VOGONS


Amstrad Mega PC

Topic actions

Reply 140 of 156, by Banjo

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
Zalog wrote on 2021-03-18, 10:00:
Banjo wrote on 2021-03-18, 08:07:

Nobody I know has the proper installation media for AMstart (which presumably came on the same disks as Win 3.x when shipped by Amstrad, as I know they did this with Win 2.x that I *do* have floppy images of; see my blog above) but somebody did share their backup floppies here which contains the simple AMstart "addon" that works with Windows 3.11 but (like the above archive of ADT) lacks a proper installer; they're just a backup. I am actually making one this week (a custom floppy image) though for use on a real machine and plan to post it to my blog when done.

Many for info and the links to your Blog that is really helpful source of info. Also really big thankyou for making a custom floppy image for the AMstart - I have been looking for it for a while so will await the upload to your Blog with much anticiplation ! 😀

I wish everyone dumped the BIOS's when they got an old Amstrad, especially the later machines for which so little information exists - I'll be dumping my 9486's when I get chance in the next few weeks, although it's largely a standard AMI 486 ISA/VLB bios with a "Amstrad PC9486" text string inserted into the BIOS - but still worth archiving ! I've been gathering info on the later (6000, 7000, 8000 and 9000 series) machines and have just found a few more details on the uber rare 6486 (a 16MHz 486 in a case very similar to the 3086) - the whole late machine story looks very interesting although I'm still lacking a few things about the "professional" range of amstrads that were made at that time - once I have that info (he says hopefully !!) I'll have to find somewhere suitable to post it all.

I'll do the custom installers sooner rather than later, in that case! I procrastinate far too much, so please remind me if I forget and it takes too long! 😀

At the very least, I will do a "patch" floppy that you can use on top of a regular Win 3.x install that will also install and setup AMStart. In case the PC7xxxx Windows disks never show up, I am also currently looking at recreating the full installer from the PC4386SX but for the Series 7 AMSTART and STARTCFG programs instead of the custom GUI stuff included with Series 4. I already have done one for ADT but need to test it before I post it! I can only test it virtually (PCEm and DOSBox) thought right now.

Totally agree about old Amstrads needing to be preserved! At the risk of sounding like a whiner, too many collectors seem to not want others to have access to what they have to increase its value. I believe in sharing to the point that I'd send everyone a free copy of the old PCs I have if that were somehow possible! BIOS dumps and software are the next best thing, I guess.

I would be very VERY interested in ANY info you gather on Amstrads, especially later models. When buying the PC7486 I tried to do research and could find practically NOTHING on it, nor any model past Series 5 and the Mega-PC. In fact, I wasn't sure there even WERE Amstrad PCs made after the Mega-PC! Here in Australia, the early models were in every store as "state of the art". After the Series 5 ones, they pretty much vanished from shelves. I only knew about the Mega-PC as a kid (I *so* wanted one!) from UK computer magazines of the era.

I actually noticed some of the software demands a PC9xxx to run, so maybe you can test it on your new machine (I'm jealous! hopefully the bios dump will mean it migth be emulate-able someday too).

PS OMG! That Amstrad Windows branding is AWESOME! Instant download! Would you mind if I reposted it to my blog at some point (with whatever credit you'd like, of course!). Where did you get it from, can I ask? Was it installed on the system's HDD already (and in which case... would a HDD image be remotely possible - even privately - if there are any other differences from the regular Win95 version?)

Reply 141 of 156, by Banjo

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Two further quick questions directly related to the Mega-PC:

1) I was looking at the manuals scanned and posted here and noticed they show Counterpoint accessed via the ADT frontend and that the screenshot has an ADT "overlay" (for want of a better word) across the top of the screen. The version of ADT I downloaded and used doesn't have this overlay when you access it from ADT; it is just like the normal version of Counterpoint I had on my PC5286 (with no ADT). Is this because the CP version in the ADT download is maybe not the original one or does anyone know if the screenshot is just wrong and there was never a "back to desktop" type overlay?

2) Out of curiosity, how do those of you with a Mega-PC transfer files to it since there's no space for a CDROM drive? One floppy at a time? Some sort of serial link?

Reply 142 of 156, by keropi

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++
Banjo wrote on 2021-03-20, 12:52:

Two further quick questions directly related to the Mega-PC:

1) I was looking at the manuals scanned and posted here and noticed they show Counterpoint accessed via the ADT frontend and that the screenshot has an ADT "overlay" (for want of a better word) across the top of the screen. The version of ADT I downloaded and used doesn't have this overlay when you access it from ADT; it is just like the normal version of Counterpoint I had on my PC5286 (with no ADT). Is this because the CP version in the ADT download is maybe not the original one or does anyone know if the screenshot is just wrong and there was never a "back to desktop" type overlay?

2) Out of curiosity, how do those of you with a Mega-PC transfer files to it since there's no space for a CDROM drive? One floppy at a time? Some sort of serial link?

1. I have no idea about the overlay - the thing was like that in one of my megapcs - I have not altered any files or omitted anything... can you post a pic of this difference you mention? I can check on the system the files were pulled from, just to be 100% sure

2. best way by far is using a network card and the mTCP package , on my retropcs I run the mTCP FTPServer , I connect there from my modern system with a FTP client and I start moving files around

🎵 PCMIDI mpu site buy+info
🎧 WIP Orpheus soundcard site
💻 WTB Amstrad PC7486SLC-33 system

Reply 143 of 156, by Banjo

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
keropi wrote on 2021-03-20, 13:35:
Banjo wrote on 2021-03-20, 12:52:

Two further quick questions directly related to the Mega-PC:

1) I was looking at the manuals scanned and posted here and noticed they show Counterpoint accessed via the ADT frontend and that the screenshot has an ADT "overlay" (for want of a better word) across the top of the screen. The version of ADT I downloaded and used doesn't have this overlay when you access it from ADT; it is just like the normal version of Counterpoint I had on my PC5286 (with no ADT). Is this because the CP version in the ADT download is maybe not the original one or does anyone know if the screenshot is just wrong and there was never a "back to desktop" type overlay?

2) Out of curiosity, how do those of you with a Mega-PC transfer files to it since there's no space for a CDROM drive? One floppy at a time? Some sort of serial link?

1. I have no idea about the overlay - the thing was like that in one of my megapcs - I have not altered any files or omitted anything... can you post a pic of this difference you mention? I can check on the system the files were pulled from, just to be 100% sure

2. best way by far is using a network card and the mTCP package , on my retropcs I run the mTCP FTPServer , I connect there from my modern system with a FTP client and I start moving files around

1) Thanks!

Check out page 13 of the Software Installation Guide PDF kindly scanned and posted in this thread. I was shocked by it!

The screenshot shows a strange "menu bar" across the top of the Counterpoint screen that resembles the ADT interface! The "Back To DOS" button apears to be just below this bar on the far right, rather than the usual Counterpoint icon. The clock and Amstrad logo is also on the upper ADT toolbar rather than the bottom of the screen as it is in normal/real Counterpoint.

I've used Counterpoint since I was a kid and have never seen this version before, just the regular one as included in that linked "mega pc" software bundle. My theory is that this was a prototype version or even just a "bullshot" fake screenshot, but I can't help but wonder. 😀

2) Thanks for a great tip! I will have to start looking for network cards that might work!

On a related note... would an external CDROM drive be possible or useful to me given there's no free 5.25" drive bays in the PC7486SLC33 (presumably, it still hasn't arrived yet)? If so, would I be looking at needing to add a ISA SCSI card and then finding an external SCSI CDROM unit?

Reply 144 of 156, by keropi

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

1. OK I see it now - sadly there is no "adt overlay" at all ... most likely this feature never got passed the stage of screenshots in the manual 🤣
2. cards with the RTL8019 chip will work just fine and it's very easy to locate the DOS Packet Driver for them... basically anything with a packet driver will work

There is no free 5.25" slot on either machine - infact the PC7486SLC33 , the mega-pc and the 386sx systems all share the same case with the exception of the megapc that has a different facia with cutouts for the megadrive part... An external SCSI or even a LPT cd-rom will work just fine.
Just keep in mind that the PC7486SLC33 is a 486 only in name - it's real world performance when the L2 cache is installed is similar to a 386DX40. So a CD-ROM is not exactly that essential in such a system IMHO

🎵 PCMIDI mpu site buy+info
🎧 WIP Orpheus soundcard site
💻 WTB Amstrad PC7486SLC-33 system

Reply 145 of 156, by Banjo

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
keropi wrote on 2021-03-20, 15:03:
1. OK I see it now - sadly there is no "adt overlay" at all ... most likely this feature never got passed the stage of screensho […]
Show full quote

1. OK I see it now - sadly there is no "adt overlay" at all ... most likely this feature never got passed the stage of screenshots in the manual 🤣
2. cards with the RTL8019 chip will work just fine and it's very easy to locate the DOS Packet Driver for them... basically anything with a packet driver will work

There is no free 5.25" slot on either machine - infact the PC7486SLC33 , the mega-pc and the 386sx systems all share the same case with the exception of the megapc that has a different facia with cutouts for the megadrive part... An external SCSI or even a LPT cd-rom will work just fine.
Just keep in mind that the PC7486SLC33 is a 486 only in name - it's real world performance when the L2 cache is installed is similar to a 386DX40. So a CD-ROM is not exactly that essential in such a system IMHO

I assumed the ADT toolbar thing was a scrapped idea, but was kind of hoping it was a different CP version somewhere. 😀

I only realised after buying the PC7486 that it was in fact basically a Mega-PC without the Mega part! I was confused why it had no sound card in an era where I'd have expected at least an AdLib for such a machine, until John Elliot pointed out that the sound came from the Megadrive card and it all "clicked" what I'd bought. In some ways, I was disappointed because as you say, it's a freaky non-486 really, but I adore the Amstrad form factor and I had always vowed to buy a new PC5286 or PC5386 if I ever saw one on ebay in even half-decent condition (since the PC5286 was my beloved childhood PC that has since given up the ghost) and this was actually better than the PC5386. I still want to refurb my old 486DX66 someday if it will still run, but owning an Amstrad again will be pretty cool. I've already ordered a co-processor (I know...) and a sound card for it, but otherwise want to try and keep it fairly "stock" (hence the external CDROM idea).

Reply 146 of 156, by keropi

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

well at least with this system you have 2x ISA slots free: 1 for sound and another for a NIC perhaps? it would be quite usable then
also for a speed boost check out these jumper settings here: Re: Amstrad Mega PC - I have it like that and never had an issue from the extra speed 😁

🎵 PCMIDI mpu site buy+info
🎧 WIP Orpheus soundcard site
💻 WTB Amstrad PC7486SLC-33 system

Reply 147 of 156, by Zalog

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
Banjo wrote on 2021-03-20, 12:52:

Two further quick questions directly related to the Mega-PC:

2) Out of curiosity, how do those of you with a Mega-PC transfer files to it since there's no space for a CDROM drive? One floppy at a time? Some sort of serial link?

Like Keropi I tend to use a network adapter - although I do regularly use a Backpack parallel port CD-ROM drive, not the fastest thing in the world - but is certainly useful to do the odd data transfer and run games.
Since you have an extra expansion slot in the 7486, you might want to install an ISA SCSI card instead if you don't want to connect to a network - that would allow you to have a larger hard drive using like the SCSI2SD I have running in my 9486 now, and then you could use the external SCSI port to add an external SCSI CDROM.

If you want a little extra speed, do max out your ram to 16MB as that is very helpful for some games - and also check you have 64KB of cache on the board, as some versions only came with 16KB.

On the sound card front - I've seen an Amstrad Adlib card like this one (Amstrad Adlib Clone: Restoration and Testing) in a 7000 series before - a bit limited as its adlib only - but there are cloned PCB's out there to allow you to build a replica. Beyond that I know that Amstrad used a multiwave card (FCC ID: KLZ1109) which is an ESS based sound card. They also offered the Creative Soundblaster 16 as an option (for the 9000 series at £90 ex. vat !) although there a better solutions like Keropi's Orpheus card which I'd recommend if you can get one (can't wait for the one I ordered for the 9486 to arrive !!!).

My 9486 has had a very hard life as a invoice machine at a garage - as well as being horribly yellowed (which no retrobrite can remove) - the machine only has billing software and win95 on - it had had everything else removed as there was very little disk space - I'm afraid that is the only customisation that survived is the control panel 🙁. Win95 was an option on the 9486, 9486i, 9555i and Integra (an all in one 9000 series machine), so I live in hope of someone posting a disk image of the Amstrad restore disk. Absolutely no problems with you popping a copy of the Win95 control panel branding on your blog - if you can reference to Zalog on vogons, that will be fine 😀

Reply 148 of 156, by smsdave

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

A few things to share in my adventures with my MegaPC...

The XT-CF ISA card I mentioned previously now works beautifully allowing me easy access to add/remove CF cards through the port at the rear. It was a little fussy with the first card I used and didn't like my usual 32Gb one but a 2GB card worked fine. I've not been able to boot off it yet which I'd expect to be able to but the card shows up as a D drive alongside the existing IDE C drive without me having to do anything to configure it in the BIOS settings. The ISA CF adapter forms a pretty handy removable media for copying large numbers of files to and from the MegaPC using my Mac which can happily read the FAT16 format CF card. I have removed/re-attached CF cards a few times while the machine's powered on without any obvious problems but that's probably more risky than necessary.

ISACFcard.jpeg
Filename
ISACFcard.jpeg
File size
145.72 KiB
Views
367 views
File comment
removable XT-ISA-CF card
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception

One of the reasons I wanted the ISA-CF card is that it has allowed me to boot from the original 40Mb hard drive and then copy off all the original drive contents from the early 90s in one go (Counterpoint etc exactly as it was left set up). I'd not been able to get the hard drive and my IDE-CF card adapter to play nicely together simultaneously when I'd tried previously, I'm not sure if the machine supports two IDE devices on that single IDE port? I tried plenty of master/slave setups but maybe just didn't find the right permutation.

I've also found a workaround for a previous frustration with not being able to use my modern 8bitdo and retro-bit wireless megadrive joypads as the wireless dongles are too wide to fit into the recessed controller ports on the MegaPC! AmigaKit sell some handy A600 joystick port adapters which work great to bring the port out from the recess so I can attach the dongle. http://amigakit.amiga.store/product_info.php? … roducts_id=1246

wirelessdongle.jpeg
Filename
wirelessdongle.jpeg
File size
196.92 KiB
Views
367 views
File comment
8bitdo wireless dongle on amiga kit adapter
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception

One thing I did think would be sweet would be getting all the DOS games Sega released up and running on the machine and packaged up, they seem to be available on various abandonware sites. I've grabbed a few already and will make an attempt at getting them running at some point.

Reply 149 of 156, by Zalog

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
smsdave wrote on 2021-03-28, 01:38:

One of the reasons I wanted the ISA-CF card is that it has allowed me to boot from the original 40Mb hard drive and then copy off all the original drive contents from the early 90s in one go (Counterpoint etc exactly as it was left set up). I'd not been able to get the hard drive and my IDE-CF card adapter to play nicely together simultaneously when I'd tried previously, I'm not sure if the machine supports two IDE devices on that single IDE port? I tried plenty of master/slave setups but maybe just didn't find the right permutation.

I've also found a workaround for a previous frustration with not being able to use my modern 8bitdo and retro-bit wireless megadrive joypads as the wireless dongles are too wide to fit into the recessed controller ports on the MegaPC! AmigaKit sell some handy A600 joystick port adapters which work great to bring the port out from the recess so I can attach the dongle.

I've currently got two 512MB CF cards running on the IDE port - it does seem very sensitive to the adapter and CF card, and because of the BIOS you can't use a CF bigger than 512MB. After a lot of testing a lot of different adapters I ended up only having success with this adapter:-

DSC_2499.JPG
Filename
DSC_2499.JPG
File size
31.53 KiB
Views
341 views
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception

It's currently running with 2x512MB Kingston cards. The only minor niggle is it requires you to use a 44pin to 40pin (+power) adapter cable, but it does seem to work very well and fits in the HDD bay very nicely 😀

Well done on that workaround for the joypads that is a very neat solution and makes it easier to unplug things - hope someone smart finds a way to install a dongle so it was flush so that you could slide the door shut without dongles/cables getting in the way !

Reply 150 of 156, by keropi

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

there are 2 solutions on fixing the BIOS hdd limit:
- drive overlay like OnTrack Disk Manager
- XT-IDE bios loaded from a NIC or dedicated rom card

I use a 8GB CF with my megapc and Disk Manager, works perfectly but deducts some ~6kb from the conventional memory pool

🎵 PCMIDI mpu site buy+info
🎧 WIP Orpheus soundcard site
💻 WTB Amstrad PC7486SLC-33 system

Reply 151 of 156, by Banjo

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

This is a long shot, but I don't suppose anyone has the drivers (cache utility, etc.) for the PC7486SLC33, do they? I have been kindly sent a backup of some of the originally-included software but the manual references "c:\drivers\disk1" and such and the second-hand machine I have has no such folder, so I'm hoping someone somewhere has a backup if not the original disks. Like I said, I know chances are very slim, but I figured it was worth asking here as this and the Amstrad PC Facebook group are the only two "Amstrad PC" forums I know of!

Reply 152 of 156, by keropi

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++

I recently got the floppy disks included with a MEGA-PC - DOS5, Counterpoint and the WD SVGA driver disks.
Amstrad DOS5/Counterpoint are already available but for the 2nd disk of the SVGA utilities I have not seen an image online.
Maybe there is a download and I am mistaken but at any rate these are the images from the SVGA Utilities disks I got 🤣

XMGSmud.jpg

Attachments

🎵 PCMIDI mpu site buy+info
🎧 WIP Orpheus soundcard site
💻 WTB Amstrad PC7486SLC-33 system

Reply 153 of 156, by Richard Poll

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie

Hi guys, few familiar faces I see 😉 really enjoyed reading through the thread! Good work.

I have lots of plans for my mega PC, first on the list is a thorough strip down and clean. Apparently the previous owner snipped the battery out in time, but we’ll see.

Regards, Richard (AMPC)

Reply 155 of 156, by keropi

User metadata
Rank l33t++
Rank
l33t++
Richard Poll wrote on 2021-06-03, 23:34:

Hi guys, few familiar faces I see 😉 really enjoyed reading through the thread! Good work.

I have lots of plans for my mega PC, first on the list is a thorough strip down and clean. Apparently the previous owner snipped the battery out in time, but we’ll see.

Regards, Richard (AMPC)

welcome aboard Richard!

🎵 PCMIDI mpu site buy+info
🎧 WIP Orpheus soundcard site
💻 WTB Amstrad PC7486SLC-33 system

Reply 156 of 156, by Zalog

User metadata
Rank Newbie
Rank
Newbie
Richard Poll wrote on 2021-06-03, 23:34:

Hi guys, few familiar faces I see 😉 really enjoyed reading through the thread! Good work.

I have lots of plans for my mega PC, first on the list is a thorough strip down and clean. Apparently the previous owner snipped the battery out in time, but we’ll see.

Regards, Richard (AMPC)

Hi & welcome from me too - will be very interested to see your project as it progresses - do post pictures! 👍😀