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Classic Word Processor for PCs and PCWs.

The LocoScript story really starts when it was bundled with the sensational Amstrad PCW 8256 "Personal Computer Wordprocessor" in 1985 which placed serious computing power into the hands of home and small business users for the first time ever. Costing 399+VAT complete with monitor, disc drive, keyboard and dot matrix printer, it swept aside the years of dominance of IBM and its expensive and complex solutions. But what made it such a massive success, apart from the design and price, was LocoScript, a great word processor with easy-to-understand drop-down menus which was ideal for knocking out letters and documents of all kinds. Many, many authors, published and unpublished joined the rush to buy the machine. Features such as the fantastic multiple cut-and-paste board where blocks and phrases could be stored and inserted into the text of any document have not been beaten (or even equalled) even to this day.

The fact that 8-bit technology was outdated even in the mid 1980s didn't bother users. Same with the CP/M operating system which enabled them to run many other programs including accounts, spreadsheets, databases et al. The little 3" disc drive was rather slow, however, especially on longish documents but reliable. Well, up to a point. Dave "The Disc Doctor" Smith made a small fortune for charity with his data recovery service and he has written a very interesting book on the subject>>> http://www.diskdoctor.co.uk

All went well and Amstrad soon launched the PCW 8512 with the same green screen but double the memory (512KB) and a second larger capacity 3" disc drive. Then in 1987 the PCW 9512 really connected with corporate companies with its white screen and letter-quality daisy wheel printer and upgraded LocoScript 2 software which now included a spell checker (LocoSpell) and a very clever programmable mail-merge system (LocoMail). Loco 2, Spell and Mail all become optional add-ons for the 8000 machines and sold like the proverbial hot cakes. There are pictures on Howard Fisher's locomotive.com web site of the Locomotive office swamped with mail bags containing orders coming in and going out. This meant that Locomotive were now a commercial software house selling direct to dealers and end users rather than just the Amstrad back room development team.

By the late 80s, IBM compatible PCs were at last coming down in price, not least due to Amstrad bringing out the PC152 and 1640 models. So the next logical step was to program an MSDOS version of LocoScript. This sold mostly (as ever since) to emigrating PCW owners (in fact I don't think we've ever come across any LSPro user who didn't start off on an Amstrad). The LocoLink package which connected any PCW to a PC to allow the transfer of documents also became popular. LocoLink For Windows was a later development of this. LocoScript PC, equivalent to Loco 2 on a PCW,  morphed into other versions including PC Easy, Script Professional 2 and 2/Plus which remains the current one with LocoSpell, Mail and File built in of course.

 Yet although the computer market was shifting inevitably towards Windows PCs, the development of the PCW program continued right into the 90s as many owners decided to stick with their trusty Amstrads. LocoScript 3 added "LX" fonts scalable from 8 to 72pt. The quality was so good that a humble 8-bit PCW could produce output to equal that of much more powerful (and expensive) PCs. There was of course a whole 3rd party industry which was created in the wake of the PCW, glossy magazines such as 8000 (later PCW) Plus, interfaces (to attach external 24-pin, inkjet and laser printers),  3"  disc drives, hard drives, scanners and other hardware plus every sort of software anyone could think of or possibly want.  Nor did Amstrad stand still, new models such as the PcW 9256, 9512 Plus and 10 followed on from the early machines. These later versions all came with 3" drives as the day of the non-standard 3" finally faded.

By the mid 1990s, Locomotive had become somewhat obsessed with building the UK's first internet provision software for Demon. This is probably the reason that they lacked the resources to develop a Windows version of LocoScript (see our other information pages for more details). Anyhow, they had moved into a rather luxurious new business suite in Dorking and with the recession biting they encountered cash-flow problems. The upshot was that Locomotive was sold to Demon and LocoScript Software was born as a a new, leaner, company in the care of Howard Fisher. Howard decided that the PCW was still the strongest market to aim at and in 1996 came LocoScript 4 with its colour printing, multiple columns and graphics capability. This package sold really well to the faithful and LocoScript launched a mail order catalogue containing everything a PCW owner could desire. They also started supplying a range of Windows and Starter PCs, the target once again being upgrading PCW users. This is where the problems really began. PC sales is a hard business with lots of competition from box shifters. PCW people expected (and got) much better service from LocoScript but the fact the PC hardware is not as reliable as the PCW meant that warranties had to be purchased from a 3rd party company who promptly went bust. The PC manufacturer who supplied LocoScript also went down. To honour the warranties, they had to be bought again at extra cost as did any parts which would have come from the supplier. The slow summer of 1999 when even the loyal PCW owners failed to respond in numbers to the latest mail shot was the end. LocoScript Software was no longer viable in its present form, having to pay rent, wages and all the bills from dwindling revenue. This is the point at which SD Microsystems bought their assets and continued with the product line from a much lower cost base.

Amstrad made one last attempt to revive the PCW range with the 16 which arrived a year late and flopped. Various reasons; PCW Plus had closed down, LocoScript was not included, the built-in software was badly bugged and slow, the hardware was unreliable. In any case, it was probably too late now for a non-Windows computer.

As for LocoScript, technically and economically it was never going to be possible to develop the program as a Windows application. And even if it had been, what chance would it have stood against the all-conquering Word which even saw off the likes of Word Perfect? No, the only strategy was a managed decline. The fact that it runs well under Windows XP and can sometimes be persuaded to work under Vista and 7 is a testament to its original design and the loyalty of its users.

 


 

 


The PCW 8256

 


 

 

 


The PCW 9512

 

 

 

 

 

 


The PCW 16