back to article Alan Sugar leaves Amstrad

Sir Alan Sugar is leaving Amstrad a year after he sold the set-top box maker business to BSkyB. The man who introduced the world - or at least the UK - to the joys of the twin VCR, the hi-fi separates system that is actually one big card-boardy box, and of course the PCW has relinquished the chairmanship of the company, which …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    he appears to be past it

    "Sugar’s real money is apparently in property now"

    We are at the beginning of the biggest global property price crash and his real money is in property now??!!

    All the 'smart' property investors got out of property last year.

  2. Nigel Champion
    Go

    Viglen!

    Wow now there is a blast from the past, Vilgen! I thought they died a death along DAN computers!

  3. lee harvey osmond
    Paris Hilton

    Or, but for a parent's whim ...

    ... Brian Alan Sugar Trading.

    Well, I'm sure Paris has an anagram-solver on her Sidekick.

  4. richard
    Go

    total tat

    see ya sugar,

    your stuff is tat,

    a cpc464 against a c64?

    i don't think so...

    and how's that telephone/fax/keyboardy thing that argos sell? christ...

    and aren't you the hairy cornflakes brother?

  5. Dave
    Joke

    Business Names

    So 'Viglen' must be his other middle name then?

  6. Joe Montana
    Thumb Up

    Property values

    Depends whether he owns the properties outright, or has some kind of credit scheme (like a mortgage) on them...

    If he owns them, although the value of his assets will go down it's hardly fatal...

    And if he has lots of available capital to buy more properties, then very soon will be the perfect time to buy (low prices).

    Long term the property prices will go up again, and if he has the spare capital to buy at the lowest prices he will make a killing.

    And in the shorter term, people aren't buying because they can't get credit... So these people will have to rent. If you can afford to buy property without borrowing to do it, now is a great time because people will have no choice but to rent.

    On the other hand, if he doesn't actually own the properties and just has debts, he could be in trouble if the value of the property goes below the value of his debt.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Too true

    @ AC

    And left every other poor sod who cant afford to invest holding onto a shitty stick! Any way Sir Allun invests in commercial property and he will make a killing.

    For the Paris side of the story she can hold my stick anytime....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: he appears to be past it

    Alan Sugar != Small time landlord.

    I think he knows what he is doing. Most of the people who got "out" are small time land lords with a few dodgy flats. Oh how I laugh when I hear about one of them going under.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good luck to him!

    If it hadn't been for Mr Sugar and his cut price computers, my parents wouldn't have been able to afford my first 8bit ( CPC464 anyone? ) and then my first PC in 87! The 1640-ECD, running DOS 3.1 and GEM Desktop, fantastic!

  10. David Shepherd
    Happy

    Viglen the early days

    I remember buying a floppy disk drive for my BBC micro from Viglen ~25 years ago ... took the "value" option of the 40-track version so I could luxuriate in 100kB space per 5.25" floppy rather than the more expensice 80-track 200kB option ... but it was an immense leap forward from cassette storage!

    Must have seen an ad in PCW which seemed best price for floppy drive and as this was well before the "click to buy" internet days I got in my car and drove down to somewhere in N London to Viglen which turned out to be a plastics company who'd clearly just discovered that the value of a plastic box could be greatly increased by sticking a floppy drive inside. Not sure whether they really expected people to turn up to buy stuff direct but I drove off with one.

    Seems amazing that 100kB storage seemed so amazing ... I realized a few months ago that at home we'd recently passed the 1TB barrier!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Bon Voyage

    Good riddance to a loud-mouth bullying barrow boy who, if he had the proper business nous, could have been the Steve Jobs of Europe but alas his products were too cheap, tacky and underdeveloped to survive - he should have called the company AMTRASH.

    Thanks Alan for some gloriously awful consumer electronics and get your coat on the way out

  12. Andy Barber

    @richard

    Amstrad? Yes! Tat! I'm surprised he got a Knighthood for selling such Tat & for lasting so long.

    Viglen? My bedroom PC boot's to a Viglen screen. Had Windoze 2000, until the HD died a few months ago, now has XP & runs hunky-dory!

  13. Stuart Bevan
    Thumb Up

    Total tat?

    Kudos to Sugar for making so much money off "total tat", Richard.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Heart

    I remember Viglen from the early 80s

    My Dad bought me my first ever 5.25" floppy drive for my BBC micro from Viglen in the early 80s. It was a posh 40/80 track switchable unit for the bargain price of about £399 including drive controller and ROM chip IIRC. Good unit too, lasted years. Viglen were very big in the BBC Micro scene as I recall.

    I used to love my BBC Micro. Defender, Elite, Repton, *FX4,3. Those were the days.

  15. Thomas Silver badge

    @Nigel Champion

    I think Viglen survive as an educational supplier only. I'm not quite sure why that's a profitable niche, I guess they cut costs by only updating their machines before whenever schools allocate budgets and/or perform shorting on prices as a gamble against prices dropping between school budgets being allocated and the deliveries actually being expected.

  16. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Next year's Apprentice

    '...they'll be working for no-nonsense entrepreneur Alan Sugar who controls a property empire worth more than £800.'

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Crap kit

    I remember the build quality was so bad on new kit Amstrad they ended up leaving spare parts on our site seeing as they were breaking down every other day. Never in my life have I seen a system more poorly designed and built than the PCW or CPC. Even many years later the Amstrad build quality they used on the PC's going by the number of people up in arms about Amstrad Sky boxes bugging out after hours of use

    I for one refuse to have any Amstrad product in my house.

    Peace out

  18. Graham Dawson

    @AC

    It's tru that the current *house* prices going into something of a dive but you seem to forget that "houses" and "prperty" are not the same thing. Property values may go up and down, of course, but you can make plenty of money on short and medium term leases. In times of high uncertainty and times of great prosperity, owning property of any sort allows you to do something that most other businesses are only capable of doing in certain pints of the economic cycle: seek rent.

    Like the great man said, they aren't making any more of it. People always need land. They don't always need set-top boxes. Moving into property, therefore, is a very sound decision.

  19. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down

    Re:Total Tat

    Actually the CPC 6128 was rather good. Built in floppy drive and bundled monitor, 128k memory, ran CP/M, too.

    The eMailer, however, was a bit fat lead balloon. Got one in the loft that someone gave me for Xmas. Couldn't even be arsed to open the box.

    Amstrad sold the things *way* below their actual value, hoping that enough mugs would sign up to their extortionate, premium rate, "AmServe" service for them to turn a profit.

    Unfortunately for Amstrad, not enough people were *that* stupid.

  20. RMartin

    Coulda shoulda woulda

    Its kind of hard to denigrate someone who has literally made more money in his sleep than I suspect anyone on this forum will make in their entire lives, but....

    He made most of his mark in the tech sector, but he never pretended to be a tech person. What he is is a very good packager and marketer. Unfortunately he went and spoiled it all for me with his "mug's eyeful" comments that basically showed his contempt for people who bought his stuff.

    As for the property comments by @AC, I would say that now is a very good time to be a buyer if you have the cash. Lots of places going cheap!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    cpc464 load ahhhh bliss

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvChkOHgDIo

    for all those who miss those nice fax noises

    I miss it so much not :)

  22. Evil Graham
    Paris Hilton

    I remember those pseudo-separate hi-fis!

    They were funny.

    In the early 80s the fashion was for stacking separates (record deck, tuner, amp) in a cabinet with a glass door on the front and space at the bottom for your "records" (oo-er granddad).

    A friend of mine had an Amstrad one and when it inevitably broke we took it apart to see if we could fix it. I was quite surprised to see that the front panel was cunningly disguised to look like 3 separate units but was in fact a single sheet of hardboard with a dodgy plastic fascia on the front and some cheap components on the back.

    The majority of the system was in fact fresh air. Nice.

    I think the best thing he did was those PC clones from the late 80s which were all plastic and had the PSU built into the monitor. Not technically elegant, but they were cheap and enabled a lot of small firms (mine included) to give everyone a PC on their desk for the first time.

    So sometimes we need barrow boys, but I must admit I still drooled over completely unaffordable NEXT workstations when they came out.

    Paris, because I bet she's not as expensive as she looks either.

  23. Ben Cross
    Jobs Halo

    @ Mike R.

    £800million, not £800 pounds!

    Else that'd be classic.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    CPC - Yay!

    I really liked my CPC464. It got me doing more programming than I probably would have done on the C64 (there were hooks in CPC BASIC for adding your own commands, which was rather neat) and allowed me access to more games than I could play on my old Atom.

    I got a solid four years of use out of that machine until the monitor/PSU finally died. Built to a price? Sure - but I think "tat" is a bit strong.

    So, farewell Sir Alan - your company may have made crummy music systems, but the computers were quite good, at least in the early days.

  25. Anonymous John

    The Apprentice

    I see the latest has thrown a sickie on his first day.

  26. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    AMSTRAD and VIGLEN

    Sir Alan bought Viglen out when they got into financial difficulties sometime in the '90s as I recall. All of the BBC stuff was pre-Sugar, although it was the BBC stuff that made them famous. I still have a working 40/80 switchable double sided drive that I bought back in 1983. Bare TEAC drive with a plastic sheath case, plastic back plate, and 2 cables with the correct ends on.

    Viglen became a reputable supplier of reasonable PC's to business after they moved from BBC stuff. I was surprised when they had one of the first 486-DX systems reviewed in the UK.

    Amstrad used to make real Hi-Fi seperates before the card-boxy-things. I had an IC2000 amp and IC3000 tuner which were paper covered chipboard and plastic, but the metal chassis and electronics wern't actually that bad. Beef up the power supply with a large electrolytic capacitor to knock out the hum and you had 25 watts RMS per channel which could drive significant amounts of current.

    Following that, they had metal cased seperate amps, tuners and cassette decks, in silver and black, but I thought they looked a bit tacky.

    They also did a strange turntable, which looked a little like a Rega Planar (wooden plinth, speed change by moving the belt by hand, external belt drive), but had a strange three-armed turntable with hexagonal pads on the ends of the arms that did not support the LP at all. I wondered what one would have sounded like with a Rega glass platter sitting on it.

    You really need an Old Fart icon here!

  27. Stephen Usher
    Coat

    Pay-per-view Manic Miner?

    Hmm.. I wonder who owns the copyright to the Sinclair code now?.....

    If it's Murdoch then shouldn't we be worried about pay-per-view ZX Spectrum emulation? Or should Sky be given the QDOS for keeping it released for private use? Could this be a Quantum Leap in the way it does business?

    I think that we all need to be told.

  28. Andy

    Amstrad quality

    I remember a friend buying an Amstrad tuner back in the 70s. It was dead on arrival, but being reckless teenagers we decided to have a look inside before sending it back. After whipping the back off it, the first thing we noticed was a quality control "passed" sticker. The second thing was the rubber band that should have been connected to the tuning knob lying in the bottom of the chassis.

    Still, I'd have never been able to afford my first PC-compatible without Sir Alan's low-cost magic. Ah, the joys of Turbo Pascal, I'm coming over all nostalgic.

    -A.

  29. vale
    Go

    Viglen

    I have about 15 Viglen machines at work that belong to the British Marine Coastguard. A fair bit of their computer systems our comms software runs on is Viglen. Not bad machines, been going for a long time and still going strong.

  30. carlos
    Happy

    @Richard Tat

    cpc wasn't tat, it still ain't tat

    it served me (and many others) very well as an introduction to computers

    and just now i have a cpc6128 running a windows interface and some 3000+ games in a hardrive connected to it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-fiWidGC9M

    check out symbos, symbiface, bonnydos, cpcbooster+

    http://www.cpcwiki.com/index.php/SymbOS

    soon to be hookable to the net also

    talk about retroupgrading

  31. richard
    Stop

    that's right...tat

    yep:

    http://www.amstrad.com/products/emailers/emp.html

    he'll never change..

  32. Brian
    Happy

    A lot of Jealous people

    There are a lot of Jealous people on here. Sugar is minted and your not get over it. My first computer was a 464 and it kicked the C64's ass.

  33. Juan Llodra
    Paris Hilton

    PCW & PCs

    Folks,

    Sir Alan was responsible for the real start in personal computing at home and work in the UK. Apple, CBM, etc. were popular with enthusiasts but when vicars, plumbers and wannabe authors could walk into Dixons, hand over £458.85 (VAT @ 15% then) and walk out with *one* box containing all they needed to discover the wonders of purposeful PC use, it was time to pay attention. Using 3" disks, which were cheap and rugged and CPM, leading to a great number of third party applications, made many people's lives better. Oh, as a salesman flogging this kit at the time, I can vouch for its reliability, too.

    If that wasn't enough, he did it again with his first proper PCs. What spoiled their success was Seagate's sh**ty hard disks, which need parking if you as much as coughed within a foot of the base unit or you risked shredding the platters. Amstrad eventually got several £M compensation but it was too late by then.

    As for all those picking on his flops, consider this dodgy - very dodgy - analogy:

    Edison failed many times before coming up with a working lamp. Alan's hit to flop ratio is slightly better. (Told you it was dodgy.)

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Thousands-of-Failures,-but-Thousands-of-Patents&id=20906 (out of respect for an infinitely greater achievement)

    Paris because her keyboard must be clogged with lost false nails...

  34. Steve Mann

    Amstrad Stereo Kit < Sliced Bread

    My speakers were better than adequate and my amp was streets ahead of the competitors' efforts back in '76.

    Of course, I wasn't spending a fortune on the kit so I didn't expect Bang & Olufsen levels of innovation and quality.

  35. Nigel
    Happy

    Viglen

    Viglen thse days make darned good desktop PCs, servers, and high-performance computing clusters. We (a university customer) configure exactly what we want from an on-line configurator, and know that we'll get exactly the hardware that we ordered, and for how many subsequent months we'll be able to order exactly the same before it EOLs. None of that "we reserve the right to continuously improve" rubbish that a certain large American supplier used to inflict on us, with the result that two systems that look identical right down to the model number on the front panel actually need to be Ghosted with two different system images. This matters a lot, because here in education we need to do a lot of system re-loading to counter what our customers (students) do! It also matters because we know we'll be able to do our own upgrading or maintenance after the warranty runs out, for as many years as we want to or have to. None of those power supplies with standard connectors wired in a non-standard way inside Viglen kit.

    The systems are also very reliable and are well-supported on the rare occasions when they break down. No call centres in India staffed by robots who speak with a pronounced accent and can't possibly divert from their script or accept that you know more about the innards of your PC than they do. Viglen are probably not the cheapest, but as I've indicated, cheap in the short-term is usually expensive in the long term. I'd recommend Viglen to anyone who cares what's inside the boxes they're buying.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CPC

    I taught my mother to send e-mail on a CPC 6128 in 1990. She dialled in to a terminal session on a VAX and sent the e-mail from there.

    It's probably still up in the attic, but I imagine the belts in the disk drive have probably perished.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Jealous whinging gits....

    Self-made £800 mil.... hmmmm.... how many people on here wish they started selling cheap tat instead of geeking out!

  38. Martin
    Flame

    Alan Sugar is a slimy charlatan

    'His' products are and were tat, with Amstrad eventually reduced to 'making' (read 'importing and rebadging') granny-robbing email phones (IIRC you have to PAY to RECEIVE each email on them) and Sky boxes, and was bought by Sky themselves in 2007.

    I saw him once on the local news in London, exclaiming how he started with nothing on 'the mean streets of Hackney'. What he actually meant is that he was from round Clapton Common, by far one of the nicer ends of Hackney BOROUGH.

    His TV show is an exercise is what is wrong with our economy today- endless salesmen and conmen trying desperately to sell each other imported luxury goods and talking endlessly about 'brand values'.

    His large donations to the Labour Party have earned him government contracts aplenty and Gordon Brown's ear, and it is possible that G.B has been believing what Sugar has to say. That is quite possibly why our current government thinks that 'enterprise' is about takling out gigantic debt secured on over-inflated property, and spending the proceeds on haircuts, £5 cups of coffee and DVD players, sold by firms such as Amstrad who think they're "manufacturers", because they told the REAL manufacturer in China what name to stick on the front.

    The sooner Alan Sugar dies in horrible pain, the happier I'll be; and that's not some kind of ugly 'money envy', there are lots of real entrepeneurs with an order of magnitude more money than Sugar who I do not begrudge one jot.

    /rant

  39. Joe
    Alert

    CPC users

    You know, while Spectrum and Commodore users fought bitterly over which was best, there was one thing both sides could agree on - that Amstrad was definitely number three!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Pay-per-view Manic Miner?

    "Hmm.. I wonder who owns the copyright to the Sinclair code now?....."

    I believe Amstrad still own the rights to the ZX Spectrum, but they did allow emulator writers to use the ROMs free of charge.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    You're retired!

    Someone had to get it in first. Congratulations.

    Viglen? Well I think I can find some odd bits in my salvage bin.

    Grumpy Old Git

  42. Nigel

    Actually...

    The Amstrad CPC series were the best 8 bit machines around at the time of their introduction.

    Fair enough, the games were often not as good as on the C64, but the CPC series was not just a games machine. Its 'mode 2' 640x200 resolution made for readable 80 column text which allowed for serious apps like the protext word processor.

    The CPC series could also run one of the startard OS's of the era: CP/M

    While my C64 touting mates were wasting their time playing games, I learnt to code, first with locomotive basic, then C on CP/M, finally learning Z80 assembler - skills that were handy to have into the future...

    I started with a CPC464 before moving onto a 6128 which actually served me through uni writing up assignments etc.

    Great machines... fond memories - cheers Mr Sugar!

    Nigel

  43. Thomas

    First computer

    Yup, my first one was a CPC6128 - lasted me for about 10 years. I'm damn lucky if I can squeeze 2 years out of the laptops I use these days.

    I was also about one of the 20 people to buy a GX4000 - Amstard's answer to the Megadrive and Nintendo. A grand total of some 20 or so games, which makes it marginally more successful than the Gizmondo.

    I also used to read Amstrad Action and there was a less than flattering comic strip at the back about Mr Sugar - Sugarman, or something like that.

  44. vic denwood
    Thumb Up

    PC 1640

    Vic Denwood

    My PC 1640 is 22 years old this November and still in regular use at home for all my domestic correspondence using WP51, and it only takes about 45 seconds to run up. The SCANDISK still shows no bad sectors - but it does take about 2 hours to run that programme. I have to change the AA batteries every two years to keep the clock and calendar on time. Best of all, running Autoroute 84 saves me getting stuck on the M25 because it does not exist in that time zone

  45. Danny Monaghan

    Commodore?

    @Joe

    I seem to remember the battle was between Acorn and Sinclair.

  46. Boris Blank
    Stop

    CPC tat? Hardly.

    The CPC was quite possibly the only Amstrad product I've ever owned which wasn't tat. Build quality was pretty good and the keyboard was arguably the best of the home micros of the time. Don't forget these things also came with a fairly high quality monitor, giving a crisp RGB picture at a time when the C64 and Speccy were still spewing out nasty composite pictures.

    The one big problem it had was with its design rather than quality of implementation. The nice graphics meant there was about twice as much video RAM as the CPU could reasonably be expected to chuck around and this crippled the performance of its games. A shame, because even the simplest of blitters would have helped it keep pace with the Speccy whilst providing better visuals.

    Looking back over a history of tat, it's actually quite hard to believe Amstrad was responsible for the CPC at all!

  47. Boris Blank
    Paris Hilton

    Big box stereos

    The irony of Amstrads "big empty box" stereos was the missed opportunity. If the case had been designed to fit the innards, Amstrad probably would've had a huge head start in the field of micro hi-fis.

    Trying to emulate everyone else rather than finding a new market. Bad decision - you're fired!

    Paris, because she has a big empty space (though not a big empty box).

  48. Jim Cosser

    @ Ben Cross

    I think the £800 was a joke about a probably property crash... :)

  49. Andy G
    Coat

    Ahhhh AMSTRAD . .

    Anyone remember the Amstrad 901 CB ?? Now that was one of the few quality products they produced.

    Ahhhhhh Nostalgia from the age of 15 .......

    /mines the one with the suspicious bulge and the squark.

  50. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    £800

    Yes, I thought that was a good one. Bit like the stand-up I saw, talking about his bumpkin upbringing and his dad's enthusiastic suggestion he should move to the city: "Go to London, son, where the streets are paved..."

  51. Adrian Tawse

    Amstrad "HiFi"

    When I was a student, admitedly some time ago, a fellow student bought one of his HIFI boxes. We were all very polite about it because he has blown a large part of his grant on it, but the sound quality was truly terrible. We opened it up to see just what had been done and found that the power stage consisted of a low power IC amplifier with output boosted with a PNP/NPN pair. Unfortunatly these had not been correctly biased, thus resulting in truly awful cross over distortion. The design was crap, even a schoolboy could have done better. A cheap as chips design made truly awful for the want of four resistors at a cost of about 1/10 of a penny.

  52. Andy
    Thumb Up

    some people are so jealous...

    i worked for amstrad from 1990-96. I worked on the helpdesk for about 2 years or so and the rest in r&d for the pc divison.

    the reason we went to the old 0898 numbers was stop people calling us all the time to help them reinstall dos and windows. many times i spent on the phone for 3hrs taking through it from start to finish only to get the next person moan it took so long to get through etc etc. so switched to premium rate, stopped all the long calls allowing people with real issues to get through.

    the 2000series issues were seagate and WD fault with their crap drives and controllers, which as already said was sorted out and they had to pay out a vast amount of money but yes was a bit late as the damage was done. by the time i helped develop the 5000 series and above we were using the same kit as everyone else (seagate hd again, sony floppy and cd drives, creative labs sound cards etc) and these were very good quality machines at good prices and well built (i knew the guys and girls who hand built them in shoebury). also the mega pc was a great idea (pc and mega drive in the same box) and not one other company came up with something so imaginative. and we were the first ones to come up with the combined tv and pc in a box as well!!!

    at the same time the guys developing some of the sound products were making kit cheap using great surround sound hardware that at the time only the high end makers were using and charging the earth for but we wasnt.

    my time at amstrad was fantastic and we was at the cutting edge of pc stuff.. we were very close to intel and i saw so many new processors long before normal punters did.

    i had a lot of contact with alan in the last few years as hes a hands on bloke and he dont take any crap from anyone and likes a straight answer from people... good luck to him he knows what he is doing!!!

  53. steogede
    Stop

    ROTM

    >> ...the PCW has relinquished the chairmanship of the company...

    AMSTRAD was chaired by a PCW?

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least AMSTRAD kept me busy

    for about 4 years in the early 90's, GEC Avery Service had the contract for on-site warranty repairs to the fax machines (FX9600, FX5000 and FX5050), the PC's (3000?, 4000? and 5000? series) and the Alt386SX laptop. VVVVVVVVV busy times and lots of irate customers.

  55. andy gibson

    Amstrad CB901?

    It was rubbish. A Rotel 240 is what you really wanted.

  56. Robert Harrison

    In summary: Good business != Good quality

    As much as I'd like it to be otherwise. Yes Alan Sugar is a self made millionaire and yes I'm sure there is plenty of pound sign envy here. Nevertheless I think most people are not envious of having the legacy of being branded a 'tat peddler'. I guess AMS and BG have a lot in common.

    </belt level="below">

  57. Andus McCoatover

    Clive Sinclair..

    ..will probably give him a pat on the back, instead of the (fabled?) smack in the gob from a couple of decades ago.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Acronym

    Does Amstrad mean:

    "Alan Michael Sugar Trading", or

    "Alan Michael Sugar Technology Research And Development"

    as Mel Croucher once suggested in the hallowed pages of Zzap! 64?

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