Introduction to Amstrad CPC 464 Retrospective

It wasn't our first computer, that honour goes to a machine I remember very little of, a Z81 clone Lambda PC 8300. Amstrad was, however despite not being the first ever, the computer I recall the most fondly of, as it was the one I spent a good chunk of my childhood playing with.

Back in the 80s, most people had Commodore 64, some had ZX Spectrum. In Finland, Amstrad CPC 464 was more of a rarity and I don't really know why mom decided to buy us specifically CPC 464 instead of the "Computer of the Republic" as the more widespread Commodore 64 was often called.

Amstrad CPC 464 was a Z80 powered 8-bit machine with built-in cassette tape and, unlike most other 8-bit computers of the era, came with its own monitor. It could show up to 16 colours, which could be picked from a palette of 27 colours. Not that we ever knew that, considering we had a green screen monitor. Originally, Amstrad offered 3 different monitor types with the 464. Besides the colour and green screen, you could get a monochrome monitor. Only years later I learned, that you actually could make a modified monitor cable and connect the computer on any TV, thus getting a colour experience that way.

While we had only the built-in cassette deck, there was an option to get an external disk drive. Interestingly enough, Amstrad opted to use rather obscure 3" disk format, unlike other systems which used more widespread formats like 3½ disks. The use of a less used format also meant that the disks for the 464 were more expensive and most stores wouldn't even have stocked them, not in Finland anyway.

Amstrad as a company still exists today, but as far I know, they don't make computers anymore. Despite CPC machines sold around 3 million units worldwide and the company extended on PC marker as well, their current line up consists of a less interesting range digital satellite TV receivers. The less said about that, the better, I think, as it's just kind of sad.

 As 464 was a rarity, it meant, that unlike the masses that owned Commodores, we couldn't just copy games from our friends. Thanks to this particular obscurity, we ended up having quite a big collection of bought games, ranging from still remembered classics like Lords of the Midnight to less known favourites like GI Hero. Sadly enough, I have no idea where those games are now, as, at the time we got our first PC, the machine was sold with its software.

The reason I began to write this little reminiscent of an old computer is pretty simple. At some point, I'll be firing up an emulator and will give some of my old childhood favourites as spin. A proper spin in order to see if those games have held up or not.

The titles I'll be looking at include at least Ghostbusters, GI Hero, Batman the Caped Crusader and Arkanoid among other things. But as we did have quite a library, I don't even fully remember what games we had. A good many games were on collections, which muddies my recollection even further. 

Then again, I'm not aiming to do a retrospective on every game we ever had on the Amstrad, just the ones I recall playing as a kid. What I really look forward about this is, how well the games stand on their own now and if I can actually complete some of the game I found difficult back then. 

It might be for the best to leave the memories where they belong, but as our modern times have made emulation a simple thing, especially in what comes to old 8-bit computers, I can't resist the call of the past.