Map of LuxSoft's Website
the Amstrad PCW,
introduction to the PCW range, CP/M and LocoScript
plus tips and answers to frequently asked questions.
for 'Printer Friendly' version in Rich Text Format
1 - The Amstrad PCW
2 - LocoScript
3 - CP/M
1 The PCW
8256 & 8512
first PCW to appear was the 8256 in 1984/5 at an initial rrp of £399 ex VAT. This comprised a green screen
monitor in a grey plastic case, 256k of RAM memory, one 3" floppy disc
drive and a 9 pin dot matrix printer. The disc drive, mounted vertically beside the
screen, had just one read/write head so the double-sided "CF2"
discs had to be turned over to use the second side. Each side accommodated 40
data tracks giving a total formatted space of 180k, of which 173k was available
for data storage (the balance being used for the system track and
directory). This disc format is variously known as Single Density (SD),
180k or 173k.
limitations of the 8256's RAM memory and disc capacity soon became evident so it was joined
within two years by its 'bigger' brother,
the 8512. Though equipped with 512k memory, the only discernable difference in
appearance was the second disc drive fitted beneath the
first. Unlike the upper (A) drive, the lower (B) drive was fitted with two read/ write
heads enabling both sides of the disc to be accessed simultaneously. It also
worked at double the A's data packing density - 80 tracks per side - to give 720k
total capacity and 706k available for data storage. This disc format is
variously known as Double Density (DD), 720k or 706k.
the 8256 and 8512 were supplied with two single density master program discs, one
containing the LocoScript 1 WP program and CP/M operating system, the other
additional CP/M programs, help files and the DrLogo graphics package.
PC printers, the PCW's printer took its power from the monitor and featured no
buttons to press, all controls being from the PCW's keyboard when in 'Printer
Control' state courtesy of the PTR key. Both the 8256 and 8512 were initially
supplied with 'A' series printers (an A on a sticker underneath and blue
paper-thickness lever inside) thence 'C' series (C on the sticker and red lever),
the C's featuring an arguably better print head but decidedly inferior bail arm
springs (which is why one sees so many C's ingeniously equipped with rubber
bands to keep the bail arm against the paper !).
elderly 8256 and a typically cluttered 8512
printers were not directly supported but by fitting a CPS8256 unit to the rear
expansion port, both a serial and a parallel port could be added. As the
supplied Loco 1 didn't support external printers, this was only relevant for
those who upgraded to Loco 2 or purchased other software which did eg Desk Top
PCW's success was not confined to the UK - they were sold abroad in considerable
numbers, some even being manufactured in Spain and Germany as well as the far
east, the German models particularly differing in the way the printer was
connected to the monitor.
thanks to the bundled LocoScript word processor and the Mallard basic
programming language, both of which were developed by Locomotive Systems of
Dorking, the PCW 8256 was way ahead of its time in so many respects. It took
Bill Gates a further ten years to borrow the Limbo principle and re-christen it
'the Recycle Bin' and over 20 years to come up with anything in Word which
approached the flexibility of LocoScript's multiple Copy and Paste facilities.
The 9512 and 9512+
the 8000 series' dot matrix printers were flexible - allowing bold and italic in
variety of type sizes not to mention supporting Greek and Cyrillic - the print
quality was hardly suitable for professional use ... and Amstrad wanted to break
into the small office market. The answer was the 9512 in a more stylish cream
case and a daisy wheel printer. Fitted still with 512k RAM, the 9512 had a
single 720k floppy drive mounted horizontally beneath the monitor screen, the
latter featuring white type on black background rather than the green of the
print quality of the daisy wheel made it eminently suitable for many offices,
notably solicitors and accountants for whom the lack of italic and variable type
sizes was outweighed by the printer being able to take A4 paper sideways
(landscape). Many writers also found the 9512 a better tool than an electric
typewriter but, particularly when inspiration came late at night, the noise
akin to canon-fire of the daisy wheel printer in action was not always popular with their partners vainly
trying to sleep.
printer-related problem was the inability of the 9512's power supply unit to
handle the power surge caused by connecting or disconnecting the printer whilst
the PCW was switched on. This almost invariably killed the PCW's main
processor chip. A warning label was affixed to the printer but this was all too
easily removed or ignored so many a 9512 suffered a swiftly truncated life from
that the supplied daisy wheel may not be the answer to every maiden's prayer,
Amstrad fitted the 9512 with a conventional PC-type parallel port from the
outset and the ensemble was bundled with an early version of LocoScript 2 which did support a
limited range of external printers. The second 720k master program disc
contained all the CP/M and Dr Logo programs etc.
early 1990's, 3.5" floppy drives had become the norm for PC's (until this
time they had mostly been 5.25") and 3.5" discs were not only becoming
widely available but also decreasing in price whereas both the now non-standard
3" drives and their CF2 discs were becoming more difficult to source as
manufacturers switched production. Amstrad's next move was therefore to fit the
9512 with a 3.5" drive and, for reasons known only to their marketing
department, called it the 9512+. As will be described in more detail later,
although physically the 3.5" 720k discs were the same as those used on
PC's, the disc format used was still CP/M so were not readily readable
on a PC.
9512+'s daisy wheel printer was identical to the 9512's but a sheet feeder
attachment option was made available to make it more suitable for office use and
Loco 2 was upgraded accordingly to support this feature. A more innovative 9512+
option was a Canon BJ10e Bubble Jet printer instead of the daisy wheel - a
radical departure for Amstrad as all hardware hitherto supplied with their PC's
and PCW's had been re-badged as Amstrad, and is all the more surprising as the
Canon BJ10 print engine was being used by other manufacturers in their own-badge
original BJ10e only supported the Canon/IBM printer emulation so italic was
still unavailable and the difference between normal type and bold was not great
but at least it offered faster, quieter and better quality print than the daisy
wheel from a much smaller unit, albeit at a considerably increased price. The
BJ10e was soon superceded by the BJ10ex then BJ10sx, both of which also
supported the Epson printer emulation courtesy of a dip switch setting. At last,
italic type was possible on a 9512 plus a wider range of symbols and accents.
pundits had been forecasting the imminent demise of the PCW from almost as soon
as they came out in the mid 80's but, from this time (early 1990's) onwards,
Amstrad now seemed hell bent on proving them right. Given that the 9512+,
particularly with BJ10e option, was too expensive for many home users, the 9256
was seen as fitting the bill. It didn't. Why ? Despite it's re-styled looks, it
was really only an 8256 in disguise with white on black screen and 3.5"
disc drive. Despite the printer's sexy curved case, it was equally an old C series in
disguise. Worse, the 9256 was bundled with LocoScript 1 rather than 2 so no
external printer support and its 256k of RAM made it too restrictive for those
who wanted to run Loco 2 or later. Not surprisingly, most of the production went
to the remaindered merchants and were sold at knock-down prices just as had the
8256's after the 8512 and 9512 came along.
PCW press of the time eagerly anticipated the new model as having all sorts of
new features and so be the salvation of the PCW. It didn't and it wasn't.
Effectively just a 9256 with 512k RAM, its dot matrix printer could not compete
with the print quality being offered by stand-alone word processors from the
likes of Canon and Brother whilst, for pure computer use, it's incompatibility
with PC's (through using CP/M rather than DOS) and slow speed made it
unattractive. Equally, its limitations meant that it was not a viable or
realistic upgrade route either for existing 8000 or 9512 users so most
of those instead chose to
upgrade their existing kit by adding RAM and 3.5" drives from 3rd party
suppliers .... or switch to a PC. Few PCW10's were made and, again, most ended up with the remaindered merchants. Quite
why Amstrad decided to call it the 10 and persevere with the by then very dated
Loco 1.5 (instead of 2 as per the 9512) will become clear one day, but it was a
sad end to a ground-breaking range which had introduced hundreds of thousands of
people to the delights of computing and word processing.
model is mentioned here for completeness of the story but it was a PCW in name
only - or mis-name to be more accurate. Incompatibility with PC's was addressed
by using a DOS-based disc format while the bundled word processor was by Arnor
rather than Locomotive Systems so it was really more of an NC100 notepad with a
monitor than any development of the PCW range. Indeed, it could not be run as a
computer in the same was a 'proper' PCW so it was not an upgrade route for those
with ageing or failing PCW's whether they were used for word processing or as a
computer. As such, few were sold until they too found their way on to the
- Floppy Disc Drives and Floppy Discs
mentioned above, the 8256, 8512 and 9512 were supplied with 3" drives
which took CF2 discs whereas the 9512+, 9256 and 10 were fitted with 3.5"
drives and used standard PC type MF2DD 720k discs (reformatted, of course, to
suit the CP/M operating system). Note - some 3.5" drives will also accept MF2HD
1.44mb high density discs (and use them as per 720k's), others will not.
1st drive (the one the PCW is booted from) is drive A and any second drive is B.
Where a hard disc has been added, the 1st partition is generally C (as on a PC).
On single drive machines, addressing the drive as B is permissible as CP/M
supports a means of identifying two discs which need to be swapped back and
forth as being in
drive A or B.
that whilst 3" 720k drives can read from (but not write to) 180k format
discs, single density drives cannot read 720k discs so programs will report them
as "not formatted or faulty".
the 3" and most of the 3.5" drives are belt driven - the Achilles Heel
of the PCW. The drive belts - glorified rubber bands - perish with the passage
of time and tend to set in one shape if not used for some time. "It worked
when I put it up in the loft 5 years ago" is an oft heard boast, but more
often than not it won't when subsequently retrieved and an attempt made to start
it. Merely fitting a new belt is not the panacea for all ills claimed by many
because rotational speed of the disc is crucial for correct reading &
writing and the belt may well have failed because of partial or total seizure of
the main bearing. The bearings were lubricated for five year life ... but in
many cases that was 20 years ago! Moreover, fitting a new belt can destroy the
head alignment. Alignment to the concentric disc tracks is equally important for
successful operation; misalignment generally arising from worn sled motor
bearings (the motor which moves the read head across the tracks) or physical
damage arising from trying to load a damaged disc or withdrawing a disc before
the motor has stopped turning.
- The Discs
3.5" discs only fit into their drives
one way up but 3" CF2's will fit either
way because the same physical discs are designed to suit all PCW models.
Care must therefore be taken as they may be used in two different ways:
180k format - PCW 8256 & 8512's 'A' drives - have just one read/write head so you have to turn the
disc over to access the other side. By convention, these are
called the 'A' and 'B' sides and each can hold 173k of data after
formatting. The 40 tracks per side are numbered 0 to 39.
720k format - 9512 and 8512 'B' drives - not only pack double the data into the same space but also read
BOTH sides at once so the capacity is four times as much - 720k (706k for data after formatting). Once a
3" disc has been formatted as double density,
the whole of the disc has been used so DO NOT turn it over in the hope of another 720k on the other side!
If you do, you'll wipe the lot so
make a habit of using the side marked 'A' (or '1') uppermost (9512)/to the left
(8512) and mark the spine label accordingly by barring out the B or 2. The 160
tracks are numbered 0 to 159.
Some early manuals recommended
using only of 'CF2DD' discs for the 720k Double Density format. Don't
worry - any 'decent' CF2 should be able to be successfully DD formatted but,
as with any disc formatting, it is wise to Verify the disc before use.
beware relying on
sub-standard discs! When the leading disc manufacturers ceased
production of CF2's, a mass of horrid discs were imported from
southern Europe and sold under a variety of names, including (wrongly &
illegally) Amsoft. These are prone to sudden and complete failure and
can be recognised by having criss-cross hatchings on the disc case
and white write-protect levers in the leading edge of the disc (white
showing through the two smaller holes when the disc is laid flat).
Maxell discs are plain surfaced (no hatching) with red levers whilst
proper genuine Amsoft ones are hatched but write protection is by a white
slider tab on the rear left of the upper surface of the disc (so when
laid flat, there's a hole showing white on the right but a
rectangular slider tab on the left).
talking of write protection, it is worth noting that most program master discs
were manufactured without write-permit tabs so their complete absence does not
indicate a damaged disc.
discs have 40 tracks and 720k's have 160. Each track is divided into 8 sectors,
the sector being the unit of transfer to/from the disc.
first track of the disc - track 0 - is devoted to system information,
notably the format type and number of tracks. On boot (start-up) discs this
is followed by the boot program - the one which starts the snowball of
intelligence gathering in motion by loading an embryo operating system and
telling it to go looking for the next stage - the loading of an EMS program
(or EMT on 3.5" models), eg CP/M or LocoScript.
1 contains the all-important directory, or in 720k format, the first part of
it. Each 32 character entry contains details of the name of the file, the
group it is in, it's size and the location on the disc of the constituent
parts of the file. As on PC's, the constituent parts may not be consecutive
data 'blocks' - on well-used discs they may be scattered all over the
(fragmented) disc. A single directory entry can only accommodate files up to
16k so, for files larger than this, 'continuation' entries are needed for
each 16k of data. Each sector of the directory contains 16 entries so, if a
disc read error occurs here, up to 16 files may be 'lost'.
rest of the disc is available for data storage and is addressed by means of
a unique 'block' number. On 173k discs these blocks are 1k in size but on
larger discs (720k and drive M) these are 2k in order to keep the block
number within the permitted numerical range. This explains why files copied
from 173k to 720k (or drive M) can apparently increase in size to the next
even number of k and, conversely, files copied to 173k may appear to reduce
Formatting Quirk - Upside down & mixed formats
stated above that turning a 720k disc upside down and formatting the B side in
the hope of gaining a further 720k of space on the disc would result in loss of
the initial formatting, and therefore all the data. This is not quite totally
true. A 'naked' disc in fact has space for around 168 tracks, not 160, and due
to the slight offset of the read/write heads, the first 8 tracks of the 'upside
down' (B side) format will use space not used by the A side formatting and, by the same
token, leave the last 8 tracks untouched. When turned back over to the A side,
these untouched tracks are its tracks 0 to 7, which includes the directory.
Hence, when inspected in (say) LocoScript, all the original files of the A side
format will be listed and the attempt to gain a further 720k will appear to have
been successful. Wrong! Any attempt to access any of the listed files will be
met with "Disc Address Mark Missing" unless the whole file happens to
reside within tracks 2-7.
be careful when formatting -
be greedy by trying to get 1440k out of a 720k disc !
a rat if a disc verifies perfectly up to track 7 then collapses in a heap
with Disc Address Mark Missing on every single sector of Track 8 onwards.
same formatting quirk applies when re-formatting a former 180k disc as 720k
- the first 8 tracks of the B side won't be touched so loading it B side up
will give the appearance that it is a 180k disc at the same time as the A
side reports it as 720 !
mix formats if you have confidential or sensitive info you want to get rid
of because, if you do mix, some files from the previous format may still be
you have both 180k and 720k drives, always load discs of unknown type into
the latter and, if apparently conflicting formatting info appears, use
Disckit to determine which is the complete format.
the B drive of your 8512 has given up the ghost but you are still
soldiering on with just drive A, beware that 720k formatted discs loaded
into drive A will report that they are "not formatted or faulty"
so tempt you to overwrite potentially valuable data.
rely on what the disc label says is on the disc !
- Drive M
M (or simply M:) is the 'Memory Drive' - part of the PCW's RAM memory given over
to acting just like a physical disc drive. Anyone who has ever tried copying a
file from one disc to another on a single floppy drive PC will readily
appreciate this PCW concept - just copy A to M, switch discs then copy back M to
other important facets of this are speed and flexibility. Speed because drive M
works at electronic speeds rather than the mechanical speed of a revolving disc,
flexibility because copying frequently used files or programs to M at the start
of a session saves much disc swapping later on. Hence, when loading, Loco loads
printer driver files, templates and the LocoSpell dictionary into M so that they
are available whatever disc is loaded and, similarly, the standard CP/M start-up
loads several useful programs into M. The downside of this that Start-up is
prolonged and/or valuable working space is taken on M by files that are not
required during the session.
contents of Drive M are lost when you switch off the computer or re-boot or
there's a power cut .... so always save valuable work on a physical disc
as soon as practicable ! (this is not an idle warning - I have both the postcard
and T-shirt to prove it!)
is the name of the word processing program that was bundled in the UK
& Europe with the Amstrad PCW, but in the USA it was called
LocaScript. A great many PCW users rarely if ever ventured beyond
this program and now, over 20 years since its debut, it still has a
faithful band of devotees, some of whom have recently gone back to it
having failed to get to grips with the complexity of PC's or do are not
physically able to master the use of a mouse.
version 1.0 (the version number appears on the screen during booting)
was bundled with the very first 8256's but, like most brand new software, it
suffered from errors so was very quickly
replaced by 1.1 and 1.2. Owners of at least 1.0 were offered a free upgrade to
1.2 but far from everyone took up the offer. Version 1.2 became the norm for
subsequent 8256's and all
the 8512's. Upgrades
incorporating further refinements could be purchased, that to 1.4 to include LocoSpell being the most
was then switched to Loco 2 with its more refined use of the Disc
Manager function keys and more comprehensive Layout features. Equally
important was a new f2 Disc menu which offered disc copying, formatting and
verifying from within Loco - previously it was necessary to re-boot into CP/M
to perform these tasks then re-start into Loco again. Loco 1 users
could purchase upgrades to 2 but the 9512, with it's noisy 'divorce
material' daisy wheel printer, was bundled with Loco 2 from the outset
(usually 2.12 or 2.16).
Version 2.28 witnessed a change in version numbering to even numbers
for 8000 users and odd for 9512. More importantly, 2.28 saw the
introduction for 8000 users of support for 'external' printers
(driven via a CPS8256 serial/parallel interface) whilst version 2.29
also added support for the daisy wheel's auto sheet feeder ("ASF
unit"), the least said about which the better. A 'Printer Support Pack'
upgrade was also introduced at this time which, amongst other goodies,
included drivers for a wide variety of dot matrix, inkjet and laser printers,
some of which are still relevant to today's laser printers. Last known
releases of Loco2 were 2.32 and 2.33, the 3.5" 9512+ optionally available
with a Canon BJ10 bubble jet printer generally being shipped with a
special derivative called 2.31b which included the necessary Canon printer
maintain a presence at the budget end of the market, Amstrad
introduced the 9256 with regurgitated 8000 series dot matrix printer.
However, because it only had 256k memory, it was not best suited to
the memory hungry Loco2, so was bundled with an adaptation of 1.4
from several years earlier which was called 1.5. The final genuine
PCW, the 'all new' PCW10 was anything but this, being effectively a
9256 with 512k memory and, despite this additional memory, it was still
bundled with 1.5
Locomotive Software, and their successors after they went into
liquidation, continued development of the product with LocoScript 3
and then 4. Both of these used the same principal function keys as
Loco2 but they offered significantly better font choice
and quality; both ran to many versions and both were only ever
available as paid-for upgrades as they were never bundled with any
Amstrad product. It is interesting to note that 95% of all the
3" discs received for conversion to PC format were produced on
the original 1.2 (8000 series) or 2.16 (9512).
- Mixing LocoScript Versions 1, 2, 3 & 4
with PC programs like Word, later (= higher numbered) versions of Loco can Edit (= Open) files
from earlier versions but not vice versa (as the later format obviously wasn't
thought of when the earlier was produced !).
a doc from an earlier version automatically produces a file in the later
format. You will probably be invited at the start of the edit to amend the
doc set-up to utilise the more advanced features of the later version.
you try to Print (rather than Edit) a file from an older version than the one you are
currently using, you'll get "Not a Suitable Document". You
must first Edit it to produce a file in the current (later) version format.
open a doc from a later version than the current, you'll get a "Not a
LocoScript Document" error. Converting to a later format
effectively a one-way street, except in the
case of Loco 4, which can back-convert to 3.
from not having a 'what you see is what you get' screen display, one
of the perceived failings of LocoScript was its manuals. The original version
shipped with Loco 1 -
intended to be a work of reference rather than a book to read at
bedtime - wasn't at all bad but, very unfortunately, it was mercilessly hammered by the press.
Having resorted to employing an
expensive consultant, Locomotive's manuals for Loco 2 and subsequent
upgrades went the opposite way - weighty tomes which were verbose
& so repetitive that it was very easy to miss the important bits.
apologies, then, for regurgitating some stuff that is probably in the manuals
somewhere (if you can find it) ... and some things they don't want you to know
When you first insert a freshly formatted
disc into LocoScript, the Disc Manager screen will report the disc
as having 173k or 706k free, but there are NO columns for it in
the lower (files) part of the screen. For brevity, the file columns only
appear where there are some files in a Group so with no files in any Group of a
new disc, no columns appear for the disc at all. With
the ordinary cursor left & right keys thus unable to reach over
disc, there seems to be no way of creating a file on or moving files
to said empty disc. As it has probably been a long time since the last new disc
was used, panic sets in.
Remember the Shift key !
The upper part of the
Disc Manager's tabular screen shows a summary of the discs in the
drive(s) and usage of the 8 "Groups" that are available
within each. A cursor in the form of a reverse video block highlight
shows the currently selected Group and it is moved with Shift+the
The lower part shows
the files within the selected (highlighted) disc & Group and, if there's room,
also in adjacent Groups. The cursor, again in the form of a reverse
video highlight, shows the currently selected file and is moved with
just the plain cursor keys.
cursors move in tandem so, if you move the lower cursor left or right
over a Group's bounding vertical line into the files for another
Group, the upper cursor moves to the new current Group (which may be
a fair distance if the intermediate Groups have no files in them). Similarly, if you use Shift+cursor keys to move the upper
cursor, the lower file cursor scrolls across the screen to be
positioned on a file in the newly selected Group. However, if there
are no files in that Group, the file cursor transforms itself
into two short vertical lines, one either side of the column boundary
dividing the nearest used Groups. As such, it has often been accused
The trick therefore is to use the
SHIFT+Cursor keys to move the upper Group cursor to reach the Groups
of the new disc. Once there, you can hit C to create a new file and,
once it has been named and created, a column will magically open up
for this Group and the new file be highlighted. Alternatively, when
copying a file from another drive to the new disc, use
Shift+Cursor keys when selecting the 'destination' of the new file.
Once it has been copied, a new column will be created and the file
cursor make a welcome return to its usual form.
way of initialising a new disc is to select the Template.Std in Group
0 (System Group) of drive M,
select Copy file (just f3 in Loco1 or f3 then Copy in Loco2/3/4) then hit SHIFT+Cursor Left until
the highlight reaches Group 0 of the new disc then hit Enter twice.
Once the file has been copied, the disc manager screen will refresh
and a column for this group will magically appear!
Note: A 2k
Template file copied from drive M to a standard 3" drive A of
an 8256/8512 may report that it is now only 1k. Don't worry! Space on these drives is allocated in units of 1k
whereas on M and all high density drives, the unit is 2k. Hence the
reverse can happen when copying from A to M (or A to B) as file sizes here are rounded up to an even number.
computers allow discs to be divided into an almost limitless number
of directories (or 'folders' in Bill Gates' Speak) and for there to
be sub-directories (sub-folders) within these so as to simulate the
drawers and dividers of a manual filing cabinet. LocoScript calls
it's disc divisions 'Groups' and there is a fixed maximum of 8 for
active files (plus another 8 for Limbos - see below) but there are no
facilities for sub-groups. On a new blank data disc, the Groups will
be called Group.0 through to Group.7 but they can be given names like
Letters or Fred so that their contents can be more easily recognised.
Baldrick, Locomotive Software had a cunning plan. This was to keep all files
of one particular type of document layout - eg letters,
manuscripts or mailing labels - together in one place (= in one Group).
By having a 'master' layout file (called Template.std) in each Group
which is automatically opened in response to the 'Create' new
document command, creating documents to a uniform layout is very easy.
Moreover, because the Template.Std is merely an ordinary Loco
document, it can contain fixed text such as one's address and phone
number to save entering it each time. Automatically copying the template
and simply asking for a name for the result is thus a much better way for new users to
'get going' than the alternatives of starting with a totally blank
page or having to select a particular template file from somewhere then
copy it, give it a new
name and then edit the result.
Hence the Groups on the Loco program disc
which contain sample templates are named to reflect their
layout type eg Letters, Labels etc. All Group names and Template.Std files are copied to drive M (the
Memory drive) during the start-up ('booting') process so that they
are available for use during the session.
So far so
good, but not everyone wants to keep their documents organised in
that way. Authors and suppliers of professional services may want to
keep all documents relating to a particular novel, project or
customer in one place, irrespective of whether they are letters,
invoices, notes, minutes or threats of legal action. A common
solution here is to f3 copy a suitable previous document (possibly
from another Group or even Disc), give it a new name and delete any
unwanted text, but this can be a bit slow going each time if there
are several pages to delete.
of this technique is to delete this unwanted text just once and
call the result by a meaningful name eg Template.Let, .A5, .Inv etc
so that there are several different layouts available within
To then create (say) a new invoice, f3 copy Template.Inv as
Invoice.B07 then edit in the new text.
technique can be used to update an ordinary Template.Std if you move
house or have honed a particular document's format to perfection with
multiple layouts, tabs and other fancy page settings. Rather than
then trying to re-enact all these changes again on the Template.Std
so that all newly created documents will inherit these refinements,
delete the existing Template.Std, f3 copy the honed document as
Template.Std then edit it to remove all unwanted text so as to leave
just the bare bones.
- Making alterations to a Template.Std does NOT affect any existing
documents that were created using it. As described above, new
documents are created by making a copy of the then existing template
so will reflect its contents at that time and there is
no mechanism for 'retro applying' subsequent changes to it. This can
be a pain if you only discover a better layout when you have reached
chapter 30 of a book, but it does mean that old letters written
before you moved house don't suddenly change to your new address
erase a file, it is not completely removed from the disc as you might
imagine. Instead it simply has 8 added to its Group
number in its disc Directory entry to put it into the Limbo range of Group
numbers - 8 to 15. In other
words, the Limbo system is a mid 1980's forerunner of the "Recycle
Bin" that was only introduced on PC's in Windows 95. Similarly, when you
finish editing a file and write the new version to the disc, the
previous version (the one you selected to Edit ie the 'input' to the
edit) is retained as a back-up by having 8 added to its Group number to put it into the
corresponding Limbo group.
Limbo is thus a valuable 'safety valve' when problems arise
enables you to retrieve accidentally deleted files or go back to the
previous version if a problem arises with the latest edit. However,
whereas CP/M treats all 16 Groups (or Users as it calls them)
equally, LocoScript only recognises the first 8 groups (0 to 7) as
containing 'active' files. This means that the Disc Manager Screen's
display of space used on a disc only shows that taken by
'active' files so the odd situation can arise whereby Loco reports a
disc as half full but CP/M will say it's full if you try to copy
anything to it !
Loco is looking around
to find space on the disc to save a file upon completion of an edit, it will randomly delete Limbos if
there's insufficient free space available until enough is.
Hence, other than by limiting your use of discs for 'active' files to
less than half of the nominal capacity of the disc, you cannot
control the deletion of Limbo files ... and Murphy's Law dictates
that, when a problem does arise, the one you want has gone!
Manager Screen at start-up shows the number of Limbo files in
each Group but not what they are. To show Limbo files, hit f8 Options and put a tick (with the Option Set [+]
key) against Show Limbo Files.
"recover" a Limbo file to make it
active again, show Limbo files as above, select the file with
your cursor, hit f4 (Loco1) or f3 File (Loco 2/3/4) and select Recover from Limbo. If an
active file of the same name already exists in this Group, you
must amend the name to make it unique.
a file from Limbo does not take up any more actual disc space
even though Loco will afterwards report that more is then used.
In fact the file is left untouched because all that happens is
that 8 is subtracted from the Group number in the file's
directory entry so that Loco now recognises it as an Active file
(and therefore now takes into account the space it occupies).
only actions allowed on Limbo files are Recover and Delete. If you need to
copy a Limbo without first 'recovering' it, use PIP in CP/M.
Finish an Edit of an existing file, before your masterpiece is
written to the disc, firstly any existing Limbo version of the file
on the disc is erased and the input to the current edit is re-named
to become the new Limbo file. Next, if there's insufficient free
space on the disc for the new file, other Limbo files are erased
then, finally, the new file is written.
haven't actually made any alterations to the file eg you just hit
Edit to have a look at its contents, this causes unnecessary disc
activity, particularly in the disc directory, as well as possible
loss of Limbo versions of other files on the disc .... so choose
Abandon Edit instead to leave the disc as was. Obviously, if you have
made alterations which you want to retain, don't hit Abandon !
above, a considerable amount of disc activity occurs every time you
Finish an edit. Unfortunately, there's a bug in all versions of LocoScript
which can cause significant loss of data
during this process. Primarily it occurs on 720k discs containing
lots of files (100+) and/or which are very full - so multiple Limbos
have to be erased to make way for the new file - but it can also
occur on 8256/8512 180k discs with files that are large.
Somehow Loco forgets where it's at
during the process and it either re-writes an updated
directory block (= 16 file entries) in the wrong place in the directory or
completely fills a whole directory block with zeros. Apart from
suddenly losing a number of files from the file list, common symptoms
are "Unexpected End of File" errors when moving through a
file during editing, the Disc Manager Screen showing files twice
or showing one or more 'files' with no name and occupying 0k.
disc behaves as described as above, do NOT write any more files
to it as you may only worsen the situation. Copy all the files
you can to a new disc. Although CP/M's PIP is a much quicker way
of bulk copying files, it will collapse in a heap if it
encounters an all-zero directory block whereas LocoScript has
been trained to plough on over the duff bit and access those
that the Disc Manager Screen's figure of used disc space excludes
Limbo files so once you have edited each chapter of your
masterpiece at least once, the actual space used
will be around double that indicated. Discs are
cheap and still readily available whereas it could take a very
long time to re-enter lost data ... and that's assuming you have a
hard copy to fall back upon (!) .... so stop using a disc once it has
reached just under the half-full mark. In this way you should
have a Limbo of each file to fall back on should the worst happen
and a Data Error or Missing Address Mark afflict any file.
Manager Screen can show you Limbos as well as Active files - hit f8 Options, cursor as necessary to Show Limbo Files
then hit the Option Set Key [+] to put a tick beside it then
majority of discs received for conversion to PC are pure data discs,
a significant number transpire to be copies of the supplied Loco
Program disc or the 'Start of Day' copy made of it. With the 180k
format of the 8256 and 8512, the Loco program components take up most
of the disc so there's precious little available for saving ones own
work even after deleting the supplied samples and irrelevant
templates. And, as discussed above, there are all the attendant
dangers of working with very full discs. Even on the 720k species,
the later versions of Loco take a brave chunk of space so why is that
when users need to use a new disc they copy the program disc rather
than using a blank data disc ??
Suggestions that have been put forward
are unaware that discs can be changed during a session so switch
off and re-start each time they want to access a different disc.
To tell Loco that you have changed discs, hit the f1 key in Loco
1 or f7 in later versions. (f1/f7 are listed as 'Disc Change' at
the top of the Disc Manager Screen).
program disc must be in the machine at all times during a
session. No ! All programs and system files (eg templates,
dictionaries and printer drivers) needed for a session are copied
at start-up to drive M - this is why it takes so long to boot !
(and why it's better to use Disckit for
copying discs than Loco2/3/4)
tried to use a blank disc but just can't get my cursor over to it
to use it" - see "Using newly formatted
discs" above !!
have saved all my Template.Std's on my Start of Day (SoD) Disc so it's a good way of
copying them all to a new disc". Yes, but all such
templates are automatically copied to Drive M at start up and when
you create a new document, if there is no Template.Std in the
current Group, Loco looks for one in the corresponding Group on
drive M (Note though that when there are discs are in both drives
of a twin drive PCW, the search for a suitable template is more
complex so it is best to start each newly used Group on a disc
with a copy of the relevant template).
have saved several useful files on my SoD, including some
templates which are not called Template.Std, so copying the whole
disc is quicker than laboriously copying all these to a new blank
disc." Agreed but, especially on an 8256 or 8512,
why not then delete all the program files? Hit f8
Options and tick (with the [+] option set key) both the Show
Limbo and Show Hidden files options. With the program files now
visible, delete them and once all in Limbo, delete those too.
Ditto any LocoSpell dictionaries and unnecessary sample files.
a bit disorganised so at least I know that I can start the PCW
from any old disc I come across". There's no answer
is the name of the operating system supplied with the Amstrad
PCW - the software which enables the PCW to read and write things to
disc as well as service other bits hung on to the computer such as
printers. CP/M thereby enables the PCW to operate as a conventional computer (or at
least one of the 1980's) and so set it apart from other
dedicated word processors. A wide range of software soon became available
for the PCW, ranging from accounts to payrolls, databases to desk top
publishers, spreadsheets to family tree makers ... and some
games. One could even write one's own programs using the supplied
Mallard version of the Basic programming language developed by
the years, its slowness and restricted capacity have meant that most
users of the PCW as a pure computer have migrated to PC's or Macs but
it still has a useful role to play in this mode, if nothing else, to
support its prime use for word processing using LocoScript. A
couple of the programs
which do this are covered below - PIP and Disckit.
Start the PCW in CP/M
PCW in 'computer mode' by
switching on, inserting the CP/M system disc and waiting until the "A prompt"
appears. On the 9512, this will take a few moments because a few
'helpful' preparatory commands are obeyed during start up. To stop
this happening (as is desirable when DiscKit is to be used for disc
copying), hit the Stop key a couple of times as soon as the 'CP/M
version' legend appears at the top of the screen.
in the A> 'prompt' means that unless you specify otherwise, any command
to load a file or program will first be directed towards (or
"default" to) the A drive
and > is a prompt to indicate that it is waiting for you to type in something ('enter a command').
Just as with DOS on
PC's, this may be entered in upper or lower case - it matters not -
commands at this prompt must be followed by either Enter or Return to signify the
end of the command (these two keys being synonymous in CP/M, unlike
you now type in just DIR[Return] you will get a DIRectory list of the
files on drive A because, without any explicit instruction to do
otherwise, it operates on the "default" drive as shown by
the prompt. To
switch the 'default' drive from A to M, simply type M:[Return] and the prompt will
change to M>. Now repeat the DIR and a different list - those
on M - will appear. To obtain a list for a drive other than the
default, you have to be explicit so, with the default
now as M, to obtain a list for drive A, the command becomes DIR A:[Return].
Note the space between the Command (DIR) and its 'parameters' (ie A:)
and that a colon is the computer shorthand for 'drive'. As with DOS,
you must enter the colon when referring to drives - otherwise it will
think you are talking about a file called A or M - but, unlike DOS,
the colon does not appear in the prompt (ie just A> rather than
- The second drive on a twin drive PCW is addressed as drive B so, to
obtain a directory listing of a disc in that drive, type in DIR
B:[Return]. Note that if you do this on a single drive PCW, you will
be invited to "load the disc for Drive B". This does NOT
mean that you do have a second drive hidden in the bowels of the
machine somewhere (!), it merely allows sequential access to two
different discs in the same drive so uses A & B 'drives' as a way
of keeping track of them both.
Loco, there is no key to hit to tell CP/M that you have switched
discs in a drive. In theory at least, it should sense a disc change
so, the first time a new disc is accessed, you should hear the characteristic
'bomp bomp' sound of the directory being read. However, this does not
always seem to happen and because the disc directory is copied to
memory to speed access, a DIR command can list the contents of the
previous rather than current disc. A tad confusing! Repeating the
command and/or re-setting the disc usually restores the knickers to a
less twisted state.
- When switching between single density (180k) and double density (720k) discs in a 720k drive (like the B drive of an 8512), you may
well be treated to 'Disc Address Mark Missing' for track 1 (the
directory track) so be fooled into believing that the disc is faulty.
Perseverance with a mixture of R to Re-try, I to Ignore and
re-setting the disc usually does the trick.
about everything you type in at the A> prompt will be a command to
load & run a program of that name, programs being recognised by
having .COM as the last part of their name (the 'file extension').
Hence entering PIP[Return] is a command to load Pip.Com from the
default drive then run it, so it follows that the program file of the specified
name should be available on the disc in that drive. However,
prefacing the command with the drive letter enables you to load the
program from a different drive without having to disturb the current
default drive eg M:PIP loads and runs the program from drive M
without affecting the default drive or the disc thatís in it. Part of the
9512's CP/M start-up process is to run PIP to copy itself
plus a couple of other useful programs from A to M. This enables you
to run PIP with M:PIP at any time during the session without having to switch
discs in A to the one with that program on it - very useful !
supports up to 16 Groups - or "Users" as they are usually
referred to in CP/M lingo. These are
numbered from 0 to 15 but, unlike LocoScript, the vast majority of
CP/M software only ever uses User 0 for its files. This is the
'default' user so 0 does not need to be specified as a qualifier to
the drive letter in commands except on very rare occasions which need
not bother us here. However, different Users do come into play when
dealing with LocoScript discs in programs like PIP (see below) and
the references to them must be by their Group number and not any name
have been called in Loco. This can easily be worked out from
Loco's Disc Manager Screen as Groups 0-3 are down the left hand
column of the drive summary and 4-7 down the
programs from drive M - getting a Full Directory Listing
obtain a list on screen of all the files - including Limbos -
on a disc in drive A (rather than just Group 0 as was done above),
enter the command:
A:[users=all] then hit the Return
that the M: has been specified this time. This is for two reasons:
is one of four commands which, in their simplest form, can be
handled by CP/M without recourse to running the named program.
These are called 'built-in' commands so typing in just DIR or DIR
M: as was done at the start did not actually need the program
disc in the drive at the time. However, as soon as anything
complicated is entered, like stuff in square brackets, the full
program needs to be loaded and run.
running programs from drive M, disc swapping is minimised and, on
single drive PCW's, makes things possible that otherwise would
not be eg a full directory listing for any disc which didn't have
Dir.Com on it!
here to transfer to the page dedicated to Disckit
can be run in two ways:
entering PIP at the command prompt followed by a space then
details of the files(s) to be copied in one hit eg PIP M:=A:PIP.COM.
PIP to perform several different tasks in one 'run' of the
program. The prompt changes to an asterisk to denote that one of
PIP's commands must now be entered. When successfully completed,
another asterisk prompt will appear. To terminate the run and
return to the normal CP/M command prompt, just hit the Return
latter is recommended and assumed here .... so just type in PIP to
is the opposite to the DOS copy command so does take a little getting
used to. It takes the form:
Destination(s) = to the Source(s)
M:=A:PIP.COM will copy the PIP program from drive A to drive M.
supports the ? (any single character) and * (any number of
characters) 'wild cards' so
will copy all files on drive A to M
M:=A:*.COM will copy A to M only those ending in .COM
M:=A:A*.* will copy A to M only those starting with the letter A
This is all
very well but it only addresses User 0. What about the others, which
may well arise when dealing with discs from Locoscript? This is where
the [Gn] parameter comes in, the n representing the Group number.
will copy all files from Group 7 of A to 1 of M
so is very
useful when reorganising discs, especially when a disc is getting
full and you want to peel off a complete Group on to another disc
without the tedium of individual file copying in Loco. Another useful
will copy all files from (Limbo) Group 9 of A to (the corresponding
Active) Group 1 on drive B
To quit the
program and return to CP/M's command prompt after the last copy, simply
hit the Return key.
When doing a
series of PIP's to reorganise discs, it's a good idea to script out on paper your planned sequence of operation
Paste key summons back the previous command you typed. You can
either just hit Return to repeat the same action or amend it
before so doing - this saves a lot of typing when doing a series
of basically similar operations.
Have fun !
If you have any
comments or tips of your own, please e-mail to
to the Trailing Edge of Technology"
1986 - This page last amended 21st August 2013
All text strictly Copyright LuxSoft
of Luxulyan 2000-2013. No part of this write-up may be copied, pinched
or otherwise plagiarised without the express permission of the author.