Archive for the ‘Amstrad CPC’ Category

The truth about the Amstrad CPC

December 28, 2009

Most users owned one only retro computer system or only a couple of them from one brand. We got in touch with other systems, but not in detail. So a bigger part of our knowledge about other systems are prejudices. We liked them in the past, because they were an excuse to keep a closer look on other systems. In this article, I put all my prejudices against the Amstrad CPC on the CPC-Forum [1]. Thanks to the open mindness of the people there we had a very good discussion and I think that most of my prejudices were wrong.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: There were no good Joysticks around for the Amstrad because it had a own joystick standard

Octate / CPC-Forum: The CPC uses a standard 9-pin SUB-D connector, so you can connect all standard joysticks to it. However, it only has one port so you need a joystick adapter to add the second port. The missing 5V power supply on the SUB-D port prevents auto-fire from working, but, as already said, you can connect a standard joystick (e.g. I’m using a Competition Pro).

OpenMind / Tollerancia: Ok, there were other computers that had no joystick connector or only one (the Spectrum for example). Now I know what the CPC switch on some joysticks meant. It was the autofire. Thanks for the answer, it extend my horizon.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The 3 inch disks were exspencive like hell and no CPC user owned a floppy drive

Octate / CPC-Forum: Only the CPC464 and 464 Plus had no floppy drive, the 664, 6128 and 6128 Plus came directly with an inbuilt floppy drive. It is also possible to connect a 3.5″ PC floppy drive to the CPC which is the standard today.

TFM / CPC-Forum: Most of the CPCs had a floppy drive built in. Further most of the CPC users use an additional external 3.5″ or 5.25″ floppy drive with inexpensive discs. Since the CPC had a standard drive adapter, nearly every drive can be connected. Even some actual PC 3.5″ drives can be connected.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: But every school kid had to deal with drugs on the schoolyard to be able to buy at least one 3″ disk to get some pirate copies for his 664 or 6128, they were so expensive, so in reality everybody used datasettes I guess.

Almasys / CPC-Forum: indeed, I had to use cassettes when I was in school. One pack (10 pieces) of Panasonic 3″ disks had to be enough. But on the other hand, a normal cassette player was much cheaper than a 5,25″ disk drive.

Octoate / CPC-Forum: I got a 5,25″ drive soon after I bought a 3″ drive for my CPC 464. The disks were cheaper of course. A bigger problem for me was, that nobody else owned a CPC at that time. Most people owned a C64

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: All CPC died after half a year because the floppy belt got broken

Octate / CPC-Forum: Not half a year (it lasts longer), but we can’t deny that it is the main cause for a hardware failure of the “CPC”.

TFM / CPC-Forum: have a CPC running, bought in 1987, it still uses the original floppy and drive belt. Had never a need to change a part.
The drive belt problem only appears if the drive is not used for a long time.

OpenMind / Tollerancia: Is it hard to get a replacement?

Alamsys / CPC-Forum: Not at all, I get them from a local TV & radio repair shop

Octoate / CPC-Forum: There are enough Ebay auctions around, to get one.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The Z80 CPU suxx because even with more MHz a 6502 machine had the faster 3D graphics

TFM / CPC-Forum: The original prototype CPC had a 6502. But this CPU was too weak, so Amstrad decided to switch to the powerful Z80 CPU. Look at Starglider with 3d Vector graphics or Driller for 3D solid graphic. The CPC versions beat every other system, especially the slow and ugly c64 versions.
When looking at the game Mercenary the Atari 800XL and the CPC versions were superior compared to all other so called home computers (16 bit machines excluded).

Cpt_void / CPC-Forum: A friend (hardcore C64 user) throw the joystick away after playing Elite. He said, it unplayable, it’s to fast.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The CPC was not able to scroll as good as the other 8 Bit machines

Octoate / CPC-Forum: Well, have a look at the Giana Sister Remake [2] by TFM and Tolkin. It has smooth scrolling in overscan mode. I guess that this prejudice is caused by the bad Spectrum game ports. It’s much better on a real CPC, cause the CPC monitor had hardware antializing.

OpenMind / Tollerancia: Are there other examples then this Giana Sister Remake ( Or is the real reason you mention it the fact that the ST version of Giana Sisters did not scroll ­čÖé Is it hard to code a scrolling?

Octoate / CPC-Forum:

  • Prehistorik II
  • Super Cauldron
  • Axys
  • Warhawk

that are example for good Hardware Scrolling. To code scrolling, you need some OUT orders to some registers of the CRTC and you have to keep an eye on the screen border. It’s more complicated if you use the overscan mode.

TFM / CPC-Forum: Take an old game of the old days… TLL! Watch TLL (Tornado Low Level) once on a CPC and you will never talk about scrolling!!! Really! Watch it !!! !!! !!! Bye the way, it’s not hard to code scrolling. Look at all the demos Wink

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: There are no demos around for the CPC

Octate / CPC-Forum: Have a look at the demo section at Pouet [3]. There are a lot of them…

TFM / CPC-Forum: Take a look at the web and you will need about 99 years to watch all demos Wink

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: I expected to get names from really good demos from you, are there none?

Octoate / CPC-Forum: Of course there are interesting demos, but not as much as on other systems. Of the newer ones, I like

  • From Scratch
  • Pheelone
  • Backtro
  • PHAT
  • PHAT 2
  • Demoizart
  • Hate Beats
  • Midline Process
  • A step beyond

Of the older ones, I like:

  • das Ultimate Megademo
  • The Demo
  • Voyage 93.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: The most unsuccessful Amstrad machine was the Joyce

TFM / CPC-Forum: Wrong, the Joyce was in fact one of the most successful systems for word processing. And in the time of its release it was superior to the PC.

OpenMind / Tollerancia: I heard, that Amstrad sold 8 million Joyce, so they even sold more units than ATARI with the ST range.

Tunnel Look / Ignorancia: Nobody used CP/M in the old days

TFM / CPC-Forum: CP/M was the standard OS in the old days like Windows today.
And it provides still a trendemous software library.

AMSi / CPC-Forum: Thanks to CP/M, applications like WordStar and dBase II were available right at the launch of the CPC. Turbo Pascal was also very popular. The ability to use CP/M was one of the reasons of the success of the CPC.

Nilquader / CPC-Forum: I had computer science at school and we had to write programs in LOGO. The school had to upgrade almost all of their computers to run PC Logo, but I could do my homework on the CPC. Thanks to CP/M and DR LOGO.

Many thanks to the people at the CPC-Forum to understand the intention behind the questions and to cooperate in that great manner. See you soon at a party guys.


1. CPC-Forum
2. Gianna Systers Remake playable via a emulator online
3. Pouet