The only genuine British
Spectrum clone, the SAM Coupé is perhaps best regarded
as an interesting failure. Ironically, the machine was a failure
precisely because it was a Spectrum clone, or more
accurately a Spectrum-compatible: it became seen as merely
a souped-up Spectrum, an unattractive proposition at a time
when the market was becoming dominated by 16-bit computers
and consoles. It also suffered badly from a series of technical
problems and poor business decisions by its manufacturers.
The SAM Coupé was
produced by Miles Gordon Technology (MGT), a long-established
Spectrum peripherals supplier notable for producing the excellent
Plus D and DiSCiple floppy disk interfaces for the Spectrum.
The concept was not dissimilar to that of the never-released
Loki - an 8-bit computer with 16-bit features.
It had a fairly impressive hardware specification for the
time. [spec] On top of this, it was quite compatible with
the Spectrum, so could be used with a large number of existing
programs (although they could not, of course, take advantage
of the advanced features).
However, the machine had
the major disadvantage of not initially having a floppy disk
drive. This made for unfavourable comparisons between the
SAM Coupé and the 16-bit machines, which enjoyed quick
or instantaneous loading times (in the case of the consoles).
MGT did produce a floppy disk drive in response to public
demand but, disastrously, it was discovered that the ROM routines
dealing with disk operations were faulty. The company consequently
had to produce a new ROM to fix the bug. Sales of the SAM
Coupé were poor from the start and the subsequent problems
made matters worse; MGT went into liquidation during the recession
The founders of MGT, Allan
Miles and Bruce Gordon, did not give up on the SAM Coupé
after the collapse of their company and bought back the rights
to the machine. Under a new name, SAM Computers Ltd (or SAMCo
for short), the pair began to manufacture the machine again
and released numerous games and hardware add-ons. Unfortunately
they ran into financial difficulties again and SAMCo went
into liquidation in September 1992.
The tangled story of the SAM
Coupé entered one final chapter in April 1993,
when it was announced that a company called West Coast Computers
had bought the rights to the machine. As it happened, that
was the last that anyone heard of West Coast and the SAM
Coupé finally sank into obscurity.
© Chris Owen 1994-2003