Specs Lies & Unused Parts: CPC472 extra 8kb RAM, Intel 487 disabling the CPU...

Started by cwpab, 16:36, 23 January 24

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In 1985, Amstrad did one of the most circus-like IT marketing piruettes in video game history. For some reason Spain had an extra tax to imported computers when they included 64k of memory or less, but this tax was not applied when they had more than 64k. So what Alan Michael Sugar did was to add 8kb of RAM to the motherboard, totally unconnected and unused by the system, to the Amstrad CPC464 and call it a day (actually, and call it the Amstrad CPC472). Perhaps liars, but not silly, they also changed the manual to add a fishy explanation of why the extra memory was there: the new version of Basic needed it. I can only assume the Spanish tax authorities had 0 knowledge about computers in the 80s, as the trick seemed work fine.

What Intel did in 1991 is not as scandalous, but still. Only a few days ago, I learned that they released the 80487 "FPU" processor as a complementary CPU to the main 80486 one (floating point unit or math co-processor), but what the chip did was disabling the main CPU instead and adding a pin so that the computer would not boot without the disabled CPU. The reasons why they did this I can't understand, but hopefully someone will shed some light.

I find these stories fascinating. Does anyone know any other vintage computer that did this?


The 472 was not idea of Lord Sugar but of José Luís Dominguez, who was responsible for the spanish arm of Amstrad.

The tax for computers with 64KB of ram or less was put in place because Eurohard S.A. bought the assets of its parent company, Dragon Data, when it collapsed and they started manufacturing the Dragon computers in Spain, aiming at the educational market (schools, mostly). So, to protect that investment, that tax was created with the result we all know.


It's called protectionism, very simple.

Now I've never heard about the Intel trick before! 


Yeah the 40487 was essentially just a 486DX in a slightly different package. When installed it disabled the main CPU and then just ran everything as it was easier than integrating a separate FPU.

But obviously Intel didn't want people taking the 486SX out of an upgraded machine and re-selling it on the cheap (which might cost them sales) so that had a mechanism to ensure the old CPU was still in place, even if it never really did anything.


I learned about 2 more stories that could fit into this category:

- Apparently several mainframe manufacturers sold their machines with perfectly functional capacity that was "locked", only to charge client companies when they needed that extra power or space. This practice was banned in the 90s.

- Sinclair and other companies used "half-bad" 64k RAM chips as "good" 32k RAM chips because they were cheaper. Apparently the ZX Spectrum had a lot of these on the 48k model (16 + 32).

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