Locomotive Software

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Founded in February 1983, Locomotive Software was the software house which developed the CPC's BASIC and operating system, and played a pivotal role in other Amstrad home computers of the time. The company was founded by Richard Clayton and Chris Hall.

Their first contract was to write a Z80 BASIC for Acorn's abortive ABC business computer project. This BASIC would prove pivotal in their future history, gaining them the 'in' for Amstrad's first computer.


Most pieces of the CPC's system software were written by Locomotive: Locomotive BASIC, the CP/M ports, the operating system firmware, and AMSDOS. All were acclaimed for their stability and design, particularly the BASIC. The main operating system development started in September 1983 and, for the 464, was complete by 14th January 1984. (Locomotive then worked on the documentation, both the free BASIC manual and the SOFT 158 firmware manual.)

PCW, PC and Spectrum

Locomotive's association with Amstrad continued with the next range of computers to be launched by the firm - the PCW word-processors.

Here, as well as porting CP/M, Locomotive was to write LocoScript - a powerful and (generally) user-friendly word-processing package that would be the sole user experience for 90% of the unit's purchasers. The vast success of the PCW can therefore largely be attributed to Locomotive. Locomotive BASIC, meanwhile, made a reappearance on the PCW, this time as Mallard BASIC. Mallard had no graphics or sound functionality, but the excellent file handling from Locomotive's original Acorn BASIC made a reappearance.

LocoScript was the only program for the PCW that did not have to be booted from CP/M, as it contained its own firmware (though many supposedly 'CP/M' programs, such as Flipper and RoutePlanner, were in fact very much PCW-specific). The original version was followed by a greatly improved LocoScript 2 and a set of add-on programs (LocoMail, LocoSpell etc.). The program continued to be improved up to LocoScript 4, with better printed output as the main focus of the revisions.

Other Locomotive projects of the time included firmware for Amstrad's Spectrum models (after the company had acquired Sinclair), the +2, +2A and +3; BASIC 2, for the Digital Research GEM windowing system used by Amstrad's PCs; and LocoScript PC, a PC port of the word-processor which found great favour with PCW upgraders but failed to make much headway elsewhere.

Locomotive was invited to pitch to write the software for the PCW16, Amstrad's last 8-bit machine, but declined because they thought the deadline was unachievable. (Creative Technology's failure to complete by the specified date only proved that Locomotive had been correct.)

Internet products and later

In 1993, Locomotive began work on an Internet client for Windows, called Turnpike. This was principally used by the UK ISP Demon. The program launched in 1995: later that year, Demon bought the Turnpike business, while the still profitable PCW side was bought out by Locomotive's Howard Fisher and renamed LocoScript Software.

LocoScript Software is now owned by SD Microsystems, which itself was once a CPC software publisher. Richard Clayton has become a well-respected, and often quoted, security expert at Cambridge University.

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