Amstrad NC100 Laptop

Amstrad NC100

Amstrad NC100

Today I’m looking at one of the micro computers in my small collection, the Amstrad NC100 laptop. It was released back in 1992 arguably after Z80 machines were no longer relevant. However because it was small and inexpensive it sold quite well because PC laptops of the time were quite expensive.

The machine is faster than other Z80 portables of similar vintage running at 6Mhz! It has 64K of battery backed up RAM which can’t really store all that many programs or data. Fortunately the built in software is quite good for basic tasks such as word processing and managing a diary and address book. The built in RAM can be expanded with PCMCIA SRAM cards and I am fortunate enough to have the maximum upgrade in the form of a 1Mb card, now if only I could get a 2325 battery to replace the dead one in it.

Expansion Card

Expansion Card

You can transfer files to and from the machine using XModem transfer over serial. The machine was frequently used by journalists in the field to write documents and be able to submit their reports via modem. It’s also useful for transferring programs to the machine or to PC for backup. There is a serial terminal built into the ROM so it could be used to access BBS services or act as a terminal for a larger machine.

The machine has BBC Basic on it, which was one of the better interpreters of the micro computer era. There are a number of statements that don’t work however, but it’s all fairly well documented which is fortunately available online. A number of people have developed different games and applications for it. The interpreter is of course not as fast as machine code, so if you know Z80 assembler that’s a better way to code for the machine.

It uses standard AA batteries and has quite a generous running time on a fresh set. The display is a simple 80×4 character text LCD with graphics capability, so the screen doesn’t use up tones of juice. It can be a bit hard to read depending on the light, but there is a contrast control to help make it more readable. The keyboard is a bit mushy, but quite usable and certainly better than some of the really cheap keyboards around.

I found the Amstrad NC100 a fascinating machine to use. It’s built in ROM makes creating documents and basic organiser functions quite easy, and the program-ability of BBC Basic makes it quite versatile. It is however quite limited in many aspects such as the display and amount of memory, but for the time it was one of the best portables around. I got mine of Ebay some time ago, and I frequently use it as an easy to store and use serial terminal for my bigger Sun machines. I would like to own a NC200 for the larger screen and floppy, but those appear less frequently at a price I’m willing to pay.

Some pages that would be interesting to owners of the Amstrad NC100/NC200

Tim’s Amstrad User Site

Tear-down on EEVBlog for repair

Finally as it is that time of year, I’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday season, which-ever holiday it is that you celebrate.

2 Responses to “Amstrad NC100 Laptop”

  1. 1 goughlui
    December 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Cool stuff! By the way, when you refer to 2325 battery, is this the CR/BR2325 lithium coin cells?

    Element14 (or Farnell, or Newark depending on where you are) still has those, if you’re interested:

    • December 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Yes indeed BR/CR2325, I’ve just been a bit lazy, although I have been checking for them when I happen by a place that might have them. I didn’t realise Element14 had them, I’ll have to order some to try out the card and see if I can install the C/PM OS that one user created!

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