For people of a certain age who read this site, the above image will be pretty evocative. The early ’80s were an exciting time for those into new technology – and video games and computing were right at the forefront of this revolution. First we had the Atari VCS 2600, which became incredibly popular in the UK in 1980/81. It offered cartridge based gaming and choice previously undreamed of from those used to the Grandstand-style bat ‘n’ ball Pong clones. By 1982/’83, this machine (and its rival Intellivision and Colecovision) was being rapidly overhauled by the emergent home computers, spearheaded by the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.
This was a market that the UK went to-to-toe with the USA, and what companies like Sinclair Research and Acorn did should make us fans of British industry very proud indeed. However, like all kids of that era, buying the computer was really just the beginning. You also needed a TV (and additional colour TVs were a bit of a luxury in the UK at the time) and a cassette deck (if you wanted to load games). And that all cost money…
So when Alan Sugar’s Amstrad company came up with the CPC464, it was little short of a revolution. Technically, it wasn’t a tour de force, equalling, but never bettering any of the established machines. Its Locomotive BASIC was about as good as Acorn’s BBC Basic, and its graphics were about as good as the Commodore 64’s. But where it scored so heavily was that it came pre-packaged with a monitor (green screen or full colour) and a built-in tape deck. So, no additional purchases, no stealing mum’s portable telly, and no trailing cables. And all for less than a 32K BBC Micro. Genius.
Needless to say, Alan Sugar cleaned up, and in the process bought out an ailing Sinclair Research, which has been floundering on the back of the C5 electric trike and the QL computer.
And I reckon we need the same in the car industry right now. A bold new product that takes elements of what we already have, and combines them into an unbeatable package – all for the same price as a standard product. Maybe it’s a Nissan Leaf with a free charging station and car pool, or perhaps a Porsche 911 with unlimited free access to a racing track of your choice. Maybe Aston Martin’s already there with its Cygnet – but instead of charging a ridiculous £30K for it, they should throw one in free with every DB9 sold. And for good measure, make it battery powered with a free charging point.
But either way, with the world going through tough times, and with little sign of things improving any time soon, something needs to be done to make the whole car ownership and buying experience far more enticing than it already is… Ideas always appreciated, and with the car manufacturers reading this site, who knows… they might become reality.
As for the CPC464 in the image above, it was photographed at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, and I’d heartily recommend it as a day out for anyone even vaguely interested in our electronic heritage. Visit www.tnmoc.org for more information.