Amstrad (Schneider) CPC464

Not much popular in Poland, more known in France, Spain and Portugal, this Z80-based home computer (CPC - Color Personal Computer) has quite nice capabilities and realizes "all in one" convention. The power supply is built in a specialized monitor, and the computer itself has built-in tape recorder or 3" floppy disk drive. That's why it wasn't popular - in eastern Europe a complete set was too expensive for home user, and small screen of dedicated monitor was not good for gaming.
In western Europe it was a good agreement between price and capabilities. In multimedia it wasn't as strong as machines of its day, but built-in BASIC was really fast and allowed for hardware interrupts.
These computers were re-branded many times and many units are already prepared for it. In the minboard you can find LK1 LK2 and LK3 jumpers described Here, giving a variety of brands on startup screen: Amstrad, Schneider, Orion, Awa, Solavox, Saisho, Triumph, ISP. The Link 4 is responsible for 50Hz refreshing (if cut).

Manufacturer Amstrad

Origin UK
Year of unit 1987
Year of introduction 1984
End of production 1990
Speed 4MHz
ROM 32kB (Basic)
Colors: 27
Sound: 3-channel
OS: Locomitove BASIC.
Display modes: Text: 20x25x16c, 40x25x4c, 80x25x2c.
Graphics: 160x200x16c, 320x200x4c, 640x200x2c.


Media: Built-in tape recorder.  

Power supply:

A female DC Jack (fi=5.5m, inside 2.1mm) on the computer.
1 - Ground
2 - +5V DC 2A

I/O: Printer port (7-bit)
System bus (known as floppy port)
Joystick connector
Amstrad Monitor
Stereo jack sound output (to the amp).
Possible upgrades: A few, memory upgrade requires programmable chips.
Accessories in collection:
Software accessibility: Quite easy (FTP, TOSEC, a few dedicated sites)

It's impossible to connect a floppy drive to it without a special controller. The floppy drive port is a system bus, in which this controller communicated.

And there were a few versions of these computers:

 - A normal Amstrad CPC464, shown in picture in this page. These were at least 3 versions - one with full-length mainboard, second, newer, with much shorter (more than a half) one and third, very small based on PLA chips. The last 2 versions have joystick and audio connectors on the left, not rear.
 - Schneider CPC464 - CPC464 for german market, with coloured special keys, German RF shielding and rarely connectors (because of restrictive EM interferences law in Germany all edge connectors had to be replaced with Centronics-like connectors), and sometimes with keyboard software and sticker replacing QWERTY to QWERTZ.
 - CPC472 -  Another result of democracy's legislation. In Spain, all computers with random access memory less or equal to 64K had to be localized with code page, keyboard and system software. In such optimized BASIC even translating messages may lead to incompatibility, so Amstrad installed additional memory to reach 72K, so the entire software modification was not necessary. This additional 8K of memory was sitting on daughterboard and was not connected at all! A month after CPC472 release, the law was changed and CPC472 has been discontinued.

Amstrad (Schneider) CPC6128

The 6128 has a built-in floppy drive instead of tape recorder. Tape still can be connected externally. Another upgrade was a memory, using 2 64K banks giving 128K.
Internal floppy drive allows to run CP/M 2 or CP/M+, but it is quite slow. It was not much popular.
My version is branded Schneider, it's german re-brand of Amstrad. It is also equipped with Centronics-like connectors for peripherals instead of edge connectors because of german EM interference prevention law.
These computers were re-branded many times and many units are already prepared for it. In the minboard you can find LK1 LK2 and LK3 jumpers described Here, giving a variety of brands on startup screen: Amstrad, Schneider, Orion, Awa, Solavox, Saisho, Triumph, ISP.

Manufacturer Amstrad

Origin UK
Year of unit 1988
Year of introduction 1985
End of production 1990
Speed 4MHz
RAM 128K
ROM 48kB (Basic)
Colors: 27
Sound: 3-channel chip
OS: Locomotive BASIC,Amsdos
Display modes: Text: 20x25x16c, 40x25x4c, 80x25x2c.
Graphics: 160x200x16c, 320x200x4c, 640x200x2c.


Media: Internal 3" Floppy disk drive
Tape recorder connector

Power supply:

Two DC connectors: On the computer:
 - FEMALE for 5V at 2A (1 - Ground, 2 - +5V)
 - MALE for 12V at 0.4A (1 - +12V, 2 - Ground)

I/O: Printer port (7-bit)
System bus
Joystick connector
FDD connector
Amstrad monitor connector
Tape connector
Stereo jack sound output (to the amplifier)
Possible upgrades: A few, memory upgrade requires special programmable chip

Notice reversed polarity for 12V male plug!

Reversing it will DAMAGE YOUR COMPUTER!

    Accessories in collection:
Software accessibility: Quite easy (TOSEC, FTP, dedicated sites)

Contents: Starting Image file formats Recording media Pinouts Links


It boots to Locomotive BASIC. If machine has a floppy built-in, it's already equipped with AMSDOS commands.
Running software from tape:


It'll load and run program.

Running from disc uses commands:
CAT - displays directory listing
RUN"prog" - runs program prog.
|CPM - tries to load CP/M from disk
RUN"DISC - tries to auto-run disk.
|A, |B - changes active floppy

BAS and BIN files may be loadable.


Image file formats:

DSK - A Amstrad CPC disk format. Many emulators support it.

TZX - Tape format designed by Tomaz Kac, it is optimized for exact data and can save tapes with strange loaders etc.
TAP - Tape format, it's optimized sound file.
CDT - It's TZX, and the extension means that this program is especially for CPC.




Recording media

To get BAS files from disk to tape, you have to extract it using CPCFS program.
The files got from this procedure are fed to CPC2TAPE, which modulates them into TZX.
 Resulting CDT file is TZX, so you have to play it using Taper. There's also a alpha version of TZX plugin for WinAmp (see my fileland), but it's not tested. The best thing for today's OS and sound card is WinTZX. It handles TAP files too.
Reverse procedure seems likely the same as in Spectrum. You can also use CpcTapeXP (see links) to get TZX from WAV file.

Transfering disks is more difficult. You can connect 3.5" drive to CPC and use it, or you can connect 3" drive from CPC to PC.
Another thing is getting CPCEMU15 from my fileland and reading Section 5 of its manual file. You need to build a special cable (use the plug from 5.25" disk drive ribbon cable if you have edge connector), but it'll work.





Audio and video connectors:

CPC Audio CPC Video

Connecting to SCART TV

3.5mm Jack:
  1  2 3

1 - Ground
2 - Right
3 - Left
1 - Red
2 - Green
3 - Blue
4 - Sync
5 - Ground
6 - Luminance

Theoretically it could be possible to get monochrome o/p with Luminance.

It's possible to connect Amstrad to TV with SCART RGB input, but remember that you still need a power source for it.


Joystick port Male DB9 (view from rear of computer):

1 - Up
2 - Down
3 - Left
4 - Right
5 - Fire 3
6 - Fire 2
7 - Fire 1
8 - Ground 1
9 - Ground 2

(it's compatible with Atari Joysticks)

Another thing are these 2 grounds. Joysticks work by shorting direction/fire pins to ground. Two grounds are for 2 joysticks - you can connect two joysticks to this port at once by connecting their pins in parallel except ground - Ground 1 goes to Joystick 0's ground, Ground 2 to Joy 1's ground.

Printer port pinout (view from rear of computer):

 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
    (centronics type port changes pins by 1 on lower row)
                 (pinout is for edge connector)
1 - /STROBE (11)
2 - D0
3 - D1
4 - D2
5 - D3 (15)
6 - D4 (13)
7 - D5 (12) 
8 - D6 (10) 
9 - GND (as D7)
10 NC
11  - BUSY (2)
12-13 - NC
14 - GND
15 - NC
16 - GND
17, 18(19) - NC
19 - GND (19)
20-18 - GND
29-32 - NC
33 - GND
34 - NC

To construct parallel cable to PC, you have to connect 7 pins from this port with pins in PCs parallel port. Numbers of pins in PC parallel port are written in grey.

CPC464 Floppy port (or system bus expansion):

2 - GND
3 - A15
4 - A14
5 - A13
6 - A12
7 - A11
8 - A10
9 - A9
10 A8
11 - A7
12 - A6
13 - A5
14 - A4
15 - A3
16 - A2
17 - A1
18 - A0
19 - D7
20 - D6
21 - D5
22 - D4
23 - D3
24 - D2
25 - D1
26 - D0
27 - Vcc (+5V)
28 - /MREQ
29 - /M1
30 - /RFSH
31 - /IORQ
32 - /RD
33 - /WR
34 - /HALT
35 - /INT
36 - /NMI
37 - /BUSRD
38 - /BUSAK
39 - READY
41 - /RESET
42 - /ROMEN
44 - /RAMRD
47 - LPEN
48 - /EXP
49 - GND

There are 2 handy hardware hacks, with this port. The first one is installing a momentary pushbutton between pin 40 and 49 (GND), it's a system reset button.
The second one requires installing a toggle switch betewwn pin 39 and 49 - this switch allows to pause a whole computer in any moment!. After pausing, the pins are disconnected and CPC continues work.


6128 Tape connector


1 - Switch
2 - GND
3 - Switch
4 - IN (to PHONE  of tape rec.)
5 - OUT (to MIC of tape rec.)




Links: - CPC file archive.  - connect here using FTP client, many utilities. If some file does not exist it usually means that there's a new version. - A CPC website. - Connect PC drive to CPC6128 - German one.  - connect a PC floppy drive to CPC6x,5ext.htm - Here's a modification with these switches. Spanish only. - Connect Amstrad 3" drive to PC. 22DISK is accessible in my fileland. - Here you'll find many interesting info about Amstrad CPC mods, hacks etc. - Utilities, e.g. to copy DSK to PC 3.5" disk - Download Amstrad documentation, Search if you can't find. - Home of CPCDiskXP, a tool for floppy i/o on PC and CPCTapeXP, a toold for tape io. or - More utilities - starting point for closed website researching. - A GUI operating system for Amstrad, unfortunately requires much memory. - A CPC Magazine. - A CPC Emulator for DOS - Another not much known emulator, versions for DOS and Windows. - This is probably the most recent emulator for Windows.