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The Latin American Remixes: The Sigma 16 and Drean 16, 64, 64C, 128, DC-320, DC-1530/1531

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Intending to use pictures or text from this page? Please read this notice. Last modify 11 August 2020.

During the 1980s, import-export laws in many countries in South America were such that it was unbelievably costly and difficult to import foreign-manufactured computers. It was this environment that led Brazilian company Unitron, for example, to develop their own line of Apple II and Macintosh clones, which were domestically manufactured and therefore not subject to import laws. Many companies similarly developed their own local versions of popular foreign computers, from completely reverse-engineered designs all the way down to blatant ripoffs and copies, and Commodore computers were not immune.

The Sigma Commodore 16

Views of the Sigma Commodore 16 (.jpg, my unit)
Portrait (54K) | Case Badge (20K) | Backplate (98K)

Introduced 1985
Hardware, Graphics and Sound Identical to original model with standard USA NTSC Commodore 16 motherboard and power supply.
Eventual Fate Released in Mexico.

Continuing on from above, however, Mexico was not generally one of those countries. Although other Commodore computers released in Mexico were simply imported American machines under the same name (since the same PSU and NTSC television standard would suffice), local distributor Grupo Sigma SA took advantage of the sales failure of the Commodore 16 in the United States, purchased unsold inventory at fire-sale rates from Commodore USA and labeled them with their own brand, selling it in Aurrerá supermarkets with localized software, books and peripherals. Even though the machine itself was never localized and is literally just an imported C16 with a label swap (see backplate), thanks to unique advertising, sponsored programming contests and a bespoke section in the electronics department entitled "El Universo de la Computación" (The Universe of Computing) the C16 apparently did rather better in Mexico than it ever did in the United States. Sigma 16s were reportedly sold as late as 1992.

The Drean 16, 64, 64C, 128 and DC-1530/1531 Datasettes

Views of the Drean 64 (.jpg, my unit)
Box (118K) | Rear of Box (121K) | Unit in Package (55K) | Portrait (58K) | Case Badge (36K) | Localized Power Light (62K) | Localized Power Supply: Portrait (49K), Transformer and Board (49K), Backplate (86K)

Views of the Drean 64C (.jpg except where noted, my unit)
Box (71K) | Rear of Box (84K) | Unit in Package (59K) | Portrait (55K) | Case Badge (35K) | Power Light (63K) | Case Ribbon Sticker (86K) | Localized Power Supply: Portrait (33K), Backplate (60K)

Manual Scans: Manual Cover (101K), 64C "Family Portrait" (116K), Ready Page (65K)
GEOS Manual: Cover (76K), Haga disco de trabajo (103K, .gif)

Views of the Drean DC-1530 Datasettes ("Unidades de Cinta") (.jpg, my units)
Boxes (50K) | Box Rears (53K) | Units in Package (57K) | Backplates (30K) | Manual Cover (96K)

Additional Views of the Drean 64 and 64C (.jpg, courtesy Pablo Trincavelli)
64 and 64C Portrait (51K) | 64: Portrait (29K, this computer is actually standard beige but the colours are not quite correct), Case Badge (10K) Mainboard (61K), VIC-II 6572 (24K), PAL Jumper (29K) | 64C: Portrait (36K), Case Badge (6K), Mainboard (83K)

Drean 16 (from an unknown eBay auction): Portrait (55K) | Box (55K) | Complete Set (72K) (showing a more conventional "Drean Commodore" 16 box)

Introduced 1984? (possibly 1986 for 128 and 64C)
Hardware, Graphics and Sound Identical to original model(s) with PAL-N video. The Drean 64 uses the VIC-II PAL-N 6572; the 6573 is PAL-M and the 6569 is PAL-B. On the other hand, the 128 is actually an otherwise unmodified NTSC unit per Jorge Pedreira, allegedly to avoid potential system incompatibilities since it was targetted at business users. Presumably the 16 used a standard 7360/8360 TED with board modifications.
Eventual Fate Released in Argentina.

Thanks to Pablo Trincavelli for much of this entry.

Drean, according to Pablo, is an Argentinian company (still in business today, visit their Spanish-language website) that then, as now, made the majority of its revenue on production of home appliances and electronics. Unlike many of the South American clone computers, Drean's line of Commodores was created with the full approval and support of Commodore itself. During the 1980s, Drean and Commodore entered an arrangement to make Commodore computers, and these were produced at Drean's factory in San Luis to obtain the tax bonuses offered by the Argentinian government for manufacturing there. In reality, they were actually only assembled in San Luis, not manufactured, as Drean simply imported parts and boards from Commodore and then created their own localized cases, shielding and packaging. The case of my 64C has design differences from the American 64C like the non-recessed power LED, and the material has an almost milled feel instead of the standard injection moulding even though the breadbox 64 seems nearly the same. Manuals, documentation and packaging were mostly direct translations of the American packages and manuals, though the power supplies were locally designed and produced, and Drean also reportedly purchased rejected motherboards at low rates from Commodore and repaired and converted them locally. No further localization occurred except for "ENC." (short for encendido, or "on/ignition" in Spanish) labels for the power LEDs, and even this did not occur with the 64C. The reason for Commodore's partnership with Drean seems unclear, but given the unfavourable import climate in other nearby countries, Commodore may have had a similar impetus.

My 64C comes with a localized GEOS manual which is a direct translation of the American GEOS manual, but sadly did not come with the floppy disk itself. This would have been interesting to look at because the manual, possibly as an artifact of translation, claims GEOS itself was localized for this market (in the manual scan it even alleges it boots with LOAD"GEOS DREAN",8,1 rather than LOAD"GEOS",8,1; instead of BOOTING GEOS ... it supposedly says CARGANDO ...). The computer's on-screen prompts in the text for making a GEOS work disk, for example, are given in Spanish instead of English. However, the expense of translating the software would have seemed cost prohibitive for the time, and the actual screenshots in the manual themselves still show English text and menus (again as depicted in our scan here).

A certain amount of part recycling or interchange must have occurred, as there are Drean 64Cs with the original brown breadbox keyboard, and breadbox 64s (the picture colour of the brown breadbox is a little overexposed) with the grey 64C keyboard, both depicted in Pablo's picture. In a like fashion my pair of Drean Datasettes simply seem to have been crammed into whatever box was available. Note that both units use a box with a picture of the charcoal-grey Commodore 1531, but the one that actually has a 1531-styled device is labeled DC-1530 (correct, because it has a standard C64 tape interface), and we know the boxes weren't switched because the other box's serial number matches that of the beige 1530-style unit. However, the manual cover makes reference to both model numbers, and Drean did sell a DC-1531 for their rebadged 16.

The 64C "family" picture shows a more typical American case for the 64C, which is not the case for either Pablo's or my unit, and a slightly different case badge. The printer was Drean-badged, though no one knows of a Drean printer that I've talked to, and the 1541 was not badged (but it was only ever imported directly, though see the DC-320 entry below). Although the Datasette depicted in the "family" picture does have Drean badging, neither of my Drean Datasettes have local badging other than their backplates, though Drean did translate the manual and design local packaging for them as well.

Drean 64s and 64Cs are by far the most common now. The 16 was produced in very limited numbers, the 128s have all but vanished, and there never was a Drean Amiga. Although Drean still manufactures home appliances, the Commodore experiment in Argentina died as the 64 itself faded, and Drean is not known to have manufactured home computers past 1990.

Drean DC-320

Museo Tecnológico y de las Técnicas (Latin American systems, via Wayback Machine)

1541 clone drive, probably based on the Oceanic OC-118 and allies (Excelerator+ and so on). It is unknown how many were sold. On the thumbnail page linked immediately above, the DC-320 can be seen on the second image.