In the last quarter of 1989 MGT launched the SAM Coupé. MGT was already known in the ZX Spectrum world for a range of hardware that they sold. The Sam was their pride and joy, and unfortunately to be their downfall.
The SAM name comes from a working name in the early design phases of ‘Some Amazing Machine’ (or ‘Some Amazing Micro’ or even ‘Spectrum Advanced Machine’ depending on who you talk to) and the ‘Coupé’ was a nickname from two sources: one being an ice cream sundae called the “Ice Cream Coupé” and the other because the machine resembles a fastback car in profile with the feet as the wheels.
The design of the SAM Coupé was produced by the Nick Holland Design Limited in Cardiff with the keys set back from the edge of the casing so as to provide a support for the wrists.
The internal PCB is a T-shape to accommodate the floppy drives, one story of the time is that ‘when they fed in the board shape the CAD program fell over’ although a sad fact of buggy CAD code than the romantic notion of a radical design departure!
This was a time when the 16-bit machines, the Atari ST and the Amiga, were really being to take off. Sales in computers such as the Spectrum was in rapid decline. The Sam was aimed to fill this gap, a powerful 8-bit machine with specs that in cases out performed those of the 16-bit machines, at an 8-bit price. It was hoped that current 8-bit owners, particularly Spectrum owners, would jump on the nicely priced Sam rather than a more expensive 16-bit machine.
Software companies, such as US Gold, threw around comments like the now infamous "Strider in 2 weeks" quote - “If, as with Strider, we’ve already produced a games across all common formats, all we have to do is simply take the code from the Speccy version and the graphics from the ST and sort of mix them together. This should take one bloke around two weeks at most.” - needless to say, Strider never appeared.
Unfortunately the Sam arrived too late. Some initial problems, and lack of software meant that the interest just never took off. Some commercial games were initially converted, but the poor sales was enough to put most companies off. The bulk of Sam’s software catalogue comes from small companies, set up specifically to support the Sam. Although these managed to gain some impressive licenses, such as Prince of Persia and Lemmings, it just wasn’t enough.
MGT went bankrupt, Alan Miles and Bruce Gordon set up a new company Search: “SamCo” to continue producing Sams and Bruce starting a separate venture SamTek to produce hardware. Some magazines started giving the Sam negative press. SamCo struggled on for 2 years, and just as things were starting to look hopeful, they too went in liquidation with SamTek following shortly after. West Coast Computers appeared as a savior, with grand plans, but then after a couple of mailshots went quiet.
Around 12,000 Sam’s were sold world wide according to David Ledbury.
Through all this, a small dedicated userbase stuck with the Sam, producing and selling new software and hardware.
Your Sinclair YS51 Introduction (Recovered) from March 1990, courtesy of The YS Rock ‘n’ Roll Years.
SAM Special 1 - SAM: Is It The Speccy Of The Nineties!?
OR If You Think The Spectrum Is 'Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow', Why Not Try A SAM Toupé?
Over two years in the making, MGT's SAM Coupé, probably the most exciting and important development in the Spectrum world, has finally arrived at Castle Rathbone. Without further ado, we put Matt Bielby, David Wilson and Duncan MacDonald, the YS trusty trio, on the case. When the case started showing signs of breaking under the strain of the clots' combined weight we told them to get off and open it up instead! Here's what they found!
Despite how much we all love the humble Speccy it has been around for some seven years now! With fewer games becoming available (this year, for example, we've seen Elite, Palace, Superior/Alligata and CP Software opt out of the 8-bit market), the doubting Thomas's around us were beginning to wonder where the machine's future lay! That was until we first started to hear that the SAM Coupé was shaping up as 'the new Speccy'. The SAM will run most of your existing 48K software (and improvements in compatability are being worked on as we speak) but, more importantly, it will create a whole new breed of games software on a superior machine, and breath new life into the Speccy world as we know it! Let's take a closer look, shall we?
It's big and colourful, isn't it!? There's eight-channel sound (even the ST has only three channels!), 128 colours and no attribute clash! Although it uses a Z80 processing chip (the same as that in the Speccy) it runs at 6Mhz, almost twice the speed of our rubber-keyed chum! SAM has its own Basic, which although it has much in common with Spectrum Basic (so you won't need to learn a new language) is much more powerful, better even than BBC Basic, and runs at the aforementioned increased speed
The SAM Coupé has also been designed very much with the future in mind. There are two protective covers situated in the front of the body which simply 'pop' out to allow disk drives to be 'plugged in'. If you already have an MGT +D Disciple disk drive this too can be used with the Coupe via a 'bus' connector (available from MGT at £19.95). Underneath the SAM's body is a panel held in place by two screws, beneath which lies another socket into which the upgrade board 'plugs' to take the Coupé to 512K. In addition, the SAM has expansion ports at the back to accept all manner of peripherals from light pens and light guns to midi, video and hi-fi equipment.
If you would like to run SAM Coupé applications on a modern computer, an emulator program SimCoupe is available.