The Sinclair ZX Spectrum, with classic games Jet Pac, Manic Miner Jet Set Willy

The ZX Spectrum along with the Commodore 64 are probably best know as the two machines which had the most influence on the home computer market during the early 80s.

The Sinclair Spectrum was released in April 1982 you could purchase a 16kbytes RAM version for £125 or a 48Kbytes version for £175. (Later models where to have 128Kbytes.) Considerably cheaper than the Commodore 64 @ $595.

The Spectrum still used the same processor as the ZX80 and ZX81 now at 3.54Mhz, however a graphics and sound where now available in this new machine, graphics being 256 x 192 pixels with 8 colours and sound being 1 channel with 5 octaves which gave the machine its familiar beep, beep noises rather than fluid sounding noises of machines like the C64.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

One of the main differences between the ZX80/ZX81 and the Spectrum was its rubber keyboard. Again to keep the costs down the designers had gone for a touch sensitive keyboard. This however gave greater sensitivity being made from rubber, less effort and pressure was required to use the machine. This was to prove the down fall of earlier Spectrums which where used mainly for game play, especially with games such as Daley Thompson´s Decathlon and Hyper Sports!

Jet Pac

Jet Pac

Manic Miner

Manic Miner

The first games on the Spectrum were fairly primitive with games such as Horace goes Skiing, Jet Pac or Manic Miner. I can´t remember which came first.

Jet Pac was a game where you where a little space man, with a Jet Pac, who´s aim was to build a space ship from bits which dropped from the top of the screen whilst dodging space debris which was flying around the screen at the same time you where. Once built, you had to fuel the rocket and then get in to it. It would then fly off the screen and you would be moved onto the next level where you would start over again.

Manic miner was a platform game where you played the part of a little miner who had to walk around the screen picking up shiny flashy things until all where collected.

Then the exit gate would then flash, meaning it was open. The problem you faced was that each level had a certain number of baddies which you had to avoid as they could not be killed, but they would kill you. Plus certain platforms would dissolve when stood upon. You also only had a limited amount of time to complete each level but this was shown in remaining air supply, not time. Manic Miner was written by Matthew Smith.

This kept me quiet for many an hour I can tell you. I think my parent loved the Spectrum more than I did!

The Spectrum was on the Markey for a great number of years and it was only when the 16 bit computers (Previous machines where know at 8 bit, this is the number of instructions the machines can process at one time.) emerged than the Spectrum declined in popularity.


ZX Spectrum 128k

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128+

During its life cycle the Spectrum went through a number of changes from the machine shown above. The first of these was to the Spectrum +. The machine was the same inside as the original but the box and keyboard had been redesigned to give a chunkier, robust feel and gone was the rubber keyboard to be replaced by plastic keys. As mentioned above the down fall of the original Spectrum was its keyboard. Playing games which required hammering the keys in rapid succession would destroy the Spectrum keyboard, not to mention countless Joysticks. I can remember taking my Spectrum back to WH Smith on a number of occasions with a broken Keyboard from playing Hyper sports.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2

From the Spectrum + we go to the Spectrum 128 which now had increased memory and 3 channel, 5 octave sound. The 128 was similar in design to the Spectrum + however the 128 had a row of plastic find down the right hand side of the machine which aided cooling.

These newer machines also now had a reset switch as to reset the old Spectrum you had to remove the power lead from the computer; this broke a huge number of power supplies. So a new reset switch was put on the machine.

The +2 and +3 machines where the same as the 128 machine but had built in Tape drive (+2) and 3” disk drive (+3).

Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3

The +3 was released in 1988 and cost nearly £250 which was close to the sale price of the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga which both sold for around £400. Although the +3 had the 3” disk drive which was supplied by Amstrad, the machine had become out of date and had its technology surpassed by newer machines.

The Spectrum was a superb machine for its time and the quality and playability of its games makes me still dust the old Spectrum and fire up the olde tape drive.

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