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due to falling memory prices, Amstrad released the 6128 earlier than expected, and so the 664 was short-lived, being superceded by the 6128 after just 6 months.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.
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.
Amstrad CPC News
17 December 2021New Amstrad CPC title Black Sea now available
A brand new arcade game written by Mananuk is now available for ordering from https://mananuk.itch.io/.
05 April 2018Reidracâ€™s Dawn of Kernel promises to be one slick shoot â€™em up for Amstrad CPC fans!
Amstrad CPC fans will soon have cause to celebrate since we learned that Juan J. Martinez (Reidrac) is hard at work on his latest project, The Dawn of Kernel, along with artistic contributions from Dylan Barry (loading and title screens).
28 November 2017CPCRetroDev 2017 closes with 29 new games
The CPCRetroDev 2017 is over and again 29(!) new games were submitted and judged by the jury. And so here are the results and downloads for all the games. Even if there were less games submitted, the average quality of all titles was higher than in previous years.
30 August 2017SymbOS 3.0 arrives!
SymbOS (SYmbiosis Multitasking Based Operating System) from Prodatron has a new version just out.
This page was last updated on 4th February 2017