Amstrad (Alan Michael Sugar TRADing) have a formula for success. Take a successful product, and redesign it for the ordinary user. It worked for tape decks, CB radios, videos, and satellite receivers, and it also worked for computers. Amstrad rose from nothing to become one of the big players in the European market thanks to the Amstrad CPC.
The Amstrad CPC launched into a European market dominated by the Sinclair Spectrum and C64 and yet managed to carve out it's own share in the market. How did it succeed when so many others failed? The Midas touch of Alan Sugar.
Code named Arnold, the idea of the CPC was conceived in 1983 and launched in April 1984. This was no ordinary launch as the machine boasted a catalog of 50 game titles day one, as Sugar had secretly given prototypes to top software houses before the launch. An all-in-one design, a users club and official magazine were all ready for the system's premiere. All this third-party commitment for a mystery machine from an unnamed "big" manufacturer were thanks to William Poel and Roland Perry who drove the project and persuaded software houses to create games for Arnold.
Gone were the Sinclair Spectrum and C64 days of a separate keyboard, cassette player, all hooked up to the family TV, this was computing Amstrad style. Two boxes, one mains lead. Home computing for the masses not the electronics enthusiast.
One box was the system unit housing a Z80 processor and 64K RAM as well as a built-in cassette player. This plugged into either a green screen or colour monitor that determined whether the price was £299 or £399. Plug in one mains plug and it was set up ready to go. The selection of the Z80 chip meant that it was relatively simple for software houses to convert existing and new Sinclair Spectrum games and so tap into its success.
Technically similar to the Sinclair Spectrum it was a difference in culture. While the Sinclair Spectrum followed the path of cheap and cheerful computing, Amstrad pioneered a basic version of plug and play with ease of use and simplicity the keys
Top UK and French software houses such as US Gold, Ocean, Gremlin, Titus, Infogrames and Loricels kept the CPC buyer supplied with games as did Amsoft, Amstrad's own game publisher. Many of the games released for the Amstrad CPC were the same ones available to Sinclair Spectrum owners with Tau Ceti, Macadam Bumper, Trailblazer, Cauldron II, Gauntlet and a whole series of Roland platform games named after Roland Perry topping the charts.
Amstrad designed and built the CPC to attack the dominance of the Sinclair Spectrum and C64 and did just that, so much so that in 1986 Amstrad bought Sinclair Research and restyled the Sinclair Spectrum in the Amstrad mould.
There were in fact six versions of the Amstrad CPC. The CPC664 replaced the tape drive with a disk drive in April 1985, the CPC6128 was the 128K version, The 664 Plus and 6128 Plus added a cartridge slot and upgraded sound and graphics hardware which were all packaged into a console to form the GX4000.
Although most of the 2 million CPC sales were in the U.K. many were sold throughout Europe, and in Germany it was known as the Schneider.
There was nothing technically remarkable about the CPC except for its remarkable success. Especially, considering it started life as a 6502 micro and looked dead when the original design team failed to complete the project. Thanks to the drive of William Poel and Roland Perry the mysterious Arnold became the Amstrad CPC.
Amstrad repeated the process again with its Amstrad 1640 PC.
Amstrad CPC 664
The disk version of the 464 that had a 3" disk drive instead of the built-in tape deck. Each side of the disk had a 169k capacity but had to be turned over to read the other side. It came with CP/M and could read double density PC disks.
Amstrad CPC 6128
The 128K version of the CPC 664.
Amstrad mounted a futile attempt to grab some of the market that was deserting home computers for the plug and play world of consoles. The GX4000 was the CPC repackaged as a console. A cartridge port and a pair of gamepads replaced the keyboard and tape or disk drives. The GX4000 also featured upgraded graphics and sound hardware.
Amstrad 664 plus
Following the launch of the GX4000, Amstrad revamped the home computers. This was a CPC 664 but with the graphic and sound enhancements and cartridge port of the GX4000.
Amstrad 6128 plus
The 128K version of the improved 664 ~ Tony Hetherington, All Game Guide