Great Games on a Word Processor? Stargliding with the Amstrad PCW


Hello Chip Dippers. Welcome to Retro Recipes Now, if you’ve been watching this channel for a while You’ll know that I have a bit of a soft spot for the Amstrad PCW 8256 But why is that you might ask? It’s just the word processor, after all Ashleyfractic: It’s a Personal Word Processor Well.. not really See, when my dad bought it to replace the Apple IIe He got it for spreadsheets and, of course, word processing But I discovered the wealth of games that were written for it, because it was so popular Of course, inside there is that powerful Zilog Z80 processor Same as the ZX Spectrum But there’s one problem that really stops me and enjoying it today And that is getting hold of those 3 inch floppy disks Um, finding PCW games on eBay is a little tricky these days And there’s still some that I’m trying to hunt down That was until today.. ‘Cause I’ve just been donated this It’s a Gotek solution, especially made for the Amstrad PCW But the only problem stopping me from enjoying that is.. Well, my hands are a little big to get inside those tiny drive bays Now, I thought about employing Puppyfractic.. um.. with her tiny paws But she’s got an important doggy business meeting to go to. But then, it occurred to me! Babe, how do you feel about installing a Gotek Drive in an “Amstrad PCX 8256? Mrs. Perifractic: Sure, I’ve done hundreds. Oh. Okay. Ow! Sorry, can you get up? You’re sitting on my three inch floppy. Aahh.. these things are hard Huh. You wanna treat? Welcome to Perifractic’s Retro.. (from the background) Ladyfractic! Oh. Ladyfractic’s Retro Recipes So we’ll come to that installation in a few moments But first, you know, Puppyfractic wasn’t always that big of fan of those three inch disks As we’ll find out after this commercial “Unlike typewriters, the Amstrad 8256 word process and computer, comes with a monitor, disk drive and printer included From around $1,009.. It’s leaving the future of typewriters… .. Up in the air.” It had 256GB of RAM Oh, you don’t like these? I know, they’re a bit weird They’re three inch disks.. not three and half inch Alright, I’ll get it away from you… put it in there No.. food doesn’t come out of those slots Here look, I’ll show you where the Light Pen goes And we explored this Word Processor’s Light Pen using high speed photography of a CRT screen That’s freeze time And from freezing time to going back in time With a quick bit of Amstrad history with Ashley Do you know what Amstrad stands for? Ashley: Nope. So, it was founded by a gentleman called Alan Michael Sugar A. M. S. And TRAD was trading. So it’s Alan Michael Sugar Trading Ashley: That’s my initials too. A. M. S. Peri: What?! Ashley: So, I should get some.. something in all of this Uh.. I’ll tweet him.. see what he says Well, I did tweet him and I didn’t get any reply Can’t think of why. Peri: Do you know how many this sold? Sssseven million? Pretty close.. 8 million So, what about those disks? Why where they so strange? Ashley: I’ve seen a floppy disk, but not this Peri: So, these are 3.5 inch disks Ashley: Mhm. But Amstrad used these because.. .. they were cheaper Ashley: Oh, of course Peri: Of course.. good ‘ole Ashley Michael Sugar. Ashley: Insert? Peri: Insert. Well, feel free to check out those light pen and Ashleyfractic videos at the end of this one But before Ladyfractic rips out one of those drive bays There is a really interesting story about this particular machine’s disk drives that I want to share I recently found this when I was going through some stuff in my parents’ house Here’s my original local script disk And I knew that on it were all of the files that I created in my teens and I finally procured an 8256 in America which is quite hard ’cause they weren’t very popular here Put the disk can and it reported ‘Disk Unsuitable for Drive’ And then I remembered my dad had upgraded from the 8256 to the 8512 It had double the memory, 512KB But also featured a high density second disk drive So. I was able to finally procure one of those Actually from an Amstrad CPC And install it in that second bay by removing this plate And I did that a while ago, so I didn’t actually film the process But finally I was able to access all of my teenage files There’s a lot of fun things on there, like my high school list from the Commodore 64 and other computer games And I’d even written a lot of letters to Zzap!64 None of them ever got published But I have one rumor that this letter might finally make it into the 2020 Annual Ooo! Exciting! Yeah, well, according to this, I was into moding Commodore 64s, even when I was 14, Hm. And now that I’ve got that second drive installed, it’s time to rip the first one! But for that, I’m gonna hand you over to the capable hands of Ladyfractic But I’ll be standing, just in the wings, to make sure she doesn’t electrocute herself on that CRT And to give her a few pointers, as we Go.. ..tek Hey, if you’re thinking of making your own PCB, like the Gotek I recommend using PCBWay! And, as we all know, PCB stands for Printed Circu….(from the background) Hub hub hup! (still from the background) Personal. Computer. Bird. Processor. Personal Computer Bird Processor (from the background) Thank you. First, we’re gonna take the back off Handy Dandy Assistant Peri: Thank you. And as Bjork taught us.. (Icelandic accent) This looks like a city. Like a little model of a city But this city is a bit dusty so let’s give it a spring clean It’s snowing! So this is drive A, the one we’re actually going to be working on So, first, we’re going to remove the power cable and the ribbon cable Very carefully So, we have two screws and a ground cable Agh. Well, it’s fine. It lives there now. And then we’re just gonna take the ground cable out from here So, there’s drive A. Put that on eBay (crashing) Peri: Alright, can I have it back now? (growling) Peri: Ohhhh (growling) Okay. Keep it. So, I’ve secured the ground cable to drive B because I Gotek doesn’t use any metal So, these are the handy instructions that tell us where to apply the screws So here’s the Gotek.. it’s gonna go straight, just like that One screw here One screw there Matches up with the case that we have.. should be pretty easy It fits. Perfectly. Great. And then just reconnect the cables So, this is gonna connect the power cable just as we had before. So the most important instruction, it said that when you take the old ribbon And the new Gotek rainbow ribbon You wanna make sure that the brown one, in our case, it’s on the far right Matches Pin One, which is the colored wire on the old ribbon So we’re just gonna rotate it like that And it should fit.. Huh. It doesn’t. So, as we just noticed, it didn’t work. So, in the instruction, it says.. “Please note that some of the black connectors on the PCW ribbon cable, usually wants to the blue wire on the ribbon Which is exactly what we “have two plastic tabs protruding that prevent the ribbon cable being plugged into the adaptor the correct way around Wish me luck. Alright. We’re just gonna put this back in Brown wire on the right And.. Perfect! Now we replace… Cable 2 There we go Not bad! Okay, well, see, told you it was easy. We’re just gonna put the back back on and test it out See, I told you I’ve done it a hundred times Now that all the hard work is done, I’m gonna give it to Perifractic He’ll boot up and see how it works Well, God bless her for doing that while she was recovering from the flu I don’t think PCWs can get viruses, can they? Hm. Well, either way, let’s see if it works now with.. Mr. Ladyfractic Put in the USB drive Of course with USB, it’s always the second way around Alright, here we go! Fantastic! So, as the instructions explained, it boots you up with disk one, which is CP/M And that’s basically the standard boot disk of the PCW And it gives you the well known CP/M Plus prompt So, I can actually look at that disk And all it’s doing, of course, is reading the virtual disk image, which is on this USB drive But. If we cycle through these disks We can see all the other games and there’s actually, 150 games that have been archived onto this USB And that’ll.. give you all these games Ready to go It really is plug and play So, just for fun, I chose Guild of Thieves there, one of my favorite adventure games See what happens And there it is! So you could run game dot com.. And it should boot I don’t know about you, but there’s something very majestic about this green screen. It was not only pretty high res, I mean, it’s a 80 column display, effectively But there’s just something special about the dithering and just the way it looks Maybe it’s just my personal nostalgia Now, unlike me, Mrs. Recipes has a proper job But she did home from work, albeit, having lost her voice And asked if she could use a game (computer talking) Gnome Ranger. This looks pretty cool, actually Peri: “Ingrid was beside a sturdy little stone-built shop at the end of a road which meandered Gnorth..” (giggles) Good to know. Exits lead Gnorth to Gnortheast. East and Gnorthwest. You think we’re friends but you don’t know me. Oh, it says press any key Where’s the ‘Any’ key? Uh.. I don’t think this has one What.. gnow? Go.. G-north. Ingrid went Gnorth. Well, we went on this for a while But really, it was going Gnowhere. (clears throat) (whispers) Sorry. But we didn’t come here to play adventure games I have been waitin maybe .. …30 years? To boot up Starglider on a Word Processor… .. and… .. Fingers crossed! I’m about to do that now And while I cycle through the games, see if you recognize any… Ohh! There is it! Okay. Uh.. we’ll go with Deustch Oh, just kidding. Ah! Oh. Wait. I remember .. uh, in the instructions P5ychoFox, even very handily, gives you some program protection codes Including.. Stargluider! 510. Combined. Which is what we’ve done here Well, right now, it’s still a word possessor.. but.. Wow. That is a beautiful! Oh! And it’s.. now the PCW is showing off Here we go! My gosh.. Yes! My first kill, guys! Ope.. I’m trying to launch a missile here Yeah, these keys do not make it easy (excuses..) Yes! Yes! And this, of course, is where this game got very Star Wars-y Alright, let’s try and get this tank Yes! Tank you very much. Yess! Ahh yes.. remember these guys? Through the legs. Well, this is definitely tricky without a joystick.. so that may have to be my next addition Okay, I’m gonna come back to that sometime in the future But.. P5ychoFox recommended a game called On The Run So, I’m going to see if I can load that up How do we run this? So, what we can do is get a disk queued up on the Gotek, and then on the keyboard.. We hit… Shift, Extra, Exit And that reboots the machine and loads that game There it is.. On the Run “Collect the seven flasks and bombs If it moves, shoot it. Probably still look like I’m using a word processor, but.. I’m playing an amazing game! I’m sure it would have got very good reviews as good as this kind of quality Even in green screen / grayscale Greenscale? I dunno. But of course, there are many other games that we could enjoy Soo.. Pac-Mania is a recent port from the CPC version by HappySoft And you might have wondered if all these games were, indeed, easy to port Well… Not really. You see, side from the obvious lack of color or a proper sound chip Programming the PCW’s graphics was also very different Even though the machines share similar RAM structure And the same processor speed Floppy controller and the CPM operating system But that’s what Happy has done here So, let’s go to Block Town and see how it looks. So, we need you to imagine that you’re 14 years old And your dad has a word processor and spreadsheet computer in the office that you get to use at nighttime And imagine you find games like this exist This is your only computer in the house This is gonna be… and it really was for me.. Such an enjoyable experience to play around on this On this.. Unassuming but Majestic device So, I hope you’ve enjoyed coming with me and Ladyfractic and Puppyfractic On this little journey To prove that there really are great games that you can play on a word processor And with a little ingenuity, it can even become … A portable games machine! That’s all for this time.. But as always.. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on the future Recipodes coming up And as always I appreciate any support you’re able to give this small Retro Channel on the Patreon I will see you next time! What do you think about these word processing games? Comment below and Cheerio! It’s.. PCBWayyyy! PCBWayyy!

100 Comments

  1. Goteks have sold out but I am getting another 5 ready. Please keep an eye on eBay (it should be a few weeks at least). Please send me a message if youโ€™d like to reserve one.

  2. 1:30 I like how the dog begins eating it as if it is a treat

  3. So, i was 14 or 15 years old and my father had a Schneider CPC (german Version of the Amstrad PCW). I learned Logo on the Schneider in the Holidays i spend by him. Didnt know there are games for this machine. very nice

  4. "I've seen a floppy disk, but not this." Um… that is a floppy disk.

  5. Hahaha, I love the way Ladyfractic shouted "PCB WAYYY!" with her arm swing to boot!

    Ahh, you guys, that never gets old! ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Good video as always, I didnโ€™t know there were so many PCW games and noticed the casio musical calculator on the shelf. Back when I had one I could play chariots of fire quite well on it ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Huh, now I've finally seen the inside of one of these machines, as well as how the drives look on their sides and backs!

  8. Haha, Puppyfractic's reaction to your attempt to take the drive is funny! How did you train her to do that on cue?

  9. "Because the Gotek doesn't use any metal…" well, for mounting, except screws, that is. Right? K.

  10. Haha, cool that Lady is the "voice" of the screwdriver (at least sometimes)! Ee-ooo ee-ooo ee-ooo! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and the knife too!

  11. Damnit heโ€™s handsome! ๐Ÿ˜‚

  12. I like that you still have one of the floppy drives in this system for that now-somewhat-rare occasion when you would be using one of those disks.

  13. Yeah, greenscale, LOL!

  14. Well, the obvious lack of color… besides GREEN, of course (oh, and black, when that counts as a "color").

  15. Haha, "portable"!

  16. I was expecting a spark like Electroboom when she was connecting all the wires again.

  17. I made my own 3D print for the PCW about 8 months ago. Since there were enough space, I added a rotary encoder, and reset button so I can reset the machine easily (especially important since many games do not respect reset combination from keyboard): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8WDHfOl7Jg

  18. Also, I made a compilation of PCW games, many of them I had modified (added an autostart disk, for example) for easy usage with Gotek: http://8bitchip.info/commodore/Amstrad_PCW_8256_Games_Archive.tar.gz

  19. The PCW was a great computer – I have many happy memories of mine!

  20. Cool! I still love how you include the ladies and the puppies! Always a nice touch.

  21. Awesome vid. I love modding and updating old computers to make them useful 35 years after they were made ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Cool stuff! Also, heads up there is a Mac Colour disk drive for sale over on Amibay if anygood (not mine).

  23. 7:01 Those are some squeaky screws.

  24. Ladyfractic is smoking hot! I'm pretty sure she is a professional model. Also, she is great on camera turning screws and such! Great Video!

  25. STARGLIDER!!! Whenever I get behind Starglider One to kill it, I always say "Huge. Impossible to miss."

  26. Wifey is going to take over, bro ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’

    But seriously… all of us retro doods would consider ourselves extremely lucky to have a significant other who is so supportive of our gaming hobbies. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  27. Good thing she wasn't sitting on your 5 and a quarter inch hard drive.

  28. "Personal computer bird processor"

    Edit: I also love the little squeaky screwdriver sounds you added in there at 9:05, Ladyfractic. ๐Ÿ˜€

  29. ๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿฆ‹ Oh my lawd… within the first 5 seconds of this man's smooth silky voice… I got the butterflies. ๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿฆ‹๐Ÿฆ‹

  30. OMG I adore your voice.! so buttery smooth and warm. I could listen to you all day. You could read me the phone book and it would sound great! Seriously, consider going into voice over work. You've definitely got it.

  31. You play Starglider… hum… i play No Man Sky in VR ๐Ÿ™‚
    But anyway… great review, and great USB system !!

  32. I'd watch a channel where Ladyfractic assembles IKEA furniture. iu-iu-iu

  33. Canโ€™t take the humor attempt. Next.

  34. You anodyne-voiced Brits come here and steal our best women!

  35. Yeah Leather Goddesses of Phobos @https://youtu.be/bwuH09S5YSE?t=1000

  36. 7:18
    Remember
    "You shouldn't let Word Processors lie to you"

  37. Not gonna lie only watch your vids for your mrs!

  38. Gosh…. I do love this channel!! That said. Ashley and lady fractic need more air time.
    Whooooah she did a reference to Bjorks first ever TV appearance!! Wow!

  39. Starglider's impressive, how many KBs was it playing around with?

  40. I had a 8512 and they were still being made in 1990

  41. 22:41 if you also had an imsai8080 you would have achieved "nerdvana" (at least that's what the teenage version of me thinks).

  42. This was really fun to watch. We had a CP/M machine at home that my father had used at work in the 80s, with a similarly lovely green screen. Unfortunately we threw it away in a move in around 2000. Didn't have the room – and still really don't, but still.. Retro regrets…

  43. Pcw16 no?

  44. I love this collaboration between the two of you as a couple. Awesome!

  45. Cool. I miss my Color Classic, wish I didn't sell it.

    God bless, Proverbs 31

  46. U r better off docking and interrogating the computer for starglider…

  47. I wish more channels would dub the unscrewing effects on their channels

  48. Bjork reference LOL

  49. In fact, it was the drives themselves that was less expensive for Amstrad to buy… the 3 inches disk was far more expensive for the user to buy than 3"5 ones !!!

  50. Great content and cool room. You may want to consider turning your mic gain down a touch? As a viewer I want it to pick up your voice clearly (which it is) without picking up extra stuff like lips smacking lol. Keep up the good work!

  51. I guess now that you chopped off those two plastic bits from the ribbon cable you can call yourself a real computer hacker… Sorry couldn't resist.

  52. Dust outside…. Yuck

  53. oh Perifractic you so cheesy!!!!

  54. Interesting that your 8256 has two drives… which makes it half way to an 8512… still have one these up in the loft and my childhood was also spent trying to find some games for it.

  55. Is Gaz Marshall from the credits another brit?,
    'cause if so then I think that I know him?!

  56. Slightly disappointed at the reveal that Ladyfractic doesn't make the "ee-oo-ee-oo-ee-oo" noises herself.

  57. Hm. The Gotek ribbon cable socket has two cutouts on it that look like they should be for the tabs on the Amstrad cable. Did they attach it to the cable the wrong way up?

  58. Damn. Given that I know the kind of speed Starglider runs at on a 16-bit machine with twice the megahertz, and at a rather lower resolution, getting that framerate out of a 4MHz Z80 is really impressive. Also the twitchiness of the mouse controls must make keyboard play really hard…

    Thinking about it though, despite the PCW's only official screen mode being 720×256 monochrome, I can't help wondering if it had an undocumented 360×256 3- or 4-level greyscale (and maybe even 180×256 with more). There's a number of the games shown which seem to run at a chunkier resolution than the usual hi-rez, and with smooth greyscales rather than dithered, including on text and wireframe objects as well as sprites and background, which you'd think would be an issue for visual consistency if locked into 1-bit dithered mode (and as seen on e.g. the original Mac, Atari ST hi-rez and so-on). The PCW does seem to largely be a customised CPC after all, and it would make sense that it might have some remnants of the original's modes hidden in its video chip (just able to reprogram the CRTC for a little more resolution, as it had more memory available, and could rely on the integrated monitor having a little more overscan available – though 720×256 is about what you can reliably squeeze onto a typical PAL CRT with a CPC anyway). And it would be as quick to move a 2-bitplane image around at half rez (or a 4-plane one at a quarter), with some speed boost being available by only using a single plane (or less than 4) in the modes with fewer pixels.

    Also that 720×256 is a rather clever choice. Not only does it let you cram more characters in with the default 8×8 font (ie 90×32) so leaving space at the sides for scrollbars and other margin/formatting characters, and showing a decent chunk of a page even with the full menus still displayed, but it also lets you use a more conventional character grid (e.g. 80×25) with a higher quality font… say, 9×10, which is most of the way towards what the IBM MDA offers (also with a 720-pixel width and a 50Hz refresh), and roughly about as many pixels per character as EGA, but without the expense of using a special high-frequency display and driver hardware like IBM did (yep, the PCW is still just a basic 15kHz PAL display underneath, merely with a green phosphor tube – exactly the same as the CPC monochrome monitor; apparently you can also switch it into 200-line 60Hz mode, but IDK if that was ever done in anger because of how much more cramped the text editing area would become and seemingly coarse/distorted the text characters with 56 fewer lines/7 fewer rows).

  59. funny part where the dog gets hold of a floppy drive & will sell it on Fleabay at 09:25

  60. new lady?

  61. i tell thee ,b ok if i found a c90 with bbc basic on it,there were things like how i took mothers knitting patterns and worked the vdu charcters codes on paper before i even started.i remmember miky mouse, sir donald duck ,anniemaniacs and many more!

  62. Ladyfractic suspiciously looks like an AI… I Love her eyes๐Ÿ‘€

  63. You'r just 3.5" ? Wow

  64. That intro is just full of innuendos

  65. The electric shock sound when she connected the power cable freaked me out (which means it was perfectly edited). Nice work and great video!

  66. I think its cool that you ran Guild of Thieves while The Pawn (its predecessor) is on the shelf right next to it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I bet you planned that out! Or did you?

  67. Wow … I haven't watched the Sugarcubes 'Live Zabor' in a while .. thanks for reminding me of it ! (I still have it on VHS somewhere, which I recorded off the TV circa 1992 … better go dust it off)

  68. What was this about? I kept being distracted by that YUGE watch

  69. could you please adjust your camera shutter to do that awful flickering?

  70. the Girl you asked about the floppies…. I find her very sexy…. ๐Ÿ˜›

  71. 2:15 never thought I'd see a reference to Geelong or Billy Guyett's on this channel. Whatever happened to Billy Guyett's anyway?

  72. I remember playing games on this during the 80s. Never owned a PCW but had access to one. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was fun, so was Head over Heels: which played quite fast. Although Amstrad's tech often got a bad rap for being cheap tat, the PCW was a decent machine for the price and they'd taken a leaf out of Apple's book with a focus on simplicity. Someone who wasn't IT savvy could unbox it and be up and running in minutes. Pity it never had a colour display.

  73. Back in the 80s, people were playing games on their word prossors today, people are running linux on their games consoles
    will this reverse world never end

  74. Ladyfractic looks a bit like Claire Foye.

  75. I've wondered, in your videos is this your real voice or is it manipulated??

  76. Alan Michael Sugar, never has anybody made so much money from selling sh*t to the public. And got a knighthood for doing so!

  77. Good view 15:25 and great game!!!

  78. That mini-system on the shelf in the upper left of the screen just after the pan at 22:51 stops, with the built-in round screen, looked familiar. Does anyone recognize what it is?

  79. It would appear Ladyfractic is actually the brains behind the channel, and Perifractic is just there for the good looks.

  80. I thought about it before, that she makes the sound of the turning of the screw(driver)s

  81. https://www.worldofspectrum.org/pub/sinclair/games-info/s/Starglider.txt

  82. starglider for pcw16 please!

  83. I totally understand your take on the monochrome display. I have the same nostalgia for the green Apple III monitor (especially running Lode Runner or Karateka on the Apple IIe).

  84. Just found this retro channel! Really enjoying your videos!๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  85. sheยดs hot and nerdy. wohooo I surrender!!

  86. That ad for the carrying case is hilarious!

  87. I've been away awhile and decided to check out a video. I was not disappointed! I was happy to see your wife is just as silly as you! I'll be watching more from your channel again.

  88. it'snowin' ๐Ÿ™‚ – in the city

  89. I had one of these bought from the Navy exchange back in the 1980s. Sadly, during an overseas deployment, the system was stored in a storage locker that my roommate neglected to pay for and was sold at auction.

  90. Awesome. Love how everything is so spooky in that vid…. colors, setting, sounds, old hardware, even that voice tone of the host. Oh lalala gearing up for nightmares tonite :/

  91. A tidbit of information. The guy whose 1993 Marvel UK comic book proposal was lifted by the Wachowski Brothers, used to read Zzap 64 and drew a comic based on Elite and sent it into them!! Of course it was never published, but he would feel right at home watching your video. For more info on the The Matrix theft see my playlist.

  92. I recognized image 127 :O

  93. New sub because super cool dog and great channel! Love all the tech you have & looking forward to checking out all the vids. Also come on, 1:20 that was priceless ๐Ÿ˜€

  94. OH MY GOD PUPPYPUPPYFRACTIC!

    That is all.

  95. Oh wow… I had to look up the specs of the PCW's display after you mentioned the hardware wasn't the same as the CPC. That is cool. It's a monochrome bitmap with about the same resolution as the first Macintosh, but it used a display list like the Amiga's copper, making some operations like vertical scrolling and splits "free" as far as the Z80 is concerned.

  96. its cool to see 20 something year olds into retro stuff…wonder how they got into this…

  97. It's a good idea to remove metal jewelry before working on equipment.

  98. jajjaja FX at 10:27

  99. When you said you disbowled a CPC6128 (a German one in this case it seems) for its harddrive I got tears in my eyes…. yes I grew up with a CPC and that is very personal! /jk

  100. your wife is a gem

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