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Amstrad - A British PC legend?

So, Sir Alan Sugar has sold Amstrad to Sky, and since he's remaining as head of the sub-division, he now effectively works for Rupert Murdoch.

Conveniently forgetting the Radio Shack I have vague memories of owning in the early eighties (my best guess is that it was a TRS80), the Amstrad CPC 464 was my first-ever computer. It was described as the UK's first mass-market computer, was a direct competitor to the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum and could perform word processing and various business tasks. I used it for games.

Amstrad was once a billion-pound market leader, but like so many other local computer makers lost its grip on the PC sector due to the growth of US heavyweights such as HP and Compaq. In fact, when my first IBM PC consigned the Amstrad CPC 464 to the loft in the early nineties, I was under the mistaken impression that the company had fallen off the side of the earth. Only Alan Sugar's appearances in the executive box at Spurs reminded me of the computer upon which I learned my extremely basic programming skills (they haven't improved since the late eighties).

However, the company attempted to stay at the forefront of the technology revolution, launching products in various categories. Many flopped – the Amstrad GX4000 console and the Amstrad E-mailer phone being two of the most high-profile failures.

But the set-top box business thrived, and Amstrad currently makes around a third of Sky's boxes. Also in the product list on the Amstrad home page is the Integra Face Care system launched by Tim Campbell, the winner of the first series of The Apprentice.

However, those who have been following Alan Suger (or who watched the third series of The Apprentice) will have noticed that his interests now extend to property and aviation – a far cry from computers and Hi-Fi equipment.

But for those of us whose interest in computers stems from the 1980s, Amstrad may well be regarded as a British PC legend.

What are your memories of Amstrad?

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