Cambridge Z88

03c5e984b174a7d79b66712afd665797The Z88 was launched in September 1987 and is, in my opinion about the pinacle of Sinclair design. It’s a compact, portable computer on the go.

Is has a Z80 processor, popular at the time. The decent size keyboard is reminicient of the Spectrum but a lot better. It doesn’t have much travel and stops abruptly but you could certainly type quickly and accurately for quite a while.

Above the keyboard is a small LCD that goes the whole width but is onlt about 2.5 CM high. There is no back light.

The integrated software is called “Pipedream” and has a word processor, spreadsheet and the other bits and pieces this class of machine from the UK sported at the time.

Despite its CMOS Z80, the Z88 could address a whopping 4MB of memory in 256 x 16k pages and EPROM and FLASH memory cartridges are available.

Sadly mine is on the blink at the moment, I suspect the keyboard as a reset has it skipping and dancing but the double shift key start and shutdown isn’t working.


Amstrad NC200


The Amstrad NC200 is small portable computer released by Amstrad in 1993. It follows on the heels of its older brothers the NC100 and NC150. It has the same A4 footprint as its predecessors. Unlike the NC1000 It has a hinged lid that covers the keyboard and opens to reveal a backlit monochrome LCD screen the angle of which can be adjusted to a comfortable viewing position.




The keyboard has five rows of full-sized keys but doesn’t have space for a number pad though it does have cursor keys. It also has five coloured keys. A Yellow function key. A green key marked “Calc”. Red labelled “Word”, blue, “Diary” and white, “Spread”. Holding Function and pressing one of the coloured keys will take you into the application written on the key, where you left off. This is very handy if, for example, you are using the word processor and need to do a quick calculation. Hit Function Green and you are in the calculator. Do the maths, hit Function Red and you are back in the document, where you left off. Groovy.

On the right hand side of the unit is a 720kb 3.5 inch floppy disk drive and a small slot marked “MEMORY CARD”. To the rear is a co-axial socket for DC power, a 25 pin parallel printer port and a 9 pin RS-232 port. The left hand side is blank. Underneath is a cover for the five C-cells. Another for a CR2032 battery that retains the RAM when you change the batteries. There is also a rectangual cover, secured by a screw, the purpose of which I haven’t established yet.

Getting started.

When you first power up the NC200 you are presented with a graphic menu. It shows the date and time and a picture of each option, word processor, spread sheet, games, calender, diary etc.


The word processor.

The word processor is quite a capable little thing for the period. It can search and replace, mark, copy and move blocks. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be an “undo” function as I’ve just found out to my cost. It does open a new line at the bottom of the document when you try to go down past the end of the document. what a nice touch. There is a spell checker, which doesn’t know the word Amstrad, but is easy to use. When you want to stop typing, just hit the “Stop” key and you are taken back to the word processing menu. You don’t need to save, it’s done it on the fly. That’s very nice.



There is not much to say about the calculator really. It is graphical with an image of a roll of paper that shows a history of calculations as you would expect. One curious feature is that some keys on the main key area have numbers and operators printed on them. You must use these keys and not the number row at the top of the keyboard.



I’ve not had much chance to get into this. It looks a bit quirky but considering that this is a Z80 machine with limited memory, any spreadsheet is an achievement.



I’ve been typing this review on the NC200 and I must say I quite like it. The keyboard have full travel and a great feel. I find myself thinking that this thing is from the days before Windows took over. It is text based but it does a wonderful job of it. If you wanted a light portable word processor, with good battery life this was a great choice.

Amstrad NC100


The Amstrad NC100 was released in 1992 by Amstrad as an all rounder for word processing, spreadsheets etc. The kind of run of the mill tasks most professional people wanted.

It is about the size of an A4 page with a good sized keyboard with a nice action. The screen is a small LCD that doesn’t have a backlight and if my unit didn’t have an intermittent fault it would be splendid!

The Wikipedia article is a good source of information here.