|★ HARDWARE ★ PERIPHERIQUES - INTERFACES ★ Timatic Multi-interface|Popular Computing Weekly) ★|
|Timatic Multi-interface||Hardware Peripheriques - Interfaces|
Timatic Systems is a name that came to the fore by pioneering the transfer of CP/M programs on to Amstrad discs. Now it has graduated to producing a range of add-on boards to plug some gaps in the hardware capabilities.
The interface board comes in a choice of configurations; but Timatic has found that by offering a variety of ports on one printed circuit-board it can cut out a lot of unnecessary chip duplication and produce a package that, whilst not cheap, seems remarkable value for money. If you buy the board in its most extensive form you get no less than four ports, plus a through bus for the disc drive or whatever. On top of the case are two parallel interfaces - one is just an edge connector of the same form as the normal CPC printer port but this allows full 8-bit codes to be sent which many printers use to control graphic characters. The other parallel port comes m the form of a BBC-style user port allowing easier connection to many BBC peripherals ranging from plotters to robots.
On the right is the RS232 part of the board - there are two channels here, one of which is provided as a standard D connector, and the other is again compatible with BBC-style cables. There is also a small 5 volt external power socket. You may not need to use this, but experience has shown that problems occur if too many peripherals are run off of the Amstrad's expansion connector. Timatic has been clever in developing a system that automatically cuts in if power demand gets too high.
In the centre are two sockets for the connection of sideways Roms - one of these comes fitted with a Rom that controls the various outputs of the board, the other can either be left blank for your own use, or can be provided with a copy of the Maxam assembler. The controller
Rom gives access to a series of menus and information about the use of the board. It also provides you with some extension commands that allow you to change RS232 channels and baud rates from Basic. Both channels can be set, independently, to any combination of receive and transmit rates you could possibly desire, within the upper limit of the machine's abilities; ie, you aren't limited to the standard 1200/300, etc, of most communications devices. Documentation is adequate, if limited, but there is also some accompanying software that makes controlling baud rate even easieT, so there should be few problems.
The value of such a peripheral can seem dubious if you haven't got specific uses in mind but Timatic hasn't been slow to investigate its potential. It has a power supply modification that allows you to run a BBC Cumana graphics touch-pad through their board, together with accompanying software that includes some of the nicest graphics features available on the Amstrad to date, including the ability to switch screen modes without losmg the picture on screen.
Timatic can also provide cables and terminal emulation/ communication software that lets you hook your Amstrad up to spectrums (with interface), BBCs or even mainframe computers. You could send text from Spectrum Tasword to Amsword without having to retype it for instance, access data or programs from an Apricot when you aren't even in the same room, use your 664 or 6128 disc for saving BBC programs or even, if you get a copy of BBC Basic (Z80). stand a reasonable chance of running them on the Amstrad.
The most obvious application is in schools or computer user groups - anyone who has already invested in a range of micros and peripherals and wants to be able to fit Amstrads into the scheme without a lot of duplication of effort and expense. Together the mixture of power and flexibility, ease of use. and continued support from a very active company make this a peripheral that some CPC owners would do well not to miss.
Tony Kendle , PopularComputingWeekly