31 августа 1995

Part 7 - Spectrum history.


Where do Spectrums Come from?

Originally  published  in  Crash #78 (July

Sir Clive Sinclair is fifty this year, and
it was ten years ago he launched the first
computer branded Sinclair ZX. The ZX80 was
followed  by  the  ZX81  and  then  the ZX
Spectrum.  Six  ZX incarnations later, the
Speccy   is  still  the  favourite.  CRASH
reveals   the   story  of  Britain's  most
popular computer...

The  SPECTRUM  is the best and most famous
ZX  computer.  But  it's worth remembering
the   other   computers   than  Sir  Clive
Sinclair  had  a  hand in designing before
the ZX range was even conceived.

By  the  late 70s Sinclair was running out
of   road.   He'd   hit   trouble  selling
calculators  and  digital watches, and had
been   trying   to   make   and   sell   a
pocket-sized TV set since the 60s. At last
he'd  produced  one,  but  it  was costly,
unreliable and difficult to make.

One plan to raise money for the TV project
involved   a   computer,   the   NewBrain.
Britain's Labour Government bought a large
stake   in   Sinclair's   firm,   Sinclair
Radionics,  to  try to keep things going -
but   lost   confidence   after  a  while.
Radionics  split  up  and Sinclair left to
run a new firm, Science of Cambridge.

The  NewBrain  was  sold  to Newbury Labs,
then  to  Grundy; at one time it was going
to  be  the  official  BBC  Micro,  but it
reached  the  market  too  late and didn`t
catch on.

Over at Science Of Cambridge, Sinclair and
an  engineer  called  Chris  Curry  pooled
their  experience  and  invented  a horrid
wrist  calculator,  with  keys  you  could
press  in  three  different directions for
various  functions  -  a sign of things to


Then  they  dreamed  up  a computer system
which  has  never been beaten on price and
uselessness  -  the  MK-14.  It  used  and
obscure  processor called an SC/MP, mainly
because that made it offered to design the
computer  for  nothing as long as Sinclair
used it's chip.

The  MK-14  had  a calculator, display and
keyboard,  0.25K  of  memory,  and no box.
Sinclair  sold  10,000,  and  decided that
computers  were a good way to raise money.
Science  Of Cambridge changed it's name to
Sinclair  Research.  And  after  a  while,
Chris   Curry   left   to   set  up  Acorn

In   1980   the   first  ZX  computer  was
produced  -  the  ZX-80,  designed  by Jim
Westwood  and with software by John Grant.
The  ZX-80  looked  very  much like a real
computer,  though  it  was  made  of bendy
plastic,  had  no keys and was less than a
quarter  of  the  size  it appeared in the
glossy adverts.

You  could  program  in  BASIC, using a TV
display,  and  save  programs on cassette.
But  lots of improvements were needed. The
ZX-80  contained only 1K of memory, and it
could only work with whole numbers between
-32768 and 32767. Worst of all, the screen
went blank when you pressed a key or ran a

Still,  the  ZX-80  was a success and even
spawned  a clone - the CompShop Micro Ace.
A  16K  RAM  pack  -  prone to fall off at
inconvenient  moments  -  was produced, an
various ingenious tricks were used to stop
the machine overheating.


Within   a   year,   the  ZX-80  had  been
re-designed,  with  a custom chip in it to
make  copying  more  difficult, and with a
much   improved   display   that   allowed
programs  to  run while the screen display
was visible - albeit at about a quarter of
the ZX-80's speed. And ZX BASIC was souped
up  to  handle  text  and  floating  point
mathematics,  though  square  roots didn't
work properly at first.

The   result   was   the   ZX-81:   a  big
improvement,  launched  in March 1981 at a
price  that undercut the ZX-80 by ó0! The
cloned  Micro  Ace  disappeared, but Acorn
Computers,  founded  by  Sinclair's former
colleague   Chris   Curry,   got  the  BBC
contract  - the ZX-81 had only a black and
white display.

The  ZX-80 had been assembled for Sinclair
by  part-time  home workers, but the ZX-81
was  obviously  going to sell too many for
this arrangement to work. So, Sinclair did
a  deal  with  Timex,  which  owned  a big
factory   in   Scotland.   In  return  for
building  the  ZX-81, Timex was allowed to
sell  it  in the USA, paying Sinclair a 5%

The  ZX-81  sold  well  -  as  did  the US
version,  the  TMS-1000, when it popped up
in  1982. But Sinclair was still after the
BBC contract, and in the summer of 1982 he
announced  the  ZX  Spectrum  -  a  colour
computer  aimed  at  would be programmers,
with  16K or 48K memory. The extra 32K was
fitted   on  an  extra  board  inside  the
computer so it couldn't fall off.



ñ00;  4K ROM, 1K RAM; whole numbers only;
very  limited black and white graphics but
basic   32x24  screen  established.  Total
sales about 50,000

ø0; 2K RAM; ZX-80 Kit copy


÷0;  $150; 8K ROM, 1K RAM, floating point
maths; slow but continuous black and white
display.  500,000  units sold in the first


US$100;  licensed  ZX-81  -  a big hit for
Timex in the USA

ñ25(16K),  ñ75(48K);  16K  ROM,  16K/48K
RAM;  colour  graphics  and  much improved
display    circuitry.   60,000   issue   1
Spectrums  sold;  grey  keys,  add on 32K,
'dead cockroach' badge.

ZX81 price cut to õ0
TMS-100 price cut to US$40



Другие статьи номера:

Part 1 - Intro.

Part 2 - Playing tips.

Part 3 - Instructions.

Part 4 - Adventure games.

Part 5 - Rebel Star.

Part 6 - The Dizzy story.

Part 7 - Spectrum history.

Part 8 - Spectrum on the Net.

Part 9 - September games charts.

Part 10 - A-Z Of Spectrum games reviews.

Part 11 - Next month.

Темы: Игры, Программное обеспечение, Пресса, Аппаратное обеспечение, Сеть, Демосцена, Люди, Программирование

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