April 27, 2012

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum

This week marked the 30th year since the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was first launched. It was my first computer and I still have the original piece of hardware.

This week marked the 30th year since the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was first launched. It was my first computer and I still have the original piece of hardware.

Yout can read a very nice article on "RegHardware" at http://www.reghardware.com/2012/04/23/retro_week_sinclair_zx_spectrum_at_30/. The name "Spectrum" and the colors band came to underline the computer had color graphics (in fact, it could show 8 different colors at a 256x192 pixels resolution). It also had a Z80 processors (and I did learn its machine language), and a whopping 64KB addressable space, of which 16KB was the internal ROM (including a Basic interpreter with command associated with the various keys) and left you use the remaining 48KB for applications and data.

Of course, there was no floppy (only later the introduced an infinite micro-drive tape) so all storage was on regular audio tapes and you had to have a good quality recorded to be able to read back your data and saved programs. I never bought the micro-drive, but got the stronger keyboard with proper keys (as in the second image below). rather than the rubber one (as in the first image, which was the original version). I was hoping to try to turn it on and take a few pictures (it did start the last time I tried, a few years ago) but this week was quite busy.

I have fond memories of this first computer, I'm not sure younger generations can fully understand this. For us, it was quite a miracle. I learned BASIC, played too many games, produced animated physics experiments, learned assembly to make the programs be faster, bought dedicated computer magazines (and yes, they had source code to type in!). Time flyes!





 

13 Comments

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

My dad's ZX81 is the first computer I ever touched (I 
think I was 7 by then). Each key had a BASIC keyword on 
it. For example, "G" for for GOTO :)

To quote Edsger Dijkstra:
"It is practically impossible to teach good programming 
to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as 
potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond 
hope of regeneration."
Comment by Wouter on April 27, 17:06

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

I remember being in the electronics shop. The man 
asked "what's your name", typed a couple of code 
lines and there was my name in 16 colors. Wow :-)

The first program I ever wrote could play "Eight days 
a week" and show the lyrics in sync :-)


Giel
Comment by Giel on April 27, 17:42

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

I still have 'The Complete ROM Disassembly' book on my
computer book shelf - and I even glance through it
once in a while for old times sake.
Comment by Dave White on April 27, 19:50

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

@Dave: I had that book too :-)

And I had a printer that could print on 12 cm. wide 
paper. I had written some code to print 90 degrees 
rotated text (you could buy such software, but I 
didn't have the money). I still used that during my 
first year at university. To produce an A4 form you 
had to print 3 parts of paper, glue them together, 
write the formulas between the text, and then go the 
a copy shop to make photocopies :-)

Giel
Comment by Giel on April 27, 20:55

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

But who remembers the MK14, that was the very first 
Sinclair computer (256 bytes!). I too have a copy of the 
"The Complete ROM Disassembly' book very interesting 
read. They had to implement all floating point using 
integer arithmetic.
Comment by Herbert Sauro [www.sys-bio.org] on April 27, 21:48

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

My first computer was a Sinclair too, but their first
odel, the ZX 80. It cost me 400 guilders, and I had to
buy an extra power supply for it. It had a whopping 1
kilobyte of memory, and because it could not handle
keyboard presses and screen refresh at the same time,
each time you pressed a key, the screen would flash.
And yet I managed to turn it into a digital sequencer
for my synths.

Later on, I got an Acorn BBC B computer. Acorn also
developed the ARM processor (years later, though), AFAIK.

I still have both these machines, in the basement. I
don't know if one of them would still run, though.
Comment by Rudy Velthuis [http://rvelthuis] on April 28, 00:41

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

My Spectrum was a soviet clone of original spectrum,
produced on the same factory where Kalashnikov machine
guns were produced. In those days (early 90s) every
factory was producing their own copy of Spectrum. It
was the origin of IT revolution in former soviet
union, allowing a lot of enthusiasts to learn
programming. It still has active following and modern
clones are being produced in somewhat limited numbers
though.
Comment by Dmitri Popov [http://www.helpinator.com] on April 28, 04:16

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

great Marco....the begging of the programming !!! 
Comment by paolo angeretti on April 28, 05:49

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

Pimp my spectrum

 "space age pimpin"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KegY8YIzQ4
Comment by Wouter on April 28, 10:10

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

Didn't have a Sinclair, but an Amstrad CPC 464, better keyboard, 
but similar tech though ;-)

Wrote my first compiler on it, basic to Z-80 opcodes... Ah, great 
machines for tinkering. Nothing similar really exists these days, 
everything is just way more complicated, and simpler systems of 
today just look ugly and outdated, ie. not very motivating to work on.
Comment by Eric [http://delphitools.info] on April 28, 11:21

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

This very much reminded me of how I got into 
computing: through some programmable calculators in 
the 80s.

http://wiert.me/2012/01/31/the-calculators-that-got-
me-into-programming-via-calculators-algorithms-for-
the-masses-julian-m-bucknall/

That got me into the Apple ][ at school with 6502 
assembly, AppleSoft Basic, and UCSD-Pascal, and - with 
a Z80 SoftCard -  to CP/M and Turbo Pascal 1.0 and Z80 
assembly. 

That got me (as a regular school student) to the 
computing department at the university with access to 
PCs having MS-DOS 3.x and Turbo Pascal 3 and up.

Great memories (:
Comment by Jeroen Pluimers [http://wiert.me] on April 28, 15:22

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

 a generation before: my first computer was a TK-82C, a 
brazilian clone of the ZX-81, with external 16 KBytes 
expansion! (I still have it, but don't know if it still 
works)
Comment by Carlos Leite [http://www.mydia.com] on April 29, 00:30

30 Years of Sinclair ZX Spectrum 

Those were the days... There is a chance youngsters
might experience similar feeling with Raspberry PI.
http://www.raspberrypi.org
Comment by Avra [http://www.encodeteam.com/resume.html] on April 30, 10:12


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