost a clone of the Tandy machine. There was talk of Tandy suing Dragon Data but it turned out that Tandy had not patented their design in the UK, and it was not considered worth pursuing the case.

In August 1982 therefore the Dragon Data Dragon 32 was launched, to sufficient success that Dragon Data could not meet the demand. By late 1982 the business was already having financial problems and was partly sold off to the Welsh Development Agency and Prudential Insurance, with Mettoy keeping only a 16% stake in Dragon Data. With the extra influx of cash, production was moved to a new site early in 1983 and 5000 Dragon 32s were being made per week. Plans were also begun to manufacture and sell the machine in America.

The Dragon 32 was promoted as a 'family' computer and had sold well during the approach to Christmas 1982, but, with around 40,000 Dragons shipped, sales began to slow towards summer of 1983. Nonetheless an improved model, the Dragon 64 went on sale in September 1983, with production in the US beginning soon after.

Now with excess manufacturing capacity, financial woes continued for Dragon Data and an executive from General Electric Company took over management. There was a general slump in the home computer market after Christmas 1983 and despite announcements of a portable Dragon 64 and a disk drive based version, Dragon Data went bankrupt in June 1984. It was bought by a Spanish company who supplied a number of Dragons to schools in Spain, but the business was never profitable.

In 1983 Mettoy had gone into receivership and the Corgi Toys division was sold to a management group. In 1989 Corgi was bought by Mattel, rebranded as Corgi Classics, and the following year production was transferred to China.

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