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The Cambridge Z88 Computer is an A4 size notebook computer based around the popular Z80 processor, with built in Pipedream word processor, spreadsheet, database, BASIC, assembler, calculator, clock, alarm, calendar, printer editor and VT52 Terminal.
The Z88 is the most portable full-function computer ever devised, with a full sized silent keyboard, integrated display (8 lines x 80 characters) and yet being able to run for approximately 20 hours on 4xAA Alkaline batteries. All this and the machine is still less than an inch thick, measures 11½ in x 8¼ in (A4 paper size) and weighs under 2 lb. It's silent keyboard makes it ideal for working discreetly in libraries and archive sections, for example when researching family trees.
The computer runs on mains or 4xAA batteries (give approx 20 hours active life or approx 1 year on standby). A built in capacitor preserves data when the batteries need to be changed.
The word processor and spreadsheet are both extremely user-friendly, with all commands listed in the menu and a page map to indicate whereabouts on the current page you are working. Files are stored in a very memory compact format, with 3x 1Mb RAM cards sufficient to hold the entire works of Shakespeare.
The Z88 can export, import and manipulate data from IBM- compatible PCs; converting its own applications software into Wordstar or Lotus 1-2-3 files. It is also possible to link this popular notebook to PC, Apple Mac, Sinclair QL, BBC Micro, Commodore Amiga and Archimedes Computers, to allow easy transfer and storage of files.
Extra memory comes in solid-state, interchangeable packs- only 2 1/5 in square x 3/8 in deep. No fragile disks, no bulky disk drives. However, it is possible to link a disk drive to the Cambridge Z88, using a system such as RangerDisk 2, which allows the Z88 to write to and read from PC formatted 3.5" DD or HD disks, ensuring easy and trouble free transfer of files between the two systems. The Ranger Disk 2 was manufactured some years ago, and we are able to update the firmware (to v1.10) and Z88 DiskFiler software (to v5.01) for a charge of £10. You will need to return your RangerDisk drive and DiskFiler EPROM.
The Z88 has three slots to hold RAM or EPROM expansion. 32K of RAM is built in as standard and is expandable to 3 megabytes. This RAM depends on being battery backed up from the computer and will therefore lose its contents if the Z88's batteries fail, however, the on-screen display keeps you informed of the current battery strength and there is also permanent storage available in the form of EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) packs, available in 32K,128K, 256K or you can use 1Mb Flash EPROMs. However, only slot 3 can be used to record data onto EPROM (the Flash EPROM can be used in any slot as it is treated the same as RAM).
A Flash EPROM is recommended for serious users, as it can be formatted or files deleted from the flash EPROM using the Z88. In contrast, files stored on a standard EPROM cartridge are left on the EPROM each time that you update them, the old version of the file simply being marked as out of date. This can cause an EPROM to become full rather quickly, and the only method of making more storage is to use a separate EPROM Eraser which wipes the entire contents of an EPROM at a time.
Another popular method of permanent storage for the Z88 is simply to use one of the computer link kits, which enable you to copy files across to a disk drive on another computer and retrieve them at a later date.
The OZ operating system is built into ROM and allows task-switching between applications without loading or exiting programs. This also allows several documents to be held in a suspended state, ready for immediate access at the point where you last left them. The BASIC built into the machine is an implementation of BBC BASIC (with only the following functions missing: CLG, COLOUR, DRAW, GCOL, MODE, MOVE, PLOT, POINT, ENVELOPE, SOUND and ADVAL). This is a fairly powerful, yet easy to understand programming language with a lot of support available on the internet.
We can supply a range of hardware and software for the Z88, including used Z88s and even a CD-Rom packed full of software and emulators for the Z88. Please feel free to browse our dedicated Cambridge Z88 pages and ask us any questions before ordering.
Testing and Shipping
All items are listed exclusive of post and packing and are all fully tested before shipping. We ensure that they are well protected against the rigours of parcel delivery and send them by Royal Mail First Class post, Parcelforce 48 hour delivery (in the UK) or Parcel2Go (whichever is the cheaper option).
Although we attempt to keep our lists as current as possible, please check on availability of any item prior to ordering. We also offer a 14 day money back warranty on all goods (excluding shipping charges), provided that they are returned in the same condition and packaging.
In combination with WN Richardson & Co and Rakewell Limited, we are pleased to be able to supply a wide range of items to support the Z88 and its users (thanks to Rakewell for their photos on this website). All products come with a 60 day warranty, however, in the event of a replacement being agreed, but the item being out of stock at the time, a refund (excluding postage charges) will be made provided the item is received in good condition.
We are also offer replacement keyboard membranes for the Cambridge Z88.
One of the main problems which Z88 users face is finding a compatible printer. When the Cambridge Z88 was originally launched, the best printers available were daisywheel or dot matrix printers. However in today's world of colour inkjet and laser printers, the Z88 has struggled to keep up with technology. As more and more printer manufacturers strive to reduce costs by removing components, they presume that computer users have a Windows or MAC based operating system which will translate all text into the graphics code for them. As a result many printers no longer support a parallel or serial port (which is required by the Z88) and do not allow text to be sent to the printer direct.
If you want to use a parallel printer with the Z88, you will need a serial to parallel converter - we can supply the required leads - see below for details.
About the best supported printers are those manufactured by HP and Epson, although you have to be extremely careful about which model you have - a full Epson ESC/P2 or HP PCL-4 control set are required for the Cambridge Computer's Z88 to fully support the printer. About the best inkjet which can be obtained fairly reasonably and is fully compatible with the Z88 for both text and graphics, has to be the Epson 850 or Epson 900 printers.
We can sometimes provide compatible printers second hand.
Although there are currently no manufacturers of major add on hardware (other than the 1M Flash EPROM Cartridge detailed above), a wide range of second hand items are always available on our second hand pages.
Replacement parts and repairs/spares can still be obtained through one of our partners, although it is often cheaper to purchase a new or used replacement Z88.