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The PcW16 was the last in a series of personal word processing machines
from Amstrad, a company based out of the UK. The PCW series, which were
first sold in 1985, were sold as single purpose word processing machines
targeted at the typewriter market. Earlier PCW machines mainly ran a custom
operating system / word processing system called Locoscript. Locoscript
was text based but featured drop down menus and was considered much more
user friendly than other word processors of the time. The PCW series was
based on the Z80 CPU and could also run a number of applications under
CP/M (the OS that Microsoft DOS was cloned from).
Released in 1995, the PcW16 was a major redesign. The guts of the PcW16
were similar to an IBM-PC compatible, but used a 16 mhz Z80 CPU. Interestingly,
instead of using a hard drive, it used 1 megabyte of flash memory to store
the operating system and user files. It also included a standard 1.4 meg
floppy drive, 1 megabyte of RAM, a monochrome 640*480 display, and a Mouse
Systems compatible serial mouse.
It also included an entirely new operating system and Macintosh-like
graphical word processing system called "Rosanne". Like the previous PCW
machines, it was targeted at those who would otherwise buy a typewriter
or other dedicated word processing equipment.
The PcW16 was not very successful for a number of reasons. Although
it supported importing earlier PCW documents, it was not software compatible
with previous PCW machines. This makes the choice of using the 8-bit Z80
CPU even more odd for a machine released in 1995. The Z80 was and still
is a powerful 8-bit CPU regularly used in embedded systems, but by 1995
32-bit CPUs were already very common on desktop computers. Also by 1995
demand for Internet connectivity and Web access was taking off. Despite
speculation that more software might be forthcoming to add such communication
abilities, Amstrad never added to the functionality of the software, and
very little third party software was ever written for it.
Still, the Rosanne GUI is a good example of a simplified GUI.
This is the main screen that appears when the system boots up. You
can start one of the predefined tasks by clicking on the button or by pressing
the corresponding function key.
This shows the System Setup window selected from the menu at the top
of the screen. It identifies itself as the Rosanne Operating System and
that this is version 1.12.
It has a built in screen saver that is similar to the Windows "Flying
Stars" screen saver. The stars zoom out from the center of the screen like
you are traveling through space.
The "Tasks" menu item, comparable to the Apple menu on a Mac, provides
an alternative method for starting the applications. However, you
can only have one task open at a time. Selecting a new task from within
one of the applications automatically saves what you are working on, exits
the current application and then starts the selected application.
Additionally there is an option to run an external program, however
very few ever materialized.
The PcW16 supports a number of different printers that were common
at the time.
It also includes a simple help system.
The is the Word Processor. It supports several different fonts and
styles and includes a spell checker.
This is the Spreadsheet. It is a fairly plain application, it lets
you perform various calculations on columns and copy and paste data of
various types around as would be expected from any spreadsheet application.
This formatting options dialog shows a number of different visual controls
that are used throughout the system. These include option buttons,
drop down combo boxes, and text boxes.
The applications include print preview capability so you can be sure
what it is going to look like before you print it.
This is the Diary / Alarm. Note how it refers to keyboard keys as "Blue"
"Yellow" and "Red". The PcW16 keyboard had a number custom keys marked
for common word processing operations, and some of the keys were even different
Another interesting feature of the PcW16 is that it is possible to schedule
an alert that will "wake up" the computer at a designated time.
This is the Address Book. Like any address book it lets you store a
list of addresses and contact information.
And, of course, it includes a calculator program.
This is the File Manager. You can store files in one of 16 predefined
folders in the "cabinet" on the flash memory, or on a floppy disk.
The file management does not use drag-and-drop, but instead uses various
menu or key commands to perform file operations. This is an example of
copying one file to another location.
The PcW16 never completely shuts off. Instead it goes in to a "standby"
mode and, as shown here, can wake up automatically to issue an alert scheduled
in the Diary / Alarm application.