4.1184 Amstrads Revisited (1/36)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 27 Mar 91 23:01:12 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1184. Wednesday, 27 Mar 1991.

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 91 00:09:57 +0100
Subject: Amstrads revisited

At periodic intervals queries appear on HUMANIST about Amstrad computers,
which never seem to get answered although there must be lots of people in
the UK who could do so. I'm sending this to the net as well as directly
to Graham Hill in the hope that others who have to do with them may find
it useful. Amstrads come in two flavours, PCW8256 and PCW8512; the
larger one has more memory and a second disk drive, but they can be
regarded for external purposes as identical. They also run on two
separate operating systems: CPM 3 (= CPM Plus) and Locoscript. The
latter is a dedicated stand-alone word-processing program which,
however, stores its files in a manner more or less CPM compatible
(provided the files do not exceed 16K in size). So if you want to read
files produced by either system all (!) you need is a setup with a 3"
(that's right, not 3.5") drive and CPM. Alternatively you can now buy
an external 5.25" disk and connect it up; there is software available
which allows this disk to be treated as an MSDOS XT disk (I have the
set-up at home - you can read, write and format MSDOS disks pretty
reliably). For connecting up to the real world via modems etc.: in
Germany at least the computer comes with a reliable program called
MAIL232 which can handle speeds of up to 9600 baud and works well (for
me anyway). It has a VT52 emulation, though I've never used it. You
will need to get an extension called (I think) an RCS8256 (cost about
$50?), which fits on to the back extension slot and provides a proper
serial and parallel connection. KERMIT is also available. Files
produced under Locoscript should be stored in ASCII before sending:
Locoscript uses a repulsive and very space-consuming internal file
format (which can be translated into something more sensible while
retaining e.g. the codes for superscript etc.) and a code of its own.
The code is documented in PCW manuals; the internal file format has been
documented in various places (no references to hand but I could dig them
out if anyone needs them). I haven't given any suppliers' names because
I only have rather out-of-date information about Germany, which won't be
much use to most people.

Timothy Reuter, Monumenta Germaniae Historica