The Amstrad PC-1512

Wednesday June 10, 2009

•  amstrad •  DOS •  history • 

I have watched the United Kingdom lately because of the electoral turmoil and last week, Brown appointed Sir Alan Sugar to his cabinet.  Sir Alan is an interesting character who affected my life greatly.  He started an electronics business in the UK called Amstrad (Alan Michael Sugar TRADing) and by the 1980s, Amstrad was making PCs.

My family puchased an Amstrad PC-1512 when I was six.  It had no hard drive (we added an aftermarket drive that was 20 mibibytes), two 360k 5.25in floppy drives, an Intel 8086 process running at 4.77MHz (not the 8MHz version, as Wikipedia says), and a 320x200 pixel 3-color CGA display  Though far less powerful than either the Macbook I write this on or the BlackBerry in my pocket, life was good.

But what amazes me today, is that it came with four system floppies.  One contained Microsoft’s MS-DOS 3.2, which was nice, but not the most interesting piece.  One contained Digital Research’s DOSPlus (I think, 2.1) operating system, which was completely dreadful.  DOSPlus merged the worst of DOS with the worst of CP/M, to create something that was completely useless.  But that was not the end of the eccentricities for the PC-1512.  It also came with another Digital Research product, the GEM desktop.  GEM was equally useless.  When I think of GEM, I am reminded of very early Macintosh executives, except nobody ever built any applications for GEM, though I seem to remember a BASIC interpreter, which would not run any of the BASIC programs in 3-2-1 Contact.  Someone correct me if I am wrong.

Well, the PC-1512 was updated to MS-DOS 5.0 (and later 6.22) when the expansion drive was added, and I had mostly ignored GEM and DOSPlus from then on.  And we used it to play CGA and text-based games, such as Apogee’s Lost Adventures of Kroz and Microprose’s F-19 (the best flight simulator ever made).  My understanding is my parents threw it away in 1999, still functioning, which is remarkable since I think it would still be functioning today.