PCW cover

Personal Computer World gave me my first glimpse of the CPC664

I’m sorry for the delay in writing and posting this, but I was preoccupied with the British general election, as well as doing some campaign work delivering thousands of leaflets, stuffing thousands of envelopes, etc, for one of the candidates in that election in a so called “safe seat” and my candidate didn’t win.

As for my continuation of the post “Oh that would be *very* difficult! – Part 1”, I’m afraid I seem to have mislaid a document which contains a continuation of this, or perhaps it was deleted by a hacker or Jack Tramiel’s ghost. I thought it was on a desktop PC that I hadn’t used recently, then when I finally plugged it in, I found there was no such document there. I’ll have to look through some recent paper notebooks I’ve used, then write a new post explaining what happens next in some later versions of the program in MSX BASIC V2.0 (1985) which I’ve written. Of course, MSX BASIC V2.0 is nothing like Commodore BASIC V2. They have a common ancestor in Microsoft BASIC 1977 version, but Commodore BASIC V2 contains none of the EIGHT YEARS of updates from Microsoft after that.

CPC664 and manual

A CPC664 with its amazingly thick manual

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Amstrad CPC664 computer, which was my second computer, bought to replace the shitty Commodore 64. I bought my Amstrad CPC664 on 07-05-85.

Before buying an Amstrad CPC664, I did several months of research into what computer to buy, so I could be sure of what I was getting. I was determined not to get conned again! I paid particular attention to the implementations of BASIC and the sound chips built in. I couldn’t assume that it would ever be possible to upgrade the BASIC or the sound chip.

Most of the research I did which led to me buying an Amstrad CPC664 was based on the earlier CPC464 model. When I heard about a new CPC model with a built in floppy disk drive, and a possible 128K, it was too good an opportunity to miss, compatible with, but even better than the CPC464! I had to sit back and wait for it to be released. The built in disk drive meant that it was possible to load any programming language I wanted to from disk. This opened a lot of possibilities. The CPC664 was even supplied with an implementation of the language LOGO by Digital Research. Moronic sales assistants at John Lewis called this “Doctor Logo, which is mainly graphics”, and claimed it had “CP/M, a business language”.

CPC664 boot screen

The CPC664 boot screen

I remember reading in “Popular Computing Weekly” a story, more of a rumour, or a “scoop” about a new computer by Amstrad, which said it would probably have 128K RAM. This sounded amazing, although it would only have been possible to access 64K at a time with the computer’s eight bit Z80 CPU. I told my Dad it was going to be a 128K computer, but then when the news came out that it was only 64K I didn’t tell him, because then he would started going on and asking me to explain in great detail why I didn’t want a computer which had 128K, such as the Sinclair QL, or perhaps a discontinued (proto MSX) Spectravideo SVI-328 advertised as having 80K. He couldn’t be bothered to read any books or magazines about computers, though. He just sat back in an adjustable chair which could be put up into a reclining position, checking the TV listings at random times for that same day, shouting “Oooh! We’re missing a FILM!”, and watched the ITV computer series “Database” presented mainly by Tony Bastable (RIP). He practically had a fit, then nearly banned me from having an Amstrad CPC when he saw the rubber innards of an Amstrad CPC464 computer revealed on “Database”. I’m fairly sure there were no other computers apart from the Sinclair QL, available costing less than £500 which had 128K. The Commodore 128 was also released in 1985, but just the name Commodore was a good enough reason for me to avoid it. Once bitten twice shy! Luckily, I managed to get the Amstrad CPC664 home before he discovered it didn’t have 128K!

My research told me that the Amstrad CPC hardware was quite superior to the Commodore 64. It had 27 colours compared to only 16, graphics display modes of 160×200 with 16 colours from a palette of 27, 320×200 with 4 colours from a palette of 27, and 640×200 with 2 colours from a palette of 27, could display 80 column text, as well as text in 40 columns and 20 columns, had a 3 channel synthesiser chip which could be easily programmed in BASIC, a built in speaker which was much better than having any interference through a TV, a numeric keypad, and came with its own monitor and built in disk drive! It didn’t have any sprites, but neither did most other computers, and you couldn’t have everything! The only computers on the market which did have sprites were Atari which wasn’t very popular in Britain, the dreaded C64, the only recently released MSX which I didn’t know whether or not would ever become popular, Memotech MTX which wasn’t popular, the Tatung Einstein which wasn’t popular and the discontinued Texas Instruments TI99/4A.

After the shop delivered my nice new Amstrad CPC664, I started having an amazing time drawing lines across the graphics screen, which I could never do in C64 BASIC V2. I used both Amstrad’s Locomotive BASIC and DR LOGO to do this. Unfortunately, for the first few days I had no way of saving my programs, because I couldn’t get any 3 inch/75mm blank disks from the shops, and my cassette lead didn’t work either, so I used to leave my Amstrad CPC664 turned on for several hours each day adding lines to my program, then I think I wrote these programs down in pen in a notebook, so I wouldn’t lose them when I turned my beloved new computer off for the night.

We soon realised that we’d have to order some blank disks from Amstrad, at least for the time being. My Dad phoned them and ordered three or four disks. I had to use one or two of these disks to back up the disks supplied with my CPC664, but the other disks opened a whole new world for me, no longer deprived of using disks because of the extra cost of a separate disk drive. Even Amstrad’s DDI-1 disk drive for the earlier model CPC464 cost £199.99.

Games programming book

A book I bought explaining games programming techniques in Amstrad’s Locomotive BASIC

I set to work drawing a portrait in Locomotive BASIC, as well as studying games programming techniques from the book Sensational Games for the Amstrad CPC464.

My Commodore 64 nightmare was over!


Posted June 13, 2015 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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