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M > MGT (MILES GORDON TECHNOLOGY) > Sam Coupé


MGT (Miles Gordon Technology)
Sam Coupé

In the last quarter of 1989, Miles Gordon Technology (created by Allan Miles and Bruce Gordon) launched the Sam Coupé. M.G.T. was already known in the ZX Spectrum world for a range of hardware that they sold (including the famous Disciple). The Sam was their pride and joy, and unfortunately to be their downfall.

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. 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.

Unfortunately, being described as the logical upgrade for the spectrum gave people the impression that the SAM was still the same as a spectrum, and not having a disc drive at the time of release, the machine became unpopular straight away.

Then, when the first disc drives were shipped, it became apparant that there was a bug in the ROM. In order to kick the disk drive in to operation, the user had to type in a long CALL command. Very tedious. And so MGT had to fork out money on a new ROM.

Unfortunately, MGT came to a grinding halt in 1990, going in to liquidation. But there was a glimmer of hope.

Under a new company name of SAM Computers Limited, Allan Miles and Bruce Gordon brought back the rights to their machine, and began to manufacture the Coupé again. Based in Swansea, Wales, the pair set up their own software label 'Revelation', and released numerous SAM games, including Bats 'N' Balls, Prince of Persia, and SAM conversions of the classic Spectrum titles Manic Miner and Splat!. A range of new hardware appeared, the Messenger, SAM Mouse, Sound Sampler (which was crap to say the least), and even a 1MB memory upgrade.

All went well for SAMCo. up until september 1992, when it was announced that they had gone in to voluntary liquidation. People of the SAM world were devastated. And so once again the future of the SAM was uncertain.

Then it was revealed that a company called West Coast Computers were interested in buying the SAM, and everyone waited nervously. A month passed, still no news. 2 month's passed, and still no news. Had West Coast given up?

In April 1993, it was finally made public that West Coast Computers had bought the SAM Coupé. Everyone was pleased that SAM was still around, and that new hardware would be produced. WestCoast models were indeed produced with 512k RAM and double disk-drives, but the company quickly went quiet... that was the end.


> SAM BASIC

Programs may be up to 217K long on a standard 256K Coupe. (470K on a 512K). Line numbers up to 61439 are allowed, with each line containing up to 127 statements. Strings and arrays can have names up to 10 character long. The names of user-defined functions and numerical variables can have up to 32 charcters. Strings can be up to 64K long; arrays can fill all available memory. SAM Basic is fully structured and inclueds procedures with local variables and parameter passing by value and reference. Long and short IF and ELSE are implemented,a s are DO, LOOP, REPEAT, UNTIL, a CASE equivalent, ON, ON ERROR and GOTO label.

Graphics are well cathered for, with vary fast DRAW, CIRCLE, PLOT and pattern FILL. RECORD and BLIZ allow complex graphics sequences to be stored and replayed at high speed. Any part of the screen can be moved in any direction with ROLL and SCROLL, and sections can be GRABbed and PUT back elswhere. PALETTE allows instant changes to the screen colours; all 128 colours can be displayed at once. The displayed screen can be instantly switch for another. The scharecter set includes block graphics and a wide range of foreign characters. Character size can be altered to give 32, 64 or 85 columns. Double-hight characters can also be used. Text and graphics screen copies can be made to a suitable printer in a variety of sizes.

Sound commands include BEEP, SOUND and a range of pre-programmed sound effects. It is possible to have interrupt driven music from BASIC.

There are 56 built-in functions, which provide a full range of mathematical and string-handling functions as well as mouse and light-pen handling, string searching, hex and binary conversion and other features.

The tape system can handle program, data, binary and screen files at a wide range of speeds.

The keyboard can be completely re-programmed; predefined strings can be generated by any key.

Programs can be automatically indented to reflect structure and renumbered.


> SAM DOS

SAMDOS has been designed specifically for the SAM Coupe computer. It is similar to G+DOS as used with the MGT Plus D Spectrum disk interface.

The internal SAM disk drive is a Citizen 3.5" slimline drive. Each drive is cased and fitted with the MGT disk controller interface, which utilises a VL-1772-02 floppy disk controller. By default the disks are formatted as double sided, 80 track per side, 10 sectors per track, to the IBM 3740 standard.

Disk format is 80 tracks per side, giving 160 tracks per disk. A track is made up of 10 data sectors, each giving 512 bytes of storage. The first 4 tracks of the disk are given up to the SAMDOS directory, leaving 156 tracks available for storage. This leaves available 1560 data sectors of 512 bytes (798720 bytes).

Although each data sector can hold 512 bytes, only 510 bytes of them are available for storage. The last two bytes of the data sector are used by the DOS to locate the next part of the file stored. Byte 511 hold the next track used by the file, while byte 512 holds the next sector.

____________

All the info was kindly provided by Tim from his SamCoupé dedicated website SamCoupé Scrapbook., and Stewart Skardon from SamCoupé.co.uk.
Frode Tenebo also contributed to these texts.





 
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