Sinclair Computers: Gone But Not Forgotten

Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,508   +2,740
The ZX Spectrum is a British computing icon and launched a thousand developers, many of them superstar powerhouses today. Shout out to the Zilog Z80 processor as well, that thing was everywhere and still hangs around a bit today. Even the Soviets ate it up.
 

R00sT3R

Posts: 619   +1,808
I'd really like one of those Spectrum Next's but getting in on the Kickstarter is practically impossible, even worse than trying to buy a 3080!!
 

Irata

Posts: 2,053   +3,516
'the restrictive monochrome 64 x 48 pixel resolution was also commonly berated.
No amount of clever programming can get around these limitations; only better, more capable hardware can do this".

Are you sure about this ? I dinstinctly remember seeing programs that produced higher resolution games through software wizardry, although I was *very* young back then, so I may not remember correctly.

Edit: seems I did remember it correctly: https://www.sinclairzxworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=289


 

Irata

Posts: 2,053   +3,516
Another thing I remember about Sinclair was teenagers learning how to code on it, writing a game and selling anywhere from hundreds to thousand via ads in computer magazines from their bedroom. Bonus points if they were not from the UK but managed to sell there.

Note: Never had a Sinclair but always wanted one.
 

fadingfool

Posts: 257   +322
The 8 bit revolution was pretty amazing to live through. So many different machines to pick from with no direct compatibility (even if the CPU was the same) and different ports could result in completely unplayable versions of the same game (makes the console port issues today seem churlish in comparison).
My personal experiences involved machines such as the Texas Ti 99/4, Acorn Electron, Amstrad CPC 464 and later the 6128, Commodore 64 (not until long after it was released), Sharp MZ700 (lovely looking machine) and then more business orientated machines; Amstrad's 8256, Tatung Einstein and then my first PC (Amstrad's 1640 - 8086 with EGA graphics).
Didn't have a spectrum 48 though many of my friends did. Of course though that time also heralded the beginnings of school yard video game piracy (all you needed was a tape to tape recorder) - that obviously killed the gaming industry which is still suffering from lack of investment to this day /sarc.

 

Waikano

Posts: 16   +15
ZX81 (Timex Sinclair brand) was my first PC...I was 9 or 10 at the time, it was a way to learn some BASIC.....didn't have the Memory Expansion....it was just a few short years later though I got my Amiga 1000....but it's on the ZX81 where my IT life began.
 
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neeyik

Posts: 1,881   +2,207
Staff member
'the restrictive monochrome 64 x 48 pixel resolution was also commonly berated.
No amount of clever programming can get around these limitations; only better, more capable hardware can do this".

Are you sure about this ? I dinstinctly remember seeing programs that produced higher resolution games through software wizardry, although I was *very* young back then, so I may not remember correctly.

Edit: seems I did remember it correctly: https://www.sinclairzxworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=289
You're quite right - I'd completely forgotten about the trick where you could tell the ULA to read the first pixel line of an 8x8 character from the ROM, and then shift the point to another first line of another character. This gave you a best resolution of 256 x 192; the first being the limit of the number of characters themselves and the second being the number of vertical lines in the hires buffer. It was a bit of hack, though with some clever choices of pointer locations it could look pretty good. I think I tried to learn how to do it back then, but don't recall getting very far with it (I switched to Spectrum as soon as I could).

Thanks for the feedback and I'll adjust the text accordingly.
 

Mugsy

Posts: 752   +183
The ZX81 was color (16 colors) with just 1K of ram. When Timex took over, they boosted the ram to 2K but ditched the ability to do color.

A bizarre tradeoff. You can always add ram. You couldn't add color.
 

McMurdeR

Posts: 491   +625
We had one of these for 8 years. I went from that to a Sega Mega drive (Genesis)! Quite the leap.

Games were cheap and abundant on the Speccy. There was some highly original stuff. It's frankly staggering what developers achieved on the platform - some of them teenagers working from their bedrooms. And there was a thriving community through publications like Crash magazine. I genuinely believe the 8 bit and early 16 bit home computers laid the foundation for the PC gaming community as it is today.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,526   +6,361
Yes, the 68008 was an easy processor to work with. I developed a 512K ram expansion for the QL, unfortunately, it was taken off the market before I was able to sell many expansion boards.

EDIT: IIRC, most of these Sinclair computers had an RF Modulator built-in so all one had to do was hook them up to a TV and you had an instant monitor.
 

OortCloud

Posts: 734   +671
I still have my ZX81 (with ram pack) and Spectrum - I am that old!
They were much loved (and still are) although my dad had a BBC Micro with twin floppy disks which he stopped using and I inherited and I loved that even more!
 

trgz

Posts: 385   +146
Still got a 48k Speccy, though not my original (which I cooked). Sadly I got rid of a nice 'hard key' keyboard and steel-shafted joystick, but I still have a handful of games (inc Elite, in its box, IIRC). I remember testing my Z80 programming skills, that I'd learnt at Tech College, by hacking the protection on Jet Set Willy etc., but spent most of the time gaming or messing in Basic.
 

dad0ts

Posts: 37   +18
It was not all over in 1990: in late 80s- early 90s ZX spectrum unofficial clones started to be very popular here in the former SU - Russia, later other post SU republics and eastern Europe. Some used them until the end of 90s and maybe even later. Simplified versions were built by enthusiasts, they were cheap and could be assembled mostly from available local parts(except the Z80A cpu which was imported, ULA was assembled using several smaller chips), unlike PCs or Amiga or cpc. I owned such custom built zx compatible of 48K spectrum (called "Leningrad"), in 1990-1992, was very basic: had no peripherals except cassette tape recorder, TV, joysticks.
 
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Axle Grease

Posts: 248   +192
My high school operated a two tier system. During the 80s I was in the computer club, but no computer club member had access to the real expensive PCs which was an Apple IIe and some BBC2s. They were reserved for teachers and prefects and located in another building. However, the computer club had a ZX81 with a 16K RAM pack and a cassette tape recorder to store programs. It was used a lot, unlike the TRS80 (superboard) in the same room . Sinclair Basic was quite nice to use for noobs. I still have my ZX Sinclair Spectrum 48K and the ZX printer with a roll of aluminum paper which just happens to be exactly the same width as a roll of toilet paper.
 
The ZX81 was color (16 colors) with just 1K of ram. When Timex took over, they boosted the ram to 2K but ditched the ability to do color.

A bizarre tradeoff. You can always add ram. You couldn't add color.

That is incorrect. I can assure you that the Sinclair ZX81 was always monochrome, right from the outset. It's true that the Timex version had 2K as opposed to 1K for the Sinclair, but colour was never an option. I had one as my first home computer, after having a simple Binatone games console and an Atari VCS. The ZX Spectrum was the first colour computer from Sinclair.