927 posts • joined 26 Mar 2008
Revived ZX Spectrum
It wasn't a revived ZX Spectrum, just a Bluetooth keyboard that looks like a Spectrum which will only work with games sold by one company.
Games which the authors withdrew the rights for the company to use due to years of unpaid royalties.
Crikey, the last time I saw such shipment delays for pricey kit was when I ordered a 4 meg RAM upgrade from Watford Electronics during the great RAM shortage of early 1995. Took my money, constantly promised delivery but kept pushing back, prices dropped, and 8 weeks later I got my RAM. Never got the difference back.
Re: Amiga competitor for £200?
The CPC article from last week gives a good indication of how many people it needs to design a computer.
Re: Sinclair Research still around, sort of...
Amstrad purchased the all the rights and IP to the computing products and the Sinclair name for use with computing products. They also purchased all the stock in the supply chain.
They had no interest in the company although it appears Clive had been hoping Sugar would bung him a few million to carry on. However Sugar was only interested in the areas that had a natural fit into Amstrads product line.
The banks initially wanted Dixons to buy it, and it was Dixons (who who didn't want the Spectrum cash cow to end) who got Sugar involved.
Re: Stop bashing the Microdrive, it wasn't that bad
A case of bash the early models which had all sorts of problems (including data recorded on one drive couldn't be read on another).
The later ones were great and there are still instances of people recovering data off of the tapes today.
Another instance of Sinclair buggering things up by rushing a product to market with inadequate testing and letting the punters test for them instead.
Mention of the CPC 472 in the article which Amstrad sold in Spain to avoid the 64k tax.
The thing was that you couldn't actually use the 8k. It sat on a little daughterboard along with a ROM. While the ROM itself was connected, the connections to the 8k of memory went nowhere (a fact obscured by some white markings on the board).
Here's a piccy - http://www.cpcwiki.eu/imgs/thumb/3/37/Amstrad_472_motherboard.jpg/800px-Amstrad_472_motherboard.jpg
Managed to fool Spanish Customs until the tax was dropped.
Take a look at that Wafer Drive pic. Sinclair appear to have invented the new Mac Pro some 30 years ago!
Re: The crazy thing...
Yep. I was there and all the sale did was add a couple of layers of seat polishers called "management" who just made everything more complicated.
So instead of just taking a phone call and fixing something, there was suddenly endless bureaucracy costing god knows how much. I escaped as soon as I could as the useless idiot managers bought in had no concept or understanding of a broadcasting enviroment.
Re: Southsea Arcade
The only way you can describe arcades at that time to kids today is if you tell them imagine seeing games of a quality you might only get at home in 5 or more years time. In short like telling a kid who has just got a PS4 that they could go and play PS5 games today.
The problem was the arcade manufacturers didn't innovate enough and home technology also caught up. By the time you get to the Dreamcast era you can play a nearly perfect version of Crazy Taxi at home.
Re: Given the anniversary last week...
Software publishers at the time were often sausage factories with hard pressed coders having to put out games under impossible deadlines. You might if you were lucky have a coder, a graphics guy and a sound guy but that was pretty much it.
To try and re-create Space Harrier on any of the 3 main 8 bits was impossible. The Spectrum and CPC versions have a fair crack at it. The C64 version is a total disaster.
Frankly I wouldn't touch any of the home versions of Harrierand instead use MAME. But back in 1987 when the home conversions came out they were the best we could hope for.
Unlike something like Speccy Rainbow Island which I still adore to this day!
I hold special contempt for Space Harrier 2 on the Sega Megadrive. The Megadrive should be capable of something better but it's just utter rubbish with palid music and crap baddies. Despise it.
Re: Southsea Arcade
El Reg outing to the arcade museam at Funspot anyone?
It was but IIRC it didn't start to hit the arcades in the UK until mid to late '86.
Re: "It’s hard to comprehend...
Re: Given the anniversary last week...
Once you get over the vector graphics, it's not bad. It captures the speed of the arcade combined with a decent soundtrack. But as I say you need to get over the vector graphics first which not everyone can.
Space Harrier ended up being ported to anything and everything. Here's a few unusual versions:
The Sharp MZ-700 (a machine that only does text not graphics) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GObao5a7Fis
The NEC PC6001 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WYEpH-bKDs
The NEC PC8001 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UBjZW8_qm8
The rather splendid NEW Atari XL version - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Oi3zgpGu8
I've played the XL version and can confirm it's rather splendid.
Note the NEC PC's are not PC we think of them today but are Z80 based machines.
Re: "It’s hard to comprehend...
It's hard to understate just how mind blowing seeing those graphics moving at that speed was at the time. It wasn't just that it was way ahead of home systems, it was way ahead of everything else in the arcade as well.
It's also easy to forget about the pumping soundtrack with speech that encouraged you ('You're doing great!").
Re: Southsea Arcade
That was a very good arcade. Had practically everything you'd ever need in the mid to late 80's.
Went back a couple of years ago and its now just rows of slot machines, grabbers and coin pushers with a sorry looking Crazy Taxi cab right at the back.
Re: Atari Discovery Pack
Having played the arcade version I was less than impressed with the ST version my mate had. The mouse felt wrong and the loading between levels was interminable. He seemed to like it though.
The same pack had a terrible port of Outrun which he also liked thus confirming he had no taste in games.
I remember this turning up at the arcade near Clarence pier at Southsea. The full hydraulic set up, parked right at the entrance to lure people in.
The queue to get on, and the crowd around it is something I have rarely seen in an arcade to that extent. People willingly shoving in their 50p's (50p for 9 lives or 20p for 3) and rarely getting very far all, while people stood there slack jawed at the graphics. Sure people stood around other games, but not to the extent that Harrier machine attracted when it first went in.
The home conversions were a bit of a let down which was to be expected. Your humble Z80 or 6502 couldn't really replicate a dual 68000 setup with custom graphics hardware.
The Old Man Of Hoy
Fascinating documentary about the climb of the Old Man Of Hoy in which Ian took part:
A TV natural even half way up a sheer cliff face.
Sega spent a huge proportion of their UK Dreamcast marketing budget sponsoring Arsenal instead of the massive amount of TV advertising Sony did for the Playstation.
Drive failure can usually be fixed. There's a pot on the board that you you adjust to give it a little more juice. Eventually it won't take anymore but good results have been had from this method.
If I threw away every old computer that had a PSU failure I wouldn't have much left! Usually a few caps and half hour with a soldering iron (the caps in BBC micro PSU blow in a most entertaining manner).
Caps don't last forever so its always a case of "when" not "if" they blow.
The Dreamcast was wonderful. Its failure was a tragedy as it has a superb catalogue of games that are just plain fun in the good old seafront arcade style.
Re: Wii failed
"he SD analog composite-video output didn't play well with a modern digital HD TV, it looked all blurred and smudgy."
And what did you expect exactly? Composite video was only ever any use as an improvement from RF. I have 30 year old games consoles and guess what, they look crap if plugged in via composite video as well!
Rise of the idiots
A domain name just for London? Why not go the whole hog and have one just for Shoreditch. It'll be 'well weapon'.
Re: Atari 2600
Pitfall and Yars Revenge would keep me happy if I was on a desert island!
All he deserves is a Dragon 32 and a copy of Cassette 50 (without the 'free' calculator watch).
Re: Final Cut Pro X?
It's very true. The phoning home problem is very real. A colleague had his copy lock him out whilst abroad due to Adobe trying to take money from an expired credit card (he'd updated it months before). Trying to get that fixed from a remote location was impossible and he ended up doing a cut on FCP-X instead.
People are also scared of the lock-in (which suits Adobe but not the end user). Stop paying and you won't be able to access your old projects.
I'll probably end up biting the bullet myself. For now CS6 is fine. But once you take out the sweetener discounts "cloud" is more expensive and locks you in to the Adobe ecosystem forever whilst it slowly bleeds money from your credit card.
Re: £1040 for an extra 52gb of ram???
People keep on talking about processor speed and memory for 4K video. If you are doing it right you are offloading much of that work to a GPU (or two in the case of the new machine).
Yes memory is good and you'll need a lot of it, but not as much as people think unless you want a huge memory cache. If you have SSD's on a fast interface like Thunderbolt there won't be much advantage in having a huge memory cache.
Last time I had a fault I had it repaired under warranty at a local authorised repair shop. Drove it there, they repaired it, collected it next day. Just like the good old days of going to the Acorn/Amstrad/whoever dealer.
As a bonus you don't have to deal with some brainwashed prat dressed in black and fight your way past the people freeloading on the wi-fi.
Re: Final Cut Pro X?
I know some Pros who are using it for certain types of fast turnaround work. But it is esoteric in the extreme.
Adobe shot themselves in the foot with "Cloud" which has stopped some people from switching from older FCP setups.
Huge relief that you can add your own memory and SSD card (assuming some get released). My current Mac Pro dates from 2008 but has had various upgrades so that it can still cut the mustard today. Buying a base spec and then getting RAM from Crucial saved a small fortune!
Re: First Computer
The casing shown in the article is a prototype. I may be wrong but I seem to recall reading the reason its that colour is the prototypes were made with whatever spare plastic chips the factory had (saved cost).
CPC's little secret
Not mentioned in the article, the CPC has a little secret. Amstrad were not sure if they were going to market the CPC themselves or just licence it to third parties in each country.
As a result the main board has a jumper on it that replaced the Amstrad name on boot-up with any of the following:
ISP (A brandname of Orion, see below)
Triumph (nobody is 100% sure who, possibly the typewriter people?)
Saisho (brand used by DSG Group)
Solovox (Comet, so Sugar hedging his bets here!)
Awa (Australian electronics company)
Schneider (German electronics company)
Orion (the people who actually manufactured the CPC)
In the event only Amstrad and Schneider were widely used although some have reported that AWA has been seen in the wild.
It is highly likely that some of those companies would not have even been aware their name had been included in the ROM!
They are decent monitors and many a ST and Amiga owner carried on using them when they had upgraded from their CPC.
While they are just standard TV tubes rather than the higher dot pitch displays found on high end PC's, Orion went to effort to get them to look as good as possible. In fact the reason the CPC boots to a royal blue background with yellow text was because Orion told Amstrad that this combination would yield the best possible quality display on initial start-up thus giving a good impression.
The first time I saw the new R-Type's title screen display, my jaw was on the floor. Full screen, no border. I've seen overscan before but not done that well.
Most of the micros of that era had a massive border. Partly due to distortion at the edge of the CRT displays but also to save memory. Some CPC games increased the border size to save RAM.
Re: @Mr C Hill
That Wikipedia article is the first time I have seen the 5 million figure. 7 million is the figure I've always seen quoted in print and online going right back.
There are many different sources. Crash says Sinclair sold 4 million units pre-Amstrad, another source says 5 million sold pre-Amstrad. A 1992 issue of Your Sinclair claims 7 million were sold in total.
The 1 million +3 sales comes from an article in New Computer Express when Amstrad axed the +3 in 1990.
Remember the Spectrum was the UK's top selling home micro every year between 1982 and 1989 (as reported by C+VG). Amstrad got hold of it April '86. So that's that's still a good 3 years at the top to sell some units. Was also top seller in Spain as well with the CPC second.
Re: @AC and @Mr C Hill
Sugar wouldn't manufacture in the UK partly due to cost but partly due to reliability. He'd also had a number of bad experiences with UK based manufacturers. He changed his tune when he was forced to have the LNB's for the Sky dishes made in the UK and cut a deal with (IIRC) GEC who did a good job.
By making the CPC in South Korea not only was it cheaper but the Orion factory had better kit than you'd find in the UK meaning more advanced techniques could be used in manufacture, reducing cost and increasing reliability.
Meanwhile the likes of Sinclair were bumbling along in the UK using a factory that produced unreliable machines that kept needing to be returned, as well as the old story about every pub in Dundee having someone selling Spectrums that had come out the back door of the factory.
Still life in the old dog
The wonderful thing is there is still life in the old dog. People are still producing new software for it. Two of my favourite new games from the last couple of years are the superb Star Sabre and Sub Hunter, both of which are supremely polished. Star Sabre has the kind of pixel perfect scrolling only usually seen on computers that have hardware assistance, and Sub Hunter has an obscene amount of parallax scrolling. Both are extremely polished and fun to play.
And not forgetting Orion Prime with it's superb graphics if you enjoy Point And Click adventures.
There's remakes of R-Type and Bubble Bobble as well. Both polish up the originals superbly. There's also a version of Rick Dangerous updated to take advantage of the 4096 colours and DMA sound of the Plus machines.
All good stuff and combined with new utilities (such as the file manager for the HxC floppy emulator) it means that 30 years on the CPC still has new and exciting things happening.
Re: History often comes with rose-tinted specs
The 6128 manual is a ring bound work of art. Covers everything including CPM. It's not so much a manual as an entire course on the computer:
And once you were done with that you could move on to the legendary Firmware Manual which you'd order from your local Amstrad dealer. There was much wailing the day that was discontinued (happily its now online).
Re: A book
Much of it is fairly dull but IMO it comes alive when Amstrad start looking at the idea of producing the CPC. The bits regarding the Sinclair buyout are also very interesting.
For the 1p + P&P it cost me I'm not complaining but I did skip all the bits where it goes on about the stock market and and starts reading like an FT article. The UK computer industry is generally quite poorly documented compared to the American giants so any insight is good.
Re: Time you went home
For quite a long period the ST was £299 and the Amiga £399. + Atari were throwing in an ever increasing bundle of games. The games alone swayed some people.
Re: I remember those 3" Floppy disks
No Amstrad PC compatible used 3 inch disks. The 1512 and 1640 used 5 inch with later models using 3.5 inch drives.
The CPC, Spectrum +3 and pre 1991 models of the Amstrad PCW used 3 inch. Other machines that used the format included the Tatung Einstein and I believe some Sega micros not usually seen outside of Japan.
Re: Great intro to computing
My secondary school did as well. As a CPC fan I asked the teacher in charge why they had got CPC's over BBC micros as the answer was cost. As I've mentioned elsewhere, a BBC was 400 quid with no monitor or storage. That got you a 6128 with colour monitor and a disk drive. As the CPC had bundled CP/M, it was a no brainer.
Pssst, forget Ebay. Go on the Amibay forums and either keep an eye out or post a request. 6128's these days often go for silly money on Ebay but on Amibay prices are more reasonable. You can also pick one up like I did without a monitor and just source a PSU from RS and a SCART cable from Ebay. As much as I love old computers I draw the line at 30 year old CRT's!
Reason they are expensive is that people want 6128's as you can add an SD card reader to them easily (like this - http://www.lotharek.pl/product.php?pid=13 ) . 464's are cheap as they have no disk drive controller and you are stuck loading from tape (unless you can source a DD1 which are also now expensive).
Mine's the one with the Rombo rombox with Protext, Prospell and MAXAM.
Re: Never got the argument about being too expensive.
The 464 was aimed as a home computer but they had their eye on the serious home user/small business from day 1 hence why disk drives were available at launch as a bundled extra (my Dad's mate got a 464 with two 3 inch drives in late '84).
The reason Amstrad didn't promote the fact you didn't have a monitor was because the machine was always supposed to be bundled. If dealers chose to separate the monitor out, that was their business.
Re: History often comes with rose-tinted specs
And just how much did the Amiga cost at that time? It was north of 700 quid wasn't it IF you could get hold of one.
Custom chips are all very well and good and it's easy for you to point at the success stories, but a little examination of the computer scene at the time reveals that companies were going bust left right and centre thanks to over ambitious machines that were delayed due to companies over-reaching.
A case in point is the Elan Enterprise. Lots of nice technology to impress a few computer geeks. It was horribly delayed, expensive and cost more than a CPC 464 despite having no monitor!
At the same time Sinclair were trying to get the QL to market. Clever 68000 technology, but again late and it went to market bugged and not fit for purpose.
Sugar sold 200,000 CPC 464's in it's first 6 months on sale. He got his machine to market on time and on budget.
Meanwhile the QL contributed to the failure of Sinclair and Enterprise went under. So much for "advancing" computing.
The punch up in the pub is quoted verbatim. He really did take it that personally!
Getting the year wrong
Wouldn't worry about getting the year wrong. El Reg managed it in the Amstrad article a few days back, with constant references to 1983 when they meant 1984.
I love the little nods and cameos in Micro Men. Sophie Wilson behind the bar, the Sinclair guy in WH Smiths.
Sadly I don't think its out on DVD otherwise I'd buy a copy as I'd love to own it.
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