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What's all this about CP/M & PCWs?

In the mid '80s AMSTRAD entered into the personal computer arena with the CPC 464, 664 and 6128 ranges of 8-bit computers. These used the CP/M operating system, versions 2.2 and 3 (the latter, known also as CP/M Plus, allows bank switching of memory). You can find out more about the CP/M operating system and its facilities by visiting the CP/M Main Page.

Hard on the heels of the CPC, AMSTRAD Launched the PCW range, also 8-bit, comprising initially the 8256, followed later by the 8512 and 9512. Many of the CPC series and all the initial PCW series used 3" disk drives. Up until a year or so ago, new versions of the PCW range were available with 3.5" disk drives - these were known as the PcW (sic) 9256, 9512 and 10. In all, several million of the CPC and PCW/PcW computers were sold worldwide.

The CPC and PCW/PcW machines are not "just" word processors - they are very powerful computers, running programs such as spreadsheets, databases, desktop publishing packages and a variety of games. A range of peripherals was produced for them by third party vendors, including scanners, light pens, several mouse types and a variety of other output and interface devices.

At the height of its sales, several national magazines catered for the CPC and PCW user interests. Many local, national and worldwide PCW and CPC User Groups have sprung up and are still active. For example, you can visit WACCI: The Worldwide Amstrad CPC User Club.

Many 8-bit computers, besides the CPC and PCW/PcW, are still in use worldwide and the Independent Eight Bit Association caters for the interests of such users. You can find out more about this organisation from Brian Watson.

The PCW/PcW range of machines was bundled with LocoScript, an excellent word processor with mail-merge, data-file and spell-checking facilities, written by the software house LocoScript Software. The latest version, LocoScript 4, supports colour printing despite the fact that the monitor is only monochrome! A PC version of this software is now available and this also has a thesaurus. LocoScript has a number of features which are not available in many of the other advanced word processors on the market. In 1999 LocoScript Software were taken over by SD Micros.

In 1996 AMSTRAD launched a new version of the PCW known as the PCW16. This does not run LocoScript but will accept and convert LocoScript files to its own file formats; this machine is bundled with a new operating system and an integrated package of "office" software written by Creative Technology. A new version of CP/M was been written to run on this machine. Although initially there were few alternative programs available for this machine, the situation is changed rapidly. However, sadly, this machine is no longer being produced.

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Last revised: 30th November 2009