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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, allowed bank switching of memory). Later PCs used DOS.

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. Newer versions of the PCW range became 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 were not "just" word processors - they were very powerful micro 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 later. For example, you can visit WACCI: The Worldwide Amstrad CPC User Club.

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 last version, LocoScript 4, supported colour printing despite the fact that the monitor was only monochrome! A PC version of this software later became available and this also had a thesaurus. LocoScript had a number of features which were 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 did not run LocoScript but accepted and converted LocoScript files to its own file formats; this machine was bundled with a new operating system and an integrated package of "office" software written by Creative Technology. A new version of CP/M was later written to run on it. Although initially there were few alternative programs available for this machine the situation changed rapidly later.

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Last revised: August 2020