General Category > NC100, NC200, PCW, PDA600 - the rest of the Family!

SWIFT 286 PCW

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MacDeath:
while lurking moar on the net i found this site :


http://www.seasip.demon.co.uk


ok, it has a lot of retro content concerning Amstrad machines, Old Pc and old Graphic adapters... all the shit i like.


and while lurking even further inside the PCW section I found this :





--- Quote ---This advertisement is for a "Swift-286-PCW", a hybrid between a 286 PC and a PCW. Apparently only fourteen of these were ever sold, so the chances of one still existing must be pretty slim.
Though I've not seen one, I'd guess that the PCW compatible video card was a monochrome card (probably MDA or Hercules). The PCW video system has a command ('float video' - OUT 0xF8, 8) which stops the PCW video controller trying to drive the monitor. The monitor signals are present on the PCW expansion port (pin 44 for SYNC, 46 for VIDEO) so once the PCW video controller has been disabled, the PC video card can drive the monitor using them.
My thanks to David Rathbone, who owned Micro Surgeons, for information on this system.

--- End quote ---
Interesting...


So what is this ?
You simply use the PCW as a monitor for a 286 PC fit to be compatible with the monitor... which means monochrome 640x200 able display...
I guess the guys did some custom card especially to permit this, still I'm not quite sure concerning the kind of modification the PCW would need.

To be fair, a CGA with "TV-RGB" plug could perhaps do it too, of some standard VGA with "TV-screen friendly" plugs ?
the PCW monitors could perhaps even simulate a 320x200x256 monocolour video mode if it works like a CPC monocolour monitor (after all, those could be also used as Black&Green TVs...).

I think this kind of upgrade could use a modern approach and would be some ultimate retro project, ideal to have both DOS 286 softwares or Z80 PCW stuffs.

Off course it's just like having a PC and a PCW side by side, you just gain some space for keyboard and monitor.

Also having a monocolour 640x200 PC is clearly not as good as a proper VGA or even EGA...
On the other hand, PCW16 can be plugged into a VGA colour monitor (provided a few additionnal plugs soldered on the board)... so I guess to put its Motherboard inside a "vintage" PC unit with its own motherboard could do a similar trick, both sharing HDD, Floppies, printer or VGA monitor.

BTW, I found this thing fun so I posted it here in case many of you would not even be aware of its existence.

Imagine, a PC-1512-PCW.. :o
Funny part is that you could perhaps even network both computer in the process too and get some OS-Apps specific for those.


Basically, such system would just need to design a proper PCW extension box, and a few PC application-drivers.

Is "John Elliott" a CPCwikier ?




Bryce:
The PCW was actually designed so that the monitor could be used for other things. All the signals you need to send data to the screen are available on the expansion port connector and the Firmware even had a command to disconnect the PCW mainboard from the screen to allow external sources. I assume the PC286 had a Hercules / MDA type graphics card, anything else wouldn't be any use on that screen.

Bryce.

MacDeath:
I wasn't aware of such PCW's feature... obviously Amstrad did well on this move. :)


But as you say, the Monocolor screen/display is still a terrible sucker/stinker.

Bryce:
I don't remember exactly what the command was to kill the screen output. It was an "Out" command and to turn it back on I think you had to press certain keys at the same time. I remember writing a "joke" program that killed the screen on a PCW we had at work.
The "Video" and "Sync" signals also weren't standard either, so you couldn't connect anything directly to them without some additional circuitry.

Bryce.

MacDeath:

--- Quote ---I remember writing a "joke" program that killed the screen on a PCW we had at work.
--- End quote ---
Haha, you must have been a plague to work with... :D


kidding.


Dual-Head operation on vintage PCs


Dual head old PC...
You can run both a Colour video card and a monocolour video card on those old junks.
So i guess such Pc+PCW system could even get a double screen upgrade at the same time... wow.


EGA on a side, PCW-MDA on the other side.

I learned recently that the PC1640 was a PC1512 with added EGA card on board and the old CGAmstrad PC1512's card (on board) disabled.
Perhaps some tweaks could get this run both too, the CGAmstrad then being set for the monocolour one... ::)

Totally AMSgeeky trade.


Also as the PCW and PC would be also connected through "network", the PCW can provide some interesting Memory upgrade.
"512K" of virtual RAMdisk is not something to ignore on a 286AT or 8086XT PC.
Also as the PCW can get some AY soundchip extension, it can then almost be used as a Soundcard...
Oh, and the 8mhz upgrade for PCW ?
Provided both computers are well synchronised... not sure if really possible.


While at it, as such system could get Z80, AY, 3" disk drives, EGA colour stuff... it may then even be tweaked into Amstad CPC Hard emulation.


Ok, I go a little bit too far. ::)

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