Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary

The ZX Spectrum is 30 years old. Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary is today. Happy birthday Spec. ZX Spectrum, the microcomputer launched in 1982 by Sinclair Research (Cambridge, UK) is seen by many today as the inspiration for a generation of eager young programmers, software and game designers in the UK. It has inspired many people also outside UK, including me. My first computer was Sinclair ZX spectrum. The successor to Sir Clive Sinclair’s ZX81 – at the time the world’s best selling consumer computer – it introduced colour “high resolution” graphics and sound. The design was sleeker than anything else on the market and price was good too. That allowed adverts at the time to boast: “Less than half the price of its nearest competitor- and more powerful”. ZX Spectrum’s chief designers reunited 30 years on article gives some background how this computer was created. Read also Happy 30th Birthday, Sinclair ZX Spectrum – The story of an historic micro.

250px-ZXSpectrum48k

I remember starting my ZX Spectrum computing 1983 by first playing Jetpac game that was cool game at the time (check Jet Pack remake for web browser if you want to try). I remember playing that game so much that quite shortly I broke down the keyboard because of too much playing. After some time I started programming, first with built-in Basic. Later also Assembler (the manual had the assembler commands and their coded listed on the end which was cool) and some other languages. Then I did also some hardware hacking, including installing a better keyboard and adding my own joystick interface to it (my own design compatible with Interface 2 joysticks). It 80′s was fun hacking time.

21 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Happy 30th Birthday, Sinclair ZX Spectrum
    http://www.reghardware.com/2012/04/23/retro_week_sinclair_zx_spectrum_at_30/

    The story of an historic micro

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This is a nostalgic list to look. Most of the games were for Spectrum. And the list includes Jet Pack mentioned in “Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary” post. And I remember well most other games as well..

    Ten… eight-bit classic games
    http://www.reghardware.com/2012/04/25/retro_week_ten_eight_bit_classic_games/

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Basic instinct: how we used to code
    In praise of Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
    http://www.reghardware.com/2012/04/27/retro_week_basic_instinct/

    Reply
  4. tom winn says:

    I may have been here before and if so I appologize for being a pest. I am looking for any information regarding the schematics or OEM specs for microsofts series of sidewinder force feedback joysticks/game controllers. USB not arcade type – even direction to someone other than mocrosoft would be helpfull

    thanx

    Reply
  5. Caithlyn says:

    Whoooa, Happy Anniversary!
    Its been a long time and still you guys are doing great!
    Keep it up,

    Caithlyn
    My blog : cage pour chien 

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Infinite loop: the Sinclair ZX Microdrive story
    The rise and fall of a ‘revolutionary’ storage technology
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/13/feature_the_sinclair_zx_microdrive_story/

    They would, Clive Sinclair claimed on 23 April 1982, revolutionise home computer storage. Significantly cheaper than the established 5.25-inch and emerging 3.5-inch floppy drives of the time

    “This is a very tiny disk drive using two quarter-inch diskettes, with each diskette capable of holding 100KB, and a transfer rate of 16KB per second. You will be able to connect up to eight of these drives to the ZX Spectrum… The price: £50.”

    most attendees left the Spectrum launch assuming from what they’d heard that the Microdrive used some kind of diskette. Instead, it would use a “high speed tape loop”,

    Eventually, Sinclair Research’s development work was done and, in July 1983

    While many reviewers were generally positive about the Microdrive – the speed was the main issue; it wasn’t really quick enough to be a floppy killer – only regular usage would reveal the design’s weak spots.

    Even Sinclair, in the Microdrive manual, had to admit: “Microdrive cartridges will not last forever, and will eventually need to be replaced.”

    While the drives were, at £49.95 a throw, considered cheap, replacement cartridges, which cost £4.95 each, were not. That’s about three times the price of a 5.25-inch floppy disk at the time.

    Each cartridge could hold no more than 50 files, and information had to be read into memory, changed, the original erased and the new version written onto the tape.

    The Microdrive soon had competition. US company Astec introduced what it called the Wafadrive in the summer of 1984

    Of course, what neither system could replace was the audio cassette. For almost all users, Microdrives became a place to store their own programs and data. Few companies were able to offer software on Microdrive cartridge, at least until the Sinclair QL, which also used the Microdrive, began to sell well.

    Indeed, early in 1985 Sinclair chopped the price of cartridges to £1.99 to bring them into line with floppy disk prices.

    Sinclair suspended QL production in 1985 to save money

    the industry would shift to the 3.5-inch format, the chosen mechanism of new, 16-bit home machines like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST, and of business and professional computers, from the Mac to the ever increasing number of IBM PC compatibles.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum REVIVED as Bluetooth keyboard
    Dead flesh keys could come back as controller for reborn Speccy games
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/20/zx_spectrum_revived_as_bluetooth_keyboard/

    Beloved Brit microcomputer the ZX Spectrum has been resurrected, after a fashion.

    Mobile games outfit Elite Systems, which repackages retro games for use on handheld devices, has announced the Bluetooth ZX Spectrum, a Bluetooth Keyboard hiding within a reproduction ZX Spectrum 48K case.

    The idea is that you’d buy Elite’s revived Speccy games for an iOS device, control them with the keyboard and maybe even use Apple TV to take that action to the big screen.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    JSSpeccy: A ZX Spectrum emulator in Javascript
    http://matt.west.co.tt/spectrum/jsspeccy/

    Run JSSpeccy online (includes 10 classic games!)

    Insane! What a fundamentally bad idea. Good work, sir!

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nostalgic For the ZX Spectrum? Soon You Can Play With a New One
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/14/02/23/201247/nostalgic-for-the-zx-spectrum-soon-you-can-play-with-a-new-one

    “There is a very interesting project underway to recreate the ZX Spectrum and more. The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum has been successfully crowdfunded,”

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum Mug and Bag.
    http://www.element14.com/community/community/experts/benheck/blog/2014/10/23/zx-spectrum-mug-and-bag

    I was lucky enough to win a ZX Spectrum 48k Mug and bag as part of Bens recent Spectrum portable build.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Crowdfunded ZX Spectrum revival just days from shipment
    You’d need to connect it to your Deja VDU
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/05/07/indegogo_funded_revival_spectrum_days_from_shipping/

    The remake of the Sinclair Spectrum from Retro Computers is about to ship.

    Despite our suggestion that it was a rubbish idea

    quite a few must have put their money where their mouse is – as the first 1,000 Vegas sold out shortly after our article appeared.

    The first working pre-production prototype Vega is now on display at Game City, the National Video Game museum in Nottingham, where you can see the Vega cycling through screens showing a few of its games.

    One of the major gripes from potential customers, not least in the comments to our article, was the limited number of buttons on the prototype’s keyboard. Retro has added a few more buttons to address this and an expansion port.

    Retro has also been petitioning games rights holders to allow their code to be used on the Vega and will be publishing the full list next Monday.

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum vs ZX Spectrum: Two retro recreations slug it out
    The Sinclair ZX Spectrum has been reborn. Twice
    http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/feature/2427118/zx-spectrum-vs-zx-spectrum-two-retro-recreations-slug-it-out

    FOR MILLIONS of a certain age, the ZX Spectrum is an icon of an era. First released in 1982, the tiny rubber-keyed computer was one of the contenders to be the official BBC Micro Computer, but went on to become far more successful in its own right, selling over five million units and popularising home computing in the UK with its low price point.

    Additionally, it spawned a breed of bedroom coders creating a cottage industry of homemade software, much of it programmed in Sinclair BASIC.

    The original ZX Spectrum that we’re using is (for completist nerds) an Issue 4 that we got at Christmas 1984. By this time the Spectrum was selling by the bucketload and a quick look at the underside shows that this was actually a mass produced version made by Samsung.

    It has a Z80 chip running at 3.5MHz – that’s megahertz not gigahertz – and boasts single channel sound and a dazzling eight colours that clash when they overlap.

    Nevertheless, it sold millions of units, spawned sequels such as the Spectrum +2 and clones like the SAM Coupe and the Timex TS2068, because in those days, we didn’t care that it took five minutes to load a game and there was a one in five chance that it wouldn’t load first time.

    Thirty years later, there are two remakes, in stock and ready to confuse the heck out someone’s kids this Christmas.

    NAME: ZX Spectrum Vega
    MANUFACTURER: Retro Computers
    YEAR OF FIRST RELEASE: 2015
    FUNDED BY: Indie-Go-Go and (apparently) Sir Clive Sinclair himself
    GAME STORAGE: Internal with SD card slot for more
    SCREEN: Your TV’s component cable
    PRICE: £100
    PROS: 1,000 games on board
    CONS: Cables everywhere, no full keyboard

    “The only one endorsed by Sir Clive Sinclair!” burbles the Vega website. This diminutive all-in-one machine comes licensed with 1,000 games. Yes, 1,000. Fully licensed, and raring to go.

    Then there’s the opposition.

    NAME: The Recreated ZX Spectrum
    MANUFACTURER: Elite Systems
    YEAR OF FIRST RELEASE: 2015
    FUNDED BY: Kickstarter
    GAME STORAGE: Your existing computer or tablet
    SCREEN: Your existing computer or tablet
    PRICE: £100
    PROS: It’s the real deal, but wireless
    CONS: Messier launch, game selection is still trickling out.

    The Recreated ZX Spectrum is a joy to hold in your hands. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t see the Tippex mark where the logo was “touched up” on the original, you’d be hard put to tell them apart.

    Created by Steve Wilcox of Elite Systems, one of the premier games manufacturers for the Spectrum, the Recreated ZX Spectrum (as they have to call it for legal reasons) has taken the essence of the original and made it better.

    Rather than go for a plug into the TV approach, Elite’s version is a Bluetooth keyboard with modes – a regular mode where it functions as a keyboard for any device, and a gaming mode which allows you to use it with those licensed for this machine, either through a web app, or on your tablet with apps for iOS and Android. Then, if you want to play on a TV, all you need to do is beam them using Chromecast, Roku or Apple TV. We’ve even had it working on a Raspberry Pi.

    The other big draw for the Recreated ZX Spectrum is it has exclusive rights to Chuckie Egg, Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy – as well as all the Elite releases, as you’d expect.

    The Recreated ZX Spectrum manages to combine the essence of the original, makes it wireless (it takes rechargeable batteries), futureproof and yet, unlike the Vega, loses nothing from the original.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum Vega+ will ship on time, developer claims amid doubts
    Oi, where’s my retro games console?
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/29/zx_spectrum_vega/

    Retro Computers, the biz behind the Sinclair-compatible ZX Spectrum Vega+ handheld console, is rebutting claims by critics that the gizmo will not be ready in time for its target launch date.

    Earlier this week, Retro Computers announced to the world that the ZX Spectrum Vega+ is to get an official launch on October, as reported by El Reg, and will be available to purchase in the run-up to Christmas.

    This sparked claims from some sources alleging that Retro Computers and its manufacturing partner SMS Electronics had not actually got as far as building any hardware, and that the October date was effectively going to be nothing more than a paper launch.

    Sinclair fans rejoice: ZX Spectrum Vega+ to launch October 20
    Dead-flesh keyboard not included
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/27/zx_spectrum_vega_launch_october_20/

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Retro ZX Spectrum Lives a Spartan Existence
    http://hackaday.com/2017/01/12/retro-zx-spectrum-lives-a-spartan-existence/

    FPGAs (like Xilinx’s Spartan series) are great building blocks. They often remind us of the 100-in-1 electronic kits we used to get as kids. Lots of components you can mix and match to make nearly anything. However, like a bare microcontroller, they usually don’t have much in the way of peripheral devices. So the secret sauce is what components you can surround the chip with.

    If you are interested in retro computing, you ought to have a look at the ZX-Uno board. It hosts a Spartan 6 FPGA. They are for sale, but the design is open source and all the info is available

    In a recent post, we mentioned an Amstrad clone, and at least one commenter pointed out that the ZX Spectrum was more popular. However, with this board, you don’t have to choose. In the downloads section, there are bit streams (FPGA configurations) to let the board emulate several different computers, including several Commodore systems, some Atari systems, the BBC Micro, the ZX81, and more. Of course, the ZX Spectrum is at the top of the list.

    http://zxuno.speccy.org/maquina_e.shtml

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Multicore ZX Spectrum
    http://hackaday.com/2017/02/16/a-multicore-zx-spectrum/

    From the blog of [telmomoya] we found his latest project: a hardware based multicore solution for a ZX Spectrum Emulator. It’s not the first time we feature one of his builds, last year we was working on a ARM Dual-Core Commodore C64. Luckily for Speccy fans, it seems a ZX Spectrum project was just unavoidable.

    At its heart is the EduCIAA NXP Board, a Dual Core (M4 & M0) 32-bit microcontroller, based on the NXP LPC4337. It’s an Argentinan-designed microcontroller board, born from an Argentinian academic and industry joint venture. [telmomoya] took advantage of the multicore architecture by running the ZX Spectrum emulator on M4 core and generating the VGA signals with M0 core.

    On the software side, [telmomoya] adopted Aspectrum, a ZX Spectrum Emulator fully written in C, modified to his needs.

    A multicore solution for a ZX Spectrum Emulator
    http://telmomoya.blogspot.fi/2017/01/a-multicore-solution-for-zx-spectrum.html

    I made a multicore baremetal ZX Spectrum Emulator app for a dual core ARM microcontroller (Cortex M4 & M0 Cores).

    Initially I used a low cost TFT as output device and later VGA screen. As no video hardware support is available, software signals generation was needed for componentless VGA.

    I developed a multicore solution, runnnig emulator on M4 core and generating VGA signals with M0 core (Asymmetric Multi Processing).
    This technique can be useful for other projects since critical timings involved in VGA generation remains isolated from emulation or any task running on other core.

    This project invloved many issues, like componentless COLOR VGA generation (with GPIO DMA), Inter Process Comunication and bus sharing.

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sinclair ZX Vega+ funding campaign halted by Indiegogo
    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-39191064

    Crowdfunding platform Indiegogo intervened to stop a handheld retro computer console campaign from acquiring further funding, the BBC has learned.

    The Spectrum ZX Vega+, backed by Sir Clive Sinclair, had achieved its original crowdfunding target.

    But then Indiegogo halted further fundraising because of delivery delays and a lack of communication to backers.

    The project’s organisers had asked the BBC not to reveal the development.

    The BBC understands no consoles have been delivered to backers, despite a pledge last month that they would “ship after 20 Feb 2017″.

    RCL had already received more than £513,000 ($624,000) from Indiegogo crowdfunders for the Vega+ .

    And before the fundraising campaign was halted, the project had been listed as “in demand” to allow new people to become backers, despite having already reached its funding target.

    RCL originally said the new Spectrum ZX Vega+ was due to go into production in the summer of 2016 and it might even “be able to improve on this delivery date”.

    But in December 2016, after the BBC contacted RCL to ask about the status of the Vega+, the broadcaster was threatened with legal action.

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The ZX Spectrum Gets a 21st Century Upgrade With the ZX Spectrum Next

    https://blog.hackster.io/the-zx-spectrum-gets-a-21st-century-upgrade-with-the-zx-spectrum-next-cae06938ef0

    Over three decades after its original 1982 release date, the ZX Spectrum Next (now on Kickstarter) offers an upgrade to the original hardware. It has an HDMI output in order to work with modern displays, and can work with an SD card for greatly enhanced storage. On the other hand, this design is fully-compatible with the original, down to cycle timing, so it will run every game and demo created for the Sinclair. If you want to run older associated hardware, it has a bus connector for this purpose, and can output in RGB or VGA as needed. It can even use a tape drive if you so desire.

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This is a Kickstarter for an FPGA’d ZX Spectrum. With the blessing of Sky UK — the owner of the Amstrad brand — this team is cloning the ZX Spectrum, adding HDMI and SD card storage, creating a new enclosure, and calling this project the Spectrum Next. It’s fully compatible with the original and future proofs the Speccy for another few decades.

    Source: http://hackaday.com/2017/05/07/hackaday-links-may-7-2017/

    More:

    ZX Spectrum Next
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1835143999/zx-spectrum-next

    The ZX Spectrum reborn: a new machine, fully compatible with the original computer, and packed with improvements and expansions.

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Andrada Fiscutean / Ars Technica:
    The underground story of the Cobra computer, an illicit and handmade ZX Spectrum clone built and sold in Romania in the 1980s

    The underground story of Cobra, the 1980s’ illicit handmade computer
    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/11/the-underground-story-of-cobra-the-1980s-illicit-handmade-computer/

    In their poor, Communist country, Romania’s computer curious built an underground industry.

    What Moldovanu’s holding isn’t some hobbyist kit potentially familiar to tech tinkerers back in the states. In the mid-1980s, Romania was a poverty-stricken, Communist country. So like a handful of his fellow students with a similar undeniable passion for computing, Moldovanu soon became one of only a few dozen underground computer builders in the country. They illegally manufactured computers using parts smuggled from factories and heaps of manually soldered wires. But armed with very few resources and plenty of creativity, people like Moldovanu soon fueled an underground hardware industry that would birth some of the country’s best future tech professionals.

    “It was a highly illegal operation. And we knew this very well,” Moldovanu tells Ars. “But to us, it didn’t matter. We were super excited to turn a pile of parts into a cool project.”

    Back then, Romania’s hardware industry mainly cloned the British Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a machine released in the UK in 1982. This device was copied all across Central and Eastern Europe. The ZX Spectrum was an 8-bit personal computer built around a Zilog Z80 A CPU running a BASIC interpreter, an easy-to-use programming language widespread on microcomputers at that time. It used a TV set as a display and audio cassettes for storage.

    Among the clones manufactured by the Communists was the Cobra or CoBra. The name stands for COmputere BRAsov, with Brasov being the town in central Romania where these machines were assembled to be used by enterprises. Of course, ordinary people couldn’t buy them—which is what first led several students at the Politehnica University of Bucharest deciding to build them themselves.

    Given how dire daily life was for Romanians at the time, something as little as a pack of Western cigarettes would buy anything that could be smuggled from a factory. So the Politehnica students leveraged their resources to obtain some Cobra motherboards and independently started to build computers on top of those. Soon, an entire supply chain was formed. Electronics dealers came to the campus with computer parts, LEDs, and resistors, which they sold in bulk. The students became fond of Cobras, as they featured not only BASIC but also CP/M, an operating system created for Intel 8080/85-based microcomputers.

    The builders used whatever was available on the black market; no two computers ever seemed to come out alike. Lucky owners fit their Cobras into cases from another Romanian ZX Spectrum clone, the HC. Others used manufactured metal or wooden boxes.

    In this closed Communist country with choice regulated by the state, Cobras gave their owners some feeling of independence and rebellion. “The fact that you could play the game you wanted, when you wanted, gave you the illusion of choosing for yourself,” Moldovanu says.

    “All my colleagues at school had such computers, even the girls,” he says. (To date, Romania still has one of the highest percentages of women in technology within the European Union.)

    “People don’t care about optimizing the code anymore”

    “About 90 percent of the Romanian industry was based on reverse engineering,” he says. Countries all across Eastern Europe had education systems that emphasized science and technology, and some went the extra mile to teach children electronics. Moldovanu remembers watching a TV program that taught people how to build circuits. It was aired by a Bulgarian TV station, and he picked it using an analog antenna.

    “I used to skip school for that. It was just too cool to miss,” he told me. “You had to write really fast. They only showed the schematics of a circuit for a few seconds. Then I closed my eyes and I drew it from memory.”

    So comparatively, trying to fix the Cobra with today’s tools feels a little bit like cheating. Moldovanu and Badici can use a multimeter now. Back in the old days, it was only a logic probe and creativity.

    Reply

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