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Tim's Amstrad NC Users' Site

Questions & Answers

HARDWARE

Where can I find technical specifications?

For a list of specifications, go to the 'Specifications' page.
For technical details of the NC100, including memory, I/O, and built in machine code routines, check out the Amstrad Website.  There is also a datasheet giving a list of system variables.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)  

What peripherals can I connect?

The Amstrad Notepad and Notebook computers have standard Centronics parallel ports and RS232 9-pin serial ports. The system has drivers for 9 and 24 pin dot matrix, Canon inkjet and Laserjet printers. The serial port claims 9600 bps, but I can only make my NC100 work reliably at the full speed using Xmodem and the AC adapter. This seems to be a common problem.

Mark Ray (Amstrad Notepad Users Web)

What printer lead do I require?

If using the parallel port, the lead is exactly the same as used for an IBM PC compatible printer.  Almost all printers are already supplied with such a lead.  For serial printers, see the wiring diagrams given in the Serial Transfers: NCs and PCs feature.

Amstrad NC200 manual

Can I use a PCW printer?

Apart from the Canon BJ10 printer supplied with some PCWs, it is not possible to directly connect a PCW printer to the Notebook because, unlike most printers, the PCW printer has its "intelligent electronics" inside the main PCW unit.  You could, however, transfer documents to the PCW and then print them either from Locoscript (import ASCII files) or use the CP/M version of Protext.

Amstrad NC200 manual

Can I use a monitor or TV with the Notebook?

No, this is not possible.

Amstrad NC200 manual

Can a hard disk drive be connected to the NC?

No! The Ranger disk service is only for the NC200 which is the one with a floppy drive. I hadn't spoken to Ranger when the NC100 was designed so there's definitely none of their code in that machine. However, the first time I spoke to Ranger was not for the NC200 but for the NC150 (that was only sold in French and Italian versions). I thought that the serial terminal in the NC100 was a bit naff and I'd heard of Ranger because they specialised in software for the Sinclair Z88 machine so I asked them to do a "tarted up" terminal program for the NC150. At that time they "hid" some extra code in the terminal which then let the machine be connected to their Z88 external floppy drive. Later on, when I came to do the NC200 I naturally asked them to do the disk software because they already had MS-DOS routines in Z80 code that they had done for their own Ranger disk. So the bottom line is that if you have an NC200 you already have a disk and built in Ranger disk routines, if you have an NC150 then the only bit of Ranger code is the terminal but it contains a hidden "hook" which allows the Ranger external disk to be connected to the machine and if you have an NC100 there is no Ranger code in it at all.

Cliff Lawson (Amstrad NC project manager) cliffl@amstrad.com

How can I increase the memory?

Standard JEIDA/PCMCIA Memory Cards will expand the memory up to 1Mb.

Amstrad NC200 manual

Where can I buy memory cards?

Memory cards are available from the following sources:

Company Contact Address & Telephone Website & Email Address Memory Card Capacities Order Number Price
Best Electronics San Jose
California
USA
www.best-electronics-ca.com

bestelec@concentric.net

1Mb   16.00
Mitsubishi Electric Sydney
Australia
  512kb 512K-SAM CARD S/L AH2 $A130.00
Primary Simulation Inc. 2963 Mozart Drive
Silver Spring
MD 20904
USA
www.psism.com/sramsp.htm 64kb - 1Mb    
Simple Technology     1Mb   $97
Unidata Group Unidata Australia
40 Ladner Street
O'Connor
Perth
Western Australia

61 8 9331 8600

Offices also in America, England, France, & Germany
www.unidata.com.au

sales@unidata.com.au

1Mb   $418

Note that only cards up to 1Mb may be used in the NCs.

Please email me if you have brought memory cards for your NC so I can add details of other companies to this list.

I would like to thank Gwydion Elderwyn, Robert Fawcett, Ross Purves, Bruce Sheidow, Jameel Siddiq, and Richard Watt for helping me compile this list.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

Feedback from customers of the above companies:

I really appreciated your leads on the PCMCIA cards as I was previously wondering where on earth I could get one. I've purchased a 1MB Panasonic SRAM card (code BN01MHSRE) from Talisman Electronics , which cost me 65.68 + 6.50 p&p, with VAT on top of all of that. The way the card extends the capabilities of the NC100 certainly makes it worthwhile for me.

Jameel Siddiq  mj.siddiq@talk21.com

I live in the UK. I've just received a 1 meg reconditioned card from California which cost a total of 16 pounds (23 dollars), and works fine in my NC100. The company I bought it from has many such cards... which are priced at an astonishing 15 dollars.  On top of that I paid a credit card supplement and postage. The card arrived in about 3 days.

The company was Best Electronics, run by Bradley Koda.  I hope this is of use... bear in mind that even with such a card the largest file you can edit is limited by free lower memory in the NC100: about 38kb...

Rob Fawcett

I can underline the favorable comments on your website about Best Electronics of San Jose as a good source of memory cards.  I found the service to be friendly, efficient and incredibly prompt and the cards are very carefully packed and look (and perform) like new.  You have to buy two, however, because there is a minimum credit card order value - but as they are only $15 each plus shipping charge of $7.50 this is not unreasonable.

Michael West

I've had an NC100 for some time but have only just got a memory card to make it a bit more useable.

The memory card is a Panasonic SRAM PC Card Model BN-512HSR. It works fine and I got it of eBay for about 15.00 delivered. It took a bit of waiting for this to come up on eBay but they are around. 

Doug Stevenson

Are NC200 disks MS-DOS compatible?

The Amstrad NC200 formats standard 3" disks in a 720kb MS-DOS format that can be used in PCs and other computers that support this filing system.  Most PCs support both the 720kb and 1.4Mb formats; one of my PCs shows a green light when it is using a 1.4Mb disk and an orange light when it is using a 720kb disk.

If you insert a 720kb disk into a PC that cannot support 720kb disks, it will assume that it is unformatted and prompt you to format it in the 1.4Mb format.  720kb disks only have one hole in the bottom left-hand corner; if you have disks with two holes, you must cover the right-hand hole with tape before the PC will let you format it as 720kb.

Note that when the NC200 formats a disk, it automatically creates a new directory on it called "NOTEBOOK".  Files copied to the disk from the NC200 will automatically be placed in this directory unless you specify otherwise. 

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site) 

Nothing shows on the screen.  Help!

  1. Check that batteries are installed.
  2. Try adjusting the contrast control.
  3. If using batteries, disconnect the mains adaptor from the NC.
  4. If using the mains adaptor, check that it is connected properly and receiving power.
  5. Do a hard reset (press FUNCTION, STOP and DELETE upon switching on).  This should reset the NC.
  6. The fuse inside the NC may have blown.  Note that there is no fuse in the mains adaptor.

Amstrad NC200 manual

If you are using another power supply (not the one supplied with the NC), have you checked that the polarity of the power supply is correct?  Preferably, you should check it with a multimeter if you have one.  If the polarity is wrong, then you probably haven't done any damage since the NC should have a diode inside it to protect it from this mistake.

If you have supplied it with the wrong voltage than you could have blown a microchip inside, but you may instead have blown the surface-mounted fuse inside the NC. This fuse is not documented in the manual, but the NC100 fuse has a rating of 6V 0.8A.  I suggest you take the cover off your Notepad and have a look - there are instructions in this article and also some by Rod Brown on John King's website.  If you find that the fuse has blown, and it has a marking showing the rating, you should be able to get a new one from an electrical supplier or a shop such as Maplin (www.maplin.co.uk).

The NC screen may also be internally connected to the circuit board by a thin ribbon cable, as is the case in the NC200. This can come loose and obviously cause the screen display to disappear.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

The NC switches itself off when I'm not looking

This is a normal feature, designed to help conserve your batteries.  You can adjust the time delay before the power off in the System Menu.  Press MENU at the main NC menu screen.

Amstrad NC200 manual

How can I fix my broken mains lead?

It is most likely that the lead has broken either where it enters the mains plug, or at the other end where it has the connector for the NC.

The connector used is non-standard, but a replacement can be brought from Maplin Electronics Ltd (www.maplin.co.uk). The connector and the lead for it have to be brought separately -- the order codes are AR22 for the connector (price 49p) and AQ81 for the lead (price 99p).

If you have a soldering iron, the whole lead can be replaced, otherwise you will have to cut the existing lead at a suitable place and join the new lead to the end.

Replacing the whole lead

To do this you will need to open the mains plug. The three small circles of plastic on the underside are 'bungs' concealing the screws, and will have to be drilled to get them out since they are quite deep. Once the screws are taken out the case will come apart and the lead can be de-soldered from the PCB. Solder the new lead (check polarity!), put some tape around it where it exits the case to act as a grommet, and replace the top part of the case and the screws.

Replacing the connector only

If you don't want to do any soldering, snip the old lead at a suitable point and strip the wires. Do the same with the new lead and twist each lead together. Cover the bare wires with tape.

If you have a voltmeter, check that the polarity is correct -- positive is the centre of the connector. If it's wrong the connector can be easily reversed (although it's better to have the '+' signs lined up for clarity.)

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

How can I fix my NC100's broken case?

My NC100 gets a lot of hard use, and is now starting to show it's age.
At first the top half of the frame around the keyboard began to break. It was quite easy to superglue this back into place.

More worryingly, the bottom half of the frame then began to break at both sides where pressing the keyboard had caused the case to flex , so a horizontal fracture was developing at both sides. If untreated these would eventually meet in the middle and the case break in two.

My solution to this was to get a sheet of perspex from a local model shop and cut 2 horizontal strips each about about 1 x 5 inches. These were then superglued onto each side of the bottom of the case, to prevent the flexing. This has been in place for about 2 months now and seems to have done the trick. The strips of perspex glued to the bottom of the case are relatively inconspicuous,light and contribute substantially to the overall strength and rigidity of the machine. I would recommend users to consider doing this even if their cases show no evidence of damage, as it will prevent it happening.

Ian Greenwood ian@igreenwo.demon.co.uk

Are there any alternatives to the NC series?

Yes - many companies have produced similar computers.  The DreamWriter series even appears to be based on the NC100 and NC200 designs.  Visit www.brainium.com for information.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

How big and heavy are the NCs?

All three computers are A4 size.  The NC200 is 3.5cm thick and the NC100 and NC150 are slightly thinner.  The NC200 weights 500g (without batteries) and the NC100 and NC150 are slightly lighter.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

What rating of mains adaptor should I use with the NC100 or NC200?

The mains adaptor that is supplied with the NC100 supplies 300mA at 6V DC. The main adaptor for the NC200 supplies 1A at 7.5V DC.  They are not a regulated power supplies, although using an alternative regulated power supply will not do any harm.  Make sure the voltage and polarity (the barrel of the plug should be positive, against convention) are set correctly before connecting to the NC100/NC200 otherwise you may blow the computer's internal fuse.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

What is the NC200 power usage with batteries?  Do you have any tips for using batteries?

The NC200 requires 5 x C type cells, which is an awkward number and is fairly expensive, especially since they won't last that long.  If you do use batteries, you should cut down on your use of the disk drive, screen backlight (press CONTROL and CAPS LOCK to toggle it on and off) and the serial port.  Doing this will save power.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

Discussion from the NC User Group, started 10/08/2003...

Chris Murray: Any ideas on the batteries? Has anyone made a battery pack that fits into the NC200 battery slot?  Or am I doomed to using a laptop, as a desktop?

--//--

Louis: Ah, yes... the battery drain from hell syndrome.  Sounds so familiar...

Well, first off, the Dreamwriter seems to be the exact same thing.  Could be wrong here, but they have a rechargeable pack for sale.  You probably would be better off just buying some NIMH rechargeable batteries though. I'm sure they would hold more power. A rechargeable battery pack will probably just be a bunch of these wrapped in black plastic tape with a lead coming out anyway.

A good alternative would probably be to pick up an NC100 (since you do have a memory card) That way you could get your 30-40 hours of battery power out of it.  Half of that if you want to use rechargeable batteries. Still, the NC200 is a sweet machine, I'd hate to leave it sitting in a drawer.

--//--

At first I bought some cheep batteries for my NC-200, but they ran out in a day!  Then I bought some Duracell and turned off the backlight and has ran ever since (about six months). I was going to get some rechargeable ones but it seams to run fine on normal ones.

The display on my NC200 sometimes flickers.  What could be the cause?

Discussion from the NC User Group, started 11/10/2000...

Neil Harvey:  I have a problem with the display on my NC200.

When I open the lid/screen and switch the machine on, the display shows vertical bars covering the proper screen display making it impossible to read. This effect can be removed by partially closing the lid, but then of course it is difficult to see the screen anyway. Repeated opening and closing of the lid will eventually allow the screen to be read clearly, but this process is taking longer each time. It makes no difference whether the machine is battery or externally powered.

I am thinking there must be some sliding connection between the main body and the screen, and that this has developed a poor connection.

I'm interested to hear any offered suggestions too, as my screen display on the NC200 developed a similar problem, and I diagnosed a similar cause, but I'm wary of opening up the beast to fix it without a little informed advice.

--//--

Leslie Chatfield:  Les here. I only have an NC100 but I do have a PC laptop which did the same thing and I'm afraid it is probably terminal. Inside your NC200 there is a multi-way ribbon cable feeding the LCD from the main processor PCB. This is made of a thin polyester film with the tracks of the various circuits to the LCD printed on it.

What has been happening is that this multi way has been bending and straightening about 40000000 times since the NC200 was new and now if you were to examine the "cable" you will probably find that there are microscopic cracks in the tracks printed upon it.  Obviously when you do not open the screen fully the cracked tracks are pushed closer together and make better contact.

Cures:  The only cure I can think of is to open the NC200 and expose this ribbon cable. then obtain some silver paint (Note NOT silver coloured paint but SILVER paint.) This is used for repainting minute fissures in silverware and so is expensive. I found it useful for repairing fine PCB tracks. It works well. You will NOT be able to "bridge" the gaps with solder.  DO NOT TRY IT!

--//--

Brian Watson:  So what about replacing the ribbon? Is it a custom component or should a replacement be easy to find?

--//--

Neil Harvey:  I'm not convinced there is a ribbon cable here from the appearance of the hinge assembly.  SO it looks like I'm going to be dismantling it anyway.  I'll report back one way or the other.

Neil Harvey:  Well, took the bull by the horns and opened up the NC200 this evening.  Not easy when you don't know where the little internal plastic catches are.

Anyway, There IS a ribbon cable connecting main circuit board to the hinged screen unit. For the life of me I couldn't get the screen apart to get to that end of the ribbon cable.  So I disconnected the ribbon from the circuit board, it just pulls out of an edge connector.  Then carefully straightened out a sharp bend in the cable, plugged the whole lot back together and switched it on.

It seems that whatever I did has (probably only temporarily) cured the problem :-)  If it goes again, which it most likely will, I'll have another go and maybe try to get some replacement ribbon cable.

So watch this space.  Meanwhile, if anyone else has gone any further than this, let me know.

How do I replace the battery in my 1Mb Apple Newton SRAM card?

These batteries last a while - I've heard 1 year or 10 years. But eventually, the lithium battery runs out and why throw the card away?

There's a little switch on the top of the card, the second from the left (looking at the red 'Newton 1Mb Storage Card' side). It says write-protect, but there are two switches. Slide this switch to the left. Then, to the right of the switch is a little battery tray. You put your fingernail under the left-hand edge (from the front) and tug and the battery tray will slide out. You then have 10 to 20 minutes, apparently, to change it before the card loses its residual memory charge. The battery should be replaced with, in mine, a Panasonic BR2330 or a CR2325. I can't take any responsibility for lost documents from using this tip - try and change the battery as quickly as you can, just in case.

Jeremy Smith

How can I replace my NC100's internal ribbon cable?

Inside my oldest NC100, the ribbon cable joining the main board to the display board failed. A replacement is available (cheaply) from Farnell as Part Number 145-5423.

John Blackburn

I successfully fixed my NC100 so I can confirm the suitability of this advice.

Wilfred Kazoks

 
1997–2017 Tim Surtell

Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site
www.ncus.org.uk

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