PCW

From LXF Wiki

PCW can mean:

  • Personal Computer Wordprocessor was a range of PCs sold by Amstrad.
  • Personal Computer World was one of the earliest PC magazines to launch in the UK, and is still around to annoy the proprietors of LXF.

Amstrad PCW

Amstrad's Personal Computer Wordprocessor range of machines were designed as a typewriter replacement. They featured a built-in monitor and floppy drive, and came bundled with a printer. It booted from floppy, straight into a wordprocessor called Locoscript, which ran under (or in some ways was) a modified version of the CP/M operating system. In fact a second, straight CP/M, boot disk was also provided, from which you could run a powerful BASIC (derived from the older Amstrad games machines), and other goodly things.

The original PCW series featured a highly innovative and tightly-integrated design, in which the hardware and operating system were tightly bound together. The motherboard and floppy drive were built in to the monitor, while the printer had stripped-down electronics and required a dedicated software driver. The OS and wordprocessor were just one piece of software, and the keyboard featured many extra function keys with their Locoscript functions printed on them. All this allowed a very high specification at low cost, creating the mass market for office PCs and boosting Amstrad from a small UK based electronics company to a major international player.

The floppy disks used were, at the time, a competitor to the 3 1/2 inch disks that were then new but would come to dominate PC storage. The type chosen by Amstrad was slightly smaller and had a strong, rigid plastic sleeve, so it appeared to be both more convenient and more robust.

Many companies brought out add-on products for the PCW, both hardware and software. The software invariably ran under CP/M, with the most popular being a graphics package that was best used with an add-on mouse.

Later, as competition from IBM PC based machines hotted up, the tight integration of the design proved the PCW's undoing - later models struggled to maintain acceptable improvements in performance and usability, due to the limitations of the ageing technology that bound all the parts together, such as the Z-80 microprocessor. The last version was the PcW 16, a fully GUI-based system with standard 3 1/2 floppy drives, that sold over 40,000 units.

The original hardware was designed by MEJ Electronics, and the wordprocessor by by Locomotive Software. The whole concept drew heavily on the designers' previous experience of creating wordprocessors in the corporate mainframe/minicomputer market.