Amstrad PCs

Vital Statistics

Introduced September 1986
Retired: 1994
Purchase Options:
PC1512, MM display ( CGA mono), single floppy = £399 + VAT
PC1512, CM display ( CGA colour), single floppy = £499 + VAT
PC1640, MM display ( Hercules mono), single floppy = £549(?)
PC1640, CM display ( CGA colour), single floppy = £599(?) + VAT
PC1640, ECD display ( EGA colour), single floppy = £699(?) + VAT
PC1640, ECD display ( EGA colour), 20MB hard drive = £949 + VAT
PC2086 = £750 + VAT
PC2286 = $2000-$3000
PC2386 = $6000-$6700
PC3086 (mono VGA, 360K or 720K floppy) = £550 + VAT
PC3286 (colour VGA, 40 MB hard disk) = £1,100 + VAT
PC3386SX (hi-res colour VGA, 40 MB hard disk) = £1,600 + VAT
PC5086 = £299, PC5286 = £799
MegaPC = £999 at launch, later reduced to £599
PPC512 luggable
PPC640 luggable
ALT-286 laptop = £1,600 + VAT
ALT-386 laptop
ANB-386SX = £1,699 + VAT
Quantity Sold: 2 million approx (PC1512 & PC1640 only)
Countries: Worldwide (Schneider in Europe)
Ports: RS232 serial, Centronics parallel, CPC-compatible joystick interface (PC1512/1640)
Expansion: 3 8-bit ISA slots, horizontally mounted (PC1512/1640), 4 8-bit ISA slots (PC2xxx)
CPU: Intel 8086 @ 8 MHz
Usable RAM
: 512K (PC1512), 640K (PC1640/PC2086/PC3086), 1MB (PC2286/PC3286/PC3386), 4MB (PC2386/PC4386)
Built-in ROM: 16K
Graphics: MDA, CGA (PC1512), MDA, Hercules, CGA, EGA (PC1640), VGA (PC2xxx-5xxx)
Sound: PC beeper
Bundled Software: Amstrad-adapted MS-DOS 3.20, DR-DOSPlus 1.2 (similar to CP/M 86), GEM 2.0 (Graphics Environment Manager) and BASIC2 1.12. Some also came with Ability (an integrated package), and games. Locoscript PC was bundled with higher-end PC1640s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

more info...


What's it like today?

Fun Factor: 2/5
Rarity
: Quite rare
Typical value: £120
Boxed & Mint: £300

 

In 1986, Amstrad moved on from their successes in the personal computer market by releasing their first IBM PC-compatible computers, the PC1512 and, in June 1987, the PC1640. Both PCs were almost identical, with the exception that the PC1640 had 640K of RAM over the PC1512's 512K. They were up against IBM whose 8086-based IBM PC/XT was selling in droves. The PC1640 was sold in the US as the PC6400.

The design of these machines was slightly different to IBM's offering. The power supply was housed in the monitor, just as with Amstrad's CPC range of home computers. Many peripheral interface boards were hard-wired on the main board, including serial and parallel interfaces and the disk controller. Also, the PC1512's CGA-compatible display had a 9-pin DIN socket instead of the more standard 9-pin D-type socket that was adopted on the PC1640. An area of RAM was set aside, called NVR (non-volatile RAM), which was battery-backed (AA batteries!!) and stored configuration data of the machine. This also stored the realtime clock. The MCGA monitor option allowed for the simultaneous display of 4 colours from a total palette of 16 colours. For the PC1640, an EGA video option was made available, allowing for the simultaneous display of 16 colours from a palette of 64.

Upgrade options for the PC1512 and PC1640 were somewhat restrictive. The most common upgrade was to fit a hard disk, and this was typically done through the purchase and installation of a "hard card" (an expansion card that had a hard disk vertically mounted on it). These hard disks were typically 10Mb or 20Mb in capacity. Upgrading the video to EGA or VGA was, however, not possible. Upgrading the memory of the PC1512 was a simple matter of adding a further 128K of RAM chips to the main board.

The PC2000-series were introduced in 1988 and were principally sold as business machines to compete against IBM's new PS/2 architecture. Amstrad even came up some innovative ways to make sense of the rather complex memory configurations of the time - XMS and EMS. The range comprised a replacement to the PC1512/1640 in the form of the PC2086 (with Intel 8086 processor @ 8 MHz and 640K RAM), the PC2286 (with Intel 80286 processor @ 12.5 MHz and 1Mb RAM), PC2386 (with Intel 80386DX-20 processor and 4Mb RAM). All three machines boasted VGA graphics as standard, 720K 3.5" floppy drive, and the monitor no longer housed the power supply, making upgrading simpler. The PC2000 series came in a large variety of specs, including LL, SD (Single Floppy Drive), DD (Double Floppy Drive), or HD as disk drive options, and 12MD (12" greyscale monitor), 14 CD (14" colour monitor), or 12/14 HRCD (12 or 14" High-resolution colour monitor) as display options. Options included a 32Mb RLL hard disk, a second 3.5" 720K floppy drive, an external 5.25" floppy drive, and a math coprocessor on the 2086 model. The flagship PC2386 came with a 64Mb hard disk and a single 3.5" floppy drive. It was bundled with MS-DOS 4.01, Microsoft Windows 2.1 (forebear of Windows 3.0), and Microsoft GW-BASIC. The PC2000-series unfortunately met with some issues at launch, including faulty MS-DOS 4.0 disks and faulty disk controllers (neither of which were Amstrad's fault). Amstrad resolved these issues quickly but the media frenzy damaged sales irrevocably.

 

The PC3000-series, launched in 1990, marked Amstrad's move to a more conventional PC design, in order to overcome upgrade issues with its former series of PCs and to freshen up its PC line. This series comprised the PC3086 (with Intel 8086 processor @ 8 MHz and 640K RAM), the PC3286 (with Intel 80286 processor @ 16 MHz and 1Mb RAM), PC3386 SX (with Intel 80386SX-20 processor and 1Mb RAM).

The PC4000-series, launched in 1991, consisted of just one machine, which wasn't even an upgrade over the PC3386 - called the PC4386 SX, it retained the Intel 80386SX-20 processor, but came with 4Mb of RAM and an 80Mb hard disk. It was housed in a smaller case, which was used again in the PC5000-series.

 

The PC5000-series, also launched in 1991, used the smaller, sleeker PC4386 case design, and comprised the PC5086 (with Intel 8086 processor @ 8 MHz and 640K RAM), the PC5286 (with Intel 80286 processor @ 16 MHz and 1Mb RAM), PC5386 SX (with Intel 80386SX-20 processor, 2Mb RAM and VGA graphics). The PC5286 was the first PC to be marketed as a games machine, and came with an Adlib- and SoundBlaster-compatible sound card manufactured by Amstrad themselves, and was bundled with some games and Pc-Works software suite. It didn't sell in great number, possibly because of it's slightly underpowered 80286 processor. Both the PC4386 and PC5286 was marketed as "family packs" just prior to being discontinued.

The PC6000-series consisted again of just one machine, called the PC6486 SX, it made use of the then-new Intel i486SX processor.

 

Amstrad also released a PC7000-series (7286, 7386SX and 7486SLC), PC8000-series (8486 486DX) and PC9000-series (9486i 486DX and 9555i Pentium), most of which were rather ordinary PC-compatible units in a sea of other manufacturers systems.

One Amstrad PC of note was the unusual Mega-PC, released in 1992. This was a SEGA MegaDrive and a PC all in one unit. The PC was a 386SX-25 with 1MB of RAM and a 40MB hard disk and also carried the model number 7386SX. The user could operate a slider on the front that switched the unit from PC mode into Mega Drive mode. The Mega Drive circuitry was actually held on an ISA expansion card. The Mega-PC could be used with the SEGA Mega-CD using a special connector, only available from Amstrad. It was bundled with a dual-sync 15/31 kHz 14" white monitor with internal speakers, an Amstrad white joystick, and a standard Amstrad PS/2-compatible keyboard. Later, an updated version of the Mega-PC, the Mega Plus, was sold which used a Cyrix Cx486SLC running at 33 MHz and came with 4MB of RAM. Amstrad ceased production of the Mega-PC and Mega Plus in 1993.

 

Luggables

Following the huge number of sales of PC1512 and PC1640 units, Amstrad designed two "luggable" versions of the same. Called the PPC512 and PPC640 and launched in 1988, these weren't very portable, due to their 22lb weight. The base PPC512 machine came with 512K of RAM, a single 3.5" floppy disk drive, and a non-backlit LCD display which was difficult to read in bad light. The PPC640 came with 640K of RAM and a built-in 9600 baud modem. It's case was grey instead of the PPC512's cream. Both were bundled with MS-DOS 3.3 and Organiser software that only worked on the PPC-series. They could be powered either from ten D-type batteries (which would only last a couple of hours), or from the external 12V power supply. Upgrading the PPC-series was almost impossible, and no hard disk option was ever offered, although a dual-floppy option existed. Both machines sported CGA graphics capability with an additional extended 640x200 16-colour mode.

 

 

Laptops

Amstrad also released four laptop/notebook computers starting in 1990. The first of these was the ALT-286 was an Intel 80286-based laptop running at 16 MHz (you could set the CPU to 'slow' mode which made it run at 8 MHz), and came with 1Mb RAM, a 20 MB hard disk and a black and white backlit VGA 640x480 LCD screen. It retailed for £1,600. Released at the same time, the ALT-386 SX came with an Intel i386 SX-20 processor and a 40 MB hard disk. Both these had monochrome VGA screens and weighed a rather hefty 7kg. A colour-TFT version of the ALT386 SX came in the form of the ACL386 SX. This came with a 120 MB hard disk, 4 MB of RAM and a colour TFT LCD display. In September 1991, a smaller notebook version arrived, called the ANB386 SX which retailed for £1,699 and came with a 40 MB hard disk. The ALT-286 and ALT-386 SX share the same battery pack, user manual and service manual.

 

The following table contains a list of the specifications of the various Amstrad PCs:

1XXX Series

 
PC1512
PC1640
PPC512
PPC640
Release Date September 1986 June 1987 1987 1987
CPU 8086 @ 8 MHz 8086 @ 8 MHz 8086 or NEC V30 @ 8 MHz 8086 or NEC V30 @ 8 MHz
Memory Included 512K 640K 512K 640K
Max Memory Supported 640K 640K 640K 640K
Floppy Drives 1 or 2 5.25" 360K 1 or 2 5.25" 360K 1 or 2 3.5" 720K 1 or 2 3.5" 720K
Hard Drives (optional) (optional) N/A N/A
Graphics Card Options CGA (with additional 640x200 16-colour mode) MDA, Hercules, CGA, EGA MDA, CGA MDA, CGA
Monitor Options Monochrome (Greyscale CGA) or Colour CGA Low-resolution "CD" 640x200, or High-res "ECD" 640x350 monitor CGA 640 x 200 (built-in) non-backlit, dark blue on green CGA 640 x 200 (built-in) non-backlit, dark blue on green
Keyboard 75-key XT 75-key XT 102-key AT 102-key AT
Expansion Slots 3 x full-length 8-bit ISA, accessible via expansion bay 4 x full-length 8-bit ISA, 3 accessible via expansion bay, 1 internal None None
Bundled Software MS-DOS 3.22, Digital Research DOSPlus 1.2, GEM 2.0, BASIC2 1.12 MS-DOS 3.22, GEM 2.0, BASIC2 1.21 MS-DOS 3.3, Organizer MS-DOS 3.3, Organizer, Mirror II modem s/w
Models Available SD (1 x 360K floppy)
DD (2 x 360K floppies)
HD10 (1 x 360K floppy, 10MB hard disk)
HD20 (1 x 360K floppy, 20MB hard disk)
SD (1 x 360K floppy)
DD (2 x 360K floppies)
HD10 (1 x 360K floppy, 10MB hard disk)
HD20 (1 x 360K floppy, 20MB hard disk)
HD30 (1 x 360K floppy, 30MB ST506 hard disk)
PPC512 PPC640

2XXX Series

 
PC2086
PC2286
PC2386
Year of Release 1988 1989 1989
CPU 8086 @ 8 MHz 80286 @ 12.5 MHz 80386 @ 20 MHz
Memory Included 640K 1 MB 4 MB + 64K of 35ns cache memory
Max Memory Supported 640K 16 MB (4 SIMM slots) 16 MB (4 SIMM slots)
Floppy Drives 1 or 2 3.5" 720K 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB
Hard Drives (optional 32MB RLL hard drive, compatible with XT-IDE) 40 MB RLL hard drive (compatible with XT-IDE) 65 MB 28ms access time RLL hard drive (Type 1 in BIOS)
Graphics Card Options VGA (Paradise) VGA (supports MDA, CGA, Hercules, EGA, MCGA and EVGA) Paradise VGA (supports MDA, CGA, Hercules, EGA, MCGA and EVGA)
Monitor Options 12" or 14" VGA mono or VGA colour 12" or 14" VGA mono or VGA colour 12" or 14" VGA mono or VGA colour
Keyboard 102-key (proprietary interface) PC/AT 102-key (proprietary interface) PC/AT 102-key (proprietary interface)
Expansion Slots 3 x full-length 8-bit ISA, 1 x half-length 8-bit ISA, socket for external 5.25" or 3.5" floppy drive (looks like a parallel port), 1 x parallel port, 1 x RS232 serial port 4 x full-length 16-bit ISA, 1 x half-length 8-bit ISA, socket for external 5.25" or 3.5" floppy drive (looks like a parallel port), 1 x parallel port, 1 x RS232 serial port, 80287 math coprocessor socket 4 x full-length 16-bit ISA, 1 x 8-bit ISA, socket for external 5.25" or 3.5" floppy drive (looks like a centronics port), 1 x parallel port, 1 x RS232 serial port, 80387 math coprocessor socket
Bundled Software MS-DOS 3.30, Windows 2.1 MS-DOS 4.01, Windows 2.1, GW-BASIC MS-DOS 4.01, Windows 386
Models Available PC2086/30 PC2286/40 PC2386/65

3XXX Series

 
PC3086
PC3286
PC3386SX
Year of Release 1989 1989 1989
CPU 8086 @ 8 MHz 80286 @ 16 MHz 80386SX @ 20 MHz
Memory Included 640K 1 MB 4 MB
Max Memory Supported 640K 16 MB 16 MB
Floppy Drives 1 or 2 3.5" 720K 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB
Hard Drives (optional 30MB RLL hard drive) 40MB RLL hard drive 40MB RLL hard drive
Graphics Card Options VGA (Paradise) VGA (Paradise) VGA (Paradise)
Monitor Options Monochrome VGA Colour VGA High-resolution colour VGA
Keyboard 102-key AT 102-key AT, but with non-standard DIN socket from CPC 6128+ (WARNING: 3rd-party kbds won't work). 102-key AT, but with non-standard DIN socket from CPC 6128+ (WARNING: 3rd-party kbds won't work).
Expansion Slots 3 x full-length 8-bit ISA, 1 x half-length 8-bit ISA, external socket for 5.25" floppy drive 1 x parallel port, 1 x 9-pin serial port (front), 1 x 25-pin serial port (rear)  
Bundled Software MS-DOS 3.3, Windows 2.1    

4XXX Series

 
PC4386SX
Year of Release 1991
CPU 80386SX @ 20 MHz
Memory Included 4 MB
Max Memory Supported 16 MB
Floppy Drives 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB
Hard Drives 80MB RLL hard drive
Graphics Card Options VGA (Paradise)
Monitor Options VGA
Keyboard 102-key AT
Expansion Slots  
Bundled Software MS-DOS 3.3

 

5XXX Series

 
PC5086
PC5286
PC5386SX
Year of Release 1991 1991 1991
CPU 8086 @ 8 MHz 80286 @ 16 MHz 80386SX @ 20 MHz
Memory Included 640K 1 MB 2 MB
Max Memory Supported 640K 16 MB 16 MB
Floppy Drives 1 or 2 3.5" 720K 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB
Hard Drives Built-in XT-IDE controller, optional 40MB XT-IDE hard drive) 40MB RLL hard drive (CMOS type 17) 40MB RLL hard drive (CMOS type 17)
Graphics Card Options VGA (Chips & Technologies) VGA (Chips & Technologies) VGA (Chips & Technologies)
Monitor Options VGA VGA VGA
Keyboard 102-key AT 102-key AT 102-key AT
Expansion Slots 2 x half-length 8-bit ISA 2 x 16-bit ISA, parallel port 2 x 16-bit ISA, parallel port
Bundled Software MS-DOS 3.3 MS-DOS 3.3 MS-DOS 3.3

 

Mega Series

 
Mega-PC
Mega Plus
Year of Release 1992 1993
CPU Intel 386SX @ 25 MHz / Motorola 68000 Cyrix Cx486SLC @ 33 MHz / Motorola 68000
Memory Included 1 MB SIMM (EDO) 4 MB SIMM (EDO)
Max Memory Supported 16 MB EDO 16 MB EDO
Floppy Drives 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB 1 x 3.5" 1.44MB
Hard Drives Built-in 40MB Built-in 40MB
Graphics Card Options SVGA with 256K video RAM SVGA with 256K video RAM
Monitor Options Dual-sync 14" monitor Dual-sync 14" monitor
Sound Support Built-in Adlib sound card on Mega Drive ISA card Built-in Adlib sound card on Mega Drive ISA card
Keyboard 102-key PS/2 102-key PS/2
Expansion Slots Connector on front for MegaCD (requires special converter from Amstrad) Connector on front for MegaCD (requires special converter from Amstrad)
Bundled Software MS-DOS 5.0, Multiworks, Contraption Zack game (Mindscape), World Atlas ?

This page was last updated on 12th January 2015.