PCW newbie!

Started by TynH, 18:42, 15 February 19

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


Hi all,

not sure why but for some weird reason I always wantend a PCW. Maybe because my first ever encounter with computers was my dad's Xerox 820-ll, a rather bland business machine running CP/M.
Living in Germany it seems a ,,Schneider Joyce" 8256 would be the one to get, they do pop up from time to time.
The main problem however would be how on earth to copy files onto such a beast? It's not my first retro computer but the Archimedes has a network card fitted (it also accepts 1.44 MB 3.5") and even the lowly Amstrad NC100 has a serial port.

Traditionally one would start by fitting 3.5" drives on the Anstrad or 3" ones on an IBM compatible but surely there's a better way now!
I did of course read about the possibility of fitting an IDE interface (cool!) but that wouldn't exactly help with file transfers. Replacing the original disc drive with a Gotek floppy emulator sounds interesting but also quite daunting. Not sure how easy handling .DSK images would be on the non-Amstrad end either (mostly MacOS but I could also use WinXP/Linux).

So uhm any hints? General buying advice welcome too (typically ebay though, hence no way of checking the hardware before buying).




Although I've used the PCW in the past I'm not up to date with modern add ons for it but if you wait a few hours I'm sure someone will be along to help :)


Well, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to actually DO something.   Bite the bullet.

There are various options.   Each one has provisos.

I'd say the easiest would be to attach a 3.5" drive as B: to your PCW.   There's enough info about on how to do this.   There's a LOT of discussion about finding the 'correct' type of 3.5" drive, but I skipped all this when I sorted one by following one set of instructions which did everything in the cable.   A bit crude I guess, and things like DISCKIT has a problem with the 'ready' line, but you can get around this, and the disks work fine normally.   But you need a PC with a working 3.5" drive (more of a problem as each year goes by) and you need some software on the PC like 22DISK.

My 3.5" drive works fine when it's connected.   I also have a 5.25" B: drive (340k format) which is more usually connected (as I have far more dsks written over the years using that format).

You could also get the Serial Interface box, this may be simpler, but it's far less reliable and slower to work, but I've communicated with people who are happily doing this.

Others may refer to the Gotek option, where you can maintain the contents of the .DSK images on your PC.   But it's less of a PCW.   But if's you've got a PCW 8256, you don't 'lose' anything (as you never had a standard B: drive) and you still gain something.

I've got one of the uIDE drives on my PCW, and this is a wonder.   I believe you COULD get such a drive to operate on a PC to transfer files, but you'd need some special software to allow a PC to access the CP/M format (but maybe trusty 22DISK could do this but I think that as it works thru the FDC it could be that you cannot go this way, need something else.   However, JonB (on this forum) who implemented the uIDE, put masses on CP/M software onto the uIDE disks, so this is certainly possible.

Questions so far?



Well it seems I just bought myself a PCW. Had my eye on a well kept if slightly overpriced example (original bill of sales, everything working plus 16 3" discs) while placing a bid on a different machine on ebay. Actually I already decided not to buy that one, mainly because the keyboard looks pretty worn (contrary to sellers claim of it being a lightly to unused item!). Lowered my max bid twice but still won the auction, crap! ;-)
On the positive side though: it does come with an anti-glare screen and original box. No software whatsoever though, hence no way of making sure anything works apart from screen lighting up...
Maybe not such a wise move after all. Haven't told my girl friend the good news either, hmmm.

Already ordered replacement drive belt (since I'll be needing one anyway), three NOS Maxell CF2 floppies and a set of Loco 2 flopies including CP/M Plus 1.15 from whoever owns Locoscript nowadays (may seem silly but at least they promise to send tested copies only).

So, this thing is really happening.

As for future file transfer options: I've decided not to pursue the 3.5" floppy path. I do have several machines capable of reading them but given both the cost and amount of work included in modifying the Amstrad it would seem unwise to rely on obsolete tech. I've contacted an ebay vendor instead and discussed the Gotek adapter/kit with him. About the same effort really and more flexible. Obviously I'll keep the original drive in a box somewhere.
Adding an uIDE interface however sounds tempting as well. I'll probably add one AFTER sorting out file transfer options though. Storing stuff on your internal DOM with no easy way of copying it elsewhere is fine for say gaming but I'm more interested in using the PCW for text files ("word processing" would be a bit of an exaggeration!).   

edit: thanks for the warm welcome btw!


So, sounds like you're thinking of putting a Gotek as A:.   I'd have thought it more use to keep the standard A: drive and put the Gotek as B:, might be generally more use, but having it as A: means you can boot from it easily, which may be a help if you're doing lots of games.

If you're thinking of the uIDE device, note that you need special versions of the system to boot.   This is detailed in the docs on the Wiki.   The special version knows about the .FID file that needs to load on startup.   This is the same for both the CP/M and for LocoScript.

There's no particular problem regarding the CP/M, you can just load and go, and you can have the 13 @ 8 Mb virtual drives.

I recently got the LocoScript working as well, and found a problem.   Rather, an 'inconvenience'!

I found I had a later version of LS, that was 'officially' a version number or two before the versions that were designated as working, so I tried it anyway.   It worked.   When John Elliott had determined the point at which the .FID system was supported, he clearly did not have EVERY version to test, so he was just reporting the earliest version that he had that worked.

Anyway, when I tried it, I was using a uIDE drive with all 13 drives active, and with LOTS of files on the drives, in lots of User Areas, and LS took an ABSOLUTE AGE to load up, as it read the complete DOM to generate all the data for the Disk Manager screen.  And once it had loaded, and displayed, moving around the screens wes pretty tedious.   I decided pretty quick that there was little point to having 13 drives.

I knew that when JonB first did the uIDE thing there were 6 drives only, so I explained the situation to him, and asked if he had a version of the driver that implemented fewer drives, and he was able to produce something that did 4 only.   Much better.

I still have quite a few files in the first 4 drives, so it still takes a while, but for the benefit of LS I've moved some files from an early drive to a later drive, and this is much more friendly.  As far as LS is concerned, the extra drives are not there, but for CP/M they are there and fully accessible.

So, if you plan to do a fair bit with LocoScript, and use the uIDE process, this is something you need to consider.



Sorry but I've got to ask: what does FID stand for?

Quote from: Wikipedia

• Fid, a hollow spike for use in ropework
• The Fid, a mountain in Antarctica
• F.I.D. (album), an album by Masami Akita
• Final Investment Decision, a term used in the Oil and Gas Industry
• Financial institutions duty, an Australian tax
• Flame ionization detector
• Flight information display
• Flight initiation distance
• Focus-image distance in projectional radiography
• Foreign internal defense
• Free indirect discourse
• Free induction decay
• International Federation for Information and Documentation
• Stop the Decline (Italian: Fermare il Declino), an Italian political party
• Elizabeth Field (Suffolk County, New York)'s IATA code


I'm mainly curios regarding Locoscript but also aware of it's reputation for being slow. Coming from the NC100 however I'm familiar with the superb Protext software, which also runs in DOSBox. More importantly files can be saved directly as ASCII, TXT or even converted to (slightly non standard) RTF format. I've used native Protext ALOT in the past but I'm tempted to give TeX a try now for even better compatibility. Protext can certainly be used as simle editor in program mode but with actual CP/M running I might give VDE or even ZDE a try instead.



Sorry, but none of the options you suggest is right.  Any more ;)

Actually, it's something like 'Field Installable Driver'.

When later versions of the PCW system file (either the CP/M or the Loco *.EMS or *.EMT) load, they look to see if there are any *.FID files there.   I think there could be more than 1.   If the system finds such files, they are loaded and actioned.   If not, no problem, the normal load continues.   Such files are used to insert an optional extension or modification to the base system, or the BIOS.  The extension to the system to support the uIDE HDs is installed via a FID.  One could be there for other reasons as well, like non-standard printers.   If you wish to disable the extension, simply rename the .FID file, and rename it back to .FID when you need to reactivate whatever.



Ah that makes more sense!  :D
Fascinating stuff: https://www.seasip.info/Cpm/amsfid.html

I thought of hooking up the Gotek as secondary drive btw. Not sure if it would work that way although I've seen online evidence of two Gotek drives fitted. So probably ok. On the other hand it's a drastic mod, cutting the original faceplate with a hacksaw.


Yes, Geoff is right. To use a FID such as the uIDE driver on a PCW you need a later CP/M Plus version.

Here's everything you need to know about uIDE: http://www.cpcwiki.eu/index.php/UIDE_Universal_IDE_adapter_cards_for_Z-80_computers

You can transfer files to and from a DOM or CF card using a PC and cpmtools. The page I wrote shows you how (and includes a download link).

By the way, the lower face plate is just stuck on. Why not heat it a little with a hairdryer then gently push it off (from inside the PCW)? Then you can make up a replacement and fit the Gotek, secure in the knowledge that you can restore the machine to its original looks any time you like. The only thing to be aware of is the Gotek would be lying on its side, so the display might look odd. On the other hand you can mod them easily with remote switches, better displays and even a remote USB socket, so you could easily mount the drive on its side and the controls / display the right way round.


Cheers Jon

A copy of CP/M+ v1.15 is on its way from Locoscript, AIU versions later than 1.14 support field installable devices.
Regarding cpmtools et al: I did say "no easy way of copying" files. Taking the back off the monitor, extracting the module and firing up Windows/Linux (wouldn't be surprised if MacOS dropped support for something crucial) isn't something I want to do on a daily basis.
A rather elegant way around this - and I've seen this under similar circumstances via IDE-adapter connected SD card - would be using a WiFi enabled storage device. Easier said than done obviously!

Still, your efforts regarding uIDE are most impressive and thanks for also taking the time to provide extensive documentation. Unfortunately this often tedious part tends to get overlooked by quite a few hardware devs!
Nevertheless I'm still puzzled by some of the finer points, apologies for my ignorance!

1. What *is* the difference between the uIDE-8 and -16 board? One has has to have certain practical advantages/disadvantages over the other I reckon? 

2. Shim vs expansion port adapter: again not entirely clear what you might gain/lose by choosing one over the other (and what's up with the LH/RH version)? I get what you're saying about surface mounted CPUs though. I'm also assuming your design is supposed to go with the UK style edge connector (as opposed to the Schneider expansion port).
I really suck at soldering so modifying your board would be out of the question for me.

3. Where does this "Z80 bus cable/40 way IDC-IDC ribbon" come in, is this a bespoke design or just an off the shelf part?

Again, sorry for being such a newbie here!


P.S.: shame there's no ethernet adapter. My vintage Acorn machine is known as "Orac" on our local network, a slot for "Zen" is still available!


No problem.

You have the right CP/M Plus version, good.

Documentation is fun if you are into what you're doing. Problem is that not everyone will read it!

To your specific questions (which, I hate to say, are covered by the document  :D ):

1. The short answer is "use uIDE-16 with CPC6128/464 computers, uIDE-8 for the rest".

uIDE-8 supports 8 bit port addressing. Most Z80 computers use this, apart from the Amstrad 6128 (and 464 I reckon). So uIDE-8 decodes the lower half of the address bus. For the 6128 I had to extend it to decode the whole 16 bits of the address bus, because that machine uses the OUT(C), A instruction, which (not well documented) puts all of BC on the address bus, and the 6128 takes advantage of this to extend its I/O port range. So, in order to support it, I needed to decode 16 bits instead of 8, hence "uIDE-16". This board can be run in 8 bit addressing mode, though. There is a jumper to select.

2. Shim vs. adapter. If you use the adapter you lose access to the expansion port, because the adapter has no through connector. But you do get a composite video out, plus access to all the special signals on the expansion port. Left/Right shims exist so you can choose the orientation that fits best in your machine. Remember, it is "universal" in that it can be connected to any Z80 computer - not just the PCW - and so there is this option. The Schneider port type is not supported, unless it has the same footprint as a 50 way IDC header (in which case you could solder it to the board and plug it into the machine). You are probably best off with a shim / internal solution.

3. Z80 bus cable is just a standard PC IDE ribbon connector, as the page explains. They are cheap and easy to acquire so I do not offer them.

4. Regarding cpmtools. The download link includes disk definitions for the uIDE CP/M format, so it's covered. If you go with a shim you have the option of running the cable out of the bottom right hand corner of the machine and having the PCB external; that gives easy access to the DOM / CF card (plus, you get to see the drive activity light, BONUS!). Alternatively, cut a slot in the machine (they are not exactly collector's items!) and mount the uIDE behind it. Then you can access the DOM/CF card any time.

Re: newbie: Never apologise for asking questions, I welcome them. How else can anyone learn? Just try to not ask the same question repeatedly... and read the documentation provided. Here endeth the lesson...!

One more point - be aware of the limitations. For example, it does not support cold booting the PCW.

Now to supply. I do not have all the parts required to start making them again, so there will be a lead time. However, I do not expect payment until all items ordered are ready to ship.


Any idea how to disconnect the FDD? The connectors won't budge and I don't want to aply brute force.


Wasn't expecting the motherboard to look like this either...  :-X


Got it out! Good thing I didn't pull hard either, hadn't realized, the power connector was a two piece part which snaps in place, locking the connector.


Can you see your board's MC code?


Not really, where would I find that?


I did however manage to finish the main job for today:


An awful lot of work really* and without a system disk there's no way of telling whether it's been a success either.
The case however did clean up rather nicely, hardly any yellowing. The disk drive has never been opened before it seems (factory paint seal unbroken), interesting.


*Well it took me five hours, including disassembly, cleaning the case and putting everything together again. Must have cost an arm and a leg at commercial rates! Obvioously a pro would only need a fraction of how long it took me but still, quite a job!


The main board is the one with the two centronics connector.

I guess that to be able to see the MC code, you'll have to remove the metal shield.

I'm just curious to see if your main board is listed here: http://habisoft.com/pcwwiki/doku.php?id=en:hardware:placas


Seeing that the case is dated September 1985, this looks like a pretty early model.
Which would really suck given the fact that upgrading RAM required soldering instead of changing the dip switch settings.

P.S. yeah I didn't bother disassembling the board itself, maybe another time.


Ok so just had a peek at the mainboard. I did not however dismantle the shielding completely: far too many screws, soldered earth wires and locking tabs. Unfortunately it is an early version without dip switch and I'm not going to mess with those soldered connections. Doesn't match the ones shown on the wiki page either but as I said, didn't take it apart far enough to read the actual number.
It does have the ,,copper band all the way round" thing: http://www.cpcwiki.eu/index.php/File:PCW_Z70291_MC0031B_R-1705_PCB_Top.jpg
Considering the metal shields used on the Schneider machines this could be peculiar to all German boards.
Other than the example pictured mine came without dip switch. None of those messy looking wires either though: http://www.cpcwiki.eu/index.php/File:PCW_Z70247_MC0015Q_PCB_Top.jpg

Probably a lot easier to just buy a model 8512 instead.


Quote from: JonB on 18:18, 18 February 19

By the way, the lower face plate is just stuck on. Why not heat it a little with a hairdryer then gently push it off (from inside the PCW)? Then you can make up a replacement and fit the Gotek, secure in the knowledge that you can restore the machine to its original looks any time you like.

The modification still requires making non-reversible cuts:

I know they're not exactly museum pieces (yet) but I'm reluctant to permanently modify the case just for fun. Reminds me of how I tried to find an uncut radio plate for my Triumph Spitfire a few years ago: turned out to be impossible because every owner at some point decided to upgrade to a better radio (usually a lovely piece of 80's Japanese plastic with flasing LEDs and more buttons than a nuclear rocket launcher).


Oooh Triumph Spitfire.. I've had four of those in my time. Now have a Lotus Elan. Make sure you oil the trunnions....

Anyway, on topic. Yes, you would need to cut that piece of plastic but if you take the aluminium panel off first, you can restore the look of the thing easily. The panel is meant to come off anyway - that's why it's attached by legs - so that you can add an extra drive. Still, your computer / your choice!



My Locoscript/CPM floppy finally arrived, until now there was absolutely nothing I could do with my new paper weight. Annoyingly that's pretty much how it's going to be for the foreseeable future because nothing happened. Arghh!
Switched the machine on, monitor comes on, inserted disc and listened to drive making noise but apparently nothing else. The activity light sort of indicates something by glowing slightly dimmer but no horizontal lines on screen etc. Of course it could be the floppy (which would be a bit rich considering how much I payed for it). I bought some more floppies privately though, including Schneider system discs, they should arrive by tomorrow. However there's no way of telling if they still work...

Speaking of recent purchasing activities: I also bought a PCW 8512 in ,,non working condition".

Powered by SMFPacks Menu Editor Mod