ScuzzBlog: Diaries May 2020

Entry 2nd May 2020: Post 01: Amstrad PCW8256 - Keyboard check.

Amstrad PCW8256 - Keyboard check.

When you collect a lot of kit you do find yourself cycling through
the checking procedure, especially on computers that you have
previously fixed. The Amstrad PCW8256 was dead in the water when
she arrived and I not only had to fix the floppy drive but also
every key on the keyboard, or so it seemed. On regular occasions
I do power the computer up, but rarely do I check the keyboard. So
today I dragged the machine onto the bench to check her out and as
ever I took some photographs.

The Amstrad PCW8256 is a dedicated word processor for the most
part. Manufactured in the UK in 1985 it was the brain child of
Alan Sugar who wanted to give affordable computers to the masses.
The green screen computer was classed as a business machine given
the lack of entertainment software. It ran LocoScript and CP/M
from a 3" disc and basically fed a dedicated daisy wheel printer
that came with the complete package.

If you are interested in the machine then there are plenty of
retro sites that feature the computer. My first PCW was the 9512
which was the successor to this machine. Unlike the 9512 to access
both sides of the 3" disc you need to flip the disc over. The
drive is mounted vertically in the front face of the computer.
There is little in the way of controls beyond the keyboard which
is customised to action the primary controls of the word processor.

To fit a Drive B on the machine involves connecting up an external
drive via a ribbon. This is both clumsy and rather troublesome.
The memory of the machine is used as a third drive as Drive M.
There is no hard drive fitted to the machine so the disc swapping
for saving data can be annoying, and discs did fail so it was
essential to keep two and sometimes three copies of data just to
be on the safe side.

I did know a number of people that used these in offices and they
were always complementary of the little beast. I was pleased I got
the black and white screen cus green would have sent me bonkers.

When the computer boots you are greeted with a series of steadily
growing horizontal lines on the screen. If when booting the
machine you get a blank screen followed by a single beep, my guess
is that the rubber band has broken in the drive. And it is a pig
to mend. I have replaced belts in the 8256, 9512, 9512+, 464, 6128
and Plus and the DD1-I drives. Man they all fail at some time.
Also the armature on the daisy wheel printer breaks.

The keyboard for this machine had all the hallmarks of someone
placing a very heavy object on it. I spent an age fixing the
thing. I had so many goes and in the end I reduced the failure to
the keys you see with the orange stars. Eventually I fixed them
all and fire up CP/M as I did today to check they are working.
Happy to report that they were just fine and she was running OK
though I should have used a small screwdriver and adjusted the
horizontal hold a touch.

I did enjoy having the computer and monitor as one unit and spent
a considerable amount of time using my PCW9512. 

Amstrad PCW8256 - Keyboard check.

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Last updated 2nd May 2020

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