Amstrad

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Amstrad Limited
Type Public limited company[1]
Industry Electronics
Founded 1968 (1968)
Headquarters Brentwood, Essex, United Kingdom
Area served UK and Ireland
Key people Lord Sugar, Founder
Alun Webber, Managing Director
Simon Ball, CEO
Revenue Increase £91.65 million (2006)
Operating income Increase £26.94 million GBP (2006)
Net income Increase £15.08 million GBP (2006)
Employees 85 (2005)
Parent BSkyB
Website amstrad.com

Amstrad is a British electronics company, now wholly owned by BSkyB. As of 2006, Amstrad's main business is manufacturing Sky Digital interactive boxes.

Amstrad was founded in 1968 by Alan Sugar at the age of 21. The name is a contraction of Alan Michael Sugar Trading. It was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1980. During the late 1980s, Amstrad had a substantial share of the PC market in the UK. Amstrad was once a FTSE 100 Index constituent but is now wholly owned by BSkyB.

The company is based in Brentwood, Essex.

History[edit]

Amstrad 7070 tape deck

1960s and 1970s[edit]

Amstrad was founded in 1968 by Lord Sugar at the age of 21, the name of the original company being AMS Trading (Amstrad) Limited, derived from Lord Sugar's initials (Alan Michael Sugar). Amstrad entered the market in the field of consumer electronics. During the 1970s they were at the forefront of low-priced hi-fi, TV and car stereo cassette technologies. Lower prices were achieved by injection moulding plastic hi-fi turntable covers, undercutting competitors who used the vacuum forming process.

Amstrad expanded to the marketing of low cost, low quality amplifiers and tuners, imported from the Far East and badged with the Amstrad name for the UK market. Their first electrical product was the Amstrad 8000 amplifier, which Sugar would describe later as "the biggest load of rubbish I've ever seen in my life."[2]

1980s[edit]

The Amstrad CPC 464 personal microcomputer

In 1980, Amstrad went public trading on the London Stock Exchange, and doubled in size each year during the early '80s. Amstrad began marketing their own home computers in an attempt to capture the market from Commodore and Sinclair, with the Amstrad CPC range in 1984. The CPC 464 was launched in the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and Italy. It was followed by the CPC 664 and CPC 6128 models. Later "Plus" variants of the 464 and 6128, launched in 1990, increased their functionality slightly.

Amstrad PCW8512 word processor

In 1985, the popular Amstrad PCW range was introduced, which were principally word processors, complete with printer, running the LocoScript word processing program. They were also capable of running the CP/M operating system. The Amsoft division of Amstrad was set up to provide in-house software and consumables.

On 7 April 1986 Amstrad announced it had bought from Sinclair Research "...the worldwide rights to sell and manufacture all existing and future Sinclair computers and computer products, together with the Sinclair brand name and those intellectual property rights where they relate to computers and computer related products."[3] which included the ZX Spectrum, for £5 million. This included Sinclair's unsold stock of Sinclair QLs and Spectrums. Amstrad made more than £5 million on selling these surplus machines alone. Amstrad launched two new variants of the Spectrum: the ZX Spectrum +2, based on the ZX Spectrum 128, with a built-in tape drive (like the CPC 464) and, the following year, the ZX Spectrum +3, with a built-in floppy disk drive (similar to the CPC 664 and 6128), taking the 3" disks that many Amstrad machines used.

The ZX Spectrum +2. This was the first new Spectrum model released by Amstrad after their purchase of the range.

The company produced a range of affordable MS-DOS-based, but with the GEM graphics interface, and later Windows-based personal computers, the first of which was the PC1512, priced at £399 in 1986. It was a success, capturing more than 25% of the European computer market. In 1988 Amstrad attempted to make the first affordable portable personal computer with the PPC512 and 640 models, introduced a year before the Macintosh Portable. They ran MS-DOS on an 8 MHz processor, and the built-in screen could emulate the Monochrome Display Adapter or Color Graphics Adapter. Amstrad's final (and ill-fated) attempts to exploit the Sinclair brand were based on the company's own PCs; a compact desktop PC derived from the PPC 512, branded as the Sinclair PC200, and the PC1512 rebadged as the Sinclair PC500.

Amstrad PPC 512 portable PC

Amstrad's second generation of PCs, the PC2000 series, were launched in 1989. However, due to a problem with the Seagate ST277R hard disk shipped with the PC2386 model, these had to be recalled and fitted with Western Digital controllers. Amstrad later successfully sued Seagate, but following bad press over the hard disk problems, Amstrad lost its lead in the European PC market.[4]

1990s[edit]

In the early 1990s, Amstrad began to focus on portable computers rather than desktop computers. In 1990, Amstrad tried to enter the video game console market with the Amstrad GX4000, similar to what Commodore did at the same time with the C64 GS. The console, based on the Amstrad 464 Plus hardware, was a complete commercial failure, because it used outdated technology, and most of its game library was straight ports of CPC games that could be bought for much less in their original format.

In 1993, Amstrad was licenced by Sega to produce a system which was similar to the Sega TeraDrive, going by the name of the Amstrad Mega PC, to try to regain their image in the gaming market. The system didn't succeed as well as expected, mostly due to its high initial retail price of £599. In that same year, Amstrad released the PenPad, a PDA similar to the Apple Newton, and released only weeks before it. It was a commercial failure, and had several technical and usability problems. It lacked most features that the Apple Newton included, but had a lower price at $450.

As Amstrad began to concentrate less on computers and more in communication, they purchased several telecommunications businesses including Betacom, Dancall Telecom, Viglen Computers and Dataflex Design Communications during the early 1990s. Amstrad has been a major supplier of set top boxes to UK satellite TV provider Sky since its launch in 1989. Amstrad was key to the introduction of Sky, as the company were responsible for finding methods to produce the requisite equipment at an attractive price for the consumer - Alan Sugar famously approached "someone who bashes out dustbin lids", to manufacture satellite dishes cheaply. Ultimately, it was the only manufacturer producing receiver boxes and dishes at the system's launch, and has continued to manufacture set top boxes for Sky, from analogue to digital and now including Sky's Sky+ digital video recorder.

In 1997, Amstrad PLC was wound up, its shares being split into Viglen and Betacom instead. Betacom PLC was then renamed Amstrad PLC.

The same year, Amstrad supplied set top boxes to Australian broadcaster Foxtel, and in 2004 to Italian broadcaster Sky Italia.

Recent times[edit]

In 2000, Amstrad released the first of its combined telephony and e-mail devices, called the E-m@iler. This was followed by the E-m@iler Plus in 2002, and the E3 Videophone in 2004. Amstrad’s UK E-m@iler business is operated through a separate company, Amserve Ltd which is 89.8% owned by Amstrad and 10.2% owned by DSG International plc (formerly Dixons plc).

Amstrad has also produced a variety of home entertainment products over their history, including hi-fi, televisions, VCRs, and DVD players.

BSkyB takeover[edit]

In July 2007, BSkyB announced a takeover of Amstrad for £125m,[5] a 23.7% premium on its market capitalisation. BSkyB had been a major client of Amstrad, accounting for 75% of sales for its 'set top box' business. Having supplied BSkyB with hardware since its inception in 1988, market analysts had noted the two companies becoming increasingly close in recent years.

Sugar commented that he wished to play a part in the business, saying: “I turn 60 this year and I have had 40 years of hustling in the business, but now I have to start thinking about my team of loyal staff, many of whom have been with me for many years.”

2008[edit]

It was announced on 2 July 2008 that Sugar had stepped down as Chairman of Amstrad, which had been planned since BSkyB took over in 2007.[6][7]

Computer product lines[edit]

Home computers[edit]

  • CPC464 (64 KB RAM, cassette drive)
  • CPC472 (same as CPC464 but with 72 KB instead of 64 KB)
  • CPC664 (3 inch internal disk variant of CPC464)
  • CPC6128 (128 KB version of the CPC664 with 3 inch disk)
  • 464 Plus (CPC464 with enhanced graphics and sound)
  • 6128 Plus (CPC6128 with enhanced graphics and sound)
  • GX4000 (games console based on 464 Plus)
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 (Re-engineered ZX Spectrum 128 with tape drive)
  • Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3 (as ZX Spectrum +2 but with 3 inch disk drive instead of tape drive)

Word processors[edit]

  • PCW8256 (Z80, 3.5 MHz, 256 KB RAM, single 180 KB 3" floppy drive, dot-matrix printer, green screen)
  • PCW8512 (same as PCW8256 but with 512 KB RAM, 180 KB 3" A: drive, 720 KB 3" B: drive)
  • PCW9512 (Z80, 3.5 MHz, 512 KB RAM, single or dual 720 KB 3" floppy drives, daisywheel printer, "paper white" screen)
  • PcW9256 (Z80, 3.5 MHz, 256 KB RAM, single 720 KB 3.5" floppy drive, dot-matrix printer, "paper white" screen)
  • PcW9512+ (same as PCW9512 but with single 3.5" 720 KB floppy drive)
  • PcW10 (same as PcW9256 but with 512 KB RAM and a built-in parallel port)
  • PcW16 (Z80, 16 MHz, single 1.44 MB 3.5" floppy drive, new machine not directly compatible with old PCWs)

Notepad computers[edit]

  • NC100 (Z80, 64 KB RAM, 80×8 character LCD)
  • NC150 (NC100 with 128 KB RAM, floppy disk interface and NC200 firmware — sold in France and Italy)
  • NC200 (Z80, 128 KB RAM, adjustable 80×16 character LCD, 3.5 in floppy disk drive)

PC compatibles[edit]

  • PC1512 (Intel 8086, 8 MHz, 512 KB RAM, CGA graphics) - Marketed in the United States as the PC5120
  • PC1640 (Intel 8086, 8 MHz, 640 KB RAM, MDA/Hercules/CGA/EGA colour graphics) - Marketed in the United States as the PC6400
  • PPC512 (Portable using NEC V30 processor, 512 KB RAM, non-backlit supertwist CGA, one or two 720 KB 3.5" floppy drives) - released around the same time as the PC1512.
  • PPC640 (Portable using NEC V30 processor, 640 KB RAM, non-backlit supertwist CGA, one or two 720 KB 3.5" floppy drives, internal modem) - released around the same time as the PC1640.
  • Sinclair PC200 (integral desktop PC for home computer market based on PPC512)
  • PC-20 the Australian version of the Sinclair PC200
  • Sinclair PC500 (rebadged PC1512)
  • PC1286
  • PC1386 (Intel 80386SX CPU, 20 MHz, 1 MB RAM)
  • PC2086 (Intel 8086 CPU, 8 MHz, 640 KB RAM, VGA graphics) launched 1989
  • PC2286 (Intel 80286 CPU, 12.5 MHz, 1 MB RAM, VGA graphics) launched 1989
  • PC2386 (Intel 80386DX CPU, 20 MHz, 4 MB RAM, VGA graphics) launched 1989.
  • PC3086 ( 8 MHz 8086 CPU, 640 KB RAM)
  • PC3286 (16 MHz 80286 CPU, 1 MB RAM)
  • PC3386SX (20 MHz 80286SX CPU, 1 MB RAM)
  • PC4386SX (20 MHz 80386SX CPU, 4 MB RAM)
  • PC5086 (8 MHz 8086 CPU, 640 KB RAM)
  • PC5286 (16 MHz 80286 CPU, 1 MB RAM)
  • PC5386SX (20 MHz 80386SX CPU, 2 MB RAM, VGA graphics) launched 1991
  • PC6486SX
  • PC7000 series: PC7286, PC7386SX, PC7486SLC
  • PC8486
  • PC9486 (25 or 33 MHz 80486SX)
  • PC9555i (120 MHz Pentium)
  • Amstrad Mega PC (Intel 80386SX CPU, 25 MHz, Integrated Mega Drive)
  • ALT286 (laptop; 16 MHz 80286 CPU, 1 MB RAM)
  • ALT386SX (laptop; 16 MHz 80386SX CPU, 1 MB RAM)
  • ACL386SX (laptop; 20 MHz 80386SX CPU, 1 MB RAM, colour TFT LCD)
  • ANB386SX (notebook; 80386SX CPU, 1 MB RAM)

PC accessories[edit]

  • Amstrad DMP1000 9-pin dot matrix printer
  • Amstrad DMP3000, DMP3160, DMP3250di 9-pin dot matrix printer (different printing speed), the special model 3250di (dual interface) having both serial and parallel ports
  • Amstrad SM2400 2400 baud internal modem (came with Mirror software)

PDA[edit]

Set-top box[edit]

  • Amstrad Sky+ box 2003
  • Amstrad 1TB Sky+HD box 2010

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.amstrad.com/about/profile.html
  2. ^ "A history of Amstrad". The Independent (London). 30 Mar 2000. p. 7. 
  3. ^ Crash Online
  4. ^ Computer Contracts - Merchantable Quality in Hardware Contracts - Amstrad plc v. Seagate Technology
  5. ^ "BSkyB agrees £125m Amstrad deal". BBC News. 2007-07-31. Archived from the original on 6 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  6. ^ Sugar steps down as Amstrad Chairman
  7. ^ "Sir Alan steps down from Amstrad". BBC News. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]