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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Dragon 32

Dragon 32


Dragon Data Ltd (UK)


Dragon 32

Date Launched

August 1982



Microprocessor type

Motorola 6809E @ 0.89 MHz
(The 6809 was an advanced microprocessor and despite the slow clock speed the Dragon actually ran faster than many of its competitors.)

ROM size

16 kilobytes

Standard RAM

32 kilobytes

Maximum RAM

32 kilobytes
(64 KB in later Dragon 64)

Keyboard type

Good quality typewriter style, though somewhat firmer than modern keyboards

Supplied language

Microsoft Extended BASIC

Text resolution

32 x 16 characters

Graphics resolution

Seven modes were possible:
16 x 32 in 9 colours
32 x 64 in 9 colours
128 x 96 in 2 colours
128 x 96 in 4 colours
192 x 96 in 2 colours
192 x 128 in 4 colours
256 x 192 in 2 colours

Colours available

9 for text and low resolution graphics.
2 or 4 for medium resolution graphics.
2 at maximum resolution.
The 2 and 4 colour modes gave a choice of two sets of colours.

Example Screenshot

Dragon display
The kind of display which could be produced on the Dragon in its 128 x 192 pixel, 4 colour, graphics screen mode. Notice the uninspiring choice of colours and absence of text.


Monophonic, output through TV

Cassette load speed

1200 baud

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

380 x 325 x 97

Special features

Included ports for two analogue joysticks and a ROM cartridge.

Good points

High build quality.
Several interfaces built-in, including a parallel printer port.
Extended BASIC gave easy use of joysticks, sound and graphics, including paged graphics displays.

Bad points

Text display was monochrome (black on green) and uppercase only so difficult to use for word processing.
Only two colours were allowed on screen at once in high resolution (black and green or black and buff). To use more colours meant going to a lower resolution so games tended to look 'blocky'.
Text could not be printed on the graphics screens except by 'plotting' it dot by dot.

How successful?

Quite successful until 1984 but was soon looking old fashioned.
Probably around 100,000 made in total.


The Dragon 32 was surprisingly similar to the Tandy Colour Computer (both were based on the same Motorola reference design), using the same (uncommon) microprocessor and the same video chips. The Dragon however came with more RAM and was cheaper.
In fact the Dragon could run much of the existing Tandy software, which helped sales in the early days.
The Dragon 32 was good value for money but really it was let down by its limited display.
Review of the Dragon 32

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