|SAM Surgeon - MGT's Demise|
|So what really has happened to the SAM Coupe?|
There's no point it trying to break it to you gently - Miles Gordon Technology (the company behind the SAM) have gone into receivership. What this means basically is that they've run out of money - and nobody is willing to give them any more, Hopefully a buyer will be found for the company and the Coupe will continue to be built - if not, it effectively spells the end of the line for the machine (and just as software was starting to appear for it too!).
So what went wrong?
Well, obviously details are fairly sketchy at the moment, but it is believed things started to get really bad around March this year, when MGT realised it had produced far more Coupes than it could possibly hope to sell (at this quiet end of the year at least).
Most probably they had so many machines on their hands (up to 6,000 apparently!) because they'd been aiming to have large stocks to sell in the busy pre-Christmas season. Since they'd failed to get the machine ready on time they found that vast numbers were just sitting there, doing nothing. Obviously this put them in a bit of a spot - they'd spent all that money making these things that they couldn't sell, they were owed a good deal of money themselves and on top of that had to finance the sending-out of ROM chip upgrades to their 8,000 or so existing users! This is what's known as a bit of a cash flow crisis - they were spending too much, and not enough was coming in to pay it all back.
In a last-ditch attempt to raise more money MGT got back in contact with Johnson Fry (the company they'd initially brought in to help float the company on the stock market) to try and raise more capital. When that showed no real hope of success they had little choice but to call in the receivers.
So has the writing always been on the wall or what?
Certainly the SAM project has been plagued by problems throughout its history. For a start, manufacturing costs forced the price well above the £100 or so initially intended, meaning that (with disk drive fitted) the manufacturers' recommended price for each machine was getting dangerously close to bargain basement ST territory.
Of course, the machine going late and missing the Christmas sales period (when the vast majority of computers are sold) didn't help matters at all - the SAM is said to have captured 5% of the UK home computer market, but of course 5% after Christmas provides nothing like the cash injection that 5% before would have done. Then there were the problems with the disk drive Disk Operating System, the new ROM that was required, the Spectrum compatibility problems and so on. For their part, programmers too were finding some serious problems with the computer, particularly with the ASIC chip, which made it impossible to implement MIDI on the machine!
In short, the company and its product have been plagued by problems from the word go, so it's especially sad that it's now (when all the hard work has been done, and the majority of probs sorted) that things should fall apart for them. For a company as small as MGT, the whole SAM project was an incredible risk, and one it seems they only just failed to pull off.
So what does the future hold?
Well, Alan Miles is on record as saying that "We have failed as a company, but we've got a good product and we're making sure that doesn't fail too. We're making every effort to find a buyer quickly in order to protect our customers. There are half a dozen companies interested. If a buyer is found soon the whole business will be transparent to existing customers as the customer support will continue."
Which all sounds well and good, though quite who these companies might be is, at the time of going to press, fairly unclear. Certainly Atari, Amstrad and Acorn have denied any involvement. The smart move would seem to be for a new owner to move production out of the UK - the Far East has been suggested - so that each unit could be manufactured more cheaply and the profit margin increased. Should that be the case, someone could be making a nice little profit out of the machine by Christmas, but of course this remains to be seen.
What about software support? Will it continue?
Like we said, one of the sad things about the death of MGT is that it's happened at a time when software support was just starting to come through. While we can't speak for most software houses, Enigma Variations (whose SAM Coupe version of Defenders Of The Earth features in Future Shocks this month) have announced that they will continue to support the machine. Managing Director Richard Naylor says "We would like to continue writing games for the machine but a lot depends on the reaction from the owners. If you want to see more games available we need to hear from you so that we can judge the interest that is out there."
If you want to contact Enigma Variations, either to express your support for the Coupe or to buy a copy of the SAM Defenders (£11.99 cassette/£14.99 disk inc p&p) write to [address and phone number deleted - NickH]
So what should I do as a SAM owner?
Sit tight for the moment would seem to be the best advice. Should the Coupe fail to get placed with another manufacturer, a possible support package has been discussed by MGT and INDUG (the SAM user group), though we don't know what form it would take. Alan Miles has even suggested the possibility that the upgraded ROM might be filed in the public domain, so every user could get their hands on it if they wanted. Coupe owners can contact Bob Brenchley at INDUG on [phone number deleted - NickH].
For our part, YS will continue to run SAM news and hopefully the first SAM games reviews next issue. We will of course keep you informed as to what the future will be for the machine (if any). And that's about all we can say for the moment. (Keep your fingers crossed.)
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