Fable: The Rubber Band Processor

32 years ago a new company hove to on the computer scene. It sold a package for £399 which included screen, keyboard, disc drive, printer, CP/M and BASIC. It sold 750,000 units in two years.

A year later, 31 years ago, the company launched a PC-compatible computer, also priced at £399 which, within 18 months, out-shipped the IBM PC on the UK market.

The average price of PCs dropped from £2k to £1k.

Famously non-techie, the company’s CEO, when asked what was the processor in one of his products, replied: “A rubber band.”

Moral: You don’t have to be a techie to sell tech



  1. Awesome, zeitghost, His Lordship loved that ptoduct and pushed it and pushed it but it never really took off.

  2. Yes Sceppers I’ve heard the same story. Apparently people were used to the hum of a fan when PCs booted up and were unnerved by the lack of it in the Amstrad PC which cooled sufficiently by unaided convection not to need a fan. A nice story. Don’t know if it’s true.

    • There was also comment in the PC press that the power cable did not have an earth. Sugar pointed out that most TVs were not earhed, then gave in and and fitted a standard IEC connector. Despite haveing my Amstrad open many times I can’t remember whether there was any connection from the connector to the chassis but the monitor certainly only had a twin lead.

  3. I heard an (uncorroborated) story of an Amstrad marketing meeting. The marketing men wanted a cooling fan in their PC because all the other competitors had one and punters were concerned. The techies pleaded with his Lordship that the machine was fine without simply didn’t need one. His alleged reply – ‘Just put the b**dy fan in and be done..’

    Moral – give the people what they want (see also Tim Martin – Wetherspoons)


  4. I assume that was Mark Eric Jones who was designing the hardware for Sugar at that time, zeitghost,

  5. So did I Fred, it was the first computer I bought. The emailer, aa you say, was an excellent device but came with a corded phone at a time when cordless was becoming all the rage. His Lordship stubbornly refused to make it cordless and even subsidised the e-mailer price for some time – convinced it would take off. But, IMHO, the corded phone did for it.

  6. Yes I read it too Fred, a good read and unexpectedly modest.

  7. Takes me back – I had one of these eons ago. It was useful as a ( crappy ) word processor with printer and great value for the times as a typewriter replacement. Once ( IBM compatble ) PC prices started to fall through the floor, folks preferred paying more for the versatility of a PC. Still, good move by his Lordship – shifted a few for sure. A bit like the Anstrad e-mailer, if anyone remembers that. I also had an Amstrad fax machine – every so often a capacitor in the PSU blew up – learned how to replace it by ourselves. Good old Amstrad ..

    • I have to say I enjoyed his autobiography “What You See Is What You Get” – a much better read than I had expected. Good on him..

      • I have an Amstrad emailer, purchased from a charity shop for £3.

        It still works as a telephone & the original users numbers are programmed into it even now.

  8. Someone very cleverly seems to have integrated the bios chip into the asic.

    I couldn’t find an eprom in there.

    It shared the 3″ drive with the Tatung Einstein, and some magazine or other had an utility to read Amstrad disks on the Einstein which was vaguely useful at the time.

  9. That says it all Keith, the Amstrad machine massively undercut everything on the market, it came integrated with monitor and printer, and it made loads of people think they’d take a first-time plunge into buying a computer. I think it was largely made out of a surplus parts bought on the cheap. It was an inspired piece of opportunism and seemed to be a major catalyst for setting His Lordship on his way.

  10. Amstrad PCW? Never had one myself, I had an Apricot bought in 1984, which had cost a lot more.

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