For years I have been looking for this (then common, now rare) computer of the 80's; a professionnal tool, the perfect "word processor" machine.
Released in 1985 by the British company Amstrad, the PCW 8256 and 8512 are aimed to the professionnal market, and for people wanting a simple computer at home.
It needed to be simple of use, and powerful. The simple to use is achieved with a "one wire" unit. One wire to power the unit; one wire for the keyboard. and one wire for the Amstrad printer. You can't make it simpler.
Powerful, with 256 or 512 Ko or RAM, with one or two floppy drives (a special 3" model for this one. later evolutions will have the standard 3"1/4 floppy units).
Well made software taking advantages of the high resolution (90 characters on 32 lines mode, or 720*256 pixels).
The PCW can run both a BASIC or the CP/M OS, a then famous OS in the industrial and professionnal world, allowing a wide range of software to be released on the PCW.
This is a file manager, Locoscript, on CP/M; as CP/M can't adress more than 64Ko or RAM, Locoscript was cleverly programmed to use the remaining 64 (or 192) Ko of RAM as a virtual drive, making easier to copy and move files from floppy to floppy, especially on the 8256 model with only one physical drive.
On the other hand, the PCW doesn't have any ROM, so you can only use it with floppies (or Hcx Floppy Drive Emulator or the likes of it). The PCW also lack a proper sound chip and joysticks ports (even if the keyboard have the logic for it, there is not ports on it).
This and the monochrome-only display without any video output would make it sounding like a bad choice for a gaming machine?
Yet, the machine was so successful (8 millions sold, produced up to 1995, exported to the USA for some time, too) that many games were ported to it. If we're far from his little cousin CPC or from the C64 in term of game choice, there is almost 180 games available for the machine.
One expansion card with an AY sound chip (the same than in the Amstrad CPC or Vectrex) and two Kempton joystick port was released, but it's extremely rare and so, only a handful of games use it.
Mine suffer from the dead belt syndrom so I can't run anything on it, for now.
My to do list include getting the original Basic and CP/M disks, and one HCx unit for convenience.
(as there is no way to mute sound on a PCW, games have either an option to mute all sounds or have no sound at all)
Edited by CatPix, Sat May 10, 2014 4:49 PM.