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Amstrad Joyce

Data and images with friendly permission of Joyce-User AG 

In the autumn of 1985, Amstrad served up a surprise: the PCW8256. PCW stands for Personal Computer for Word Processing, 8 for the eighth computer row and 256 for 256 KB of memory. Amstrad thus offers an alternative to the text systems that were more expensive by a factor of 10 or more at the time (e.B. the PCW systems from Minolta). The first PCWs were offered in Germany for just over 2,000 DM, and they went away like hot cakes. There were good reasons for this: the PCW was a complete system with a printer; after unpacking, the buyers could get started right away. In addition, quite a lot of software was included:

In addition to the text program LocoScript, there was a complete version of the CP/M Plus, so unlike the C128 from Commodore, where some CP/M parts had to be purchased. And also the basic equipment of programming languages was very valuable and interesting: the two original macro assembler MAC and RMAC from Digital Research (DR) for the assembler freaks, the mighty Mallard-BASIC from Locomotive and Logo (also from DR), which had been named 'Software of the Year 1984' by the German trade press a year earlier.

The included Mallard-BASIC understands all commands of the Microsoft-BASIC, is very fast and can also work with ISAM files.

The hardware was also impressive: As with the CPCs, a Z80A clocked at 4 MHz was used as the processor. With its 720 horizontal and 256 vertical pixels, the green screen offered a high resolution that almost matched that of the Hercules card (720 / 348 pixels), which was highly praised by IBM PCs at the time, and was thus much better than the MDA screens (= Monochrome Display Adapter) found on the initial IBM PCs. In short, although the PCW was much cheaper than one of ibm's first PCs, it had a much higher screen resolution. And there was another advantage over the first IBM PCs, if they were only equipped with floppy drives (and these were not a few in view of the high prices for hard disks at the time): Even with the Intel 8088 clocked at 4.7 MHz on the IBM PC, the JOYCE was sometimes still faster. Reason: Even with the small JOYCE, the RAM floppy was still 116 KB after loading the operating system (CP/M plus or Locoscript). With the PC-DOS and MS-DOS it was not so easy to run such a large RAM floppy...

Amstrad also had courage in terms of screen width: While many computer manufacturers at that time adhered to 80 columns per line, the JOYCE offered 90 characters per line right from the start. By the way, these 80 columns are a relic from the punch card era, when most punch cards had exactly 80 columns. By the way, the size of the punch cards has to do with the dollar bill. As Herman Hollerith for the census from 1890 in the USA for the first time used punch cards, he choosed as a size for these cards just a dollar bill...

The printer used was a 'cut off' SP800 from Seikosha, i.e. a 9-needle printer that was already known as solid at the time.

A small drawback was that, contrary to the future trend, the JOYCE was still equipped with a 3-inch floppy drive, a predecessor model of the CPC. The small JOYCE (8256) was delivered with a 3-inch drive (CF2 format: 2*180 kB) and the large Joyce (8512) with a second 3-inch drive (CF2DD format: 1*720 KB).

The PCWs were advertised differently in England and Germany: while the British sold the PCW as a personal computer with which word processing could also be done, Schneider in Germany praised the Joycies as pure writing systems. The fact that the PCWs are full-fledged CP/M computers was concealed from the German masses of buyers.

Anyone who is still involved with JOYCE today should seek contact with the JOYCE-USER-Arbeitsgemeinschaft e.V. Here you will find a lot of information about joyce, help and exchange of experience.

Joyce User AG

Hersteller Amstrad / Schneider (in D)
Modellname PCW8256, PCW8512
Nicknames JOYCE
Markteinführung Herbst 1985
Vorgängermodelle Amstrad CPC464, CPC664
Nachfolgemodelle Amstrad PCW9512/9256; PcW 10; PcW 16 (Anne)
Klone/Nachbauten Isenstein "Odessa", tragbare batteriegepufferte JOYCE
Isenstein "The Black Stripe"
Preis 2000 DM (incl Drucker und CP/M)
Floppy 3-Zoll Disketten : CF2 (2*180kB) und CF2-DD (1*720 kB)
Festplatte Sonderzubehör von VORTEX (10 MB, 20 MB)
Tastatur Vergleichbar PS/2 PC Tastatur
CPU Zilog Z80 A
RAM 256 oder 512 K , 256K Version aufrüstbar durch 8 Speicherchips
ROM nur Boot-Rom, Bootdisk nötig
Video 720*256, grün-weiss, 90 Spalten Text
Auflösung max 512*192, max. 4 Videomodis
Erweiterungen externe Drucker, seriell/parallel IF
Programmierung CP/M, BASIC, LocoScript, DR LOGO