What's it like today?
The Amstrad Notepad and Notebook computers are laptop computers designed to be easy for the novice computer user to understand and use. They incorporate built in software for tasks such as word processing (based on Protext), keeping a diary, and managing contact information (names, addresses etc). Amstrad's advertisements famously said of these devices, "If you can't use this computer in five minutes, you'll get your money back!".
To achieve this ease of use, the design of the Amstrad Notepad and Notebook computers includes coloured keys for accessing their major functions. Another useful feature for the new computer user is the 'Stop' button that will cancel any action that the user does not want to happen. Although easy to use, the Amstrad NCs should not be underestimated-- they all have advanced features such as spell checking and mail merge in their word processor software, and even allow you to program them using the BBC BASIC programming language.
The NC100 Notepad Computer was the first product in the NC series to be launched by Amstrad in September 1992. Its main software features are accessed using the coloured keys.
The Word Processor includes a 48,000 word spell checker, Mail merge
facilities including merge from Address Book, On screen bold, italic
and underline fonts (no true-type fonts!) , Find & Replace,
Block copy, move & delete. It writes either Protext, raw ASCII or WordStar 3.3 format files. The Diary, Address Book and Clock
include support for World time zones, multiple alarms (NC100 will
switch on automatically at set times), Diary with calendar (can
be set to notify you of an entry as soon as the NC100 is switched
on.), and a searchable address book. It also has a built-in calculator
with memory function. The NC100 is powered by either 4 AA batteries giving up to 20 hours of battery life,
or a 6V mains adapter.
The NC150 Notepad Computer was launched in April 1993. It had the same hardware as the NC100, but it also came with extra built-in software including a spreadsheet with charting and graphing capabilities, and three games (Blockade, Super Blockade and Trikade). Its only hardware differences are that it has 128K of RAM, and includes the possibility of connecting an optional external "Ranger Disk" floppy drive. Unfortunately, it was only marketed in French and Italian versions (at a cost of about £300), so the built-in spellchecker only has these languages and it doesn't support the Wordstar 3.3 format files.
The NC200 Notebook Computer was launched in October 1993 for a price of £349.99 including VAT, and the NC100 was subsequently dropped to £199.99 including VAT.
The hardware from the NC100 and NC150 was redesigned to be more practical, the major addition being a 720K 3.5" floppy disk drive which used the MS-DOS format. It also came with the same expanded software suite of the NC150. The screen was updated to be of swivel-type design with a backlight to assist reading in low light conditions, and was also made twice as tall allowing for up to 16 rows of text to be displayable on-screen. The onboard memory was double that of the NC100, to 128K.
The NC200 is powered by either 5 C-type batteries, claiming a battery life of around 40 hours, or from a supplied 7.5V mains adapter.
Tandy, the high street distributor ceased sales of the NC-series in November 1996 after sales of the devices has curtailed dramatically.