By Mark from RetroTechLab.com
Table of Contents
- The Amstrad CPC was an 8-bit home computer popular in Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s.
- It came in several models: CPC464, CPC664, CPC6128, as well as plus variants with improved hardware.
- Popular for its low cost, impressive graphics, and wide software library.
- Great for retro computing enthusiasts interested in 1980s European systems.
- Pay attention to model, physical condition, and included peripherals when buying.
- Can be purchased used online from eBay, forums, collectors, or retro gaming stores.
- Expect to pay $50-300+ depending on rarity and condition. Common models like the CPC464 tend to cost less.
- Worth purchasing for its retro appeal, gaming library, and wide software support. An influential system in home computing history.
The Amstrad CPC was a series of 8-bit home computers produced by British company Amstrad between 1984 and 1990. During its lifetime, it became one of the most popular home computers in Europe, competing with the likes of the Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
The CPC line expanded through several variants over the years, offering users a range of options at competitive price points. Lower prices coupled with impressive graphics and sound capabilities made Amstrad systems accessible for the mass market. As a result, the CPC series as a whole sold over 3 million units worldwide.
For retro computing enthusiasts today, the Amstrad CPC continues to be a highly collectible and usable system. Its extensive software library, support for tape and disk storage, and qualitypixel graphics make it a standout 8-bit computer with lasting appeal. This buyer’s guide will provide key information on purchasing a used Amstrad CPC, from model differences and pricing to what to look for in condition.
Amstrad CPC History and Background
The roots of the Amstrad CPC can be traced back to the home computer boom of the early 1980s. In 1983, Amstrad – a UK electronics company known for budget hi-fi equipment – decided to enter the rapidly growing home computer market. Led by Alan Sugar, Amstrad would aim to produce an affordable computer with specifications competitive to more expensive offerings from the likes of Sinclair, Commodore, and Acorn.
The first CPC model, the CPC464, was launched in 1984 based around a 4MHz Zilog Z80A processor and 64KB of RAM. It came equipped with a cassette recorder for data storage, which could also be used for audio. The CPC464 retailed at a groundbreaking low price of £199 in the UK, including a color monitor – far cheaper than most other competitors at the time.
Improved Amstrad CPC models would soon follow. In 1985, the CPC664 bumped RAM to 64KB and added a 3-inch floppy disk drive in place of the tape deck. Next, the more advanced CPC6128 debuted in late 1985 with 128KB RAM as well as an improved “ASIC” chipset providing better graphics and sound performance.
Amstrad continued iterating, with the final Plus variant of the CPC6128 released in 1990 containing further hardware enhancements. The Plus models were produced until the early 1990s when the CPC line was discontinued in favor of Amstrad’s 16-bit PC computers.
Throughout its lifespan, the CPC series proved hugely successful in Europe, especially in major markets like the UK, France, Spain and Germany where it outsold competitors. Strong third-party development meant the CPC was home to over 10,000 software titles, cementing its place as a quintessential 8-bit home computer in Europe.
Amstrad CPC Models and Variants
Several different models of the Amstrad CPC released between 1984-1990. Here is an overview:
CPC464 – The original CPC released in 1984. Came with 64KB RAM, Z80A CPU, tape deck for storage, color monitor.
CPC664 – Released in 1985, replaced tape deck with 3″ floppy drive. 64KB RAM.
CPC6128 – Also launched in 1985, major upgrade with 128KB RAM and improved graphics/sound.
CPC464+ / 6128+ – The “Plus” variants released in 1990 added hardware improvements like 1MB floppy drives.
GX4000 – Game console based on the CPC released in 1990. Played CPC game cartridges. Failed due to lack of titles.
The most common and affordable models today are the CPC464, 664 and 6128. There were also many country-specific variants released, such as the 464 in Germany which contained 64KB RAM instead of the usual 64KB.
When purchasing an Amstrad CPC, carefully confirm which exact model and variant you are looking at. Earlier CPC464 systems will have less memory and features than later 6128+ computers. But they tend to be cheaper and more abundant.
What to Look for When Buying an Amstrad CPC
Here are the key things to inspect when purchasing a used Amstrad CPC system:
Physical Condition – Check for damage, yellowing, or dirt/dust buildup on the computer case and keyboard. Look for signs of damage or corrosion around ports. Screen burn-in may be present on CRT monitors.
Working Order – Does the system successfully boot up and display video output? Load up a program from tape or disk to verify overall functionality. Audio should work both from games and the built-in speaker.
Included Accessories – Original power supply, video and data cables, joysticks, cassette tapes or floppy disks, manuals/software. The monitor condition is critical for complete setups.
Model Variations – Carefully verify the exact Amstrad model and hardware matches the seller’s listing, in particular RAM amounts. Open the case if unsure.
Modifications – Some Amstrad CPC systems may have DIY mods like RAM expansions. These can add value if properly done and increase capabilities.
Rarity – Special editions or less common models like Spanish CPC’s or the 6128+ can fetch higher prices from collectors. Confirm variants.
Seller Reputation – When purchasing online, buy from sellers with strong buyer feedback and a history of detailed listings. Ask questions before purchase.
Prioritize finding a complete, working setup with power supply, data cables, monitor, and original software. This will let you get up and running out of the box. Cosmetic issues can often be cleaned up or fixed.
Where to Buy an Amstrad CPC
Here are some of the best places to find and purchase used Amstrad CPC computers or full setups:
- eBay – The most abundant source of listings, both from sellers specializing in Amstrad and normal vendors. Models like the CPC464 tend to be common. Exercise caution and inspect seller history/feedback.
- Forums – Places like Amibay, Limette, and English Amstrad Forum frequently have members selling systems. You may also find free software downloads.
- Retro Gaming Stores – Brick and mortar stores like VideoGamesNewYork often carry vintage computer inventory including Amstrad systems. Their quality testing offers peace of mind.
- Collector Community – Getting to know Amstrad CPC collectors via forums or locally can lead to sales opportunities. They may also have spare parts or peripherals.
- Conventions/Swap Meets – Vintage computing conventions can be a great place to locate Amstrad items being sold by fellow enthusiasts and collectors. Events like VCF East are recommended.
Be sure to factor in any taxes/import fees if buying internationally, and request insured shipping given the value of CPC hardware. Patience is key to finding a good deal on a functioning system. Expect a bit of restoration work may be required on 30+ year old machines.
Amstrad CPC Pricing
Pricing for used Amstrad CPC systems varies greatly based on model, condition, included accessories, rarity, and more. Here are typical price ranges:
- CPC464 – $50-150 for functioning system, monitor extra. More if pristine condition.
- CPC664 – $100-300 depending on floppy drive condition, manuals, software.
- CPC6128 – $150-400+. More advanced model carries a premium.
- CPC6128+ – $250-500+ due to late production models being scarce.
- Complete Setups – $200-600+ for a CPC464/664/6128 with monitor, data cables, power supply, software.
- Rare Variants – Special editions like the green “Arnold” CPC464 can approach $1000. Spanish and German versions also cost more.
- Parts/Repair Systems – $20-75 for incomplete/broken CPC’s good for spare parts or restoration.
- Peripherals – Disk drive, monitors, printers can range from $50-300+ depending on model and demand.
Condition is king – rare mint condition items or special editions command huge premiums from serious collectors. But well-maintained common models still offer great retro computing value.
Is the Amstrad CPC Worth Buying?
For 8-bit home computer enthusiasts, especially those interested in European systems, the Amstrad CPC is highly worth seeking out. These iconic 1980s computers offer great retro appeal.
Gaming – With over 10,000 titles released, CPC owners have a vast software library to explore. Genres like arcade ports, RPGs, adventures, and early 3D polygons were highlights.
Demoscene – The Amstrad remained popular with demo groups far into the 1990s thanks to its hardware capabilities and ease of use.
Programming – Development for the Z80-based CPC was approachable for beginners but powerful enough for commercial software. BASIC and C compilers were available.
Affordability – More common models like the CPC664 are still quite affordable as collectibles. Parts remain abundant.
Community – Active online CPC communities, events like retro gaming expos, and clubs provide support owning these systems long-term.
Historical Significance – As one of Europe’s most popular 1980s home computers, the CPC marked an important era in the continent’s computing history.
For classic gaming, programming experiments, or just experiencing a seminal 8-bit system, the Amstrad CPC is a rewarding retro machine to add to any collection. Models like the CPC464 provide a very accessible entry point.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about purchasing and owning an Amstrad CPC.
What monitor works with the CPC?
The CPC supported color composite video out to connect with contemporary monitors. Any monitor with composite input should work provided it supports the CPC’s resolution of 320×200 pixels. Commodore 1702 and Atari SC1224 monitors were popular pairings back in the 1980s and 90s.
How do you load programs on the CPC?
Cassette tape and 3-inch floppy disk were the primary storage methods. Tape requires using the CPC’s built-in tape deck to load programs sequentially. 3″ disks are faster but require the CPC664 or 6128 models with disk drives. CD-ROM was not supported without major modifications.
Can you expand CPC memory?
Yes, the original 64KB or 128KB RAM can be upgraded via third-party RAM expansion cards, allowing up to 512KB total on some CPC models. This enhances games and software capabilities. Adding memory requires opening the computer and soldering in new RAM chips.
Where can you buy CPC software?
Original CPC software on tape and 3″ floppy disks is still readily available online via sites like eBay. You may also find free fan-made conversions of classic titles, or games still in active distribution by the original publisher. There are also open source CPC apps being actively developed today.
How long do floppy disks last?
Lifespan varies, but 30+ year old Amstrad CPC floppies may be prone to failure. Look for disks stored properly away from heat/humidity/sunlight. Try imaging any valuable data to a modern PC via specialized floppy drives. Some reproduction floppies are sold by retro computing vendors.
What connections does the CPC have?
CPC’s typically included ports for power, RGB/Composite video out, cassette tape, joystick, cartridge slot on some models, RS-232 serial, and occasionally Centronics printer. Later CPC6128+ machines added MIDI ports and enhanced floppy drives.
The Amstrad CPC still stands as one of the most memorable 8-bit home computers of the 1980s. Its popularity and rich software library gave it an enduring legacy, especially across Europe. Models like the CPC464 and CPC6128 offer great entry points into classic computing for enthusiasts today.
When purchasing a used Amstrad CPC, carefully inspect condition and included accessories to get the best value. Well maintained systems with original monitor, cables, joysticks, and software bring these machines back to life. Focus on playability and condition over cosmetic perfection.
Owning a piece of home computer history like the Amstrad CPC provides a window into the dawn of European desktop computing. Their approachability also makes CPC’s great for learning retro computing skills. With the right model and some simple maintenance, the Amstrad CPC delivers classic 8-bit fun.