Amstrad NC to Linux File Transfer using Cutecom     last updated: March 2020

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What you need:
- a PC with a serial port*
- a null modem cable
- Amstrad NC computer

With Linux being a popular OS for older computers they make good machines for Amstrad NC file transfers, particularly if your Linux PC has a serial port. For this article I'm using an Amstrad NC100 with an old 2006 Dell Precision desktop PC with 2 serial ports. I'm going to be using Com port 1 on the PC (/dev/ttyS0). I have used Lubuntu Linux, based on Ubuntu, but it should be possible to do this with most distros.

Before you start, with the PC turned off, connect your null modem cable to the back of your PC. Most PCs of a certain age have one or two serial ports. If you only have USB you might want to consider a USB to serial converter, there's more details on Tim's Amstrad User Site. 

Once you've connected the null modem cable to your PC, connect the other end to the 9 pin serial port on the back of the Amstrad. 


After you've powered up and logged into Linux the first thing to do is install Cutecom. This is an open source application that hasn't been updated for a while (2009 at time of writing) but fortunately still works fine on my desktop PC in 2020. It can be downloaded from where you'll have to compile it yourself. But fortunately if your flavour of Linux has an app store you might have it there.

I was able to download it from the Lubuntu Software Centre and it does all the hard work for you, just a quick reboot and the icon is on the start menu.

Open CuteCom, you'll be presented with a single window split betweeen a setting section at the top, a text window in the centre and an input section at the bottom. Check the Device drop down is set to your serial port on your PC. If you have one serial port it will normally default to that.

You may be able to get some mileage from various adjustments to the settings in Cutecom, but the combination that works for me are:-
Baud Rate: 9600
Data Bits: 8
Stop Bits: 1
Parity: None
Handshake: Hardware
Open For: Reading and Writing
Apply Settings when opening: Ticked

WhatsApp 1992 style!

On your Amstrad you need to set up your serial settings. To do this hold down Function-S to open the Serial Terminal Program. Now press the Menu key on the keyboard. Arrow key down through the items until you get to Baud Rate. Set the following:-
Baud Rate: 9600
Data/stop bits: 8/1
Parity: None
Handshake: On

Press Stop on the keyboard once you've done that to save the settings on the Amstrad. Back in Cutecom, click on the "Open device" button and providing everything's working it should have established a link. You can now test this - with the Serial Terminal program open on your Amstrad, type on the keyboard "Hello". As you start typing the text should be displayed in the main window in Cutecom (in some configurations you may need to press return on the NC before it displays on the PC). 

Similarly you can type into the Input box in Cutecom, press Return and the text appears on your Amstrad!

Copying documents from the Amstrad to your PC

You can transfer text documents from your Amstrad to Cutecom. The text appears in the main text window of Cutecom where you can copy/paste it to somewhere like AbiWord or LibreOffice.

Keeping all the settings the same in Cutecom (you might want to click 'Clear' before you start to wipe the text window clean), on your Amstrad press Yellow-Red to go to the word processor. Press green to list your documents, and arrow down until you highlight the text file you want to transfer to your PC. Press the menu button, then press T to open the transfer options. Press S to send. It should only take a few seconds to transfer most files, and they will appear in Cutecom something like this:

Copying text files from PC to your Amstrad NC

You can send a text file from your PC to your Amstrad. This is particularly useful for copying Basic programs to your Amstrad. I've created a simple text file using Leafpad and saved it to my Documents folder named LINUX3.TXT.

On your Amstrad open the word processor (Function+Red) then list documents (Green). Press the Menu key and press T for the Transfer function. Press R or choose Receive Document and when prompted to enter a filename, enter LINUX3.TXT and press Return. Your Amstrad should display "Receiving......".  
Back on your PC, in Cutecom click on the "Send file" button. In the Open file search click on your text file you want to send and after a few seconds you should see something like this on your Amstrad screen:

Press Stop. Back on the word processor file listing your file should be there - press enter to open it!

Transferring Basic programs

Basic programs need to be transferred like documents, with a little extra work.
If you are transferring a Basic file to your Amstrad:
In Basic type 
*EXEC <filename>   
to convert the file to a Basic program. Make sure you save the code as a Basic program on your Amstrad SAVE"filename". You can now delete the old document version of the program to save space. 

If you are transferring a Basic program on your Amstrad to your PC:
With program in memory, type:
* SPOOL <filename>
The file can then be loaded into WP as a spooled plain doc. It can be transferred into Cutecom.

Useful links

Tim's Amstrad Site
Huge resource of all things Amstrad NC

Surgical guide to the Amstrad NC

Simulant - the go to place in 2020 for Amstrad NC spares and upgrades

Dial-up Nights BBS - just about the only UK dial-up BBS I can find right now. If you know more please let me know!

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