Author Topic: Multilink - PCW networking  (Read 385 times)

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Offline JohnElliott

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Multilink - PCW networking
« on: 00:45, 23 September 19 »
I hadn't previously been aware that there had been a 'proper' network for the PCW (as opposed to sharing a hard drive over SCSI, or serial connections like PCWLink).

Here's my writeup of what I've been able to dredge up about the system, and how I think it most likely worked. The Amstore fileserver and CPC network interface are most likely on topic for the CPC Wiki, but I don't have those  :(

Offline ComSoft6128

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Re: Multilink - PCW networking
« Reply #1 on: 07:46, 23 September 19 »
Hi John,

This extract from "The Complete Guide To The Amstrad 8256" may be of interest.

"HARDWARE

A second drive adds considerable power to your PCW. But if your needs are really ambitious you can turn a humble Amstrad into a system to take on all competitors.

Advanced systems Multi-users and megabytes

Imagine having 100 times the storage space of a standard 3" disc. You could have your word processor, database,
spread-sheet and accounts software always ready to run — with plenty of memory left over for data!

A hard disc, commonly called a Winchester, allows you to do just that. One of these sealed units should be considered by
every business where there is need for bulk storage and a variety of programs.

ACC Computer Services' drive is 10Mb capacity (that's 10,000Kb) and comes complete with the Tasword 8000 word
processor disc controller, host adapter for use with the PCW and power supply.

Soli-Comms' Winchester offers 20 Mb capacity and comes complete with an SCSI controller, a separate power
supply, software and an interface for a parallel printer. It plugs directly into the expansion port.

A hard disc can still be worthwhile on a single user system, but it really comes into its own when it's used to
network a series of PCWs, or even a mixture of micros, which then become separate workstations.

All are able to access the disc simultaneously thanks to its speed, which is many times faster than a floppy disc drive.
Information can be exchanged between users, so that you can call up information on an invoice from the accounts department for a letter that you're writing.

Meanwhile, each micro on the network retains its integrity, which means that if one suffers a failure, the others can continue as if nothing had happened.

Northern Computers' Amstore provides just such a system. If you're feeling really ambitious you can couple 120 Amstrads, or other computers, to the one network. This allows you to add more or less sophisticated micros, according to usage.

At Amstore's centre is a 20Mb Winchester, which connects up to a ring circuit, with sockets for each micro, printer, extra drive or whatever. These are known as nodes, and Amstore allows you to change and expand the system at will.

Amstore is also intelligent. Communicating such large amounts of information around a network calls for some clever
programming to ensure that everything reaches its correct destination. The demands made o
n the user by Amstore are very few. A little care may have to be taken with security though, to ensure that files are only accessed by authorised users, and that certain uses are prioritised.

Expansion holds vast potential, from a shared, quality printer to communications. In this last respect, Northern
Computers is producing a telex node. And if the thought of trusting all that information to one disc doesn't seem wise,
they are currently developing a streamer, to let you back up files on tape.

The system is cheap and easy to install, with its neat junction boxes. Obviously to realise its potential to the full,
and to justify its cost, it's best suited to larger businesses, for whom it could be a godsend.

HM Systems' answer to Amstore is the Amstrel, a version of their Minstrel, which was actually used by Amstrad itself.
Much of what has already been said about networking holds true. Amstrel also features discs, both 20Mb hard and soft,
including a 3", and a tape back up.

It runs an operating system called TurboDOS, which allows you to combine CP/M and PC-DOS programs on the same
network. Its basic system is for two users, but it can be extended to 16. With a 16 bit master controller, you can run advanced 16 bit software, with 8 bit PCWs as terminals.

HARD DISC PLUS NETWORKS

(Basic unit cost)

HM Systems Ltd

£6,195

+£1,390 (per extra pair of

workstations)

Northern Computers Ltd

£1,400"


Link:
https://archive.org/stream/complete-guide-amstrad-pcw-8256-8512-n01/The_Complete_Guide_to_the_Amstrad_PCW_8256_8512_n01_300dpi_djvu.txt
« Last Edit: 08:03, 23 September 19 by ComSoft6128 »

Offline JohnElliott

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Re: Multilink - PCW networking
« Reply #2 on: 00:52, 24 September 19 »
Thanks for the gen - I'll try to add the relevant bits to the web page in the near future.

Offline JohnElliott

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Re: Multilink - PCW networking
« Reply #3 on: 13:28, 24 September 19 »
I see the Wiki does have an Amstore page - the Amstore picture in "The Complete Guide" was obviously cropped from the advertisement shown on the Wiki.

Offline JohnElliott

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Re: Multilink - PCW networking
« Reply #4 on: 22:13, 28 September 19 »
By the way, as far as I can see the Amstrel / Minstrel also referred to above was more of a central-computer-and-terminals model rather than a peer network, with the PCWs acting as terminals to the central computer, a big S-100 bus thing.

Offline JohnElliott

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Re: Multilink - PCW networking
« Reply #5 on: 23:42, 08 October 19 »
Just updated the page to confirm the I/O addresses used on the PCW: 0A6h (status / control) and 0A7h (data). I've got as far as reading error codes from the card (viz, the network's disconnected).