Alan Sugar began trading in 1968 as a general importer/exporter of wholesale good on Walthamstow Market but soon found his niche selling low cost Hi-Fi equipment. His success came from bulk buying Sinclair DIY amplifier kits aimed at the hobbiest electronics market and packaging them up in bespoke wooden cases.
By the early 1980’s Amstrad was a highly successful supplier of low cost Hi-Fi’s and radio’s including innovations such as the twin cassette deck to make recording easier, and all-in-one units combine all Hi-Fi parts in one low cost, single plug, casing.
Following the BBC’s Computer Programme in late 1981 and the release of the ZX Spectrum during 1982 the British home computer scene exploded and Alan Sugar saw an opportunity to bring his mass market, single plug, all-in-one electronics experience to this new market.
The result in early 1984 was the CPC464 which included a cassette drive built in to the keyboard unit rather than being a separate wired item like Sinclair, Commodore, and Atari micros. It was also supplied with a monitor that fed power to the main computer unit so it all ran off one plug socket and the user did not have to purchase a separate monitor or fiddle with retuning domestic TV sets’
By 1985, for users who wanted to do more than play computer games, the market Amstrad was most interested in capturing, some kind of faster storage than an audio cassette had become essential. While Sinclair unsuccessfully flirted with the Micro Drive (a very fast cassette tape loop), and both Atari and Commodore used older, fragile, 5.25″ floppy disks, Amstrad struck a deal with Matsumi for a new tougher 3″ magnatic disk drive. One of two competing standards for a smaller, tougher, faster, higher capacity and more reliable disk. While the industry quickly followed IBM and settled on Sony’s 3.5″ format Amstrad used these 3″ drives in all their 8-bit home computers including the PCW and later Spectrum+ lines.
The CPC664 came out in April 1985 as an upgraded CPC464 with the inbuilt cassette drive replaced by one of these new 3″ floppies. The CPC6128 model was originally designed exclusively for the American market and released in August that year. However Amstrad discovered the production costs of the new 128KB model was lower than the recently introduced 664 and by the end of October had ceased production of the 64KB disk drive model and replaced it on store shelves with the 6128.