Brian Moore – The Man in the
40 years on : The archive interviews Brian Moore
One day you’re
browsing through your emails and then there’s one from Brian Moore, this
can’t be the Brian Moore of managing director of Dragon Data (DD), it
couldn’t happen to me – but it did. A handful of emails and a couple of
weeks later and I’m on my way into the shires to meet him. Once DD was a
leader in the home computer market with strong aspirations in the business
market. But like other computer companies of the time it eventually didn’t
make it. With Dragon being one of the first UK major players to burn its
self out and now there’s the opportunity to discover from inside Dragon
how it all went down.
keen to point out that he “was a young man” on his arrival to DD and
thought “Yeah, let’s save it” but how did he get there? To explain this we
need to understand the companies and investors involved. Prudential set up
PruTech, a venture to invest in high-tech companies (“run by accountants”)
and as PruTech had the major investment in Dragon, Ron Artus (boss of
Prudential) asked Arnold Weinsock, who was the head of GEC and a top
industrialist of the time, who could help with “Dragon Data going awry”?
As Brian had just completed his management training at GEC he was next
in line for a management job and got a call one Friday to meet Ron on the
following Monday. Over the weekend Brian’s reading the Sunday Times, only
to see an article stating that Dragon had a new managing director and
thought “That must be me”. A quick meeting with Ron on the Monday and on
September 12th (1983) “I was in” and took over Dragon Data. Shortly after
this Brian stated that “The order book is full and we dispatch everything
we build” with Dragon selling all the 64’s it could produce for Christmas,
whilst this was true it didn’t fully reflect the situation.
Dragon were struggling to produce all the Dragons needed for Christmas,
with Brain stating there was “only so much silicon to go around” at the
time and Motorola** was advising Dragon of even more supply issues to come
in the future (late 1984). If this wasn’t bad enough, the lack of chips
wasn’t the only issue facing Brian.
SAM Hurts Dragon
Despite Brian’s optimism to save the company it was clear that Dragon was
up against the wall when he arrived, including “.. a drop in sales,
reliability issues and the lack of software”. “Although it didn’t really
go public, the Dragon wasn’t seen as reliable in the industry” and “was a
real problem for Dragon” (including returns).
The primary cause of
this issue was the SAM (6883) chip, resulting in the Dragon freezing, not
a pleasant experience having waited minutes for your game to load. As a
cover story, Dragon said “it was mains spikes” causing the issue, although
one person put anti spike items all over their house and “of course” the
problem with their Dragon continued. Brian recognised that DD production
“was not high tech” (in comparison to Silicon Valley) and it had been born
from a toy manufacture with “toy standards”.
It became apparent to Brian the financial problem was
far worse than it first appeared. In addition to the known financial
issues, there was also significant “off balance sheet liability for chip
purchases”. This was due to Dragon's commitments to purchase silicon from
the chip manufacturers, as purchasers have to order months in advance from
the chip suppliers, to get into the production queue. These chip orders
hadn’t appeared in the finances (yet) as the actual purchases hadn’t
occurred but they were still major commitments in Dragon’s financials.
“Chip manufacturers and sales (retailers) had the power”, the chip
manufacturers had the luxury of being able to pick their customers and
their chip allocations, as they could easily sell all of their production
due to the high demand at the time. On the other side of the production
the retailers had power over Dragon too. “Around 80% of Dragon sales were
through Boots and (mostly) Dixons, all other sales were a row of beans”.
As Dragon wasn’t part of “the Sonys or Panasonics” of the world, the
large retailers took a different approach with DD, i.e. we are selling
your product for you and even recommended pricing to DD, based on their
weekly sales. With this relationship, came constant back and fore,
including “wanting to know what Dragon was doing, especially including
such things as advertising” (which might affect the sales).
in the favour of Dragon with Boots, was that they were a major investor in
PruTech and obviously wanted DD to do well. An additional financial
expenditure also included “£100K’s spent with top advertising agencies,
with Richard Wadman in London all the time (meeting them)”.
The New Orleans Connection
The Tano Corp contract was
negotiated before Brian's time, so couldn’t remember the financial deal or
any manufacturing agreements made with Tano but there were “no
repercussions (financially) to DD”. Tano “were disappointed with build
quality, reliability and support from the UK (DD)” and “I remember, every
two weeks ‘a man’ would phone and complain about everything” i.e. all of
Prototypes to the Rescue?
Probably not but they were still important to Dragon, as they were not in
a position to go into production (before Dragon failed) but they were
“hyped up, to show that Dragon still had a future”. The Alpha (aka.
Professional) was probably “around 6 months away from release” due it’s
on-going “ heat/power dissipation issues” but “the castings and case work
had all been done”. The heat issues were due to large amount of
electronics inside the case, especially the dual floppy drives but Brian
thought it essential that they be brought inside the machine rather than
The Beta (aka Dragon 128), started out as a home
machine but evolved into a business machine over time and was really the
“baby” of the technical team, this was also some time off from production,
maybe up to 12 months.
“It was difficult to invest in these projects”
because of the ongoing costs of “keeping the D32/64 production running”
for the money to keep flowing and so everyone was just busy trying to keep
Dragon going, by ensuring the 32/64 production carried on. Brian, felt it
“might have been easier, (starting over) with the money (being spent on
Dragon) and an empty site”, along with the concern that “Dragon didn’t
have enough technical resources for it (the prototypes) to succeed”.
Alongside the two prototype computers a touch tablet was also in
development, which became the TouchMaster. “Every few weeks new technology
was breaking” and Dragon saw touch technology as “potentially the next big
thing”, the TouchMaster product was “spun off” to a separate company to
protect it from Dragon’s failure.
So what happened to the much press
talked about MSX machine? “Competition was encroaching from Amstrad and
C64” (in later days), so we were “looking at other options”. There was “no
real move into the MSX”, “I think they (Dragon) had a couple of internal
meetings but it never went anywhere”. “We did meet some Japanese (MSX
people) and whilst they had (good) hardware, they were naive about the
software needed (to make MSX a real success)”.
Who had the
“Prutech/Prudential were the movers in Dragon Data”,
with such a huge investment (in Dragon) and basically “Pru’ was running
the show and GEC supported”, the GEC support was “to show the press that
(Dragon) was doing something” (to save Dragon). “GEC McMichael was the
holding company for Dragon but there was no active involvement in the
daily running” (of Dragon from McMichael). Brian reported to Derek Allum,
he was “the man”, Derek was a Prudential employee running the PruTech
fund. The Welsh Development Agency (the other major DD investors) “had no
major manipulation that I (Brian) saw”.
drama and failure”
It was a shock “finding out I was the
Managing Director of Dragon Data in the Sunday Times” and then “my pay was
doubled (from GEC) to meet the pay at Dragon, GEC were well known for it
(not paying well).” It was also “great to turn up at DD as the MD (from
GEC slough) and then being at trade shows (USA & UK), meeting famous
people (Bill Gates, Jack Tramiel), even featuring in the New York Times
On the other side of this “I (Brian) was working 24/7, with 10
issues (to deal with) a day and no sleep. I would put my work away in the
drawer at Dragon everyday, (but) it was still there in the morning.”. DD
was a “drama moving fast everyday” and “having to lay off 100 (plus) staff
within days of starting, was difficult, after this I couldn’t walk the
streets of Swansea.”. In the end “it was dramatic for PruTech to put a
company (Dragon) into receivership.” and there were “lots of dreams lost”.
In the last days of Dragon the receivers
were called in and everything was “all a matter of fact” to “behave in a
correct manner”, in order to meet the legal obligations (of DD and the
receivership process). Brian did work with the receivers for a short
period but they obviously only keep you on “if you are of value to them”.
Retrospectively looking at his time at Dragon, Brian saw that Dragon
wasn’t going to make it, “so would have (quickly) suggested to Prudential
that Dragon would need a major investment in technology and people, maybe
£30M? (to make a real go of the company) or just call in the receivers
there and then”.
In the early days of Dragon (before Brian’s time),
”Dragon Data should have saturated the market with lower prices, bringing
out new products every 6 months and have invested (more) in software for
the machines. This is how Sinclair got the head start (i.e. ZX80 → 81 →
“It’s all luck, who you know and being in the
Once sorted with DD and their receivers, Brian
was moved by Prudential to Panorama Offices Systems in Milton Keynes as
managing director. Panorama was another tech company in difficulty,
producing an all in one word processing system. Brian was there for 2
years and then went his own way for another 2 years, being “a company
Doctor” as he’d “learnt a lot (from DD and Panorama)”.
When going for
a job interview years later, the interviewer (a city investor) said “Not
even Jesus could have saved that (DD)”. Brian stayed in business
management, with a successful career and is now (2023) working with
Panasonic Batteries (USA, for Tesla) but is moving back from this role
Myths and Info Bites
Can you remember the Building layout? Dragon assembly area? etc.
“No but the director staff (Brian, Richard Wadman etc.) were on the top
floor at the front, above the Dragon (Data Ltd) sign.”
Q : You
mentioned Dragons being bought up and being used a dev tool, who was doing
A : “Mostly universities (education), using it for the 6809”
(saving on buying development machines).
Q : Someone who went for a
job interview at Dragon, told me that the board room carpet was so deep
you get lost in it. Any truth to this?
A : “No idea” …. “Dragon was a
lean and mean company”
Q : There were mentions in the press of
China sales, including an ambassador visit, did anything come of this?
A : There was “no commercial activity with China but there was always
people (visiting) the whole time, including an Apple representative, who
came over to offer for Dragon to do UK sales.”
Q : Why were the
curtains always drawn on the offices in all the photos and videos?
“Nothing mysterious or nefarious, probably just keeping the sun out.”
Q : Were you involved in the Eurohard deal negotiations?
A : “A
little at the beginning …. the receiver did most of the work (with
Q : Do you know what the deal with Eurhoard was? What
was it worth?
A : “(They) Didn’t pay much, but it was in the papers
(checks new clippings), Financial Times reported £1M”
Q : Is it
true Radio Shack / Tandy showed interest in DD?
A : “No direct serious
discussions with Tandy but something may have happened with the
Q : There was a rumour that Dragon didn’t pay the
agency(s) for the software artwork, any truth in this?
A : “I Can’t say
for sure for the art agency but Amplesoft probably didn’t get paid and
suffered, lot’s of companies didn’t get paid (and suffered)”
Was there a company Range Rover? As Eurohard claim they took one to Spain
with no documents.
A : “Yes, mine (a brown one). Don’t remember what
happened to it but unlikely that Eurohard took it, as it was probably on a
separate contract to DD (i.e. with Pru)”
** There was a little doubt if it
was actually Motorola or another chip supplier warning of supply issues,
either way it would have seriously affected DD's ability to make Dragons.
The Authors Perspective
Intro : A big thanks to Brian for reaching out to me and taking the time
out to go over all this, especially answering hours of questions (even the
Optimistic View : At this time I was hoping to get
a 64 for Christmas but there were none in any of the shops, large or small
and it required a phone call to Dragon Data to see who had just taken
stock to find one. So after the tip off from Dragon I headed off to
Cardiff to put my name on 1 of the 2, I could find.
Dragon : Whilst I know some Dragons had freezing issues, I thought this
was mostly limited to early ones and that they did get more reliable as
the machine warmed up. Also, whilst the manufacturing standards may not
have been class leading, it was probably in line with most of the UK home
computer manufacturers at the time.
Last Days : I understand that
in the beginning Dragon Data/Mettoy were dabbling in the home computing
market and making production/purchasing decisions based on making 1000
units at a time, which didn’t allow the scales of economy to kick in, this
coincides with Brian thoughts. Brian’s comment also show that by the time
he got there it was pretty much doomed and practically impossible to save,
no matter what anyone did.
“It’s All Luck… “ : Being at the helm of
one of the biggest companies in Wales when it goes down could have ruined
a career but Pru’ had faith in Brian and this was borne out by Brian being
able to move forward with a successful career.
references : Dragon User December 1983 : New man in the driver’s seat
Dragon User Cover December 1983.jpg
Dragon World December 1983
Brian Moore (2023) with
Dragon Plus Electronics replica Beta board