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Schneider (Amstrad) CPC 664 surprise
Created on: 11-09-2020 By Gee
As a collector of Amstrad machines, the holy grail to me is the Amstrad CPC 664. Only manufactured for a limited amount of time between the CPC 464 and the 6128 (although their productions never stopped either), they are getting rarer and rarer. However, now and again they pop up on eBay and the likes so I keep my eyes open. I never though I'd ever actually get one to add to my collection.
Lets go back in time a couple of weeks when I'm doing my usual search on eBay of all things Amstrad and Schneider. Up crops a Schneider CPC 664 with some branding on it that shows it as the state property of a German speaking country. Naturally I'm intrigued as I always wanted a Schneider to add to the collection, so this would tick two boxes with one machine, a Schneider and a CPC 664. The bidding hasn't gone mental when I first noticed it and hoped it would stay that way due to the branding on the case and the yellowed keys. Both things that don't bother me much as I like machines to have a bit of life in them. Character.
The end of the Auction
When it came to the end of the auction I had decided I was going to bid, set myself a limit that I won't go beyond and waited for the timer to count down. Fired in my bid at the last moment and... The bidding ended with the amount I bid. Although I didn't win it. Checking the bids after the fact showed that the other person had bid 1 second before me, so they got the prize. Oh well! it wasn't to be! move on. Nothing lost.
An unexpected message
Not long after the auction ended I found myself receiving an eBay message from the seller, asking if I was interested in another machine that was identical. At first I was very sceptical so I asked for pictures and a lot more info and how many machines he had. When I got the reply I discovered that he had two machines left. He must have gotten them from said state owned institution rather cheap or out of a skip (if he was very lucky).
I enquired about pricing and we went back and forth for a little while. We finally agreed on a price for both of the machines delivered. One working and one not (I was told the power light came on though). The "working" one had an issue with the Keyboard. I suspected this was the well known issue with the CPC664's where the membrane fails. The other machine probably had the same fault, but unable to confirm due to it not working correctly.
Is this real?
When someone states that they want to do a transaction outside of eBay, alarms start to go off in my head. I was already sceptical due to the fact that I still hadn't received any pictures. Which I was pressing for now. I was sent a link to a website where there was indeed a picture of one of the machines turned on and showing it working with a green screen (gt65) monitor. The picture was pretty poor, low light etc. It looked as though there might have been a key missing. I closed the link and went back to it a few minutes later, it wasn't there any more. In it's place was some text in Hungarian (where the seller was based). I copy and pasted the text into Google translate where the translation told me that the image had been deleted due to a potential virus! This made my alarm bells turn into chorus of church bells. I was ready to back out.
Finally some images arrived in my email. I use Linux so I was thinking, if there were any viruses attached to the images somehow, I'd be less likely to get one (due to most viruses being aimed at MS Windows).
I asked for images showing both machines. This was to prove that he did in fact have these machines in his possession. The problem that I now saw was that both machines had a single key missing on each of the keyboards. Thankfully not the same key! So at least I could get the working one a complete keyboard. Where else would I find CPC 664 keys! This of course was rather annoying as they weren't exactly the same as the one I had seen on eBay.
As I was now well and truly spooked that this was now somehow fake, I wasn't taking any chances. I checked the meta data on the images, which showed the date and time to be an hour or so in the future. Which was actually correct as they were in a different time zone to me. The meta data also included the gps co-ordinates provided by the device that took the images. I used this to check the location on google maps. It took me to a place that was highlighted on the map as a computer refurb business. My alarm bells were starting to slow down and quieten. Not gone away fully.
I sent back an email stating that due to the missing keys I would like to re-negotiate the price. My offer was accepted and I paid via PayPal, ensuring it was a transaction and not a friends and family "gift" of money. This gave me some buyer protection. I was given a tracking number for the courier which I then put into their tracking website straight away. This made for the next fun part. Watching my parcel travel across Europe.
I began to get a bit worried as my parcel wasn't showing as dispatched yet. Not collected. Not dropped off. I gave it till the weekend was over in case that was the cause, until I got in touch. I was told that the courier had phoned to say they weren't going to make it on the Friday past so it'd be collected that day. I can't remember exactly if it was the same day that the tracking changed to say that the parcel was in the couriers possession. Never the less it wasn't long after my email enquiring about it. Looked as though he went and dropped it off in person.
Over the next few days, I watched as the parcel travelled from Hungary to Germany then into Scotland. My parcel arrived and I couldn't wait. There was two Schneider CPC 664's exactly as they were described (by their photo's I must add).
Using my Amstrad GT65 monitor that was already set up with my6128, I confirmed that one was powering on, but not showing anything on screen, and the other was powering on, showing the basic prompt but the keyboard wasn't executing all the key presses.
Repairs and Tinkering
The first item on my agenda was to get the working one a complete keyboard and have that work too. So I bought two Keyboard membranes from Sell My Retro Website. Once they arrived I opened up the first machine and set about replacing the membrane. It was an easy enough job after removing the several hundred tiny screws that held the keyboard together.
I also took the missing key from the second 664 for replace the one that was missing. That was all together again and looking good.
Testing it out showed that all the keys except the caps lock key was working. Pondering if I should just leave it or see if I could find the problem, I went with option two. Gave the underside of the caps lock a quick rub over with my thumb in case their was dirt on it seemed to have done the trick surprisingly. So that's the keyboard sorted on the first machine!
Disc Drive Woes
With the keyboard now working, I set about seeing if I could use the computer. It was very dirty inside when I had opened it, so I assumed the disc drive would need some servicing. I wasn't wrong!
When I first tested it, the disc wouldn't even go all the way in properly. When it did, it wouldn't lock down into place. I could hear the motor spinning, but not much else.
I think the story of the disc drives might be for another time as this post is already huge!