If you wish your Amstrad 464 could rim 6128 software or true CP/M software but the Christmas overdraft means you can't afford a new machine, then perhaps the Ram expansion from Vortex is for you. They are selling at a rate of 2,000 a month in West Germany, so they must be worth considering.
For £100 you can have a 64K Ram expansion system which will emulate a 6128, plus the software to re-configure your Amstrad CP/M to give you 62K of program area with an optional 32K printer buffer. This means you can run any standard CP/M 2.2 package on your expanded 464.
Any extra memory (a 512K board costs £159) can be configured as a Ram-disc, which on a fully expanded system is 444K formatted.
Also included is a good machine code monitor/assembler/disassembler in Rom, which can be called from Basic even in the middle of running a program and will return to the same point you called it from.
If you program m Basic the system includes a small operating system of RSX's - called by entering bae-BOS. Until you do, your machine is unchanged other than losing a few bytes for the RSX to boot the Bank Operating System. When called you have the following options for your extra memory:
There are also commands which improve graphics control from Basic and others like bae-GOSUB, < bank numbervariable> and bae-COMMON, < list of variables > which allow a more structured programming style than otherwise possible in standard Amstrad Basic.
- To store screens and recall them at up to three per second.
- To store programs and data (up to 288K and 2S6K respectively with a full 512K expansion).
- To set up a 32K printer spooler which operates whenever you List to the printer.
So what are the disadvantages? First, it does not run CP/M+. The manufacturer considers there is plenty of CP/M 2.2 software and the demand for CP/M + has yet to be shown, although they would do the necessary if demand rises. Secondly; you have to open up your computer to install the board, which would void the 12 month guarantee, but as a large number of 464's are over 12 months old this is not such a drawback.
Although DK'Tronics'rival memory expansion is claimed to run CP/M + you cannot buy CP/M + for it, and it slots on the back of the computer. Personally, I
prefer not to have my computer festooned like a Christmas tree with addons. Moreover, the DK'Tronics expansion cannot be used under CP/M 2.2 and does not give the sophistication of the Vortex extra Basic commands. The Vortex board can be easily expanded from 64K through 128K, 256K 320K up to 512K and you can get the extra memory chips yourself and plug them in (there's even a Vortex program to check if your Ram is OK).
With the Vortex board you do get a full 62K CP/M system with a 32K printer buffer and the Ramdisc option. If you want to use full size CP/M programs, like Wordstar, then this will be perfect. The same board will allow you to connect to either 3.5 or 3.25 inch disc drives - even a hard disc - and these will run happily side by side with the Amstrad disc drive. If you have not yet bought a disc drive you can get a twin 5.25 dnve (1.5 megabyte formatted) CP/M 2.2 system including this board for £399, with VDOS on ROM which is Amsdos compatible and an Amsdos compatible graphics package. The Vortex expansion comes with instructions on how to install both it and the new CP/M configuration. There is also a brief guide to the software and the machine-code monitor, all contained in a slim booklet.
You can tell from the style and humour that it has been translated from German but it is clearly written and I had the board installed within an hour.
(All of these are RSXs so must be typed with a bar before them)
Expanded Basic Command Set Effect
- BANK, < integer > Changes active bank.
- BASIC Returns to Amsdos, removes BOS
- CALL, < integer >, < address > [.parameters] Calls machine code routine in one bank
- COMMON [[. < string variable address > ], Declares variables by first letter that < list of integers > will be common to given banks
- DEV, < integer > Determines channel for output of LIST
- EMULATE Configures Ram to emulate a 6128
- FAST Speeds up printing to screen in Mode 2
- FRAME Delays program until next frame flyback
- GCHAR.x.y, < integer variable address > Returns ASCII value of character at x.y,
- GOSUB [, < integer > ], < line no > As for Amsdos except may be any bank, and line number may be a variable
- GOTO [, < integer > ], < line no > As for GOSUB
- GPAPER, < integer > Changes graphics background colour
- GPEN, < integer > Changes graphics foreground colour
- ID Display status of extra memory allocation
- LIST[ < list of integers > ] Lists programs in all or selected banks
- LOAD, < string variable address > Loads a program into the bank(s) it was saved from
- MASK, < value > Sets mask for graphics
- MON Calls monitor/assembler/disassembler (available under BOS or just Amsdos)
- NEW[ < list of integers > ] As for Amsdos except you can select banks
- PEEK, < integer >, < addr >, <. str var addr > As for Amsdos but you choose bank to Peek
- POKE, < integer >, < addr >, < value > As for Amsdos but you choose bank to Poke
- RAMCLOSE Closes the relative data file if open
- RAMFIELD, < list of integers > Sets field lengths for each record in the relative data file
- RAMOPEN, < integer > Opens relative data file and sets record length to be used
- RAMREAD, < integer >, < list of var addr > Reads into selected variables the record given by the integer
- RAMWRITE As for Ramread but writes to the record
- RECORDS Returns in system variable REC the number of records available in the data file
- SAVE, < str var addr > [, < list of int > Saves programs in all or selected banks
- SCREEN.IN, < integer > Loads a 16K screen from video Ram
- SCREEN.OUT, < integer > Saves screen to video Ram
- SCREENS Returns in SCR the number of screens thatcan be held in video Ram SLOW Reverse the effect of Fast
- SPOOL.ON Allocates 32K of Ram to a printer spooler
- SPOOL.OFF Frees 32K of Ram if spooler allocated
- UNMASK Turns off graphics mask
- VIDEO.ON Formats extra memory to hold 16K screens
- VIDEO.OFF Reformats memory as when BOS entered
You have to remove the Z80 and Amstrad ROM chips from their slots, insert them in the expansion board and then connect it. This calls for some care -put the cat out and shut the door before starting - but no great skill. I was doubtful at first of carrying out this sort of surgery on my own machine but it was really very simple.
Without doubt this memory expansion is good value if you already have a 464 and you find you need full-sized CP/M. Even if you do not own an Amstrad it's worth thinking about. A 464 has a built-in cassette and runs all the 464 software. With the cheapest Vortex expansion you would be paying the same as for a comparable 6128 system and yet have a full sized CP/M 2.2 and 32K printer spooler.
The product is being distributed by Screen who will be demonstrating this expansion and a similar board for the 6128 at the Amstrad Computer Show at London's Novotel on January 11/12. The German development team will be represented to answer questions about it and the exciting MSDOS board expansion for the Amstrad 464 still under development. Watch this space.
John Mawhood, PopularComputingWeekly860109
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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.