Sinclair PC200 – The Future, Today!

Not long after Amstrad bought out Sinclair Research, ol’ Al Sugar came up with a great idea. He’d build his own IBM compatible PC, stick it into a Speccy-style keyboard case, and put it out for a mere three hundred quid. To do this he’d build it out of obsolete parts. He’s a card, old Alan, innee?

The Sinclair PC200 - A modern marvel!

That big old thing sticking out the back is the hard drive. Yes, really. The PC200 has two ISA slots, and the only way to get a hard drive in there is to, well, stick it in sideways. Still, once it’s there it’s quite a handy bit of kit. (Especially when the internal floppy drive’s failed, like mine has, and you’re too lazy to hook up the external one and find some disks.)

Is that an ISA based hard drive interface or are you just pleased to see me?

Now, we all know that a PC isn’t a PC unless it’s got a proper operating system. Well, the Sinclair offering certainly has that – that monstrous hard drive is concealing no less than Microsoft Windows.

Windows 1.0.

Comes on five floppies. No, really. And it still doesn't do anything useful.

Fantastic, eh? It can even multitask! (Sort of.) And it’s got all sorts of wonderful little utilities, like the clock…

LOOK AT THE TIME! I'M LATE! I'M LATE!

Alright, so it’s not really that little. But still, eh? I’m sure there’s a way to shrink it, probably. It just doesn’t involve anything I can think of. Still, the only real alternative to Windows is GEM, and it just doesn’t have quite the same whiz-bang fanciness of Microsoft’s baby. I mean, look at it.

But where are the Holograms, eh?

On the other hand, the clock doesn’t take up the whole screen.

I really need a better camera.

Okay, the GUIs suck. But there’s still good old DOS to play with, and that’s all you need to get the really important software going – games. After all, we’ve got a nice little colour monitor here, haven’t we? Be silly to waste all those lovely colours on a spreadsheet or something. Here’s Batman – The Movie. (No, really.)

And you thought black on cyan was bad...

Such an interesting colour scheme. Y’see, part of Alan’s wheeze was to fit a CGA display interface to his new Sinclair machine. Good one, Mr Sugar! Nobody’d ever want more than four colours, would they? This EGA thing that was introduced in 1984, four years before the PC200 was released? Just a fad, I’m sure. Give it a year or two and everybody’ll see it your way, just like they did with the three inch disk.

Swingalongabats!

Anyway. It’s the gameplay that matters, and these ancient PC releases do have a certain charm. Batman The Movie plays just like the Spectrum version, only with worse graphics. The Amazing Spiderman works in a similar way, what with the webslinging and all…

Does whatever a spider can!

The swinging around bit actually works better here, though, since not only do you have more room to play with, but you can also fire your webs from anywhere. You can properly swing across a room with multiple webs, just like the real Spiderman! You can even walk on the ceiling! (Also, if you put it on a real PC it looks great in VGA.)

It's so much better when Spidey's red and blue, rather than purple.

Surprisingly STUN Runner works quite well.

If you don't like purple, CGA is really not for you.

It’s got proper 3D graphics and everything.

Proper purple 3D graphics.

Of course, it’s only going at about four frames a second, but it’s still impressive in its own way.

So there we are. The Sinclair PC200 in all its glory. If you’re thinking about getting into weightlifting, or need something to keep a squealer at the bottom of the river, I can highly recommend this astonishing piece of hardware. Two thumbs up!

6 Comments

  1. “Ah, Mr Sugar, there you are. Know we bought that ‘Speccy’ thing off that mad inventor chap? Yes, that’s right, the computer that makes the CPC look bad. Well, we’ve come up with a plan:

    “How about, we make a new computer that is far inferior to the Spectrum. Well, yes, I suppose we _could_ just rebrand and relaunch the CPC, but bear with me. This little beauty runs the world’s worst operating system (it’s only going to be us supporting it, so don’t worry about it catching on), has a quarter of the Spectrum’s colour palette and is twice the price of the +3. We slap the Sinclair name on it, make sure Dixons are out of Spectrums, and our warehouse of surplus CPCs we can’t shift will soon be emptied. What do you think?”

    “You’re hired!”

    “Erm, but I already work here. That would make a great TV show, though.”

  2. (later)

    “You wanted to see me, Alan?”

    “Yes, come in. How’s the new Sinclair thingy coming along?”

    “The Sinclair Piece of Crap that is overpriced by at least £200?”

    “About the name…”

    “Oh, that’s just a working title. We’ll think of something a bit snappier in due course. Hey, we could market it with the slogan ‘You have to pay for more crap’.”

    “Erm… anyway, I was wondering if you could, you know, squeeze in a couple of extra expansion ports, to give us further opportunity to squeeze money out of the mugs who might actually buy one.”

    “Well, the back’s full…”

    “Inside?”

    “We made the decision to put it in a Spectrum-style case, to imply that this was some sort of Spectrum replacement, and so it didn’t look like an office computer (even though that’s what it is). Space inside is rather… limited. We might be able to fit them near the back, but the user will need to leave the case off as any expansion will stick out of the top.”

    “Do it. Oh, there’s just one more thing. When this becomes a public failure, somebody is going to need to be seen to take the fall. I’ll be needing for a new apprentice.”

    “I’ll see if the BBC have any jobs, I have this great idea for a TV show…”

  3. Here we are:

    PC200 - Side on

    Sorry about my camera – it’s rubbish, I know. You can just about see how tiny the actual interface socket is, though. There’s a huge amount of empty space behind it for the monstrosities of late eighties technology (like that awesome hard drive attachment).

    And Chris – if that isn’t exactly how it happened I’d be very surprised!

  4. Damn you and your links to stuff about ancient operating systems! I’ve just wasted two hours ogling the GUIs of Apple’s Lisa, the Xerox Alto, and other historic curiosities. Now it’s 2:00am and I’ll be all grumpy tomorrow because I haven’t had enough sleep. Grrr.

    Still, the PC200, eh? It’s crap, but not in any funky or skillo manner whatever. I still want one, though. Just because, well, you know.

  5. Surprised no-ones’ mentioned it, but from the shape of the case alone it looks like it’s pitched to compete with the ST and the Amiga. Aha, a ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Please. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, no stop it. Ha ha ha ha…

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