In this part of My Gaming Timeline, TWLB takes you back to the mid-80s. This time round we look at the Alan Sugar-rific (yes he did do things before The Apprentice kids) Amstrad CPC464. This was the third piece of the UK Home Computing Trinity, that also comprised of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Here is the Monochrome monitor version (the one I owned), but there was also an option for a Colour monitor;
But first of all, we need to take a sidestep and visit the humble, almost defunct, audio cassette;
30 years ago games piracy existed. And on that bombshell, and for the benefit of younger readers, let me elaborate further.Times were simpler, and games for ‘home computers’ came on ‘audio cassettes’. Blank, recordable audio cassettes could be purchased from the likes of WH Smith, and were the essential tool if you were planning to do a spot of Radio 1 Top 40 taping on a Sunday night. They came in C30, C60 and C90 flavours. C90 were the best, as they were 45 minutes on each side. To put it in modern context, they were the 64gb usb stick, or maybe the 2TB external hard drive, of the early to mid 80’s. They came in covers that looked like this and this;
Blank cassettes were fantastic inventions, and entrepreneurial souls would – and could – tape their U2 collection on several C90’s and charge you a quid per tape to cover ‘costs’. But mainly, as I recall, blank audio cassettes were not a way to get rich quick. They were a bartering tool, and as good a model of the barter system I will probably ever see, despite the fact it always seem to be the next big thing on the internet. So, for example, I would do a mix of, say, Northern Soul and Jesus & Mary Chain tracks (1 side each!) and give that tape to my friend, who would oblige me with a tape of tracks from happy go lucky 80s black jeans wearing Dub Sex and New Model Army. And so on. You put a bit of creativity and thought into the product, maybe illustrating the cover, ALWAYS providing track details, and what you had was something a little bit personal, a piece of you in a way, your tastes, your interests – and you were giving it to a friend and they would most likely reciprocate.
But audio cassettes were so versatile during that period, that they were also the medium by which games could be shared as well. If only you could have put movies and porn on them then the internet (or the world wide web at least) would probably not have been invented.
I had an Amstrad CPC464. (Black & White monitor, as you ask, although it was actually more Green and White). Amstrad home computers were a distant 3rd place behind the all conquering Spectrum and C64, but distant 3rd still meant there was a decent platform choice of games, and by late 1985 most major games came out for all platforms. So there was a variety of games. And with that variety came the opportunity of using your tape to tape device and recording the game on the audio cassette onto one of your blank c30/c60/c90’s;
|some examples of dual cassette decks – a Gateway to Gaming Gorging and Greed
My memory of home computing in the 80’s is only of the Amstrad CPC464. My memory of having an Amstrad CPC464 is buying lots of games – like Mastertronic and Firebird games for 2 or 3 quid in the vain hope they would be good (and some were – like Chiller and The Wild Bunch). My first football manager game (the legendary ‘Football Manager by Kevin Toms’) cost a tenner, but proved to be good value after it claimed its first 500 hours of my time.
I bought Elite for a princely sum and would regularly spend my mum and dads money on games at around 10 quid a throw (Alligata’s ‘Defend or Die’, Gargoyle Games’ ‘Dun Darach’).
I even.won a game – ‘Hacker’ – through a competition run by Boots. But I also used to swap a lot of games collections with friends on tapes. I used to borrow games and make a copy. I used to loan games out to mates who did the same. Without that loaning and passing on of games, I would never have got to play a Steam Train simulation (Southern Belle), and may well have by-passed the addictiveness of Chuckie Egg and Highway Encounter.
I am glad I got to test-drive Technician Ted, because that would have been a purchase regretted. Beach Head never seemed to work on the cassettes my mates gave to me, and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon likewise. When I did eventually get to play them they were well worth the wait.
Likewise, my friends would have benefited from my collection that ranged from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Dark Star, Into The Eagles Nest, Who Dares Wins II and Alien 8. If not for me passing out cassette compilations, they may well have passed up on the sweaty, claustrophobic Aliens, the superior Batman, the wonderful Starion, and the Kevin Toms sequel to Football Manager, ‘Software Star‘. They may never have experienced the ERE informatique games. And if not for me, it is highly likely many of them would have had the dubious pleasures of the game of the Kids TV hit ‘Supergran’.
Some games had their own encryption / anti-piracy measures, so whoever wanted to play the thing simply had to go and buy it or forget about it. One of those was the Adventure Game creator utility, Graphic Adventure Creator. I wrote more about that here.
The Amstrad CPC464 had more than enough great games. It also had a great sister magazine to Crash and Zzap!64, called Amtix!, and it had lots of great Oliver Frey Covers;
It sustained my sporadic gaming sprees from the mid to late 80’s, until the Sega Megadrive put me firmly back in love with Consoles.Thanks to that community of Amstrad users, we all got to experience many great games. And it also meant that when we had run out of our own games to play, we did not have to resort to typing pages of code to try and play a buggy Pac-Man rip off.
All about CPC464 Games
All about Piracy & The 80’s
images courtesy of;
Daley Thompsons Decathlon image – http://cpcwiki.eu/index.php/Daley_Thompson’s_Decathlon
Highway Encounter image – http://www.retrogamingworld.co.uk/product-expand.php?section=61&product=6296
Defend or Die image – http://www.cpc-power.com/index.php?page=detail&onglet=jaquette&num=698
Football Manager image – http://www.mobygames.com/game/cpc/football-manager/cover-art/gameCoverId,52025/
WH Smith cassette cover image – http://underdesign.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/european-compact-cassette-covers-j-cards-from-the-1980s/
Amtix! issue 16 cover – http://magazinesfromthepast.wikia.com/wiki/Computer_Scrabble_Deluxe