Amstrad PcW8256

Amstrad PCW was British attempt to introduce office machine for all people who were thinking that computers are too complicated. And they made it. PCW was designed in early 1980s as purely word processing machine, with printer, monitor and comfortable keyboard with editing keys.
Typical CP/M machines used serial terminals, not all terminals had even arrow keys and different models programmed them with different codes. Text editing in CP/M was difficult, and using such machine needed knowledge of it. PCW solved most of CP/M problems.
The computer is build around Z80 CPU and special logic array circuits. It is built in monitor with 3" floppy disk drive. Additionally, it was sold with printer and disks with operating system and LocoScript editor. Instruction manual was written with simple language for people who haven't used computer before. PCW 8256 (and later 8512) became a success.
By simplifying construction it was about 25% of the IBM PC's cost, giving most office programs and some additional capabilities. In Europe it was sold as Joyce and it was advertised as word processor.
Amstrad PCW line was supported with new models until 1990s.


Manufacturer Amstrad

Origin UK
Year of unit 1986
Year of introduction 1985
End of production 1989?
CPU Z80
Speed 3,4MHz
RAM 256K (optional upgrade to 512K)
ROM ??
Colors: Monochrome
Sound: Beeper
OS: CP/M
Display modes: 720x256 graphics, 90x32 text
 
 


Media: 3" floppy disk drive, single-sided (180K/side)

Power supply:

Built-in in monitor/CPU unit

I/O: Printer port
Printer power supply
Expansion bus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Possible upgrades: Additional internal drive, 512K RAM.
 
Software accessibility: Very Easy (CP/M programs)

My unit is in a vey good condition, it has been upgraded with another 256K of RAM to fit 512K. It is one of the early models without DIP switches to specify RAM.


Amstrad PcW9512

In 1987 a refreshed version of PcW has been released. A 9512 has some significant changes: It has a double-sided, 3" floppy disk drive instead of single-sided one and its capacity has been extended to 720kB. This model has 512kB of RAM and a white CRT for better reading of text. The casing has been re-designed to be a bit similar to Amstrad PC series.
9512 has new ports on the rear. Proprietary daisy-wheel printer can be connected using proprietary serial link, but there is also a parallel port allowing to connect parallel port printer.
PcW9512 was one of the last computers with 3" disk drive. Later and "Plus" versions had a conventional, 720kB 3.5" disk drive.


Manufacturer Amstrad

Origin UK
Year of unit 1987
Year of introduction 1987
End of production 1989?
CPU Z80
Speed 3,5MHz
RAM 512kB
ROM ??
Colors: Monochrome, white built-in CRT display
Sound: Beeper
OS: CP/M
Display modes: 720x256 graphics, 90x32 text
 
 


Media: 3" floppy disk drive, double-sided (720K)

Power supply:

Built-in in monitor/CPU unit

I/O: Printer port
Printer power supply
Expansion bus
 
 
 
 
 
  Peripherals in collection:
 - Original printer
 - Manual
 - Replacement printer ribbon cartridges.
 
Possible upgrades: Additional internal drive, 512K RAM.
 
Software accessibility: Very Easy (CP/M programs)

While PcW8256 is in a good condition, 9512 is not so well. It has some problems with 3" drive, so disk cannot be booted. More, I don't have a boot disk for it and I'm not sure will boot disk for 8256 work. So currently the only thing I got is signal of damaged boot disk.

 

 


Contents: Starting Make floppy disks Pinouts Links

Starting:

The computer should start with a nice green screen. It awaits a bootable floppy. Active side is with arrow pointing to the left (8256).
During loading of CP/M from floppy, the screen becomes filled with black horizontal bars.
Next, CP/M is launched and optionally autostart script executed. About 60kB is TPA, space for CP/M programs. Some space is used for system, and the rest is allocated in a RAM drive M:.
To restart (Like Ctrl-Alt-Del) you can use Shift-Extra-Exit.

In 9512, inserting a bad floppy for boot is indicated by 3 beeps. Then floppy can be replaced and boot continues when Spacebar is pressed.
 


Make Floppy disks

Well, here is a problem. They are 3" disks, so PC has problems reading them.

Here is a guide how to connect a 3" floppy drive to a PC. Then you can use 22DSK (but with pure DOS or Windows 9x - NOT ME, 2K or XP, don't even think about newer). Then the Author suggests 22DSK method, like in Robotron PC1715 but with other definition files.

In the Internet you may find TD0 files. They should be restored using Sydex's Teledisk.

For 9512, floppy disk drive is a two-sided one. All images of 9512 system disk found e.g. in Maslin's archive are in fact a single-sided disks for 8256.

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Pinouts:

Keyboard:


1 - GND
2 - Clock
3 - Data
4 - +5V DC

 

Parallel port (9512 only!):


1 - STROBE
2 - DATA0
3 - DATA1
4 - DATA2
5 - DATA3
6 - DATA4
7 - DATA5
8 - DATA6
9 - DATA7
10 - ACK
11 - BUSY
12 - PE (out-of-paper input)
13 - SELECT (input, high -> online)
14 - AUTOFEED (computer gives low -> feed one line after printing)
15 - ERROR (low -> printer out of paper)
16 - INIT (low by computer to reset printer's electronics)
17 - SLCT IN (Computer gives high -> printer offline)
18 - Not connected
19..25 - GND

Taken from user's manual (available in fileland in English).

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Links:


http://web.archive.org/web/20030411065342/http://pcwgallery.cjb.net/ -Models, short information
http://web.archive.org/web/20020805223135/http://www.3pro.de/mb/pcw8256.htm - German page http://www.luxsoft.demon.co.uk/lux/pcwtips.html - Tips and tricks
http://www.systemed.net/pcw/hardware.html - Hardware description
https://archive.org/details/Amstrad_PCW8256-8512_User_Guide_1985_AMSOFT - Manual
http://www.z80.eu/cps8256.html - Description
http://www.fvempel.nl/upgrade.html - Memory upgrade
http://www.fvempel.nl/index.html - DIY, disk transfer, 3.5-3" floppy hacks and more.
http://fvempel.nl/service.pdf  - ...and service manual
http://www.seasip.demon.co.uk/Unix/Joyce/hardware.pdf - Technical description, mainly from I/O ports perspective.
http://www.king27.freeserve.co.uk/otherstuff/expansionport.htm - Expansion port pinout.

http://amstrad.cpc.free.fr/article.php?sid=21 - Service manualf, PcW9512 service manual too
http://amstrad.cpc.free.fr/article.php?sid=23 - User's manuals, PcW9512 manual in French.

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