Amstrad CPC

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    CPC 464 playing Crafton & Xunk

    Amstrad is a British manufacturer of consumer electronics, and in the early 1980s decided to get into the home computer market. The market at that time was dominated by the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, so Amstrad needed something that was as cheap as those, but technically better. They developed a Z80-based system, and a two-chip Graphics Processing Unit that combined a Motorola 6845 with a custom gate array. The new graphics engine had both higher resolution and more colors than the C64 and Spectrum (though this often didn't show when Speccy games were cheaply ported to the CPC).

    Amstrad also developed its own operating system for it, called AMSDOS, and a custom version of BASIC called Locomotive BASIC. The new computer could also run CP/M, the 1970s standard OS for business software.

    The new computer was released in 1984 as the Amstrad Colour Personal Computer 464. It had 64K of RAM, a built-in cassette drive, and came with either a green phosphor or color monitor. With a proprietary monitor, it could avoid the problem of different TV standards in different countries (a huge problem for other computers of that time, as most of them had TV output). It was marketed all over Europe, and was a huge success, selling over 2,000,000 units.

    Customers loved it, but wanted more memory and a floppy drive. Amstrad chose a 3" drive, which was unusual, as the rest of the industry was moving to the 3.5" drive. The 3" drive was introduced in 1985 with the CPC664. This model lasted only a few months before being replaced by the CPC6128, with 128K of RAM.

    The lineup (464 and 6128) remained unchanged until 1990, when Amstrad decided to improve them to a standard closer to the Amiga and Atari ST. The new models were the 464plus, the 6128plus, and the GX 4000 game console. They had a new GPU with a 4,096-color palette and hardware sprites; a less processor-intensive sound system; and support for analog joysticks and cartridges up to four megabits. They were also completely backwards compatible. But they were still based on the 8-bit Z80, so they were obsolete in an industry of 16- and 32-bit computers, and failed in the marketplace. The CPC was also more complex than the Spectrum, so it didn't have the second life in eastern Europe that the Spectrum had.



    • CPU: Zilog Z80, 4 Mhz.
    • GPU: Combination of a Motorola 6845 and a custom gate array.
    • Sound: General Instrument AY-3-8912.


    • 464, 664, 464plus, GX4000: 64K.
    • 6128, 6128plus: 128K.


    • 160*200, 320*200, or 640*200 resolution.
    • Original models: 27 colors. (The palette was built on a ternary GRB system, from 0003 to 2223: 0 was black, 1 was dark blue, 2 was light blue, 3 (0103) was dark red, etc. More info.)
    • Plus models, GX4000: 4,096 colors.


    • Three channels.
    • Square or noise waveforms.


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