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