WACCI 136 Index - Home Page www.wacci.org.uk

01 - Thanx & Stuff 02 - WACCI On-line 03 - French Connection 04 - Scart Connections
05 - Contributing 06 - Pirates Ahoy! 07 - Ask The Internet 08 - 101 Uses For A Dead CPC
09 - Breaking Your CPC 10 - Programmers' Patch 11 - A-Z Of Computing 12 - A Word From Dave
13 - Famous Last Words

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101 Uses for a Dead CPC

Is your Amstrad exhausted? Past it? Terminally tired? Dead to the world? Brian Watson knows just how it feels

You may have seen those amusing little books with titles such as “101 Uses For A Dead Cat” and so on. You may even have been given one for Christmas or a birthday as, from my connections in the gift business, I know they sell by the shedload!
  Well in the same spirit, I offer you “Uses For a Dead CPC”. This is not as silly as it may at first sound. CPC enthusiasts are notorious hoarders - yes, that does include you - and I’d be prepared to bet that you have at least one bit of apparently-dead CPC kit cluttering up the place somewhere in the house because “it would be a shame to throw it out” and “you never know when...” You know it’s true.

All for one

One of the much-vaunted advantages of the CPC series when they were sold new was that it was an “all in one box” computer; it came complete with a monitor, so the new user did not have to sacrifice the use of the family television or buy a separate monitor to use the new computer as they would if they’d fallen for the seductive patter of the salesman offering the charms of a Sinclair Spectrum or a Commodore C64, for example.
  In fact the CPCs were, and are, modular in that the keyboard part and the monitor were not supplied “hard-wired” together and were designed to have bits, such as an external disc drive, added and/or interchanged later.
  Not everything in the CPC/CPC Plus series fits everything, but here are some fairly obvious suggestions for using the still-working parts of otherwise-dead CPCs.

Replacing your monitor

Has your monitor failed in some way? A broken carrying handle is no big problem as the broken bits can be removed easily enough, but what if the monitor has developed a flickery display? Perhaps one or more of its socket connections are broken or loose? Or has the power supply unit (which is the same as that fitted to a SAM Coupe/Elite computer, by the way) started requiring all ROMs to be unplugged before it will fire up the computer?
  In all these cases, we can assume that the keyboard unit is probably fine, so simply replace the problematic monitor with another one.
  If you don’t play games much, a mono monitor can be a very acceptable substitute for text-only display or, if it’s a mono one you are getting rid of, why not take the opportunity to upgrade to a colour monitor? Remember, if you have an disc drive to power, the simplest solution is to get a monitor with a socket that will drive it. Otherwise, you’ll need to get an external power pack.

Fixing disc drives

The most common symptom of an impending CPC problem where a disc drive is fitted is the intermittent appearance of “READ FAIL” notices on the screen and your program failing to launch promptly every time. The chances are that it is only the belt in the drive that has stretched and replacing it with a new one will cure the problem, but what if it is something more serious? I don’t want to alarm you, but what if the disc drive heads are worn out or the heads have got knocked well out of alignment?
  CPC 3” disc drive mechanisms are interchangeable and, if you are stuck with no A: drive on a Sunday afternoon, the unit that can be taken out of an external B: drive unit will make an acceptable swap to get you out of trouble.
  Incidentally, the 3” drive mechanisms from a PCW can be used in some circumstances, but you are best advised to stick to using CPC mechanisms for spares if you are not sure where the compatibility problems may be encountered.

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Reviving tape decks

Now that’s disc drive users given a few options, but CPC464 tape users deserve a rescue route too. Of course, the obvious solution is to have a disc drive fitted to use in times of trouble but, failing that, what if the tape deck starts failing? Option one in your trouble-shooting routine is to clean the tape heads with the appropriate solvent applied with a cotton wool stick and option two is to check the tape heads’ alignment. Once you’ve done both of those and found you are still getting problems, you can start plundering another 464.
  Belts on a tape mechanism can stretch and fail as easily as they can in a disc drive, but taking one out of a working tape drive is asking for trouble as you will probably stretch it while doing the swap. Far better to transfer the whole mechanism from a keyboard unit in a 464 which has developed another fault.

Internal surgery

And that brings me to the other parts of a keyboard unit. The cases themselves are quite robust, but can be swapped within each type – 464 for 464, 664 for 664, etc – in most cases. There are some variations, however, so check carefully where all the screwpoints and all the “ins and outs” sockets are located even if, on a cursory glance, they appear to be the same.
  Another variation, if you are planning a little remedial swapping, is in the actual keys units themselves. Earlier types have higher keys set in the case than later models, at least on the 464s. Get past that hurdle though and, as long as you find connections in the same places once you open the computers up, you can replace one keys unit with the other. If you do encounter the different types of keyboard unit and you know that the second one works though its monitor has conked out, just swap the whole keyboard rather than try to cannibalise it for its parts.
  Replacing individual keys in a keyboard is fraught with fiddly difficulties and I recommend you either replace the letters on them (if that’s the problem) with rub-down letters and seal them with clear nail varnish, or swap a whole keys unit rather than messing about trying to replace just one or a few if they are actually failing to work.
  Well, that’s a few simple interchanges of spares that might get you out of trouble. So, don’t throw away that bit of CPC because, really, “it would be a shame to throw it out” and “you never know when...”

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01 - Thanx & Stuff 02 - WACCI On-line 03 - French Connection 04 - Scart Connections
05 - Contributing 06 - Pirates Ahoy! 07 - Ask The Internet 08 - 101 Uses For A Dead CPC
09 - Breaking Your CPC 10 - Programmers' Patch 11 - A-Z Of Computing 12 - A Word From Dave
13 - Famous Last Words

WACCI 136 Index - Home Page www.wacci.org.uk