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Processor Zilog Z80 clocked at 4MHz, limited to a 3.3Mhz
RAM Memory 256KB expandable 512KB
ROM Memory 48 KB. No boot ROM
Chipset Custom video chip
Graphics 720×256 pixels resolution, 90×32 text mode (monochrome). Screen is mapped by lines anywhere on the first 128KB, with references stored in a 512 byte area named Roller-RAM.
Sound Programmable generator with output on the internal speaker (with volume control)
I/O Ports Expansion bus for peripherals, proprietary keyboard and printer ports
Internal Storage Single side 3“ Hitachi disk drive (180K per side). A second drive can be installed.
Monitor Monochrome green
Keyboard Plastic 82 key QWERTY/QWERTZ/AZERTY


The Amstrad PCW 8256 is the first computer of the PCW series. It's powered by a 4 Mhz Z80 processor and has a screen resolution of 720 x 256 pixels.

This computer has a 3” 180 KB single side drive and 256 KB of RAM, expandable to 512 KB. A matrix printer with a custom interface is provided, as the computer has no standard serial or parallel ports.

The computer is supplied with the Locoscript word processor (developed for this machine), and the CP/M Plus operating system, both by Locomotive Software.

The Amstrad PCW was launch to get the small business market by offering a computer, a printer and a word processor cheaper than a typewriter. Even with a 3“ drive (when 3.5” drives were becoming the industry standard), it was a huge success. Amsoft converts many of its CP/M applications to that format, making it easier to find DBase II on 3“ disks rather than on the original 5.25” disks. Even Microsoft launched all its CP/M compilers on that format. Due to the expensive price of the disks, kits for connecting external 5.25“ drives or internal 5.25” and 3.5“ drives (some modding needed) started to appear on the market. Suddenly, software houses started to develop games for the PCW, showing that the GSX expansion could be used for more than diagrams and charts. The RS232/Parallel interfaces allow the use of standard printers (some programs allowed using HP Laser printers) and PCW users started to visit BBS sites. In the end, 20 MB and 40 MB hard disk drives were also marketed.

Schneider distributed PCW computers in Germany under the names Joyce and Joyce Plus.

The were marketed shortly in the USA along the PC 1640, but weren't successful at all due to mail order. Probably, the german and american motherboards are slightly different from the european ones.

In Spain, peripherals for the PCW were quite expensive, which made difficult to use standard printers. When PC prices lowered, offices shifted to PCs with ink jet printers. For some time there was a market for PCW to PC files conversion.

en/8256.txt · Last modified: 2015/09/21 08:46 (external edit)