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Known for its CPC line of home computers, Amstrad was a UK-based electronics company founded in 1968 by Alan Michael Sugar, who was sixteen years old when he started the business.

During the 1980s, Amstrad was one of only a few companies competing for the computer market in the United Kingdom.

Originally known as AMS Trading Limited, the company produced low-priced high-fidelity television and car stereo cassette products, amplifiers, and tuners, and began marketing its own home computers in competition with Commodore and Sinclair in 1984.

The video game crash of 1983 had more of an effect in the United States and Japan than in the United Kingdom, although the Uk experienced its own version in 1984 and 1985. Sugar entered the market with its Amstrad Colour Personal Computer (CPC) with the overriding goal of simplicity. Believing that the average consumer was having trouble transitioning to personal computers, due to the difficulty in setting them up, the CPC was designed to be a low-cost machine that came with its own screen and only two wires, one for power and one for video, both of which were hard-wired into the monitor, which also housed the power supply. Therefore, there was only one plug to contend with.

Sugar also wanted to produce a computer that did not commandeer the family television set, and the CPC met these goals, allowing the computer to be used to play video games while the rest of the family still had use of the TV.

Although the UK microcomputer boom had already peaked before the CPC was able to make it into the market, this design allowed Amstrad's machines to be competitive.

The first PC manufactured by Amstrad was the CPC 464. Its hardware was similar to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, so video game developers could port their games from the Spectrum to the CPC without difficulty.

The CPC 464 was powered by the Zilog Z80 processor, which ran at 4 MHz, had 64K of memory, and ran AMSDOS, Amstrad's proprietary operating system. It shipped with a built-in cassette drive and a choice of colour or green monochrome monitor.

The CPC 464 shipped with twelve software packages, sourced by Amstrad, which consisted mostly of games, but there were productivity applications as well, such as the Easi-Amsword word processor.

In May of 1985, the CPC664 included 64 KB RAM and an internal 3-inch floppy disk drive, also available with a choice of a green screen or colour monitor. The CPC664 was produced along with the CPC 464, which was neither reduced in price or discontinued. The CPC 464 was produced until 1990 when it was replaced by the 464plus.

The CPC664's main unit was redesigned to accommodate the floppy drive, and the keyboard was tilted to the front with MSX-style cursor keys above the numeric keypad. The CPC664 was on the market for only a few months, however. When the CPC6128 was introduced, Amistrad decided not to keep three models in the lineup and, since the CPC 464 was selling better than the CPC664, the latter was discontinued.

In August of 1985, The CPC6128 featured 128 KB RAM and an internal floppy drive and was compatible with the CP/M+ operating system, which appealed to businesses. The CPC6128 was the first Amstrad product sold in the United States. In 1990, it was replaced by the 6128plus.

Amistrad's plus range began in 1990, intended to highlight enhancements in the existing CPC hardware platform of both the CPC 464 and the CPC6128. While sharing the base characteristics of their predecessors, the plus range of computers increased the amount of RAM and was designed to be more stylish.

In 1985, Amstrad acquired Sinclair's product line and produced the Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 and +3 models.

In 1986, Amstrad began producing IBM PC-compatible computers, beginning with the PC1512, which were MS-DOS or MS-Windows based PC-compatible machines. Includes was a line of laptop computers that began with the ALT286 and a notebook computer, the ANB386SX.

In the 1990s, Amstrad began to concentrate less on computers and more on communications products, including the acquisition of several telecommunications businesses. In 2007, the company was purchased by BSkyB, and Sugar stepped down as chairman of Amstrad the following year. Today, the company exists in name only.

The focus of this category is on Amstrad's vintage machines, particularly its CPC line of computers, although other topics closely related to Amstrad's computer line are also appropriate here.

 

 

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