Amstrad GX4000

Amstrad GX4000

3rd Generation Competitors
Atari 7800 Famicom / NES Sega Master System Commodore 64 Game System
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA  NA  NA
North America NA NA  NA
Europe Sep 1990 1991  15K

Amstrad produced a fairly popular range of 8 bit computers during the 80s, in third place for most of the era in the UK after the Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum.

But Alan Sugar was well known for being able to sniff out a promising new market and so, when Nintendo and Sega hit the shores he realised he could take his existing 8 bit system, remove the keyboard and leverage the existing range of games.  They gave it a futuristic, spaceship design and bundled it with a joypad that was pretty reminiscent of the NES pad.

On paper this was a good move, the Amstrad had an amazing library of games and could certainly compete with the NES and Master System.  It already had joystick support, so converting games across was a breeze and Amstrad’s existing supply and sales chain would work for the new machine.

But the GX4000 didn’t release until 1990, which meant that it was competing with the Mega Drive and then the Super Nintendo.  Whilst it had a fighting chance against the 8 bit era, it was entirely outgunned in the 16 bit world, they weren’t the only company to make this mistake though, Commodore followed with the C64GS.

There is a fairly large software library for the GX4000 and developers have ported other titles across in recent times.  There are a couple of issues to look out for.  The PSU is not great and can cause component damage to the GX4000 if it’s unplugged or plugged in whilst turned on (usually this just means you have to replace the voltage regulator).

It’s recommended you use a replacement PSU (9 – 12v 1a center positive) instead of the included one.

 

Specs

Processor Zilog Z80A 4 MHz (PAL)
RAM 64k
ROM 32k
Custom Chips ASIC with Support for sprites, soft scrolling, programmable interrupts, DMA Sound
Video 12-bit colour palette (4096 colors)
Up to 32 on-screen colours (16 Background, 15 Sprites, 1 Border)
Audio 3 × 8-bit stereo PCM channels)
DMA
Removable storage None

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Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA NA NA
North America NA NA NA
Europe 17th Sep 1993 1994 100K

The history of Commodore is long and complicated.  But by the time the gaming industry recovered from the crash they were doing ok with the Amiga platform.  But this was due to change, Europe had been a stronghold for them but the NES and, to a lesser extent, Sega MasterSystem were about to hit and hit hard.

Commodore tried a couple of times to compete, first with a consolised version of their hit Commodore 64 8-bit computer and then with a living room friendly version of their Amiga platform, the CDTV.

Both were huge flops.  The C64 Game System just didn’t have the power and the CDTV was a confusing and expensive system.  Whilst it had some power it just wasn’t marketed well.

Their final attempt was again based on the Amiga, but this time it got pretty much everything correct.

The CD32 was the first 32 bit console and was based on the Amiga 1200, in fact with the addition of an extension board it was possible to add peripherals like a keyboard and mouse to make it a fully fledged computer.

The machine itself was powerful, priced fairly well and had the advantage of having a library of existing Amiga titles that could be easily ported across.  The controller is a fairly weird inverted look, but is surprisingly comfortable.  The buttons, however, feel slightly cheap, as does the D-Pad.

There are some truly great titles for the CD32 and programmers, even now, are porting across other Amiga titles across, including the awesome Supercars 2 by Gremlin.

Unfortunately, despite a strong start, the CD32 failed selling just 100,000 units.  This was due to a number of factors, first Commodore missed a patent payment to XOR.  This meant that they were unable to sell the CD32 in America.  Then their available stock was stuck in the Philippines, the factory refused to release it due to an outstanding bill.  Unable to pay the bill, the patent payment or to sell more units, Commodore filed for Bankruptcy.

A few companies purchased the Commodore name but they didn’t want to release new machines, just use the name to shift various items.  An ignominious end to a revolutionary company.

Specs

Processor Motorola 68EC020 @ 14.32 MHz (NTSC) 14.18 MHz (PAL)
RAM 2 MB
ROM Kickstart 3.1 ROM with CD32 extensions
1 KB non-volatile EEPROM memory for game saves
Custom Chips Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA)
Akiko CD controller and performs chunky planar graphics conversion
Video 24-bit colour palette (16.8 million colors)
Up to 256 on-screen colours in indexed mode

  • 320×200 to 1280×400i (NTSC)
  • 320×256 to 1280×512i (PAL)
Audio 4 × 8-bit stereo PCM channels)
28 kHz maximum DMA sampling rate
Removable storage Double-speed (300 KB/s) CD-ROM drive (proprietary Matsushita controller)

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