PCW to PC data transfers
I guess the most often asked question about PCWs is how to get data from a PCW in Locoscript format to a PC to be edited in a Windows based word processor.
1) Step one is to convert the Loco format documents to something that the PC word processor will understand. You do this within Locoscript by using the Save to ASCII function which will read the Loco document and write a new copy on your disk with just the text intact - all style information will be lost.
2) Step two is to get this to a PC. You can get an add-on serial interface for the PCW for about £50 and try and transfer files across this way but the process can be fraught with problems and it is far easier to just contact Locomotive software at Dorking in Surrey and get their Locolink package that has all the software and cables you need to do the process.
Yet another advantge of Locolink is that it not only transfers the files but can convert direct from Loco format to one of a number of popular PC WP formats all in a single process.
If you've only got one or two disk full's to transfer there are several companies who offer a disk transfer bureau service that typically costs about £10 per disk. I'd recommed getting a PCW specific magazine (W H Smiths) and looking for adverts of companies that provide this service.
Contact: Locomotive Software, 10 Vincent Works, Vincent Lane, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 3HJ. Phone: 01306 747 757 - better yet why not get on over to their web site by clicking here.
As an alternative, phone Mapej on 01691 778659 who can copy all your LocoScript files and convert them to Word/WordPerfect/AmiPro/etc. on a PC disk for you. They now have a web site that you can visit by clicking here.
And yet another alternative is to use "Dave's Disk Doctor Service". You can contact Dave Smith as email@example.com. Better still, why not visit his web site by clicking here.
Finally, if you're in the USA read this.
When a PCW is switched on it will just show a blank screen (either green or white) but won't do much else until a boot disc is inserted. It may beep to say that it can't find a disc. To start it you need to insert a "Start of Day" disc and possibly press the [Space] bar on the keyboard if it doesn't begin to read the disc immediately. As it successfully reads a boot disc it will show black bars on the screen as each sector is read and finally you will see the "welcome" message.
There are two possible flavours of "Start of Day" disc that you can use. Either the dedicated word processing program called Locoscript (the main "raison d'etre" of the machine) or possibly the generic CP/M operating system that allows some other programs to be run and allows disc housekeeping tasks such as disc copying to be performed. If you have lost these discs you can get new copies from www.locomotive.com. However, if it is simply that the copies you have aren't being read properly then consider whether it may just be the following problem causing the trouble...
Almost without exception the way in which all PCWs finally fail is that they stop being able to read floppy discs. You may notice this process starting as more and more discs start to give read errors and "address mark missing" errors or it may be that the machine is left for a few months (years?!?) without being switched on then, the next time when you do switch it on, the screen lights up but when you put in a Locoscript or CP/M disc the machine just tries to read it and then beeps (rather than showing the normal pattern of black lines that appear when it successfully reads the disc).
The reason for this is as simple as a rubber band in the disc drive, worth less than £1, which has stretched. The band connects the drive motor to the central disc spindle and, as most PCWs are now more than 10 years old, it's simply the case that the rubber has perished and the band has stretched so that the spindle is no longer driven at the optimum 300rpm but, because of slippage, is running too slow.
The short term fix is simple, just replace the band with an normal office stationery rubber band of about the right size and thickness (a bit like using a pair of tights as a car fan belt!) but long term it would be better to get the proper replacement. There are several companies who can supply PCW spare parts. Both CPC and Pinboard have them but it's also worth asking about them on the news:comp.sys.amstrad.8bit Usenet newsgroup as there are often people offering them there and, what's more, the FAQ for that newsgroup also lists details of this problem and possible remedies/suppliers.
If you are in the USA then the company to contact for anything to do with the PCW is called Elliam Associates and their contact details are as follows:Elliam Associates
PO Box 2664,
Atascadero, CA 93423.
Phone (805) 466-8440.
They deal in all matters PCW and that includes offering a disc/data transfer service.
Many people ask about using the printer from an old PCW on some other computer or what is the pinout of the cable (presumably with a view to using it on another computer or replacing the PCW printer). Well I'm afraid it's bad news for the following reason....
The PCW printers are not like anything else in the world. Almost all printers have an intelligent processor inside them that sits on one end of either a Centronics or RS232 link and receives ASCII character codes and Esc sequences to be printed or acted upon. Then, inside the printer, that processor looks up the dot pattern for the character to be printed in a local ROM then sends control signals to step the drive motors so many 1/180" (or whatever) and fire pins 2,3,5 and 9 (or whatever) at exactly the right moment.
The PCW printers are not like this. they have no intelligence (or extremely minimal) and, instead, all the character forming and motor timing is done by the Z80 inside the PCW system unit then, what goes up that cable to the printer, are just the most basic the motor stepping signals, etc. so there is no way in the world that the PCW printers can be used on any other kind of computer.
By popular request of the members of the comp.sys.amstrad.8bit newsgroup I have OCRd the I/O specifiaction for the original PCW and the text of it is available as a simple text file by clicking this. As it was tricky to do overlining in a .TXT file any active low signals are shown with an underline character preceding their name. Also, I actually scanned/OCRd it using a fax machine (ie 200dpi!) so apologies for any errors however I think the "meat" of it has come through unscathed.
The information may be freely copied as it is unlikely to change (well it hasn't in the last 12 years!!) so feel free to take copies for your own web site, HTML it, add it to your ftp site or just put a pointer to this file from your own page. The choice is yours.
I did use the text of this document to write the infamous Amstrad User magazine article about "Roller RAM" which became the basis for a lot of graphic software that subsequently appeared on the PCW but that's as far as my understanding of it stretches so you are on your own in interpreting the majority of the information!
I'd also highly recommend a look at comp.sys.amstrad.8bit if you have software that allows you to access news groups. That group is dedicated to our older computers such as the CPC, PCWs and Notepad.
More details will appear here as I build these pages.
The new PcW!
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