Amstrad Consumer Electronics plc. (Essex, U.K.)

Amstrad was one of the world’s leading PC manufacturers in the 1980s, having sold 1.7 million computers in 1986 alone. Most of the systems were sold in Europe and Asia, although the company had a sales organization, Amstrad Inc., in Irvine, Texas. Amstrad PCs were well designed and well-made, and would be a low-cost addition to your collection.

The company’s CPC series was often sold under different brands from country to country in Europe. German models, for example, sold under the Schneider name. Amstrad sold a 72K version of the system as the CPC 472 in Spain. Nearly two million CPC 464s were sold, mostly in Europe, until its last year of production in 1990.

Although the 3-inch disks used in the CPC 664 model were double-sided, the drive could read only one side. You had to manually flip the disk to read the other side. Amstrad also sold the CPC 6128, which was identical to the CPC 664 but had 128K RAM and updated system software in ROM.

The 464 Plus featured a redesigned motherboard over the CPC464 that made use of ASICs to reduce chip count. It also had improved graphics. The Amstrad 6128 Plus was identical to the 464 Plus, but with 128K RAM and a 3-inch floppy disk drive in place of the cassette recorder.

In 1985, Amstrad introduced the PcW8256 and PcW8512. Both PcW series were also referred to as the Joyce computer and were sold with printers. The printers were designed to be used only with the PcW line, and in some cases were not even interchangeable within the product line. The PcW8512 had 512K and two floppy drives. Finding CP/M software on the 3-inch media was difficult and is more so now.

Although its internal design was similar to that of the PcW8256/PcW8512, the PcW9256/PcW9512 had a different enclosure with the drive bays positioned under the monitor rather than to the right. The 82-key keyboard was also different. The PcW256 was released after the PcW9512; it had 256K RAM and only one proprietary printer port, as Amstrad was trying to lower the cost of the system. Because the 3-inch floppy drives were no longer available, Amstrad was forced to switch to 3.5-inch drives with the PcW9256. Amstrad was one of the last CP/M holdouts, and the PcW16 and PcW10 machines introduced in the 1990s represented the last of the CP/M line.

Amstrad launched its first PC-compatible desktop, the PC 1512, in 1986. A PC 1640 followed it in 1987 and offered 640K of standard memory, a hard disk drive, and EGA capability. The Amstrad PC-20 was the same system as the Sinclair PC-200 with its own case and minus the capability to use a TV as a monitor.

The company’s first portables, the PPC512/640 series, had an unusual design. Its full-size keyboard and keypad unfolds from the top of the unit. Then, a small LCD folds up. You can find PPC512/PPC640s moderately priced today, but pristine examples can fetch over $100, particularly in the U.K.

Amstrad CPC 464 (1984, home computer)
Base Configuration: 3.3MHz Z80A CPU, AMSDOS or CP/M, expansion bus, 64K RAM, 32K ROM, integral cassette recorder, integral keyboard/keypad, parallel and game ports, Locomotive BASIC in ROM, three-channel sound
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 200 graphics, 16 colors

Amstrad CPC 664/CPC 6128 (late 1985, home computer)
Base Configuration: 3.3MHz Z80A CPU, AMSDOS in ROM, CP/M 2.2 on disk, expansion bus, 64K RAM (128K max), 48K ROM, 3-inch floppy disk drive, parallel and game ports, Locomotive BASIC in ROM, three-channel sound
Video: 25-line x 80-column text, 640 x 200 graphics, 16 colors

Amstrad 464 Plus/6128 Plus (home computer)
Base Configuration: 3.3MHz Z80A CPU; AMSDOS or CP/M 3.0; ROM cartridge slot; expansion slot; 64K RAM (128K max); integral cassette recorder (CPC 464 Plus)/ 3-inch floppy disk drive (CPC 6128 Plus); integral keyboard; parallel, three game, video, and light gun ports; Locomotive BASIC in ROM
Video: 32 colors

Amstrad PcW8256/PcW8512 (Sept. 1985, desktop)
Original Retail Price: £399
Base Configuration: 3.4MHz Z80A CPU, CP/M Plus, external expansion bus, 256K RAM (512K max), 48K ROM, 3-inch floppy disk drive, integral monochrome CRT display, keyboard/keypad, proprietary printer port, LocoScript word processor, Mallard BASIC CP/M and BASIC manuals, dot-matrix printer
Video: 32-line x 90-column text, 720 x 256 graphics

Amstrad PcW9256/PcW9512 (1987 [PcW0512]/1991 [PcW9256], desktop)
Base Configuration: 3.4MHz Z80A CPU, CP/M Plus, external expansion bus, 256K RAM (512K max), 3.5-inch floppy disk drive (PcW9256)/3-inch floppy disk drive (PcW9512), integral 14-inch monochrome CRT, keyboard/keypad, parallel and proprietary printer ports, LocoScript word processor, Mallard BASIC, dot-matrix printer (PcW9256)/daisy-wheel printer (PcW9512)
Video: 32-line x 90-column text, 720 x 256 graphics

Amstrad PC 1512

Amstrad PC 1512

Amstrad PC 1512/PC 1640 (Sept. 1986 [PC 1512]/June 1987 [PC1640], destop PC)
Original Retail Price: $799 to $1,499
Base Configuration: 8MHz 8086 CPU; MS-DOS 3.2 or DR-DOS with GEM; three ISA slots; 512K RAM (640K max); 5.25-inch floppy disk drive; 20MB hard disk drive (PC 1640), monochrome or RGB monitor; RS-232C, parallel, and game ports; word processor, mouse, user manual
Video: CGA, EGA (PC 1640)
Important Options: second floppy disk drive, printer

Amstrad PC 1640

Amstrad PC 1640

Amstrad PC-20 (desktop PC)
Base Configuration: 8086 CPU, 512K RAM, 16K ROM, integral keyboard/keypad Video: MDA, 16 colors

Amstrad PPC640

Amstrad PPC640

Amstrad PPC512/PPC640 (Nov. 1987, transportable PC)
Original Retail Price: $799 (PPC512)/ $999 (PPC640)
Base Configuration: 8MHz V-30; MS-DOS 3.3; external expansion bus; 512K RAM (PPC512)/640K RAM (PPC640); 3.5-inch floppy disk drive; 9-inch monochrome LCD; keyboard/keypad; RS-232, parallel, and CGA video ports; AC adapter; battery pack, modem (PPC640)
Video: CGA, MDA
Size/Weight: 11.75 lbs.
Important Options: dual 3.5-inch floppy disk drives, 20MB hard disk drive

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