Amstrad User Group
The PcW 16 is the odd one in the PCW/PcW saga. In spite of the designation PcW it is not a Joyce. It's nickname is Anne, derived from the operating system supplied with this machine, Rosanne made by Creative Technology (known by, amongst others, the famous MicroDesign). The computer is not supplied with CP/M although a public domain variety, ZP/M can be installed. But the computer is not compatible with any of the previous PCW's and PcW's.
The heart of the computer, the processor, is still a Zilog Mostek Z80, but all earlier models run on 4mHz: the PcW 16 runs on 16mHz (hence the designation 16). The increased speed is required because the Rosanne operating system is a Graphical User Interface GUI. Rosanne looks a bit like System 7 or Windows, but is not compatible with any of these: documents can be exchanged via the universal Richmond Text Format RTF, though.
Exchanging data with a PC is easiest because the drive mounted is an ordinary 1.44 megabytes HD drive as used in PC's and the format is identical. A disc from a 16 can be read by a PC without any problems and vice versa.
The PcW 16 has 1 megabyte memory but it is non-volatile RAM, flash memory. This enables it to use the memory as storage drive: in Rosanne terms this is called the 'cabinet'. This cabinet is shared by the operating system and the applications loaded into memory. It causes a fast system performance, when compared to other systems, although the computer will have to retrieve and/or remove files from time to time to keep sufficient memory available. This flash memory, however, also causes a nasty problem that is frequent to the PcW 16: data corruption. If the memory is 'damaged' in any way, the contents becomes corrupt and a rescue disk is required to restore the operating system (the user data is lost, though). Rosanne is not entirely free of problems: the first releases caused a lot of delays in the introduction of the PcW 16. After these had been solved several problems with the PcW 16 itself had to be solved as well and cases where the computer brakes down by itself (without any identified causes) are still known... It is recommended to operate the machine only at moderate house temperatures and not to expose it to fluctuations in climate and temperature.
Besides the problems mentioned Amstrad also had a lot of trouble with MicroSoft Windows which was quickly gaining popularity in the time the 16 was marketed. The PcW 16 never became a hit and only a few programs were written for it.
The system facilities are adequate: matrix, inkjet and laser printers are supported. The ports are standard: two serial (one of them is used by the mouse) and one Centronics parallel port. With the latter you have to pay attention to the issue of support: Rosanne needs to have the proper driver available. You will not be able to obtain new drivers easily.
Conclusion: a nice gadget but not fully developed and rather vulnerable. The last machines were sold in 1999 by the well known Dixons chain (not by the Dutch subsidiaries, though) and it was amongst the last computers that Amstrad manufactured. Problems with hard discs (Seagate and Western Digital) used in the PC-range marketed by Amstrad caused problems for Amstrad and the company started up business again via a construction with Betacom and Viglen. Amstrad nowadays focuses on TV's, audio equipment and their new E-m@ilers. Computers are being built and supplied by subsidiaries only, not using the Amstrad-label (Viglen) and it does not look this will happen again.
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