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.

Thorn EMI Liberator

c6fcf7c869428cc478bd4e24cd345e56The Thorn EMI Liberator was developed in the UK in the 1980s for use by the British Civil Service. The idea was to give the civil servants a portable text processor that they could carry around with them for taking notes. It’s an unsung machine and has dropped off the radar for many. In fact it never made it onto the radar for most of us.

The Register have done a series of well written and researched articles that you can read here, here and here and so I won’t go over the old ground. I couldn’t hope to do as nice a job as Tony Smith.

My Liberator looks a little weary. It has no badges, the handle/stand is missing and the battery pack was decidedly fluffy. However it’s nearly thirty years old an I forgive it.

It’s an interesting little machine. About the size of an A4 piece of paper and around an inch thick it’s slightly bigger than a Sinclair Z88 or an Amstrad NC100.

I read that it runs CP/M-80 though I think the text editor is all encompassing and so you can’t see the OS. I say “I think” because mine just beeps but there is no screen output. The keyboard has a nice feel and the keys are a good size. This should make typing easy. Time will tell.

One thing worth noting is that instead of the standard RS-232 ports common at that time, the Liberator comes with a pair of S5/8 ports. These were intended to be a simpler version of RS-232 but they didn’t catch on. Nice try though.

6fd0a457b2a93975c2b956869ecab35bCuriously my machine came with an Epson PF-10 serial floppy disk drive. There is a Dymo label on the back of the Liberator identifying which port to connect it to and a cable to convert from the large S5/8 port to the smaller socket on the back of the PF-10.

A weekend’s racing – Hackett’s lake

Last weekend, 25-27th May, saw Spindizzy out and about with the HCGB National championships. We were racing at a big lake in Nottingham known as Hackett’s lake.

The weather was sunny and quite still for Saturday. It became very windy by Monday afternoon.

Spindizzy had a few technical problems. Lumpy starting, pull-start ropes snapping. It’s been treated to new plugs, caps and leads. With the help of Kevin Foster the ignition timing was set up properly and it was starting fine after that. Unitl… Monday morning when it died on the water and I’ve not been able to start it since. Hmmm…


Files and Documents

Here you can find the technical reference manual scanned and converted into PDF format.

For practical reasons it’s in several parts.

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part1

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part2

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part3

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part4

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part5

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part6

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part7

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part8

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part9

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part10

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part11

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part12

 Telefunken Reference Manual (German) Part13


In June 2012 I took Spindizzy as a work in progress to a race meeting in Nottingham and it’s at events like this when you find out who your friends are.

The Sweetman clans saw how I was getting on and descended “en masse” to help out. They helped me fit a pair of rudders, pinched from RO3, some bike handlebars , routed the cable and generally moved the project on a great deal.

c5589933e665d80caa523457a4b6a884 df08860d43d5c80ac9c9d7bd19af6831


This next photo shows the morse cable going inside the hull at the front to reappear at the back. Any guesses as to where the silver metal piece came from?


Engine and Fan frame

0822c6ba7a7c14b34cd9f429b5060a2bRO3 was going to be a bit gnarly but for Spindizzy I didn’t want anything too fierce. In addition I also wanted an engine that would be easy to start and relatively trouble free. Nothing too close to the edge.

For those reasons I chose a Rotax 447 microlight engine. These engines have been around since God was a boy and are well used and understood. They are no longer in production but there are plenty about. the also have the advantage the because of a quirk in the UK racing regs they can be used in F3,my old stomping ground, F2, because they are between 250 and 500cc two stroke, F50 because they are weedy enough and FJ for the same reason.

It’s a twin cylinder two stroke making about 40BHP so it’s not going to set the world on fire but it’s good enough.

I had the engine frame made by Ken Rigley of K&M products near Newark. Ken has been doing Rotax frame for a long time and he just needed the diameter of the duct at the point furthest forward and the height of duct. He didn’t ask me what colour and I didn;t think there would be a choice. I was a bit surprised when it turned out red but as I was building a red craft anyway it didn’t seem to matter.

Hull, duct and planing surface

So, for this build I was going to need a hull and planing surface as before.

When I originally bought the moulds for the Outlaw I got a plug from which I pulled a mould. I still had this plug.

It is basically a top deck, a little heavier than I would like but perfectly servicable and good to go. It needed a lick of paint but that could wait.

85ffe21bfadbd70eecb52846a680a80aNext, a planing surface. As you know by now I have a mould and so I pulled a planing surface from that. The construction was just the same as Randomorbit 3’s planing surface.

So now we’re up and running.

I asked Les Bran of Bran Fibre to make me an 800mm duct and he duly obliged. I made a GRP box to fix it to the hull but didn’t take any photos of the process. Oh well.

A short step from where you are.