Blog : we need a motorised CPC464

Keith Adams

Amstrad CPC464 was revolutionary, but in a marketing sense.
Amstrad CPC464 was revolutionary, but in a marketing sense.

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 for more information.

The National Museum of Computing
The National Museum of Computing
Keith Adams


  1. Oh noooo… hidous hidious thing.. I have 2 6128 machines.. awfull awfull things.. BBC far better and nicer to use and has the best version of Elite..

  2. As above, the BBC was much better built and worked better. Other than the Amstrad CPW range, their early machines were pretty horrible.

  3. I had the joys of a CPC6128 – 3 inch disks and pixels that were big enough to be countries in their own right. Sugar was and still is 2% talent 98% luck, I dont think the guy had an original thought his entire life.
    Ack, Nissan Leaf. Practically the only car that can beat the crap out of the environment and be darling of the armchair ecologists at the same time. Not to mention its crippled for anything other than certain modes of usage. Do the job I do? 300 miles a day average, no chance.
    Heres a thought, build quality and service access. That would be great. Need to replace a heater matrix? Dont want to have to take the entire dashboard apart? Me neither. Not to mention the state my hands were in after replacing a 306 brake switch, sharp pressed metal and flesh bad! So car designers, instead of jamming everything in like a 8 month old baby trying to use a shapes box, try designing it so it can be worked on by something resembling a normal human, not a futurama sewer mutunt. And grind out the razor sharp bits thanks.
    I dont really see much that can be done in the extras respect, the only company doing something sorta similar to the AmCrap ‘one box encloses all’ idea re cars, is peugeots ‘just add fuel’ thing, with the slight disadvantage you have to get a new peugeot, uuugly.
    I wonder if offering track days to the average DB owner is entirely the best idea either. I suspect brands hatch would end up looking something like the mechanical equivalent of the first day of the Somme. My forecast is that the nice sharp narrow 180 at the top of the hill should do for most of them by about lap 3. I think that’d be a better idea with Micras and Fiestas – on the basis that a: theyve not enough power to get out of shape and b: who on earth would care if they did, assuming no fleshies were harmed in the making of this film…

  4. Jemma, Xantia heater matrices seem to be the first thing on the production line, and the rest of the car is built around it.
    A puddle in the passenger footwell is usually £££ time. My heart sank but I later rejoiced when it turned out my passenger’s water bottle was leaking!
    I’ve changed a clutch switch on a 406, and you do need to be nimble, not easy for my big awkward hands!

    The problem I’ve found with big French cars is that the more complicated they’ve been, the more issues there have been. The last of the XUDT era was their high point (Xantias and early 406s).

    Amstrad was a decent machine, a monitor was a good idea as I remember having to play Commodore 64 games on an old black and white portable. The better colour sprites of the C64 compared to the likes of the Spectrum were wasted.

    The real sad point was CP/M which was included on the Amstrad CPC (and at the time was a good business selling point).
    This could have been the OS of early IBM PCs, but talks faltered.
    Microsoft came along with DOS, a hack of an OS thrown together by, and bought and licenced from, Seattle Computer Products and with syntax based on CP/M.
    MS sold DOS to other manufacturers, who could buy IBM compatible off-the-shelf components, and reverse engineered the IBM BIOS and so could undercut and sell their own PCs.
    DOS led to Windows and the rest is history.

    CP/M led on to DR-DOS, which now has a niche as an embedded system OS. But for the wasted oppurtunity, they are the MG-Rover of the computing world!

  5. Great article! I always get delighted to see this kind of entries on the site. There`s always going to be grumblings
    like: “This has nothing to do with BL”,-No, but it has everything to do with British industry and industrial design.
    And also it seems to me (as a foreigner anyway)that the early
    80`s was a time when British industry (car manufacture computing etc) had a lot more optimism and confidence than in the present.I love nostalgia, being a kid of the 80`s,- But this also go straight to the heart of the matter IMHO.

  6. I know it’s off topic but Alan Sugar’s “genius” was not down to 98% luck, he took existing ideas/products and marketed them extremely well. Bill Gates is hardly a genius with his history of plagiarism and buying up of other peoples ideas.

    Most successful companies (especially Japanese ones) have a habit of scouring patents and securing the rights, look at how many patents originate in the UK and how many are taken up by “UK” companies – it’s frightening! If my memory is correct when Mitsubishi introduced balancer shafts to their engines they had taken a Lanchester patent that had lapsed, by rights that should have belonged to BL through Jaguar/Daimler but they where too busy re-inventing the wheel, wasting a lot of time, effort and money in the process.

  7. Did you ever have the joy of using CP/M? It was about as user friendly as putting your hand in a boxfull of hungry spectacled cobras. It made the horrors of DOS bearable.
    The CPC series were much of a muchness, they didnt really shine. The best that can be said was they were stable. Amazing when you think about it that theyve led to Ghz mobile phones – not to mention a cellphone you can plug a mouse, tv and hard disk into. They were still using BBC B machines at Chelmsford hospital in 2003. so they lasted too. I doubt the modern stuff will and they call that progress…
    re the heaters… if renault can get it right then anyone can, the heater on a 5 was a breeze to get at and work on. Shame they didnt manage to make it a tradition.
    I can live with nimble fingers, its the workmanship that annoys. work on a car from the 60s and you’ll not be sticking your fingers into what feels like tangled razor wire. Sure people do less tinkering than back then, but you could use the dash pressings on that 306 as an inpromptu guillotine. It took my hands a week to heal.

  8. keithb: look up blitzkreig and the bright sparks who came up with that. The British bright sparks, who got refused by the British army and sold it to the Germans. Not to mention good old frank writtle, or the part where we just gave stuff to the US for nothing and then whined when we got left behind.
    Bill Gates is a theiving little toerag and thats being kind to the guy. Sugars computers were as near as you could get to clones before the IBM XT era. They certainly werent new or creative. The idea of a one box wonder wasnt new either. Sugar is and was an oppotunist, right place, right time and watching him touted as uber businessman is galling. Sinclair was the visionary, along with the Acorn guys and gal, and look how they were treated…
    The history of this country is so littered with examples of commercial gormlessness its a wonder we can afford to run it… oh wait…

    • We bribed the USA by giving them our advanced technologies such as the Jet engine and others so they would join WW2 to defeat Hitler, The Tizard Mission of 1940 to entice USA to join the war.
      Amstrad IBM clones: the 1512 was a bullet proof machine, the later 286/386 clones were also bullet proof if you swapped out the supplied Western Digital or Seagate hard drives. The drives were faulty from the Seagate WD factory, the hard dri9veall along they were no good, Amstrad sued in the courts over the matter. The underhand action of WD / Seagate ruined the reputation of Amstrad PCs almost ending there presence in the market

      • While most of our aircraft industry was wound down after the war, the Americans kept up the pace of development, especially after capturing a lot of German research material & personnel which we mostly ignored. There was enough design British talent, but the top brass were a generation behind what they were ordering for years, if they weren’t cancelling projects outright.

        Sinclair suffered for being too much of a penny pincher in terms of quality of many of his products, or else misread the market demand for his pocket TVs & the C5. The early home computers were just right but the potentially gread QL was torpedoed by the microdrives being rushed into production while they were still on the test bench.

      • Never touch a Seagate hard drive – pile of rubbish. My first PC was a Tiny and that had one, as did my granddad with his ASUS laptop. Both went kaput.

        • I remember Tiny & Time had a reputation for using poor quality components in their computers, with one of them being featured on Watchdog.

  9. KeithB – Microsofts success was very much muscling in (with intel) for PC market dominance. Even today, it is difficult to find a machine with Linux pre-installed because of restrictive Microsoft OEM contracts.
    They may find difficult to hold on to their position, however, in a Post-PC cloud computing era, judging by the poor market penetration of Windows Mobile.

    Apple seem to be doing very well out of patents and marketing with a premium price tag, although some of their products are no better or worse than the competitors, the computing equivalent of Audi?

    Jemma – I used CP/M on a CPC464 emulator as a degree project to attempt to reverse engineer an old compiler. From being used to DOS it seemed very familiar. However, once I started using Unix and Linux in a professional capacity, DOS now seems very constrained. I guess that’s why they introduced Powershell.

  10. Rubbish machine! It was no better than the opposition and had no real backup in terms of software compared to the Sinclar or Commodore. 64 rules!!!
    The worst part of the O/S story is that the Amiga O/S was far better than DOS and similar to MAC OS, but becuase it did not the backup it failed. Shame my Amiga 1200 use to wipe the floor with the 386 and 486’s of the day!

  11. I’m sure people will come up with a list of predecessors but, from memory, the Amstrad PCW8256 was innovative as a complete but inexpensive home word processing system. Sugar spotted a market/niche and went for it – that’s what businessmen do.

    Former Sanyo MBC-555 owner (still got his TRS-80) who learnt programming on a Commodore PET and Sharp MZ-80K. Anyone remember the mess the Japanese made of the MSX series – expensive and late to market – ironically Microsoft were involved…

  12. Chris C

    The only time I ever saw a PCW was at school, the home economics teacher had a PCW-16, instead of the standard issue Nimbus PC with Windows 3.1 and Clarisworks 3.

    Seemed very mac-like, even down to the OS, although it was very restricted in comparison. More of an appliance.

    Amstrad’s biggest flaw from the 90s era was the eMailer phone. A phone you called a premium rate line to get your emails on a screen, and it also showed adverts.
    Sky (who now own Amstrad) closed the service down just recently on the 30th June 2011.

  13. Ayd: CPCs don’t, AFAIK, use MSX Basic.

    Amstrad had MANY flaws, driven by simply not understanding the market. The CPC was a terrible rip-off in terms of design, a substandard product dressed up to take the marketing buzz around the unreleased Enterprise system (another “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” British home computer story).

    Chris-C: The MSX wasn’t a mess except in the UK. This is part of the problem – people don’t think Globally. MSX was a cockup in the UK, but in Russia, many areas of Europe, Asia and North Africa the MSX was a serious contender, adapted into many different solutions, and popular.

    DaveH: Under the hood AmigaOS was far superior to Mac OS of the time – the fit and finish was awful, however. Amiga chased the low end when they should have been the SGI competition…

    There are several fundamental failures in the UK computer industry, as milestones:

    1: Acorn’s reluctance to licence Econet as a standard. This alone could have secured the dominance of Acorn not as a computer manufacturer, but a standards originator – which would come later with the ARM. Overall there was a serious reluctance to licence in either direction across the industry, even avoiding paying for Atari joystick connectors was a factor.

    2: Sinclair’s determination to cost cut. Had the QL shipped with real floppy drives, or in a proper chassis, the OS and design would have allowed it a fairly decent existence.

    3: Companies like Elan (Enterprise), Jupiter and Camputers – and to a lesser extent Grundy – just didn’t get a handle on manufacturing. The Enterprise had a terrible return rate (the marketing, handled by Mike Shirley (formerly of BMW GB) was a bloody disaster too); I had one of these returned machines and the fault was simply that the power LED had been folded under the case when assembled. That was Welwyn electronics -they’re still in existence I believe.

    (For the computer nerds that don’t know what the Enterprise was – Z80 based, 4MB addressable memory space, multi-programming (rather than multi-tasking), soft I/O, 672 x 512 graphics with up to 256 colours, four-channel stereo sound with ringmod, dual ASICs in 1983/4, hot-swappable cartridges and a highly flexible Basic with subroutines. The tech was absolutely stunning. It was funded – again, from memory – by the same Hong-Kong VC firm that was behind the EACA Color Genie).

    4: Other than Acorn, there was a real inability to grasp the idea that people wanted more tech. Even Acorn were slow, the Archimedes came out of nowhere.

    Amstrad doesn’t even figure. Sugar’s a box shifter who doesn’t deserve any special recognition. The PCWs were repackaged, cheap CP/M machines (if anyone deserves credit there it’s Locomotive Software), the attempt to bring the CPC up to date was almost as laughable as the Commodore 64GS, the PenPad was… well, hands up who owned a PenPad (another tragic loss however, is Geofox – the true netbook prioneers), the eMailer concept was clever but totally missed the broadband revolution (I’d have one if they had ethernet and just got revenue by displaying ads). The PCW 16 – which I doubt many people were aware of – actually supported colour graphics and other features, but ended up primarily used as a controller platform for white goods.

    Sugar squandered the talents of some very talented engineers, by cheapening them.

    There were some quiet successes though. Psion’s IP catalogue was rather stunning, and they lasted as a marque and manufacturer a very long time. Memotech may have had a short-lived blip as a home computer marque (having started out making bits for Sinclairs), but the RS128 was behind many video wall and distribution systems.

    You almost want to go back and go to Memotech and say “right, you guys – stop making that MSX derived thing, and go and work with Elan/Enterprise’s technology instead”, and similarly “Amstrad, make the cases stronger, get Locoscript to develop the easy front end, and make a desirable PC, not a Lada-equivalent”.

    Ultimately Sinclair, Amstrad and many others failed to grasp that the low end of the market is a space you will only find reducing in a developed economy. You’ll enjoy an early boost as people grab the cheap tech, but when the market has reached saturation point you had better be ready with a high-end, high status product.

  14. MSX series – cor remember that like a sore head. My aunt’s boyfriend at the time used to work in IT and had one of these at work. He had it with a green screen monitor and 5 1/4 inch floppy drive. He brought it round back in the 80’s to show us – It was bloody awful! Andy’s employer pulled the plug not long after trialing it and refused to sell them. Funny not long after they stopped working in home computing and just pushed DOS loaded Olivetti’s – remember them?
    Research machines Nimbus’s. Bloody expensive and not exactly that great – my Amiga 1200 used to beat them hands down.

  15. I know nothing about computers so I’m lost here!

    Where did the chat about heater matrices come from? I had a SAAB 99 and wanted to change the heater matrix, the Haynes manual said it was an engine out job, I didn’t bother… bars leak to the rescue.

  16. You’re spoilt Keith – you’ve got got the posh version with a colour monitor! I well remember playing Paperboy in the mid Eighties on my mate’s green screen CPC, with its shades of grey that were all suspiciously very similar, making game play interesting…

    I had a Commodore VIC-20, with about the same processing power as my wireless doorbell has now. I remember taking ages to type a programme into BASIC and being really amazing by the fact I’d made the screen change colour and flash in a way that would have an epilepsy warning on these days.

  17. I remember someone mentioned once about Sinclair’s problems with quality, often due to making computers to sell at a certain price.

    Some other brands I guess had similar trouble.

    Another problem some makers had in the long run was assuming that a farily fixed-spec computer would keep selling, with the price coming down as the development costs were paid off.

    Eventually market saturation was achievied, which could make things tricky if a new product wasn’t in the pipeline.

    It seems games consoles today make most money from software sales rather than hardware.

  18. Yes it is interesting to see how much computers have changed, the cell phone of today is more powerful than the computers 30 years ago, and I agree, cars have not really changed a lot in 20 years. My 20YO xj40 has abs and good crash design and some manufacturers stil dont have abs in some of their models today. Im also surprised, that its not easier to install more efficient modern power plants in older cars (from a legislation point of view and a cost point of view). alex

  19. I remember Amstrad bringing out the Mega PC, which had a docking point for Sega Megadrive cartridges which you could play on the machine.

    Unsurprisingly, it didn’t sell well…

  20. I had a CPC464. The big selling point was that it came with a colour monitor. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear the chirping/squealing sound of the programs loading from the tape…

  21. Sugar was the Gerald Ratner of electronics.

    Design something pretty basic that just does the job, build it with cheap parts and sell it for a little more than it’s worth and finally, convince the masses to buy it………..much like the Cortina mk1 really!

  22. Ah, the Amstrad CPC 464… I have one of those (with the green screen, seperate 3in disc drive, the stereo sound module) as well as a 6128 with colour module and the radio/clock base. Perhaps its with rose tinted glasses but I loved programming on those machines and playing Legions of Death till the wee small hours!

  23. Paul T – the MegaPC is a blast from the past!

    It had full mega drive hardware on board, and you could switch between the monitor/sound using the 386 PC, or the built in mega drive.

    Sega released an unrelated TeraDrive PC, which was a 286 (very slow even by 1991 standards), but the MegaDrive and PC were on the same board, so could interact! Could be used as an SDK.

  24. Things aren’t all a loss. Acorn design the BBC Microcomputer. They then designed their own 32bit RISC processor for the Archimedes range of computers. The processor divison was spun out to form Acorn Risc Machines, now known as ARM, whose processors are now far more widely used than Intels power-hungry dross.

    And ARM are doing very nicely thankyouverymuch, and have Intel on the back foot, with the future being battery powered.


  25. I do remember the Acorn, BBC A and BBC C computers and the book you could buy (or was it a course?) called “80 Hour BASIC”.

  26. ARM are the future in terms of the post-PC tablet and netbook era.

    Even Intel are investing in ARM technology, and Windows 8 will have an ARM build compiled.
    (Windows NT was designed to run on Alphas and PowerPCs, but only the i386 build took off).

    I have a BBC Master (with the ‘PC style’ 3.5″ floppy unit under the monitor) in my mothers loftspace, will have to dig it out, boot it up and see if I can pass it on to a collector.

  27. Keith B,
    patents only last 20 years, so anything patented by Lanchester will now be free for all to use, even if they paid every renewal fee – which not everyone does (average term of validity in the UK is 14 years).
    Trade marks and copyright last a lot longer.
    “I’ll get me coat”…

  28. ……lovely to hear about your past computers and all that, but Keith was talking about applying the Amstrad model to cars, not how great/rubbish/indifferent Amstrad PCs were!??!!

  29. Had a CPC464 as a first computer, and no they weren’t very good, and OBVIOUSLY the BBC was far better, but that’s like saying a Rover P6 was better than a Mini. Of course the Acorn was a better machine it cost a lot more for a start! As i remember BBC’s came as just the combined Keyboard/CPU unit, you had to pay extra for the disc drive or either buy or find a tape deck to use and of course nick the TV.
    The Amstrad was far cheaper than any of the other offerings when you consider the costs saved by not having to buy a second TV or tape drive. As for PC’s at the time they were way out of the average household budgets league.

    Of course this article in it’s self is a good example of why our car industry is down the toilet. We have in the CPC464 a fairly successful product that made a decent profit. Yet the majority of people are slagging it off as being crap and saying you should have bought something else, much the same thing as happened with our home grown cars.

    I was looking at Peugeot 106 yesterday, they’re terrible cars, badly made, flimsy frankly just nasty. However PSA have sold millions of 106’s and Saxo’s making a tidy profit from them. The CPC464 was like the 106, it was cheap came with everything you need and does just what is says on the tin and on top of that it made a profit.

  30. Actually i had a PCW while i was at school. Basically they were word processors capable of doing other tasks. Far far cheaper than a PC and came with a printer included. As i remember a PC was about £1000 at the time and then another £300 for a printer. A PCW was about £400 all in.
    I did all my GCSE work and half my A-Level work on a PCW-10. I remember when i got a part time job and managed to save up enough to buy a second hand PC, even then that was £300 plus about £200 for a new Printer! Still more than a New PCW and realistically it didn’t really do much more than the PCW, although windows 3.1 was slightly nicer to use.

  31. Dennis: The CPC 464 WAS a successful product in a strategy surrounded by mediocrity and destined for long-term failure; the product itself was poorly made and outdated. You can’t say “Oh, Amstrad only wanted to sell boxes” – they invested huge amounts in developing the PCW and PCW-16, and the PenPad. Alan Sugar wanted to be a computer manufacturer then; and even when be bought Sinclair he threw away the technology worth owning – the QL, and Loki – in favour of selling more cut-price computers. Have you seen the amount of work that went into the +3/+2A logic redesign?

    Sugar consistently fails to understand what he has in talented technology partners and chases the low-end.

    Name two ’70s or ’80s microcomputer manufacturers still making computers now, under their original ownership.

  32. Will M: The Master with 3.5″ drive is a BBC Master Compact (also sold as an Olivetti) – the base unit should be the PSU and drive for the computer, which is in the keyboard like a super-Acorn Electron. Or more accurately, like a butchered Acorn Communicator.

  33. Ken Strachan – The point that I was making was that the ideas had been “taken” by foreign companies and not utilised by UK concerns. We have a disproportionate wealth of expertise and inventiveness that is not exploited by home-grown investment. Some of this can be blamed on institutional investors looking for fast returns on their money, I believe that the Asian Markets take a longer view.

  34. “Name two ’70s or ’80s microcomputer manufacturers still making computers now, under their original ownership.”

    I can name one…..

    ….Amstrad, although the computing division has adopted the brand of Viglen which they bought out in the 90’s, but effectively it’s the Amstrad Company in the same way that Mini is BMW. You can argue that Amstrad is owned by Sky, but basically they only own the set top box business and the brand name, Alan Michael Sugar TRADing is still owned by the same guy.

  35. …..mmmm has anyone actually responded to Keith’s original question yet, or are you all still banging on about obsolete 80s computers? If not, I’ll make an attempt to respond, based on a car theme. If I remember correctly, before this website turned into ‘Look Around You – No. 15, Personal Computing’, Keith was asking if there is a car or car company out there offering the complete package, plus a little more, to the average car owner, so, if that’s the case, the car company must offer a vehicle which is practical – with seating for 5, plus luggage, be economical, to buy, fuel and own, have enough grunt to feel sporty, and also offer a certain degree of ruggedness, possibly 4WD. The vehicle must offer all of this, but undercut the competition, and offer the entire package with superb aftersales, and a painless ownership experience. After summing all of this up, my immediate response was the MINI Club-foot, but thankfully it ruled itself out on the grounds of being too expensive, pig-ugly and a bit cramped. Then I though about Kia – a manufacturer of good value, well equipped, stylish but not stunning, capable cars, which, with a superb warranty package, offer everything a motorist might need in one product. And that is……(drum-roll)……the Kia Sorento…..(any other CAR RELATED responses to this post would be welcomed)

  36. I used to have a CPC464 – it was my first computer! I could only afford the green screen version and I spent 95% of my time on it playing games but I thought it was comparable to other machines of its time. I later got a printer for it too – a rarity back then! The Amstrad DMP1 printer picked up secondhand for a good price. I did do some programming in BASIC on it too, like the other person who mentioned it, I’d spend forever typing the program just to watch the screen flash different shades of green (!) or endlessly scroll some lewd text (I was a teenager then). It was the machine that got me into computers in the first place and so has significance for me.

  37. Dennis: Viglen wasn’t started by Amstrad. They also don’t design and build computers; they were a reseller, got into making PC boxes after BBC accessories, and now are little more than a reseller again.

    So not only can I argue that Amstrad is not actually Amstrad, the computer maker, it’s already the case that Viglen barely counts.

    One is Apple. Has never been owned by another corporation, has been producing computers from 1976 to present date. You will struggle to name another.

    Simon: Skoda Yeti, or Octavia Scout.

  38. The problem with likening car production to the PC/IT market is one of legislation. If crash protection laws, emission regulations and fuel efficiency where removed from the equation then cars such as the 2CV and original mini would still be in production. Customer demands for more space in greater comfort also results in bigger vehicles.
    The technology market demands more in a smaller space, portability and functionality. The market for motor vehicles is the inverse of the technology sector, I think what Keith seeks is unattainable in the current climate.

  39. …My school mate had one of these once we’d got a PC at home from Dad’s work so, If I’m honest.. I was more amused at it then wowed back then……..

    BUT…. Our 1st pooter was an Acorn Electron, so can very much appreciate the built in cassette & included screen…

    The Electrons still in the lost somewhere.. maybe I’ll get it out one day, hook it up and remember why it lives in the loft 😉

  40. @ Steve Bailey

    Steve, I had a ‘posh one’ – but I have to admit that at the time, I used it relentlessly. I either built or bought expansion boards for ROMs and I was able to transfer word processing files to a PC running WordPerfect in DOS for my Uni dissertation.

    To everyone else… I still have about 40 of those dreadful little 3″ disks but I also built an expansion board to use a 3.5″ floppy drive because those disks were far cheaper.

    I switched it on a couple of years back and the drive belt in the FD had perished. There are good online resources and I sourced a new drive belt and it sprang into life and the disks still retained the data I had saved back in ’92.

    I was able to type and produce graphics and play some games (never been a big games fan) – I mainly used it for uni work and programming assignments.

    I have a few old computers in my Mum’s house – haven’t moved them to my own yet, still got the garage / loft / garden to sort out… [whistles]

    [grump on]
    BBC A’s, B’s and Masters… ‘Rewind tape’ messages, youngsters these days don’t know they’re born!
    [/grump off]

    Halcyon days…

    Oh, and i totally agree with everything Keith said.

  41. Although I only ever had the green screen version of the 464, every one I see now has a colour screen! So I’m seeing the games I used to play in colour for the first time in many cases, except for the few I’ve found pc ports of such as Roland on the ropes and Oh mummy!

    The built in cassette drive was a big plus for that machine. My brother had a 48k Spectrum and he had to find a tape recorder for it, plus a power supply and the necessary leads to connect it to his computer. I didn’t have any of that hassle 🙂 Even the power supply for the 464 was built into the monitor so it didn’t need a separate one (again, unlike a speccy).

  42. Incidentally the game on the screen on the 464 in the picture above is Harrier Attack, which I used to play A LOT! I still remember the “white noise” intended to simulate the engine sound and the alternative pitched “white noise” for bombs, missiles, explosions etc. My god how primitive that game was now I look back and realise what it actually had! But I played it for hours…

  43. I bought an Amstrad CPC 464 with colour monitor back around 1984/5 and thought it was the best deal around at the time. Then the misery set in of waiting 10 mins for a game to load from the tape and about 9 mins in it would throw up an error message because of Amstrads inability to make tape decks run at a constant speed! If you look closely at the moulding below the cassette deck lid you can see a small cut out, this was there so u could insert a screwdriver to adjust the tape head angle – just about every time it was used! Still liked it though lol

  44. But we’ve already had the car equivalent of the Amstrad CPC 464; superseded technology sold as a package at a seemingly competitive price. They were called “Daewoo”.

  45. Innovation in today’s PC market is largely missing, with even Apple Macs and rehashes of the C64/Vic being mere x86 PCs.

    We are, however, starting to see a bit of real innovation in the motoring market with experiments in hybrids / electric / hydrogen power.

    As for the Amstrad of the car world?
    I’d agree with either comment – Korean brands (had a drive in a Kia Picanto courtesy car recently, was surprisingly fun to rag but the handling didn’t inspire confidence!), or any Skoda (‘cut price VW’ bought for the engineering and not the badge).

  46. Can’t help but think that the reason the PC market lacks innovation is because it’s become a tool now.. True desktops are for specific jobs or die hards…

    It’s all tablets now… Which, if ya think about it, is a touch screen phone and backwards laptop mashed together.. so not too far away from the all in one line of thinking…. but more high tech then just a mash up.

    The original iMac had a similar concept.. All the bits inside the iMac already existed, and while the all-in-one idea had been a go to for Apple for many years.. the iMac introduced a new packaging concept and the idea of marketing a computer at a home user, or even a young user… To those who don;t know, the i stands for internet (back then)…. It was a design concept aimed at giving students a computer that was internet ready as the internet was booming, and, cleverly, becoming a study tool….

  47. WillM: The PC market itself IS becoming irrelevant. The innovation is elsewhere; devices like the iPad and GalaxyTab. Not all computers are PCs, and people are moving away from needing a PC for entertainment.

    Bobby: Apple //c – as seen in “Explorers”. High design value, aimed at home users, even had “MouseDesk” GUI. Apple even provided a BBS system, as did most manufacturers with a presence in the US.

  48. Wow… I struck a chord here.

    Maybe I should start a website about retro-computing. It’s my other passion – and one I really don’t shout about enough. Hell, I still have enough of my own machines… Should I do a list?

    Yeah 🙂

    Acorn Electron
    Amstrad CPC464
    Amstrad CPC6128
    Amstrad GX4000
    Atari 600XL
    Atari 800XL
    Atari 65XE
    Atari 130XE
    Atari XEGS
    Atari 2600
    Atari 5200
    Atari 7800
    Atari 520ST
    Atari Lynx I
    Atari Lynx II
    Atari Jaguar
    Atari Flashback
    BBC Micro Model B
    Commodore Vic20
    Commodore 64
    Commodore 64C
    Commodore 64GS
    Commodore Plus/4
    Commodore 16
    Commodore Amiga A500
    Commodore Amiga A600
    Commodore Amiga A1200
    Commodore Amiga CD32
    CBS ColecoVision
    Enterprise 64 (nee Elan Enterprise, nee Flan Enterprise)
    Nintendo NES
    Nintendo Gameboy
    Nintendo Gamebox Colour
    Nintendo SNES
    Nintendo 64
    Nintendo Gameboy Advance
    Nintendo Gamecube
    Nintendo DS
    Nintendo Wii
    Nokia N-Gage
    Oric Atmos
    Panasonic FZ-10 3DO
    PC Engine
    Sega Master System II
    Sega Megadrive
    Sega Mega CD
    Sega 32X
    Sega Game Gear
    Sega Saturn
    Sega Dreamcast
    Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2
    Sinclair QL
    Super TV-Boy II
    Sony Hit-Bit MSX
    Sony Playstation SCP-1001
    Sony Playstation 2
    Sony Playstation 3

    There’s probably more, but it all gets hazy sometimes. Glad you all enjoyed the blog, anyway 🙂


  49. Talking of antique computing power, when I worked for Eastern Electricity (remember them and there Ardman created adverts?) back in the late 90s and early 00’s, the computer system they ran until 2001 was out of the Arc! It was a tape based system, which due to the lack of sophistication and storage, could only keep a few months of customer records, so anything that was over 8 months old was put onto Microfiche! I can remember spending an afternoon going through boxes of Microfiche to try and find a customer record only to get to the point where the bulb would go! Eastern also only kept 2 years of records at the offices, with the rest of the Microfiche stored in a warehouse which eventually burnt down and the records lost!

    A couple of years ago I worked with a lady whose Husband was a consultant for TSB during the terrible breakdown of their IT systems. He had worked in IT in all his career and could not believe the antiquatedness of their systems then.

    • Sounds like the building society my sister was seconded to when she was a trainee solicitor. They were still using Lotus 1-2-3 which had been last updated years before.

      They still had a lot of paper records locked in filing cabinets, so she kept having to find a keyholder in the office to open up certain drawers for her.

  50. Blimey, this blog suddenly makes me feel old! I remember when my parents bought my sister and I our first computer in the mid 1980s – a BBC Model B complete with 32k! It cost £399 and it was a £100 more than the 16K Model A version which lacked the Model B’s neat blanking cover next to the keyboard.

    I spent many an hour honing my skills as a racing driver (or not) on games such as Revs using two fingers for steering, shooting cowboys in Gunsmoke, followed by crashing numerous 737s in Flight Simulator. Eventually my parents were able to add a 5.25″ floppy disc drive and Epson dot-matrix printer, all bought from Watford Electronics.

    For my parents it added some benefits to my father’s engineering business when it came to sending out invoices and letters, etc. using Wordwise. For me as a very young car enthusiast (and wannabee car designer), I could present my ideas for limited edition models to various car manufacturers (none of which were adopted, unfortunately). My choice of word processor was Edword (Educational Word processor). Trouble is, even with 32K, I could type out a letter or project and after just four pages the cursor would freeze because there was no more memory left. Sometimes I had to create up to six separate files for each section of the same piece of work!

    Happy times and frustrating times in equal measures. I am pleased to say we still have all that computer stuff stored away safely. That said, I wish there was some way I could extract some of my old Edword files from those 5.25″ floppy discs and have them saved in a more usable format.

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