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.

77 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ~10 euros ZX Spectrum Emulator [eng subs]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXHBrQVTfBw

    [Update] Added 128K sound, .Z80 format, 4:3 / 16:9 aspect ratios, microSD card.

    For about 10 euros, you could have a ZX Spectrum emulator on a ESP32 based board. No need for complicated pins or soldering, just connect an VGA monitor and PS/2 keyboard.

    You will need to load the emulator software (available on a GitHub repository) and the desired games (in SNA format).

    Emulation speed has been adjusted for code in repo _after_ making of this video.

    Spectrum 48K / 128K / +2 / +3 emulation modes supported.

    Supports Wiimote (v1) controller as control method (see repository documentation and/or my previous video about Spectrum emulation on ESP32).

    We will need the Visual Studio Code development environment with the PlatformIO extension, but the steps to follow are simple.

    https://github.com/dcrespo3d/ZX-ESPectrum-Wiimote/tree/lilygo-ttgo-vga32

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The ZXBOX Sinclair ZX Spectrum Emulator Machine Fully Loaded (Rasp Pi Zero) 48k 128k 128k +3
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNs19Y-fHeo

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Restoring a mouldy ZX Spectrum micro computer from the ’80s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QStDmy5gc5c

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum Game Loader Has Joystick Pass-Through
    TZXDuino is hardware for loading software onto vintage computers, and JamHamster built a version with a joystick pass-through.
    https://www.hackster.io/news/zx-spectrum-game-loader-has-joystick-pass-through-77fb1bc13f67

    Today, you can load software onto vintage computers by playing the right audio file from a digital source, like a smartphone. TZXDuino is a dedicated hardware device for the job, and JamHamster built a version with a joystick pass-through.

    A TZXDuino is a small Arduino Nano-based device that pumps selected program audio files out to vintage computers, such as the legendary ZX Spectrum.

    https://www.hackster.io/search?q=tzxduino&i=news_articles

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    CSS Electronics’ ZX Nucleon Is an Eight-Bit Clone-of-a-Clone Designed with Russian Software in Mind
    Cloning the Pentagon, which cloned the ZX Spectrum, the ZX Nucleon runs “the best-quality software [from] the countries of the ex-USSR.”
    https://www.hackster.io/news/css-electronics-zx-nucleon-is-an-eight-bit-clone-of-a-clone-designed-with-russian-software-in-mind-0695274c412f

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    https://hackaday.com/2021/09/13/the-labor-of-love-that-is-recovering-lost-software/

    In his video, [Keith] goes to great lengths detailing the impact that Roger Dymond had on the early home computing scene. After being let go from his council apprenticeship, Roger turned his attention to developing games for the ZX81, and later the ZX Spectrum. With the help of his family, he went on to run a moderately successful mail-order games publishing venture for several years. Increasing advertising costs and a crowded development scene saw Roger’s business become nonviable by 1983, but not before developing several gambling-style games and a standout Space Invaders clone.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0JP29t1d5o

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies aged 81
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/sep/16/home-computing-pioneer-sir-clive-sinclair-dies-aged-81

    Creator of the landmark ZX Spectrum and the less commercially successful C5 died after a long illness

    Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died at the age of 81.

    His daughter, Belinda, said he died at home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but was best known for popularising the home computer, bringing it to British high-street stores at relatively affordable prices.

    Many modern-day titans of the games industry got their start on one of his ZX models. For a certain generation of gamer, the computer of choice was either the ZX Spectrum 48K or its rival, the Commodore 64.

    His first home computer, the ZX80, named after the year it appeared, revolutionised the market, although it was a far cry from today’s models. At £79.95 in kit form and £99.95 assembled, it was about one-fifth of the price of other home computers at the time. It sold 50,000, units while its successor, the ZX81, which replaced it, cost £69.95 and sold 250,000.

    In 1982, he released the ZX Spectrum 48K. Its rubber keys, strange clashing visuals and tinny sound did not prevent it being pivotal in the development of the British games industry. Much-loved games – now in colour – that inspired a generation included Jet Set Willy, Horace Goes Skiing, Chuckie Egg, Saboteur, Knight Lore and Lords of Midnight.

    Sinclair became a household name as his products flew off the shelves and was awarded a knighthood in 1983.

    The Sinclair TV80, a pocket TV, was another device, like the C5, that did not catch on, although people now regularly view programmes on their mobile phones. And although they do not look like the Sinclair C5, which later acquired cult status, electric vehicles are, of course, all the rage today.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ferranti’s Ghost Tours The Chip Factory That Made The ULA
    https://hackaday.com/2021/09/15/ferrantis-ghost/

    Former Ferranti Electric engineer [Martin Mallinson] recently posted a 1980s documentary on YouTube (see the video below the break). It shows in some detail the semiconductor plant at Gem Mill outside of Manchester UK, as seen through the eyes of the ghost of founder Dr. Sebastian Ferranti. This dramatic device seems a little silly at times, but the documentary still provides a very interesting look at the industry at the time.

    The Gem Mill plant was one of the first semiconductor facilities, having begun operations in the 1950s by Ferranti. In 1959 they made the first European silicon diode, and went on to commercialize Uncommitted Logic Arrays (ULA) in the early 1980s. Most famously, Ferranti ULAs were used in many home computers of the day, such as the Sinclair ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, Acorn Electron, and the BBC Micro. Much of the factory tour in this documentary is depicting the ULA process, and they hint at an even more advanced technology being developed by the (unnamed) competition — an FPGA? CPLD?

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Redesigned ZX Spectrum Desktop Computer That Works Surprisingly Well
    https://hackaday.com/2021/10/17/a-redesigned-zx-spectrum-desktop-computer-that-works-surprisingly-well/

    What if – The ZX Spectrum Desktop / OPC (One Per Child) Design and build.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVhYvCXFslE

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    In the ’80s, spaceflight sim Elite was nothing short of magic. The annotated source code shows how it was done
    Load new commander (Y/N)?
    https://www.theregister.com/2021/11/17/elite_annotated_source_code/

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    When A Single Bit Was Enough, Into The Sound Of The ZX Spectrum
    https://hackaday.com/2022/01/20/when-a-single-bit-was-enough-into-the-sound-of-the-zx-spectrum/

    For Sir Clive Sinclair the 1-bit audio must have been welcome as it removed the need for an expensive sound chip and kept the Spectrum to its low price point, but on the face of it there was little more it could do than create simple beeps using Sinclair BASIC’s built-in BEEP command. The video gives us an in-depth look at how interleaving and PWM could be used to create much more complex sounds such as the illusion of multiple voices and even sampled sounds.

    Understanding Computer Sound. 5. ZX Spectrum
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5ACJd2LvbY&feature=emb_logo

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Sinclair’s Wonder – The Science of Cambridge MK14
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8n474FfH2Y

    In the United Kingdom in the late 1970s, times were tough. Buying a computer was simply unaffordable for many families. Enter Clive Sinclair, with an assist from Ian Williamson. A consummate engineer – Clive’s company, Science of Cambridge, came up with a simple, but complete single board computer based on the National Semiconductor SC/MP microprocessor. Offered for just 39 pounds, the new computer opened the door to home computing for millions.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A ZX Spectrum? In a cassette? “Yes”.

    ZX Spectrum Raspberry Pi Cassette
    https://magpi.raspberrypi.com/articles/zx-spectrum-raspberry-pi-cassette

    Stuart Brand was between jobs and decided to concentrate on pushing his skills by building Raspberry Pi projects: “I headed to the garage and embraced my inner nerd!” exclaims the maker of the ZX Spectrum Raspberry Pi Cassette. “I wouldn’t have had a clue how to build any of this stuff before lockdown. It goes to prove that you never know what you’re capable of until you give it a go.”

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    SOMEONE MANAGED TO FIT AN ENTIRE RASPBERRY PI COMPUTER INSIDE THE BODY OF A CASSETTE
    https://www.yankodesign.com/2022/04/04/someone-managed-to-fit-an-entire-raspberry-pi-computer-into-the-body-of-a-cassette/

    This isn’t a throwback. If nothing, it’s actually a throw-forward. Designed to show how far we’ve come in a span of 4 decades, this cassette has a fully-functioning Raspberry Pi computer inside it running a ZX Spectrum emulator inside it.

    Stuart would write programs on the ZX Spectrum and store them on cassette tapes. 40 years later, the entire ZX Spectrum computer can practically fit inside the same cassette’s plastic body, with a few minor adjustments made to allow the parts and ports to line up perfectly.

    The 5mm interior of the cassette meant Stuart had to hack together his solution. To ensure that the PCB of the Raspberry Pi Zero W didn’t end up peeking out through the cassette’s two holes, he ended up carving out a portion of the PCB, ensuring the illusion was complete. Thankfully, this didn’t affect the functionality of his computer. “I lost some GPIO ports, but it was well worth it to get the tape looking right.”

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum – 40th Anniversary Restoration – 4K
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVCjwk_eMeo

    For the ZX 40th Anniversary I created a restoration and hardware history video going over this mighty computer which became Britain’s best selling microcomputer.

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum’s 40th Anniversary! | Documentary
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO3m5mud6pA

    This year is the 40th anniversary of the release of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. In this episode of Computers Like These, we go behind the wall of history to explore how and who and why someone made the ZX Spectrum computer.

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum | Cheap as Chips
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTEMnYnLlpQ

    Update: The Spectrum is repaired, but all it took was some new capacitors before I attempted any interesting fault finding. So this series will now be taking a different direction exploring what made the system unique.

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum | Ghetto Graphics & Colour Clash
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iemMlbIY1SI

    Today we’re focusing on the distinctive graphical style the ZX Spectrum had, including the famous colour clash, why it looked like this, and how game designers overcame the limitations.

    3D functions in BASIC (ZX Spectrum)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Aw_YiZVu38

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum – Four layer smooth parallax scrolling from a short BASIC type-in?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0LahSrgV1g

    Still tweaking my BASIC scrolling technique.
    This one is simplified to work with just 8 UDG, rather than 16. Next job is a version that auto-generates / pre-shifts 16 UDG scenery.
    The listing in this video won’t run on a 16k Speccy. Only because I was avoiding the use of USR.
    It would take a few seconds to fix :)

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Timex Sinclair 2068 – The American ZX Spectrum
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTKckoSj-OE

    This was the last Sinclair computer sold by Timex in the USA, but it was not the last Sinclair computer sold in the USA — Sinclair Research in Nashua, NH sold a U.S. version of the Sinclair QL via mail-order in 1985, although obviously it was another failure in the marketplace. Sir Clive’s Cambridge Z88 portable computer was also sold here and was somewhat more successful.

    There’s something incredibly cool about playing a wave file on a modern laptop and having an old computer able to load a game from that.

    You know what’s cool? Since every ZX Sprectrum software is stored in a sound file, this means that you can load a game from pretty much anything. Phone? Yes. Computer? Yes. Walkman? Yes. Kinda cool ngl.

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    ZX Spectrum – Bad Video Repair
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-V96tfLixk

    In this video I repair a ZX Spectrum with bad video output caused by a faulty transistor.

    I bought this Spectrum a couple of months ago, and had been waiting for replacement parts to arrive before making this video.

    Apologies for some of the camera work in the soldering portions of the video, my face was right next to the camera, and I wasn’t using a separate microphone. I’ll be trying to do this better next time.

    I’m very much an amateur at all of this, so any tips or suggestions are always appreciated.

    Reply

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