Alan Sugar - The Amstrad Story (Amstrad Action)Alan Sugar - The Amstrad Story (Amstrad Computer User)
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Sugar and spice! Scandal and vice! This could be it - all the dirt dished on everyone's favourite entrepreneur! The definitive story has arrived. JAMES LEACH puts on his reading specs...


In the late '60s there was a young lad selling car aerials and other small electrical goods from the back of a van. At the time he was just another trader scratching a living on tiny profit margins, but he was to become what Rupert Murdoch called "probably Britain's greatest entrepreneur".

At that time, the electronics industry was expanding rapidly, and there was great business potential for the right people. Sugar was there at the right time, and he knew the streets, the contacts and the prices. He was bora to sell.

As a boy, Alan was fascinated by money. He would carry deposit-bottles back to the shops to earn a few shillings. He would make ginger beer to sell off to his friends at lower prices than factory-bottled pop. He would earn r pennies by taking photographs of people's grandchildren for them. As a boy, as a teenager and as a young man, Alan Michael Sugar was always making money.
His roots were in the East End of London. The Sugar family were not well off, and considered themselves working class. They all lived together, one of many Jewish families in Hackney. Money was not the most important thing in their lives, but they looked after their cash. Alan was different. He promised himself, that he would own a big house in a nicer area of town. He wanted to succeed, and he worked for it.

In the early days of hi-fi, plastic "dust covers" were sold for record players. The cost of these seemed too high to Sugar. He invested in injection moulding equipment, and was soon mass producing covers at a far lower price. The Amstrad philosophy was being born.

Later on, Sugar looked at the new electronics and hi-fi industry with the eye of a "working class punter". He didn't know everything about the innards of component systems and he didn't want to. He knew what people would buy. Putting all the different parts of a music system together, Sugar invented the hi-fi Tower. It was tc revolutionise the industry, and it was to sell in its millions. Sugar's name for this appeal to the masses was "a mug's eyeful". He believed that most people wanted something that had lights, dials ana features on it. More importantly, they wanted it to work well and be cheap. Top range quality was only for top range buyers, a very small percentage of the market. Making it look good was the important thing.

Alan M. Sugar TRADing, or Amstrad, was slowly becoming a household word. He was producing equipment at a fraction of the cost of his competitors, with similar specifications, and it was proudly British.

The qualities that brought Sugar to the position he now occupied stayed with him. He refused to have too much to do with the technical side of the business. He knew what he needed to know to get people designing, supplying or modifying at the pace (and price) he wanted. He firmly believed he stood for the no-nonsense British consumer.

This often led him and Amstrad down rocky paths; he started selling twin cassette decks, obviously for copying tape-to-tape. A court case ensued, with Amstrad versus the music industry, and Sugar stuck to his guns. Not to put too fine a point on it, he won.

In 1983, Sugar started looking at computers. He decided that a major prerequisite was to have as few cables and leads as possible. Put the cassette unit in the same case as the computer, have only one plug, give it a proper keyboard and a solid look - and there it is. The CPC machine we all know and love. A similar philosophy dictated the marketing of the PCW range.

Make them powerful, integral, good-looking and cheap. All his computer ranges were bestsellers. Amstrad's approach had triumphed once more. Alan Sugar The Amstrad Story is a book about a company which is securely centred on one man. Alan Sugar is Amstrad. The ups and downs of the business from it's first days through its flotation to its troubles in the '80s (and subsequent recovery) are chronicled. The book is an interesting and factual history of Amstrad. David Thomas nas apparently had full cooperation from the Great Man himself during the writing of this book, but has been very careful to preserve his privacy. If Alan Sugar's personality fascinates you, you will only be teased by references to the non-Amstrad side of his life. There is little about what he is really like.

Can he permanently be the bluff businessman? Does he really spend all his waking hours at work?

His family aren't often mentioned. His houses merit more lines than his wife and children! (Perhaps it's because they're bigger). A searing and painful past-raking biography would not be appropriate, however, (when is it ever?) but a little more of the man himself would have been welcome. More information about his upbringing, his attitudes and his personal life might lead to a greater insight into his success, and that of his company.

Amstrad is a truly remarkable organisation. It has achieved much and diversified with amazing success. And much, if not most, of the credit has to go to Sugar himself. This book is really a tribute to him and his company.

However, David Thomas does occasionally become a tad obsequious. You get the feeling that, in his eyes at least. Sugar can do no wrong.

Nevertheless, the history of Amstrad itself is reviewed with excellent clarity, great detail and an occasional spark of dry humour. It's certainly a good read, this one, and you'll learn a lot about a fascinating company and the style in which it's run.


★ PUBLISHER: Century
★ YEAR: 1990
★ AUTHOR: David Thomas
★ PRICE: £14.99 (366p)


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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.