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United Kingdom Hardware

For Sinclair Fans, The ZX81 Lives On 196

An anonymous reader writes "The ZX81 Museum was set-up to preserve and showcase a private collection of original Sinclair branded ZX81 hardware, software and literature. The museum has since expanded to include ZX81 software from other publishers of the time and a variety of other ZX81 peripherals and reference books. The collection dates from 1981 to 1983 and features the complete Sinclair-branded software series. The activities of the museum are regularly reported via Twitter, along with updates from the ever growing ZX81 fanbase. There is even a YouTube channel for the diehard 8-bit fans out there, of which there seems to be many!" This was one of the first computers I ever used; I suspect it's still buried in some deep stratum in my dad's basement. As is often the case, the old advertisements are great.
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For Sinclair Fans, The ZX81 Lives On

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  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by abigor ( 540274 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @05:07PM (#38833373)

    The ram pack was prone to wiggling a bit and you'd lose the entire contents of memory. You had to prop it on a book or tape it in place. Kind of a nightmare really. I also hated the ultra-fiddly tape storage, where you had to have the volume and tone adjusted just right to get those weird black bars that showed the program was loading or saving correctly.

  • BBC Micro Men (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @05:08PM (#38833381)

    If you haven't seen the movie Micro Men about Clive Sinclair, it is very entertaining. Now playing at your nearest torrent.

  • by Colourspace ( 563895 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @05:24PM (#38833543)
    Try (yep on /. 13 years now and still haven't found out how to do embedded links - sorry - geek card in post) It's primarily a site for the 1982 UK/EUR ZX Spectrum machine but IIRC there are plenty of ZX80/ZX81 links and emulators for many platforms discussed. A good jumping off point if you do want to enjoy some nostalgia, and a massive library of legal dumps. I think the Timex-Sinclair 2048 *might* have been the US version of the ZX Spectrum (colour, 48K compared to the mono 1K ZX81)....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2012 @06:03PM (#38833963)

    ... and in the UK, it was more like a couple of years, and factor of 6 price difference (£400 compared to £70 - or £50 if you bought the DIY version).

    And - also in the UK - if you had that kind of cash, you were buying a BBC Micro, not some foreign nonsense! :-) The BBC was just an amazing machine - it had "good engineering" carved all over it. Properly separated OS vs Language ROMs etc. I built a video format converter in 1990, and I was able to test the input timing conformance using a BBC, because there was one of those *VIDEO commands for directly screwing with the video timings. Amazing.

    I never owned a Beeb - I went ZX81 and Spectrum instead, and never regretted it (I wrote this game []). But the Commodore 64 was nowhere on the scene. YMMV, of course :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2012 @06:14PM (#38834073)

    It's okay, they didn't have hyperlinks back when you got into computing. I hear wearing an onion on your belt was fashionable...

    either use the


    prefix or

    <a href=""></a>



    If you use the old discussion system it gives you a hint below the post area.

  • by nogginthenog ( 582552 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @06:17PM (#38834097)
    Well, the Atari 800 was 10 times the price of a TS-1000 ($999.95 vs $99.95)
  • Re:Before (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @06:43PM (#38834385) Homepage

    Was the ZX-81 the same as the TS-1000, or was it the same as the one that came after?

    The ZX-81 came before, I ordered mine from England. The Timex-Sinclair was the U.S. version, already assembled for you.

    There were three distinct "original" ZX machines sold on the UK market:-

    * ZX80 [] came first in 1980. Black and white, text-based display, 1KB RAM, 4KB OS ROM with integer-only BASIC. Yes, it was very basic, but it was also very cheap- first computer under £100 back when even the Apple II cost many, many times that. Apparently it was also sold in the US in both kit and assembled form. (I don't know if the pre-assembled version was ever sold in its native UK?)

    * ZX81 [] came next and was even more popular. Essentially an improved and cost-reduced refinement of the ZX80 design. Still black and white with 1KB RAM (expandable to 16KB) and a new improved 8KB OS and BASIC ROM. The Timex Sinclair 1000 mentioned above was an NTSC version with 2KB and other minor differences for the US market, but to all intents and purposes the same machine.

    * ZX Spectrum [] followed on in 1982. Colour, high-res graphics, sound (albeit crude single channel). There was a US machine based on the Spectrum design (the failed Timex Sinclair 2068) but unlike the TS1000, it made significant changes and improvements to the original design.
    There were very many clones and variants- both authorised and unauthorised- of the above machines in various countries. In part because their architecture was based around clever design using cheap off-the-shelf parts (e.g. the ZX80's inability to compute and display at the same time was because the display was primarily generated in software). This made them easier to rip off than (e.g.) the Commodore 64.

    The ZX81 replaced the ZX80 as it was essentially a refined and improved version of the latter (better OS and moving graphics possible- the ZX80's display flickered and went blank whenever it was busy) and at a lower price (18 chips in the ZX80 replaced with a single functionally equivalent chip). In fact, the ZX80 could be almost upgraded to a ZX81- minus the steady graphics- simply by replacing the ROM OS.

    The Spectrum was a slightly more expensive machine with colour and high-resolution graphics and (very crude) single-channel sound. It was sold alongside the cheaper ZX81 for some time. (I think they stopped making the ZX81 in 1984?) In the long term the Spectrum was the most successful as it was usable for games- its success quickly spawned rivals, but its early lead had already established a network effect [] (i.e. users led to support and software which led to more users, which led to more support...) and it survived until the early 90s.

  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @07:06PM (#38834573)
    I used to beat those crashes by taking a bunch of ice cubes, double-bagging them in ziplocs, and placing that on top of the ZX81 where their crappy thin aluminum prong "heat sink" came up from the board to meet the upper case interior. I never had "unreasonable" crashes after that but I went through a lot of ice cubes with that little thing.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @08:02PM (#38834943) Journal

    I recall magazines selling the ZX-81 in kit form, but at that time, I had no interest in spending a whole $100 (after shipping and/or sales tax, anyway) for a bag of unassembled parts. I really wanted my own home computer though, so the assembled Timex-Sinclair 1000 version was just the thing for me.

    I even owned a very rare plastic carrying case for it, that I had to order direct from Timex with a special coupon to get. As I recall, it held 4 cassette tapes in their plastic cases, the computer and AC adapter, TV converter box, and maybe a spot for that 16K RAM expansion pack (it had 2K internally).

    Good times!

  • Re:Before (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @08:37PM (#38835205) Homepage
    The QL was based on a Motorola 68008, which was a 68000 but with only an 8-bit data bus (instead of 16-bits). (*)

    Anyway, AFAIK, the QL partly flopped because Sinclair aimed at the business market instead of hobbyists.

    Even then (apparently), IBM PC compatibility was quickly becoming more important to such people. Also, I'm assuming that the quirkiness and flakiness of Sinclair products would have been less tolerable to business users in the quickly-maturing mid 80s market than it would have been to grateful first-time hobbyists a few years later.

    In some senses, the real successors to the Speccy were consoles and the PC, depending on how much money you had and whether you were just playing games or were determined to write software as well.

    Not quite, or at least, not directly. The late-80s and early-90s successors to the Spectrum were really the Atari ST and Amiga, the latter of which may have flopped in the US, but was massively popular in Europe around the turn of the decade. It wasn't until circa '92-93 that the ever-falling price of PC clones and the Mega Drive (AKA Genesis) and later SNES took over and *really* started to dominate the home market.

    (Remember that the original NES was never as big a deal here as it was in the US at the time- it was even outsold by the Sega Master System in the UK).

    (*) Sinclair sold the QL on the basis that it was a 32-bit machine, which the 68008 *was*... internally. But then, the Amiga and ST's 68000 was generally considered a 16-bit processor (not 32-bit) due to the size of its data bus, so following the same system the QL would only be an 8-bit machine. It depends what slant you want to put on it!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:48AM (#38837021)

    Either two 4bit chips or one 8 bit chip.

    That's what sinclair did with the successor, the Spectrum, too. It came in 2 editions, 16 and 48k. That extra 32k was actually 64k, with only upper or lower bank mapped. Apparently they shaved some costs using partly broken memory chips in consumer products.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern