Thursday, August 02, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (19)

1983: Sinclair ZX Spectrum

In 1983 I acquired for 175 British Pounds the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a light weight and slim line home computer with 48K (serial number 012-843461) with ‘dead flesh’ (rubber) keys. The machine came onto the market in 1982. It was an instant success for more than one reason.

I knew Sinclair since 1972 from his drive of efforts to reduce voluminous machines. Directly visible was the calculator; Mr Sinclair reduced the desk calculator to a pocket calculator and made it jewellery for the businessman. Later on he made a portable television set, a tricycle and light weight, portable cycle of 5 kilo. He was a very inventive man and received in 1983, after the launch of the ZX Spectrum a CBE decoration.

The ZX Spectrum was also a small machine (23x14x1,5cm). All other home and professional PCs were larger at that time and more expensive. But Sinclair knew how to reduce the dimensions having produced the computer series ZX80 and ZX82. The device had to be connected to the television set, which served as monitor. New in the ZX Spectrum was the colour; in fact one of the code names for the computer was ZX Colour, but this was later changed into ZX Spectrum. The video was designed for use with contemporary portable television sets. Text could be displayed using 32 columns × 24 rows of characters. One could work with 16 colours, but this facility had its limitations. Each of the 8 colour squares of 8x8 pixels could be used for only 2 different colours. This created some bizarre effects in the animated graphics of arcade style games. The Commodore 64 for example used other colour attributes such as hardware sprites and scrolling were used to avoid attribute clash.

The ZX Spectrum was a success from the beginning. It changed the image of a computer from a working tool into a working and gaming tool, a real home computer. In less than one and a half year more than one million devices were sold. But the success had also its dark side as the mail-order business began to foul up; so it was decided to use computer chains for distribution. It also stimulated the distribution of software. One of the success factors of the ZX Spectrum was also the vast range of software and games. Presently there is still a list of the top 100 of best games, as voted for by the visitors of World of Spectrum Archive. One of the games I remember was the Ghost Busters, a licensed game by Activision based on the movie of the same name.

The Sinclair Research company was bought by Amstrad Computers in 1986. The computer lost the interest of people as other PCs came onto the market. The ZX Spectrum was in production till 1992.

Blog Posting Number: 829


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