The CPC that never was

Richard Clay­ton and Roland Perry re­veal de­tails on the com­puter that never made it to mar­ket

Retro Gamer - - HISTORY Of THE AMSTRAD -

Work on the orig­i­nal line up of CPCS ap­peared to grind to a halt fol­low­ing the re­lease of the 6128. But while history shows that Am­strad moved on to the PCW and PC mar­ket un­til briefly com­ing back to the CPC with the short-lived Plus range, there had ac­tu­ally been plans for one more Colour Per­sonal Com­puter.

Mark-eric Jones of Data Re­call and Lo­co­mo­tive Soft­ware had been com­mis­sioned to pro­duce a sec­ond ma­chine as work got un­der­way on the PCW 8256. Dubbed Arnold Num­ber Two (or ANT for short), the com­puter was go­ing to be com­pat­i­ble with both the CPC and PCW.

Hav­ing spo­ken to Roland Perry and Lo­co­mo­tive Soft­ware’s Richard Clay­ton, we have gained a tan­ta­lis­ing look at what might have been for the CPC as it bat­tled against its 8-bit ri­vals dur­ing the late Eight­ies.

The 8-bit ma­chine would have been a colour ver­sion of the PCW with a CPC em­u­la­tion mode. “It would have run CPC soft­ware in em­u­la­tion mode and then al­lowed for more fancy things,” says Richard. “There was a lot of com­mon­al­ity with the PCW and that’s why some of the bit ad­dress­ing in the PCW screen mem­ory is the odd way that it is.”

The ill-fated com­puter would have been a colour ver­sion of the PCW with a

CPC em­u­la­tion mode. “It would have run CPC soft­ware in em­u­la­tion mode and then al­lowed for more fancy things,” re­veals Richard. “There was a lot of com­mon­al­ity with the PCW and that’s why some of the bit ad­dress­ing in the PCW screen mem­ory is the odd way that it is.”

It is likely the sys­tem would’ve had

256K of RAM. “Same as a PCW and with the same bank switch­ing sys­tem,” Richard ex­plains. But maybe it would have had more. “I’m guess­ing it would have had 512K like the big­ger PCWS,” says Roland.

Gamers would have been well served, too. There was ele­gant screen-han­dling hard­ware and more RAM would be used for the screen. How­ever, Richard adds, “If you had colour you did not get the same screen res­o­lu­tion as the PCW.”

Lo­co­mo­tive would have pro­vided an up­dated Lo­co­script and CP/M and had the same firmware/ba­sic as the CPC for that mode. The com­puter would also have loaded up a CPC 464 screen. “The boot loader told the hard­ware to em­u­late and it was just like the PCW in that all of the disk han­dling was soft­ware,” says Richard who ac­tu­ally owns a pro­to­type of the ma­chine.

“The whole point was be­ing to run all of the avail­able soft­ware for both the CPC and PCW in one box,” Roland con­tin­ues. “The dif­fer­ent screen modes would have been switch­able as usual but

I don’t re­call how we were propos­ing to jump be­tween the CPC and PCW en­gines.

“If I was think­ing about that to­day, maybe this would be done by ex­am­in­ing track zero of the floppy and then ei­ther boot­ing the Lo­co­script or CP/M en­vi­ron­ment from the floppy, or switch­ing in an im­age of the CPC firmware ROM.”

As for how it was go­ing to look, Roland says it would have used the same case as the PCW. “One stum­bling block in­cluded what the key­board would look like. Some games needed the CPC keys in fa­mil­iar places rather than scat­tered around a fun­da­men­tally PCW key­board,” he says.

So why was it shelved? “That was partly our fault in that we were some­what be­hind with Lo­co­script and so had not done very much cod­ing for the ANT,” says Richard. “Am­strad then de­cided it did not make sense any more, with 16-bit machines be­com­ing more im­por­tant.”

» The ANT com­puter would have used a PCW cas­ing, with a more be­spoke key­board.

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