30 сентября 1995

Part 7 - Spectrum history (part 2).

<b>Part 7</b> - Spectrum history (part 2).


Orignially published in
Crash 79 - August 1990

Creator  of  our  fave  home computer, Sir
Clive  Sinclair  is  fifty this year. Last
month  we  looked at how he started the ZX
range of computers and now we complete the
story:  from the launch of the ZX Spectrum
in 1983 up until the present day.


The  Spectrum  hardware  was  designed  by
Richard  Altwasser,  and  the software was
adapted   from   the  ZX-81`s  by  Stephen
Vickers.  The  Spectrum  had  a new custom
chip  which could keep a colour display up
yet hardly slow the processor at all - but
a last-minute bodge was needed to make the
keyboard work properly. This was the "dead
cockroach"  modification:  a chip soldered
on its back with its legs in the air!
At  125  for  16k,  or  175  for  48k, the
Spectrum  was  very cheap and powerful for
its  day. The 48k model seemed such a good
deal  that  it sold eight times as well as
the  16k  model  from  the start, so a new
version was produced - the issue 2 - which
could  hold  48k on one board. The issue 2
had  blue  keys  rather than grey ones, to
make  the lettering on them easier to read
under electric light.
Meanwhile   Altwasser   and  Vickers  left
Sinclair to set up their own firm, Jupiter
Cantab, selling a small fast computer that
was  a  cross  between  a  Spectrum  and a
ZX-80. Their Jupiter Ace flopped.
Sinclair  refined  the  Spectrum  again in
1983, making BEEP slightly louder, using a
cooler  logic  array,  and  adding a minor
tweak  which unfortunately stopped lots of
sloppily  written  games  recognising  the
keyboard.  This  Spectrum was the infamous
Issue 3.
Meanwhile  in  the USA...Timex was bemused
by  the  success of the TMS-1000 and tried
to  follow  it  with  a 16k variation, the
TMS-1500.  It  flopped,  so Timex came out
with  the TMS-2068 - a super Spectrum with
graphics  much  like  the SAM Coupe, sound
like  a  Spectrum  128K. That flopped too,
mainly  because  of  competition in the US
Market  and  poor  software compatibility.
Timex gave up in February 1984.
The    rubbery   Spectrum   keyboard   was
universally  hated,  so  Sinclair tried to
develop   something  better  looking.  The
result was the Spectrum Plus. Brilliantly,
with  the  plus,  Sinclair preserved total
compatibility  by  using  exactly the same
circuits  as  in an old Spectrum, in a new
box.  And  the Plus sold well for a while,
though the routines to read the keys still
insisted  you pressed them one at a time -
fine for rubber keys, but now frustrating.


Sinclair  had been putting off plans for a
superSpectrum since 1982. He spent most of
1983   designing   a   portable   business
computer,   but   at  the  last  moment  a
near-random  collection of design features
merged  into  the  Sinclair QL. The QL was
launched,   designed,   manufactured   and
made-to-work   in   that  order.  In  1985
Sinclair`s    main   distributor,   Prism,
collapsed.  The  QL  price  was slashed in
half.  Sinclair,  now  a  knight, was bust
advertising   electric  tricycles.  Robert
Maxwell  stepped,  sniffed  the  air,  and
stepped out again. And by now the Spectrum
was  not  considered  sophisticated,  even
witht  the  new  keyboard. People began to
demand  more memory, interfaces and better
sound.  A  mixture  of  new  and  TMS-2068
features were cobbled together to make the
Spectrum  Plus 128K. The money for the 128
came  from  Spain,  so  thats where it was
In January 1986 the Spectrum Plus 128K was
launched  in the UK, in a desperate bid by
Sinclair  to  look busy as debts piled up.
But   by   March   the   bank  had  closed
Sinclair`s  accounts and the company staff
were  paid  on the firms behalf by a large
retailer who took stock in return.


On April 7 1986, Amstrad bought the rights
to make Spectrums, and to kill the QL, for
just  5  million  and also paid 11 million
for   the  remaining  stocks.  Unconfirmed
reports   suggets  that  about  4  million
standard   Spectrums   were   produced  by
Sinclair research. And there must be about
500,000 128s in circulation, with the bulk
of those being first-edition Amstrad Plus.
A  few Sinclair staff moved to Amstrad and
produced  the  Plus  2: a 128 in a new box
with   a  cassette  drive  `glued  on`  as
Amstrad  boss  Alan  Sugar  put it. A year
later   came   the   first   true  Amstrad
Spectrum  -  the  Plus  3,  minus Sinclair
chips   and  plus  the  disk  system  from
Amstrads  CPC  range. The Plus-3 was a new
design,  not  very compatible with the old
Spectrum  and  its  wealth of 48K hardware
and software.
Sir  Clive  Sinclair  went  on  to  sell a
portable computer called the Z88, designed
by  Jim  Westwood  and  using the same Z80
processor  as the ZX range. Latest reports
indicate plans for a C-15 electric car...!
At  the 1988 PC Show, Amstrad launched its
own machine - the Sinclair Professional PC
200.  The  machine  found  many  critics -
mainly  because  no-one  understood who it
was  aimed  at  -  it  wasn`t a good games
machine  (it  features  only  four colours
and,  at  basic  starting  price of around
350, is wildly expensive) and not powerful
enough  for  a serious PC alternative. Not
really Sinclair stuff at all.


Christmas  1989  saw  the  launch  of  the
machine  everyone was really waiting for -
the  Miles  Gordon  Technology  SAM Coupe.
256K   RAM,   four   colour   modes,  fast
operating speed and compatibility with the
majority  of 48K Spectrum games. Initially
the ROM chip was bugged, but in April, MGT
delivered  new  ROM chips for users to fit
themselves. By May 1990 the first signs of
real   software  support  were  showing  -
Enigma  Variations  specially  created SAM
Coupe  Defenders  of  the Earth was just a
week or so off release. Things were really
looking up, and hardware sales appeared to
be good.



80;  spin  off;  8K  ROM,  3K  RAM;  Forth
Spectrum Keys/tape/display. 3,000,000 Plus
Spectrum Issue 3s sold: new low power ULA,
louder   BEEP,   runs  cooler,  no  colour
tweaks,  key  port incompatibility. Prices
cut to 100/130 (16K/48K)

$80;  8K  ROM,  16K RAM; ZX-81 with better
keyboard - a flop

$150/200;  24K  ROM, 16K/48K RAM; paged in
8K  lumps up to 256K. Improved BASIC sound
and   much   better   display,   but  very
incompatible.  UK  PAL  TV  version  never


180;   issue   3   circuits   (with  minor
revisions) and extra RESET button; new box
and keys


Spectrum  Plus  plrice cut to 130; 16K and
rubber-key versions discontinued.

180;  32K  ROM and 128K RAM, in 16K pages;
RGB;  old  box  and  chunky  heat sink; no
key-words;  three  channel  sound,  clumsy
screen editor; MIDI/serial port; funded by


140; the old 128 in a new box, with better
keyboard  and  cassette  unit  `glued on`;
250,000  sold  in  first  year;  the first
Amstrad Spectrum.


249; 3-inch disk; AMSDOS in 64K ROM; first
radical re-design since 1982. Earlier 128s
were   more   compatible   with   existing
hardware  and  software  than the Plus-3 -
they  had  extra  features  just bolted on
rather  than  built  in.  Spectrum  Plus 3
price  cut  to  199 - some stores discount
further to 180.


SPECTRUM PLUS 2 (revised)
64K ROM, 128K RAM; outwardly as older Plus
2s but less compatible inside.

16-bit  processor 8Mhz 8086, 512K RAM, One
3.5   inch   720K   disk   drive.   Medium
resolution  CGA graphics 320x200 pixels in
four colours. Never hit big-time.


MGT   launches  the  SAM  Coupe.  The  new
British  computer  offering  compatibility
with the majority of Spectrum software.


Amstrad   hold   a  secret  conference  in
France, with major announcements expected

To be continued....?


Другие статьи номера:

Part 1 - Intro.

Part 2 - Playing tips.

Part 3 - Free games instructions.

Part 4 - Emulate technical.

Part 5 - Emulate letters.

Part 6 - Hacking guide.

Part 7 - Spectrum history (part 2).

Part 8 - Desert island disks.

Part 9 - October games charts.

Part 10 - A-Z Of Spectrum games reviews (part 2).

Part 11 - Spectrum on the Net.

Part 12 - Adventures.

Part 13 - Next issue.

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

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