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The Amstrad NC100 was an A4-size, portable Z80-based computer, released by Amstrad in 1992. It featured 64 KB of RAM, the Protext word processor, various organiser-like facilities (diary, address book and time manager), a simple calculator, and a version of BBC BASIC.
Its screen was small, eight rows by 80 columns, and not backlit, but this let the NC100 run for up to 20 hours on four standard AA cell batteries. There was an RS232 serial port, a parallel port for connecting a printer, and a PC card socket, by means of which the computer's memory could be expanded up to 1 MB.
The NC100 was designed to be a portable computer which was simple to use. That was the brief given by Sir Alan Sugar (then chairman of Amstrad) to his design staff. The NC100 project was internally referred to as Alan's "Baby" and Alan Sugar himself tested the machine for usability during the design phase. The specifications for the computer were not considered important - as long as it could serve its purpose.
The simple to use features of the NC100 come from the software which is included on the internal ROM chip. The Word processor and other applications have been written with a computer novice in mind - although experienced users can find and use a large array of more complicated features.
Alan Sugar actually wrote the first chapter of the NC100's user manual in order to show that even he could use it.
The design also included terminal emulation and XMODEM file transfer software which enabled the NC100 to communicate through dial-up analogue modems. UK tech journalist Sue Schofield used one to upload a review of the NC100 directly into the online filing computer of the Independent newspaper in 1993. The review was written on the machine, and transferred from it over a 300 baud modem.
An upgraded version, the NC200, appeared in late 1993, featuring a 3.5" floppy disk drive able to read/write MS-DOS-formatted double density disks, 128 KB RAM, some extra software - most notably a spreadsheet and three Tetris-like games - and a larger, backlit screen. However, this change required much greater power use, using 5 C cell batteries. The disk drive could only be used at near full-charge, which meant that it could only be used a few hours after putting in new batteries. However, the laptop could function for considerably longer than this without using the disk drive. The backlight can be manually toggled off to save power by pressing the Control and Caps Lock keys at the same time.
- Ian R. Sinclair. (2000). Practical electronics handbook. Oxford: Newnes. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-7506-4585-0.
- Sir Alan Sugar. (1992). Amstrad Notepad Computer Manual. Brentwood: Amstrad. p. 1.