Introducing the ‘Just CPC 2’ for Amstrad CPC 464

Introduction

I ordered the Just CPC 2 from SellMyRetro some time ago and it turned up relatively quickly considering it was built by hand. It was nicely packaged, and more importantly it was very nicely wrapped with loads of protective bubble wrap, in addition there was a copy of the invoice in Polish and a scart/svideo cable included, so far so good.

What was not included was any sort of manual or explanation of what the board was or it’s intended use. I had to google and ask Piotr Bugaj, the maker of the hardware to confirm some things. I hope this post covers most points to save you guys the hassle.

To the right of the photo above you can see pins 1 & 3 are jumpered, this will power on the Just CPC 2 when 5V is connected. You can pull out this cable and connect up your standard cable coming from the CPC donor (to allow the red LED to work and the on/off switch on the side of the CPC).

But what is the Just CPC 2, and what can you do with it ? What I do know is as follows:

It is a clone of the CPC 464 motherboard that fits in a CPC 464 case (long board) and it’s designed and hand built by Piotr Bugaj (otherwise known as Zaxon). Let’s take a quick look at the board.

Below you can see it sitting on top of the anti-static bag that it shipped in. In addition, I’ve connected my 5V power connector and I’ve also plugged in the scart adapter which was supplied with the unit.

Included on the Just CPC 2 motherboard are a few extra features.

  • -Floppy drive interface
  • -total 576 kb RAM
  • -512 kb flash rom
  • -digiblaster
  • -reset button

The printer port is replaced by a disk drive port to allow you to easily Zaxon’s USB floppy emulator (the red DDI3 in the pic below, at least, I think it’s a DDI3).

What do you need ?

You need an original case from an Amstrad CPC 464 (long board version), 5v power and an external monitor (or LCD), you’ll also need a working keyboard with that case otherwise you can’t type anything.

It would be awesome if this version had a USB keyboard option, I know that there is an ATX version which offers PS/2 keyboard support but it would be great to get USB added to a later revision of Just CPC 2 so you could get this working without even having to have a real CPC.

Base unit modifications required

You’ll also need a drill (or something pointy and hot) to poke some holes in your CPC base in order for the reset button and two additional switches to see the light of day.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like modifying original hardware unless it’s really worth it or unless it’s practically invisible, but this was a design choice that Piotr made and we are stuck with it.  In addition to the holes, you’ll have to remove one plastic support on the base.

Connecting it to a CPC 464

Ok, so now we know a little bit about the board let’s connect it up. I opened up three CPC 464’s and the first keyboard didn’t work, so I tried the next, only some keys worked when plugged into the Just CPC 2.

I located another CPC 464 and this one finally worked, however some keys wouldn’t work at first, for example shift @ to get the | symbol. Maybe I did something wrong, I dunno.

Once powered on you can see that it’s advertising itself as a 6128 basically (Amstrad 128k v.3) and includes BASIC 1.1 and a ROM manager from Spring.

Type |ROMAN to see the ROM manager from Spring.

This allows you to add or remove multiple ROMS using the manager. The M4 board from Duke offers something similar.

Next I plugged in my Dandanator Elite +

and fired up some games, all looked good to me.

The benefit

I guess the benefit of this board is that it gives you the ability to give life back to a dead CPC 464 (assuming you have one with a dead motherboard. It also allows you to add 32 ROMS and use 576k of RAM, to run things like SYMBOS on your CPC 464. It also offers a built in Digiblaster and that’s something very cool indeed.

The cost

The board cost me 150GBP plus shipping, so it was not cheap, it’s very well built, and I think the white motherboard looks lovely especially when you compare it to the usual green motherboards in CPC computers.

I think the motherboard is so cool looking that I’d love to see a see-through CPC showing off this mobo on the inside, maybe someone who is good with plastics can help me with that ?

The scandal

While researching this board I came across the following forums post. Long story short, some people accused Zaxon of salvaging old Amstrad CPC 464’s to pull out the custom Gate Array chips made by Amstrad. There are 5 pages of replies from different folks including Piotr so if you want to take a look go ahead.

Conclusion

Great hardware let down by poor documentation, but hey, that gives people like me something to do 🙂

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