Guest Writer: How Sexy Sam Broke My Heart

We all know that gaming can go very, very wrong. It’s even worse when it’s your hardware that lets you down, and that’s just the experience that bully1990 wants to share with you.

As I hurtle unavoidably towards middle-age, gaming has started to take up an increasing amount of my time. When I’m not doing my family duties or watching/playing football or cricket you will usually find me on some kind of gaming device, be it my PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, iPod or my phone. It wasn’t always this way, for a large part of my life gaming was well and truly on the sidelines, confined only to some quick bursts of Dizzy on my friend’s Amiga (always the first level as I wasn’t allowed to overwrite his save!). The reason for this? Sam Coupé.

You’ve probably never heard of Sam but he’s etched indelibly on my brain. Sam was a mistake, a very costly mistake and the reason why I didn’t own any kind of gaming platform for about 10 years. Sam was a git.

Things had started off well for me, in the early 80’s we had some strange black box that plugged into the telly and allowed me to play Pong. That blew up but no matter, I was soon given a much sleeker device – a ZX Spectrum with rubber keys, a separate cassette deck and about 35 different leads for connecting everything to a black and white TV in my room that resembled a hollowed out tree.

It was glorious, I can’t remember many of the games I had but I remember them being incredible. A football manager game stands out in my mind as a particular favourite – Ipswich Town’s Eric Gates was a pint sized goal scoring phenomenon. With Eric in your team you couldn’t fail. But alas, I started to grow tired of the Speccy, newer models came along with integrated tape decks and an enormous 128kb of memory. I should have just upgraded but my head was turned by someone a bit sexier. Sexy Sam.

At the time I used to read Crash magazine fairly regularly and it was whilst doing so that I first saw Sam. The Sam Coupé computer was advertised continually for a period of about 6 months before it was launched. It was white and shaped (from the side) like a sports car, hence the ‘Coupé’ name. It was sleek, it was gorgeous, it was the Apple Mac of its day. It ran Spectrum games but it was far, far more powerful than the Spectrum could ever hope to be. Sam and I would be perfect for each other. It was the future! It was expensive.

[drop]I saved for months, I put birthday money together with Christmas money together with paper round wages until at last I could afford it. I was ready to step into the future. I strode confidently into my local independent computer shop, my pathetic rubber keyed loser bundled into a plastic carrier bag ready to trade in. ‘I want a Sam Coupé please’. The shopkeeper looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure? The new Spectrum 128k is very good, it’s got hardly any wires!’. ‘No, I want a Sam Coupé I replied’. The shopkeeper looked at me again, then he looked at my Dad. My dad said ‘well if you’re sure son…’.

Sure? Of course I was sure, it was shaped like a frickin’ sports car (from the side), for goodness sake. It was a done deal, I handed over my Speccy and my hard earned cash and walked out with my head held high.

I took it home. I opened it up. I loaded the art software that came with it on a floppy disc – a floppy disc!. There was a picture on my tree-TV of Neil Armstrong bouncing around on the moon. It looked amazing – almost as good as a photo that I could have seen in a book – and it was on my super Sam Coupé computer.

I then tried a game, can’t remember which one but I know it was a brand new Spectrum game that was supposed to work on the Sam Coupé. It didn’t. I tried a few more games. They didn’t work either. The Sam Coupé was s%$t, a complete steaming pile of s%$t and absolutely nothing I tried on it worked.

I should’ve taken it back to the shop but I didn’t. Looking back I don’t really know why, I guess it was probably a sense of embarrassment and fear of my Dad and the shopkeeper saying ‘I told you so’, not that my Dad was that sort of person.

Not quite so sexy Sam lived in my wardrobe for the next few years. I turned my back on gaming. My fingers had been burned and I felt foolish. When I was 20 we moved house and Sam moved too. I moved to a new 3 bed semi a few miles down the road. Sam went to live in a nearby skip.

There was no internet back then and no forums to contact other Sam users who had problems with their machines. More recently I’ve been able to do a little bit of research on the Sam Coupé and the problems it suffered – it has a very good Wikipedia page that you should read if you’re at all interested.

Anyway, that was my little piece and it’s been good to get it all off my chest and out in the open. My Sam Coupé was one of only around 12,000 that were ever sold. I wonder who the other 11,999 mugs are?

Photo credit: Flickr.

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17 Comments

  1. Great story, Bully. I must confess that even though I’ve been gaming since the seventies, I’d never hear of Sexy Sam, so I’m going to check that wikipedia page out…

  2. Rest in peace, SAM you may have (almost) destroyed peoples dream of gaming but your evil memory will live on…

    I started gaming with the Master System… I feel luckly *runs!

    • Amstrad CPC 464 FTW!

      • Stop it, I’m too young to know these very old computers :)

    • I moved to a new 3 bed semi a few miles down the road. Sam went to live in a nearby skip.

      That made me giggle :P hehehe

  3. “I wonder who the other 11,999 mugs are?”

    *holds hand up*

    • Ha, now I don’t feel quite so bad. It obviously didn’t scar you in the same way though.

      • Well, I didn’t get rid of my Speccy… ;)

  4. I reckon it didn’t work due to an end user fault ;)

    • In my case that’s certainly a possibility. I did speak to my cousin who was a technical whizzkid about it – he told me it was a piece of junk!

  5. I remember the Sam Coupe well from various gaming magazines , I never owned or even saw one but surely it will become a collectors item in the near future because of its link to the mighty Sinclair Spectrum .

  6. Ah the Sam coupe! I admit to being very tempted at the time but my paper round money generally ended up funding my alcohol & cigarette addiction ;)
    Good to hear Crash mentioned though, brilliant mag for the time :)

  7. Can’t say I ever heard of the Sam Coupe either. I started on an Atari 2600 and moved on to a C64. Unfortunately for me, I still had a C64 when the lucky kids had moved on to Atari ST’s and Amigas. Still loved it though.

    Used to pick up at least 1 game a week back then as you could pick up new budget titles, or re-released classics for about £2. Good times :)

  8. I had also never heard of this, so just read up on the Wikipedia page. Interesting.
    The sports car-look is tenuous at best! Sounds like a notorious piece of shite though

  9. I remember seeing the ads for the Sam Coupé,in the back of Your Sinclair, back when I had my Dad’s old Spectrum +3. Didn’t really know to much about the Sam, just loved the little springy robot mascot thing it had.

  10. Nice article. As above I hadn’t heard of the Sam before, but then my family weren’t rich enough to buy even the cheapest units back then.

    I can remember friends having the ZX Spectrum, Commodore and Atari ST though.

    My first experience with computers was on an Apple IIe which my brother had (he is disabled and was given it as a communication aid). It had 32k of memory which I doubled to an amazing 64k!! That was also my first experience of programming and it wasn’t long before I wrote a ‘minefield’ game in basic. Good days :-)

    It’s incredible how things have moved on. My mobile phone has x1000 the processing power of my first PC. God, I sound old!

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