Retro Computers - Amstrad CPC 464 - Retro computer

Amstrad CPC 464
Amstrad CPC 464
Sugar sweeten's the 8-Bit pot.

The Amstrad CPC series were 8-bit home computers produced by Amstrad during the 1980s and early 1990s. 'CPC' stood for 'Colour Personal Computer', although it was possible to purchase a CPC with a green screen monitor (GT64/65) as well as with the standard colour screen monitor (CTM640/644). The colour screen was obviously more expensive.

The CPC 464 was introduced in 1984, and was designed to be a direct competitor to the Commodore 64. Packaged as 'a complete system' the CPC 464 came with its own monitor and built-in cassette tape deck. Like the CMB 64 it sported a sizeable 64KB of RAM.

The CPC 464 did become a popular machine in the UK, but never managed to break into the upper echelons of brilliance (and arcade gaming) that the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 occupied - no 8-Bit machine ever did.

It was on a par (in popularity stakes for the home user) with the BBC Micro, and was easily seen as a better choice than the likes of the Acorn Electron, Dragon 32 or any of the Oric machines.

Still, with it's responsive keyboard, built in 'Datacorder', 64KB of RAM and sound provided by the General Instrument AY-3-8912 sound chip (popular for arcade gaming in other systems such as the MB Vectrex), it was a formidable entry into the ranks of the 8-Bit generation.

The fact that it came with it's own monitor was quite sexy at the time. Owners felt a certain degree of coolness when compared to those that were using a bog standard portable TV - especially those with enough wonga to get a CPC with a colour screen. The picture was nice and sharp and of course you had no need to fiddle with channels and tuning.

A large number of programs and peripherals were developed for the machine such as AmsDos (Amstrad's Operating System). AmsDos was completely embedded in the Basic using so-called RSX commands starting with , but crazily it could not format disks, you actually needed a special application to peform that simple task! The 464 also could use CP/M 2.2 or 3.0 when used with an external Floppy disk unit (3" Hitachi, 180 KB / face). A lot of great CP/M software was adapted for the Amstrad CPC.

The Locomotive BASIC installed in the machine was decent, and ran at a reasonable speed (but didn't have enough oomph to send you 'loco' down in Acapulco) - but was generally faster than other versions of BASIC out there at the time.

Roughly 42KB RAM was available for the user, and the video memory and the ROM were mapped on the same addresses with a dedicated chip to switch the memory banks automatically.

It was capable of producing decent graphics (required by computer games players - especially when playing arcade games!), but could not quite match the sprites of the C64 or the detail of the ZX Spectrum. Still, with 27 available colours and the video output generated by the Motorola 6845 (which was connected to a pixel generator that supported 4 bpp, 2 bpp and 1 bpp output (bpp = bits per pixel)), decent in game graphics could be produced.

Three built-in display resolutions were available, though increased screen size could be achieved by reprogramming the 6845.

The standard video modes were:

Mode 0: 160×200 pixels with 16 colors (4 bpp)
Mode 1: 320×200 pixels with 4 colors (2 bpp)
Mode 2: 640×200 pixels with 2 colors (1 bpp)

The first Amstrad CPC prototype was called 'Arnold', which gave the name ROLAND (An Arnold acronym) to several CPC classic games (such as Roland On The Ropes). It was built around a 6502 processor before being changed to a Z80 late in the computer’s development. A few months later, the CPC series would be completed with a computer which offered a built-in floppy disk unit, the snappily named CPC 664.

Plenty of games were released for the machine (most of the classic games like Manic Miner, Harrier Attack, Jet Set Willy, Exploding Fist, Elite etc) , and it was popular right up until around 1990. Plenty of arcade games were converted to the Amstrad too. (There would generally be a version of most games for the Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad).

The machine itself was pretty nice looking. The colour of the box and monitor went together nicely, and the keyboard had that 80's colour scheme to it. It had the right look, professional yet 'jazzy'.

Ladies and Gents, toast the CPC 464. It was a decent machine y'know. A fine retro computer.

We recommend trying to pick up one of these machines.
Look at computers for sale online or even locally.

If you don't want to get hold of the real hardware then try and download an emulator and download those classic games. Alternatively you could try and play them online.

MACHINE TYPE: 8-Bit Home Computer
BUILT IN LANGUAGE(S): Locomotive Basic
KEYBOARD: QWERTY mechanical keyboard plus numeric keypad and edit block with arrow keys
CPU: Zilog Z80
RAM: 64KB (42KB available to the user)
VRAM: 16 kb
ROM: 32 kb
TEXT MODES: 20 x 25 with 16 colors40 x 25 with 4 colors80 x 25 with 2 colors
GRAPHIC MODES: 160 x 200 with 16 colors320 x 200 with 4 colors640 x 200 with 2 colors
SOUND: 3 channels over 8 octaves plus 1 noise channel
I/O PORTS: Not bad at all. Printer portBus port1 Joystick plug (Atari standard)Floppy Disc PortDIN plug for Amstrad monitor Headphone / Sound stereo jack output
BUILT IN MEDIA: Tape Recorder (1000 or 2000 bauds)
POWER SUPPLY: 5v DC (powered by an Amstrad monitor)
PRICE: £299

Retro Computers and classic games


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Patsy J. Moore said...

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