In the early 1980s, the British home computer market was booming. New machines were released almost monthly. In August 1982, Dragon Data joined the fray with the Dragon 32; the Dragon 64 followed a year later. The computers sold quite well initially and attracted the interest of several independent software developers, most notably Microdeal. A magazine, Dragon User also began publication shortly after the machine's launch.
In the private home computer market, where games were a significant driver, the Dragon suffered due to its graphical capabilities, which are inferior to other machines such as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.
The Dragon is also unable to display lower-case letters easily. Some more sophisticated applications would synthesise them using high-resolution graphics modes (in the same way that user-defined characters would be designed for purely graphical applications such as games). Simpler programs just managed without lower case. This effectively locked it out of the then-blooming educational market.
As a result of these limitations, the Dragon was not a commercial success, and Dragon Data collapsed in June 1984.
Despite the demise of the parent company, Dragons still proved quite popular. They have a robust motherboard in a spacious case, and are much more tolerant of home-modification than many of their contemporaries, which often have their components crammed into the smallest possible space.
Differences from the CoCo
Both the Dragon and the TRS-80 Color Computer (CoCo) are based on a Motorola data sheet design for the MC6883 SAM chip for memory management and peripheral control.
The systems are sufficiently similar that a significant fraction of the compiled software produced for one machine will happily run on the other. Software running via the built-in Basic interpreters also has a high level of compatibility, but only after they are re-tokenized (which can be achieved fairly easily by transferring via cassette tape with appropriate options).
It was possible to permanently convert a CoCo 1/2 into a dragon. It required swapping the original CoCo ROM with and rewiring the keyboard cable.
The Dragon has additional circuitry to make the MC6847 VDG compatible with European 625-line television standards, rather than the US 525-line NTSC standard, and a Centronics parallel printer port not present on the CoCo. Some models were manufactured with NTSC video for the US market.