Amstrad PC-1512

PC-1512

The Amstrad PC1512 was Amstrad's mostly IBM PC-compatible home computer system, first manufactured in 1986. It was later succeeded by the PC1640.

It launched for £499 and sold very well, as it was one of the first cheap PCs in Europe. It significantly helped open up the European PC market to consumers as well as businesses, and Amstrad's advertising of the PC1512 was aimed at homes rather than offices. The 1512's influence was such that the UK PC magazine PC Plus originally targeted itself at the "Amstrad PC 1512 and compatibles", since home ownership of other PCs at the time was rare.

The PC1512 shipped with 512K of RAM; it could be upgraded to 640K of RAM with an expansion pack. Video output was compatible with the CGA standard, with an extension allowing all 16 colours to be used in the 640×200 graphics mode. The CPU of both the PC1512 and the later PC1640 was an 8 MHz Intel 8086, which was sufficient for playing Tetris, Maniac Mansion and Prince of Persia. The power supply was located in the monitor, which made upgrading difficult.

Amstrad licensed both MS-DOS 3.2 and Digital Research DOS Plus, which was largely compatible with MS-DOS and included some features from CP/M and the ability to read CP/M disks. Only one of these operating systems could be used at a time. They also licensed the GEM windowing system, which supported the customized CGA hardware of the 1512.

The PC1512 was followed by the PC1640, which had 640 KiB of RAM and an EGA-compatible graphics chipset (though only the ECD model could display all EGA modes). Either model shipped with one or two 5.25" floppy drives, and optionally a hard drive (either 10 or 20 MB). The hard drive made particular noises which are often fondly remembered by PC1512 or PC1640 users.

Amstrad also attempted to expand its market share by selling computers in the United States. In the US the PC1512 was known as the PC5120 and the PC1640 was marketed as the PC6400. The PC1512 was also sold as the Sinclair PC500.

The input devices supplied with the machine were notable. The mouse was an Amstrad Mouse, which was incompatible with serial mice common at the time. It was supported by some games, including Elite, but many DOS programs had problems with it. The keyboard sported an Atari-compatible joystick port for digital joysticks. Joystick movements and buttons were mapped to unused keyboard codes, allowing the joystick to be used in many DOS games that were written for keyboard control.

The series was somewhat unusual for the fact that it had a physical volume control on the internal speaker. This allowed the user to make the machine beep quietly, or silently, from boot time onwards. This innovation is still not present in most modern PCs. External speakers connected via dedicated sound hardware typically have a volume control, however the legacy beeper is typically still a fixed-volume device.

Specification

  • Available as choice of one or two 360K 5 1/4" floppy discs or one floppy disc with a 10 or 20 megabyte hard disc drive.
  • Hard disc version supplied with an extra floppy disc and manual backup and restore utilities
  • CGA display with extra 640x200 16 colour mode.
  • Colour or monochrome monitors. Monochrome monitor displays CGA in greyscale, not compatible with more usual Hercules mono display.
  • Motherboard includes RS232c serial and parallel port
  • Loudspeaker with volume control (PC speaker, not sound card)
  • Battery-backed real time clock and configuration RAM
  • Socket for 8087 maths co-processor
  • Connector for light pen
  • Full size QWERTY keyboard with keyboard joystick port (the port was the same as the Commodore Vic-20/C-64 port)
  • Two button mouse with dedicated port on system unit
  • Microsoft compatible mouse.com
  • Three expansion slots, full length, these were accessed through top and side panels with thumb-push locks meaning expansion cards could be added without use of a screwdriver.

Supplied Software

Four discs were supplied with floppy models, five with hard drive models.

  • Microsoft MS DOS 3.2 Operating System
  • Digital Research GEM (Graphics Environment Manager) plus GEM Desktop
  • Digital Research GEM Paint
  • Digital Research DOS Plus (runs MS DOS and CP/M-86 Applications)
  • GEM based Locomotive BASIC 2

Dimensions

PC1512SD System Unit 372 W 284 D 135 H 6.05Kg
PC1512DD System Unit 372 W 284 D 135 H 7.75Kg

PC MM Monochrome monitor 350W 300 D 315H 7.43Kg
PC CM Colour Monitor 372W 365D 330H 11.6Kg

Accessories

Printer Amstrad launched the Amstrad DMP3000 printer, which was an 80 character dot matrix printer with both IBM and Epson compatibility and boasted NLQ (Near Letter Quality) and could handle both A4 and fanfold paper. It connected to the computer via a parallel port.

Modem Amstrad also launched the SM2400 modem, which was a quad speed dial-up modem and boasted speeds of up to 2400baud. It was an internal ISA modem. It was encased in plastic and could fit into Amstrad PC1512 and PC1640.

External links

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