Amstrad CPC-series

Vital Statistics

Introduced April 1984
Retired: 1990
Prices: CPC464: £299 (mono), £399 (colour), CPC664: £339 (mono), £449 (colour), GX4000: £99
Quantity Sold: approx 3,000,000 CPC464s
Countries: UK (Schneider in Europe), Australia and New Zealand
Ports: Centronics port, bus port, Atari-style joystick port, floppy disk port, DIN socket for monitor, stereo headphone jack
Usable RAM: 64K + 16K video memory (CPC464,664,464+), 128K (CPC6128/+)
Built-in ROM: 32K
Colours: 27 colours CPC
Graphics:
CPC-range:160x200 (16-colour), 320x200 (4-colour), 640x200 (2-colour)
Text: 20x25, 40x25, 80x25 respectively
Sound: 3 channels + 1 noise channel (AY-3-8192 chip)
Built-in Language: Locomotive BASIC
Built-in OS: AMSDOS (CPC664 as standard or CPC464 with FDD-1 floppy drive accessory) - can also use CP/M 2.2 or 3.0
Clones: KC Compact (East Germany) - made from Soviet and East German components


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What's it like today?

Fun Factor: 3/5
Geek Factor:
3/5
Model/Rarity/Price (Poor - BNIB/Mint) - all prices include monitor:
CPC464 £25-£80
CPC664 £80-£150
CPC6128 £35-80
CPC464+ £60-£150
CPC6128+ £80-£150

 

The Amstrad CPC (Colour Personal Computer) series of computers comprises the CPC464, CPC664, CPC6128, 464+, 6128+ and finally the GX4000. All these had the internal codename of "Arnold" during design and manufacture. They were sold throughout most of Europe and Australasia under the Amstrad label, but in Germany they were sold through Amstrad's local distributor - Schneider. As such, German-sold units had Schneider badges and a Schneider ROM boot display message (click here for details of other differences).

The CPC464 (codename Arnold ) was launched on 21st June 1984. Amstrad's marketing slant with the CPC-series was that it was sold with everything you needed "out of the box". The CPC464 was very distinctive with its rectangular sharp-edged black box with a built-in cassette recorder, and colourful keys. Unlike other home computers of the time that you typically connected to a television for display purposes, the CPC was sold with a choice of either a monochrome or colour monitor. An external television adapter (an RF modulator), the "MP-1", was available as an optional accessory if required, as was an external floppy disk drive called the FDD-1.

Over 3 million CPC464's were sold throughout its lifetime. By the time it was launched, however, it was late to the party, and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 both had a huge market share. Owners of the CPC464 could purchase a 3" floppy drive (models DDI-1 or FD-1) to take advantage of this faster medium. Production ot the CPC464 ceased in 1990.

The CPC664 ( Arnold 2) and CPC6128 ( Arnold 3) both came with a built-in 3" floppy disk drive. The 664 was essentially a 464 with a more rounded-edged keyboard and a 3" floppy drive in place of the 464's cassette recorder.

The 664 was released in April 1985 in the knowledge the 6128 would be released soon, but due to falling memory prices, Amstrad released the 6128 earlier than expected, and so the 664 was short-lived, being superceded by the 6128 after just 6 months.

The 6128 was a 664 with 128K of RAM and a more professional keyboard. Most software was designed to run within the 64K limit of the CPC464 and 664 machines. Only a few titles used the 6128's additional memory capacity. Both 664 and 6128 shipped with Digital Research's CP/M operating system (v2.2 for the 664, v3.1 for the 6128) as well as the DDI-1 disk expansion unit that was an optional accessory for 464 owners.

The Arnold 4 (the cost-reduced 464 and CPC6128) machines were released in 1988 in order to reduce the cost of manufacture to Amstrad. This was acheived primarily by reducing the quantity of ICs on the board, bring the functions of the 6845 CRTC (TV controller chip) and 40010 "gate array" IC under a single ASIC custom IC. The PCB was hence also smaller.

The 'CPC Plus' machines (codename Arnold 5) consisted of the 464+ and the 6128+. These were sold only in the UK and Spain from 1990, and featured hardware sprite support and a redesigned board. They also supported a palette of 4096 colours and soft-scrolling. All 'plus' machines came with a cartridge slot. Bundled with the 464+ and 6128+ was the 'Burnin Rubber' game on the "system" cartridge, as well as Locomotive BASIC. These machines got new monitors, too. The MM14 is the grey-scale monochrome version, and the CM14 is the colour version, both with new connectors so you cannot use these with an old CPC computer or vice versa. The plus range was a disaster commercially, primarily because it was launched directly into a growing 16-bit market with an 8-bit core (Zilog Z80B CPU).

 

 

 

The GX4000 was Amstrad's failed attempt at the 8-bit games console market. Launched alongside the CPC464+ and CPC6128+, it shared the same internals with these. Along with the console itself was bundled the game Burnin' Rubber on cartridge, a power pack and two controllers. Released in 1990, it was having to compete against brand new 16-bit rivals such as the Sega Megadrive. At launch it sold for £99.99 in the UK and 990F in France. Titles were available for £25. Just a few games were released on the launch date, and only about 40 dedicated games were ever written to take advantage of the GX4000's capabilities. Since the GX4000 was backwardly compatible with the entire CPC-series of computers, many of the games that were released for the GX4000 were old CPC464 games put onto cartridge. This received a lukewarm warm welcome by prospective purchasers of the console, and it never took off. 11 months later, stores were trying to offload their stock, some selling as low as £29.99. Approximately 15,000 GX4000s were sold in total.

 

 

 

Clones

The "Kleincomputer KC Compact", or KCC for short, is a clone of the Amstrad CPC built by East Germany's VEB Mikroelektronik Muhlhausen in 1989.

Although the machine was built around various component substitutes and emulations of an Amstrad CPC's hardware, the machine is largely compatible with Amstrad CPC software. It is equipped with 64 kB memory and a CPC6128's firmware customized to the modified hardware, including an unmodified copy of Locomotive BASIC 1.1.

The KC Compact was the last 8-bit computer produced in East Germany.

 

Amstrad released a number of peripherals for the Amstrad personal computers, including:

FDD-1 - An external 3" floppy disk drive.
MP-1, MP-2 and MP-3 - RF modulators for those who wanted to use a standard television instead of an Amstrad monitor. In Spain the MP-1 was called MPV-001.
MP-2F - A French MP-2 modulator with SCART output.
CT-1 - a radio and alarm clock which was as wide as the CTM644 monitor so it could sit underneath.
LP-1 - A lightpen.
JY-1, JY-2 and JY-3 - joysticks.
PD-1 - A games controller with a D-pad and 2 buttons (464+, 6128+, and GX4000 only).
DMP-1 - A 9-pin dot matrix printer.

Amstrad CPC News

05 January 2017Chibi Akuma(s), Amstrad Shoot ’em up Now Available

Over at Vintage is the New Old, a news article back in December reported a new game, “Chibi Akuma(s)”, a new spoof-horror crazy shoot ’em up coming to the Amstrad CPC. As promised the game has been released. Download it from the link below.

Download: ChibiAkumas_Multidisk.7z
Website: chibiakumas.com

14 November 2016New Homebrew Games for Amstrad

Outlaws is a new Amstrad game that recently won first place in the #CPCRetroDev 2016 Game Creation Contest.The game has 9 different levels, one level training and two bonus levels. To finish a level, you must kill the number of enemies indicated by the number next to the skull on the HUD. You start the game with 4 lives, the current one and three more represented by stars. Every time you get hit, you lose a live and one of your stars gets a bloody hole. When you lose all your lives the game is over. There are two modes of movement in the game, depending on the state of the fire button. When you press the fire button, Daniel will stay on his position and you will only be able to aim using direction buttons.

There are different items in each stage that enemies will use to hide and avoid being killed. You must destroy these before the enemy uses them. The more you do this, the easier it will be to defeat them, however some items take more than one shot, so you need to be quick on the trigger. When barrels are destroyed, if you are lucky, two items can be released. You must fire at them to pick them up. Barrels are found in some of the stages and also in bonus levels. Money increases your score. You can download Outlaw and all the other game entries from #CPCRetroDev 2016 in one convenient zip file here.

13 November 2016Hire Hare - 2nd place in CPC RetroDev 2016

Hire Hare is an isometric game, much like some of the classics you may remember on the good old Speccy, such Fairlight, Batman and Head over Heels. The main goal of the game is to lead sorceress Hecatia through the dungeon, collecting the nine Black Lamps and ultimately fighting warlock Lycurgus. A secondary goal is to collect keys and unlock the ten treasure chests where Lycurgus keeps his riches, as they will be Hecatia’s reward for her quest.

The Black Lamps and the keys can be collected by simply touching them; picking a Black Lamp up also replenishes the player’s energy. The treasure chests, however, cannot be unlocked unless the player has found enough keys to open them. Lycurgus can only be fought after the nine Black Lamps have been collected.

Hire Hare has been created by César Nicolás González (CngSoft), and it was his entry into the CPC RetroDev 2016 competition in Madrid, winning 2nd place. César had previously won 2nd place in the RetroDev 2015 competition with Frogalot. You can read up on how the game was made over at CngSoft, or download the competition's game here.

28 October 2016Doomsday Lost Echoes, Space Graphical Text Adventure Coming to the Amstrad CPC Soon!

Doomsday Lost Echoes is a graphical text adventure game in English for the Amstrad CPC which will be available soon, completely free of charge (4 days from writing). It's being developed by Doomsday Productions.

The game is made with PAWS and it’s official graphics patch, and to play it you will need 128kb plus a 3.5″ floppy drive or HxC floppy emulator. You can read more about the game in the lengthy developer thread over at http://www.cpcwiki.eu/forum/

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This page was last updated on 4th February 2017