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back to article Happy 30th Birthday, Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was launched 30 years ago today. At the Churchill Hotel, Clive - now Sir Clive - Sinclair stood before reporters and a barrage of camera flashbulbs to unveil the machine, the successor to the popular ZX81, on 23 April 1982. Comparing the new machine to the BBC Micro Model A - released the previous …

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Excellent piece, folks

Brings back lots of great memories.

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ZX Spectrum Orchestra

Seems as good a place as any to post this:

http://www.warmcircuit.com/artists/zx-spectrum-orchestra/

Some superb music made using Spectrums (Spectrae?)

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Headmaster

Re: ZX Spectrum Orchestra

No, not "spectrae".

The plural of "spectrum" is "spectra". It's a second-declension neuter noun - as if anybody cared.

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Coat

Re: ZX Spectrum Orchestra

I don't care.

Thanks, Spectrum - "Thectrum"

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Happy birthday old pal

You created a monster, i.e. me.

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Re: Happy birthday old pal

And me! First bit of programming I ever did, at a ridiculously young age, and all because the introductory programming manual had a wizard on the front cover, and a kaleidoscope program in the back...

My Speccy, Speccy+ (hard keyboard) and ZX81 are all still going strong, though I did lose my joystick interface. :-(

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Happy

Re: Happy birthday old pal

me too , far too many hours spent sitting over the rubber keyboard typing in listing out of mags, followed by days "de bugging" the listing .:) back in the day

uk101 (anyone else ever build one of these ?)

zx80

zx81

speccy

speccy+

amiga

all still running bar the uk101 (must get round to fixing it so i can show the "boys" at work what a real pc looks like lol

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Happy birthday old pal

Actually my current collention seems to have a slightly bit more sunclair stuff in it.

- Tanburry NewBrain AD

- Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K

- Sinclair QL +disciple disc interface etc...

- Oric Atmos 48K

I also had a lot of Acorn stuff (as previous distributor I had gathered a lot) which I donated to a local RISC OS computer club. All are in fully working condition except the QL's microdrives (of course).

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and there's a Google doodle today in its honour (as well as St George's day)

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Anonymous Coward

They appear to have fixed it

I see a nice authentic bit of attribute clash on the big G and on teh little g just above the dragon's head.

Dickinson's office looks amazing. (And he looks a bit like Kenny Everett.) Got me all nostalgic about getting taken to have a look round my Dad's work when I was about 6. A pity Clive didn't shell out for a nice CAD workstation for him to complement the drawing board and graph paper though.

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Anonymous Coward

re: St George

An appropriate combination, both dragon slayers in their own way.

Happy Birthday from a former Dragon 32 owner.

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Re: They appear to have fixed it

There are attribute clashes all over that image. A nasty bodge to reduce memory use, the BBC may only have had 8 colours, but every pixel was individually addressable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They appear to have fixed it

Shame those fancy individually addressable pixels in 8 colours didn't leave you with enough memory to do anything actually useful with though, eh?

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Facepalm

Re: They appear to have fixed it

Funny you should bring that up. I had a much-loved Speccy at home, but always lusted after the graphics capabilities of the BBC Micro, with high resolution MODE 0 and colourful MODE 2, and played a bit with some of the listings from INPUT magazine during lunch period at school.

But when I finally got my hands on a BBC B around 2002 or so along with the ubiquitous Microvitec CUB monitor to go with it and started hacking around with it properly, I quickly found out that 32KB of RAM minus 20+KB of screen memory equals not much by way of room for BASIC, or anything much for that matter.

Pixel-level colour loses its appeal remarkably quickly when you realize that you have to revert to a 4 or even 2-colour mode (or code up interrupt drive mid-frame mode changes) to have any hope of doing much useful with the display. Annoying as colour clash could be, as a price vs capabilities compromise I think Sinclair made the best choice at the time.

I guess I was spoiled by all those years of having more free memory available for my use than the BBC B had total memory. I'll take colour clash over "Out of Memory" errors every stinkin' time! ;-)

With hindsight I should have looked for a Master 128k on Ebay instead of a B...

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Re: They appear to have fixed it

He probably didn't have a lazy half-million quid lying around, did he? It was the EARLY eighties - CAD still required big, hilariously expensive workstations.

Anyway, whats wrong with pencil-and-paper?

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Pint

I'm one of those that the Speccy introduced to programming. I actually spent more time programming on it than playing games. First the Basic (which was a bit slow but I knew no different) then assembly language. Steven Vicker's ROM disassembly book taught me huge amounts. I well remember the 'ureka!' moment when I suddenly realised why the most significant bit of a mantissa could be used to store the sign flag.

I moved onto the CPC6128 eventually and did even more programming but the Speccy is where I started.

Happy birthday Speccy!

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Unhappy

Some of us who are now in the 'have you tried switching it off and on again' brigade probably started down that path by making some pocket money on the side fixing friend's spectrum keyboard when the contacts underneath the rubber failed, as they did quite often (especially wasz, for obvious reasons). Pop the top off, replace the weird membraney thing with all the switches in. IIRC you could get them for a quid or so, and I used to charge a fiver for the job...

Jon

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I still haven't forgiven Daley Thomson for temporarily killing my 'm' and 'n' keys.

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He was the reason my Speccy went in for a new keyboard membrane at a couple of years old. Caps Shift and Space both failed around the same time! I was a 2-handed runner...

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He claimed at least two joysticks and an Interface 2 (and our expansion port was never the same again).

Eventually, our dad banned us playing old Daley's Decathlon.

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+3 is still in my loft.

My first computer at the age of 7 - I only ever knew the Spectrum during its years of decline but I'm not complaining.

Those Amstrad discs were rubbish though.

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Re: +3 is still in my loft.

The Amstrad 3 inch discs may have been rubbish but back when Amstrad selected them as their standard there was no more guarantee that 3.5 would be more of a success. Also, according to Roland Perry (it may have been Cliff Lawson so I apologise if I am misattributing) they did look at 3.5 for the CPC but the cost of the controllers and drives was way beyond what they could budget.

On the downside the 3 inch discs were expensive, but on the upside they were the most sturdy of all the floppy formats. The original design brief for them was that they should be able to be sent through the Japanese postal system without any protection. That's why they are so tough!

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Re:- The Amstrad 3 inch discs may have been rubbish... etc

Mousier Sugar got them cheap because they were part of the MSX standard (which was going down the pan worldwide at the time). Mind mine still work :-). Obviously a reliable format, (floppy wise).

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Happy

Ahhhh...

...Manic Miner, Jetset Willy, Lunar Jetman, Dailey Thompsons Decathlon, Sabre Wulf, The Hobbit, Valhalla, Urban Upstart, Attic Attac, the list goes on and on and on and....

Oh Happy days.

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Re: Ahhhh...

Time for some nostalgia: http://www2.b3ta.com/heyhey16k/

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Re: Ahhhh...

and ahhhh indeed to the thousands(?) of Daily Thompson's Decathlon players who had a shagged keyboard as a result. :)

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Re: You know,

"For anyone interested, if you get irritated with Mary coming along and punching you if you swear, you can find her in the curiously Spanish-named El Vinos, and kill her. It doesn't help anything, of course, since she comes back a minute or two later, but it still gives a certain thrill to those as nerdy as I."

> Fuck Mary.

> Mary is not amused. (Punch)

Ah, Valhalla, happy days.

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I'm working from home today so I might get the speccy out of the loft and set it up in front of the TV. The girlfriend will love that when she gets home.

It's been a while since I hurled some abuse at R Tape loading error, 0:1

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ZX80 at 16 in 1981

ZX81 3 months later

ZX-Spectrum acquired for 18th birthday (from parents) in 1982.

(Returned inevitable faulty unit and acquired real Spectrum in 83.)

Got degree in Computer Studies, postgrad in Software Tech, worked in IT for decades,

chartered member of BCS etc - RESULT!

Amazingly one of my colleagues at the company I now work for as a direct result of buying the Sinclair machines (and the education they gave me) was the head of East London Robotics who manufactured and sold add on kit for the Spectrum. He sold me a RAM board in 82 but I didn't meet him until 1999 as a result of buying that very board. Nice!

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Never had the ZX81. Went for an Oric 1 16K at that time. Big mistake. Due to a parallel import and modified Oric mainboard (with associated problems) I returned it for a ZX Spectrum 48K. By then I had a mark III motherboard. I've had a few of these and some great peripherals like DKTronics keyboard, wafadrive (don't ask), Seikosha printer. Crazy days with those games like JSW, Tir Na Nog/Dun Darach and Marssport.

Later on I turned to the dark side and gotten a C64 (in anticipation o/t Amiga).

But then the fun was almost gone. The Amiga 500 (the first affordable model) took way too long so I briefly flirted with an 8-bit Atari 130XE. The Amiga 2000 that later I had was a problem ridden machine and ruined my appetite for computing a bit. Then with the purchase of the Atari PC4 (an 80286) things started to become way too serious. The Acorn A5000 was the first machine after my Amiga/PC fiasco (I had a few 500, 600 and 2000/2500) that made me smile again.

Then I regretted not having saved up for the more enjoyable and less troublesome Acorn machines. I briefly got even a Acorn Atom. But those BBC Model B's... they were indestructable... kinda like Daleks.. they just kept going.

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Happy

Happy Birthday Old Friend

In honour of your birthday i am now playing manic miner on my phone.

*I will now spend Monday pondering what could of happened if Sinclair had gone on to create Windows*

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Facepalm

Great piece, but wrong on the attributes.

The byte is one bit for FLASH, one bit for BRIGHT, three bits for PAPER, three bits for INK.

This meant that setting the BRIGHT bit affected both the INK and PAPER in a square, which is why so many games and static screens used a black background, as black isn't noticeably affected by the BRIGHT bit.

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Facepalm

Re: Great piece, but wrong on the attributes... But wait, there's more...

"Amstrad killed off the Spectrum 128 but maintained the Plus..." - Pardon? Huh?

First off Amstrad didn't ditch the single-key-keyword entry; that change came in in the 128K Basic from Sinclair. And Amstrad didn't ditch the 128K - it's that architecture that it redesigned for cheaper production and added the tape recorder. The "+" was just a 48K in a new case, which Amstrad had nothing to do with.

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Gimp

Re: Great piece, but wrong on the attributes... But wait, there's more...

Amstrad didn't just re-architecture it for cheaper production. Sugar was mortified when he saw what the return rates were on faulty Speccies produced up at the Timex factory. The problem was the Speccy had far too many components that could, and did, go wrong.

Amstrad set about creating integrated chips to reduce the component count and reduce cost. This also made the units more reliable.

A 1983 48k Sinclair model - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ZXspectrum_mb.jpg

A 1988 128 +2 Amstrad model - http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/images/plus2a_pcb.jpg

Everything has been shoved onto the chips.

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Boffin

Re: Great piece, but wrong on the attributes... But wait, there's more...

Not exactly - that's a "+2A", not a "+2". If you compare Sinclair's original 'toastrack' "128K" motherboard with Amstrad's first "+2" there's very little in it, and Amstrad shipped a load of those. It was only later that a major redesign took place for the "+3" model with a disc drive, offloading the multi-voltage supplies to the external PSU; the changes were also applied to the tape-drive production model making the "+2A". That's why some +2s have a coaxial power supply and grey case and some have a six-pin power supply and black case (and an extra memory paging mode that no-one ever used).

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Re: Great piece, but wrong on the attributes... But wait, there's more...

True. But if you read Sugars autobiography you'll see how the +2 came about. He set the wheels in motion for manufacture even before he had bought Sinclair as he had to get production started for the Christmas market. The first +2 was thrown together in a few weeks by Amstrad who reverse engineered a Spectrum 128k they got from the high street.

That section of his autobiography makes fascinating reading. Essentially he had pushed the button on the manufacturer of thousands of new redesigned Spectrums before even having secured the purchase of the brand. If it had gone wrong he would have been lumbered with a huge bill and thousands of Spectrums that he had no right to manufacture.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Great piece, but wrong on the attributes... But wait, there's more...

Ah - hadn't actually heard that tale. But why am I not in the least bit surprised?

At least this time no pillock has gone on about 'RAM Pack Wobble'...

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Re: Great piece, but wrong on the attributes... But wait, there's more...

The 128k BASIC lost the keyword shortcuts but 48k mode retained them right through the entire life of the Spectrum, including the +2A/+3.

The Sinclair 128k machines still had the shortcuts printed on the keycaps. The Amstrad Spectrums dispensed with those, aside from LOAD and RUN which were still printed on the L and R keys.

I never missed them on my +3, because I never had any reason to program in 48k BASIC and only used 48k mode for compatibility with older games.

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Ah, happy days.

I cut my programming teeth on a Speccy when I acquired one second-hand in 1984 (I was 13). I used to stay up until the wee small hours writing BASIC programs. I eventually learned enough Z80 assembler to write a very basic windowing system which was used in my only commercial release - a basic database app called "Filemaster" which was sold by BetterBytes in the late 80s. Happy days! I still have the source code on a diskette in the loft (I eventually got one of those Mile-Gordon Technology disk drives - complete with "snapshot" button - after Microdrives failed me for the last time).

Sadly I lent my Spectrum 128K to a friend in 1990 and never saw it again.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah, happy days.

'File Master' is listed as MIA on World of Spectrum:

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekid.cgi?id=0015107

If you still have a working copy perhaps you could consider uploading it to their archive?

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Windows

Re: Ah, happy days.

If you've still got your source code in the loft, it aint readable any more. My 5-floppy DooM set went the same way.

Always wanted a jupiter Ace, because of the FORTH. Had to build FORTH on a CP/M logic analyser over the weekend, for fun, once. Over 48 hours without sleep, the bugger worked!

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Re: Ah, happy days.

Not readable?

Not necessarily true. Plenty of people are happily recovering old cold from floppies. Most of my Amstrad 3 inch discs still work fine despite some being 25 years old and all of my Amiga floppies are fine.

Last time I checked my C64 stuff was OK as well.

Although anyone storing stuff on Sinclair Microdrives will be disappointed to learn that their data was corrupted 0.3 nanoseconds after saving :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah, happy days.

I transferred the data from all my old BBC Micro floppies to my PC about four years ago. Only three out of over a hundred were unrecoverable. So it's worth a try.

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Re: Ah, happy days.

My +3 floppies were still completely intact at least as recently as 2004. Unlike the 3" floppy drive I needed to be able to copy data off them, which required a makeshift drive belt repair as the original belt had disintegrated from age.

They might still be readable for all I know, but they're in a box that's MIA somewhere in my apartment, the +3 itself can't put a display on any TV or monitor I own without modifications and the original 3" floppy is in pieces in a box on the other side of the Atlantic anyway!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ah, happy days.

Are you refering to Campbells Masterfile?

I had a same named database program on my Acorn back then, Masterfile 3. From another programmer though.

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Those were the days...

- Comparing the new machine to the BBC Micro Model A - released the previous December - Sinclair said: "It's obvious at a glance that the design of the Spectrum is more elegant. What may not be so obvious is that it also provides more power."

IIRC, several of Sir Clive's adverts had him dragged across the advertising standards authority coals by Acorn?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Those were the days...

IIRC, several of Sir Clive's adverts had him dragged across the advertising standards authority coals by Acorn?

Dunno about that, but one of Acorns advertisements certainly resulted in a punch-up:

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/113527/Battle-of-the-Boffins--Battle-of-the-Boffins--Battle-of-the-Boffins--Battle-of-the-Boffins-

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