Sinclair ZX Spectrum (Timex Sinclair 2068)
Sinclair ZX Spectrum
We love the ZX Spectrum!!
This is a machine that has a place in our hearts, so we decided to create this page devoted to this wonderful machine and all the great (and not so great) games that were released for it.
There are thousands of us that love Sinclair's rubber keyed 80's home computer.
The Speccy as it became affectionately known is one of many machines where gamers and programmers cut their teeth.
We reckon it deserves a bit of love from us all.
So join us as we revel in legendary 80's gaming. To find more information on the number one 8-bit machine please read on...
What does a ZX Spectrum look like?
8-Bit gaming on Sinclair's legendary machine
The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was an 8-Bit personal home computer released by Sinclair Research Ltd in 1982. It had been referred to during development as the ZX81 Colour and ZX82, before it was finally given the 'ZX Spectrum' moniker.
The Spectrum was initially released in three different models, ranging from the entry level model with 16KB of RAM, to the more popular 48KB model and the ZX Spectrum + (which also had 48KB of RAM).
This machine really helped to usher in the era of home computing (especially in the UK and in many European countries where desktop arcade games such as Astro Wars and Astro Blaster had been very popular), giving rise to the legend of the 'bedroom programmer' and the serious gamer.
We fall into both categories, and many many hours of our mis-spent youth are dedicated to this machine.
So for all you Speccy fans out there (and especially Spectrum gamers), join us as nostalgia gets the better of us.
Who can remember Technician Ted? Did you ever contact Sam Cruise? And why was Airwolf on the Speccy more difficult than flying the real thing? The software houses, the games, the programmers, they are all in here.
Take a long, leisurely and teary eyed stroll down memory lane...
Arcade conversion Space Harrier for the ZX Spectrum
The Famous Game Over Sequence In Manic Miner
Classic ZX Spectrum Games
Many classic games appeared on the machine such as the arcade conversion of Space Harrier and the difficult yet classic polished platformer, Technician Ted.
Matthew Smith's Manic Miner was a game that really grabbed the attention of would be computer users.
Manic Miner is now one of the most famous and fondly remembered games of all time which also ensured that Matthew Smith's name became as famous as the game itself.
With it's wacky humour, surreal graphics and superb game over sequence Manic Miner pushed the boundary of home gaming and showed that games could be more than something you could 'just play'.
Smith went on to better Manic Miner with the sequel to the game, Jet Set Willy, which featured the same character wandering around a (then massive) 64 screen gaming area set within his mansion home.
Once again the humor was in there and fans of Manic Miner enjoyed Jet Set just as much as the first game.
These types of game are synonymous with the 8-bit era where humour, playability and charm could be crammed into a mere 48K or RAM...
The menu of Technician Ted puts the Speccy's single beeper through it's paces
Lifespan of the ZX Spectrum
The Sinclair ZX Spectrum endured a long and fruitfull life. Launched in 1982 the machine quickly gained a solid foothold in the home computer market - especially in the UK and some of the European countries.
Companies such as Acorn also developed machines such as the Acorn Electron. which was a decent enough machine which ended up falling by the wayside as the 1980's wore on. Eventually, the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 emerged as the leaders of the 8-Bit pack.
The Amstrad CPC 464 became being a major player too, but was not a direct rival to the good old Speccy.
As each year went by, the technology of the Spectrum was pushed further and further, and many other peripherals became available to add to your trusty machine.
There were plenty of joysticks (Quckshot I and II, Competition Pro, Konix Speed King to name but a few), a thermal printer, microdrives (which were a tad expensive) and even a lightgun was released that could be connected up via a joystick port.
Spectrum programmers managed to make the machines single channel beeper produce two channel sound and digitized speech.
Solid 3D vector graphics were smoothly animated in games such as Starstrike II (by 3D experts Realtime Software), and arcade conversions such as Operation Wolf were enhanced and made more authentic via the use of the 'ZX lightgun'.
Games such as Driller that utilized the 'Freescape' engine were a true marvel: they actually created a real 3D world that you could travel around in. These were amazing achievement for a machine with only 48KB of RAM.
Whilst not an 'action game' - Driller came out around six years before Doom appeared and is a true landmark in proper 3D gaming.
As the 1980's wore on, the ZX Spectrum was pushed way beyond it's intended capabilities, and was still a popular home computer come the end of the decade.
Incredibly ten years after it's launch in 1982, games were still being published for the machine; although by this point were usually only available for the more advanced 128K, +2 and +3 models that had been released in the mid 1980's.
Looking back I feel that it is highly unlikely that we will ever see a machine with such longevity ever again.
The Spectrum (or Speccy as it became known) finally finished it's run in 1993, where the lure of 16-bit machines such as the Commodore Amiga and Amiga 1200 (look at all of the quality Amiga games that were available) and the Atari ST became too much to resist for the home user.
By this point in time many users had switched from an 8-bit to 16-bit machine or had even went down the route of a PC or Apple Mac.
Still, the machine enjoyed success far beyond expectations due to it's faithfull user base, peripherals, massive range of software and it's overall character.
With many retro geeks such as us around, the Speccy will never truly die.
Bombjack on the ZX Spectrum
ZX Spectrum Rivalries With Other Machines
The ZX Spectrum enjoyed many rivalries during the 8-bit home computing craze of the 1980s.
The Acorn BBC Micro cannot be considered a true rival as it ended up being the preferred choice of computer in most UK schools - and was a little expensive for many home users.
Despite these machines (and others) there was one other home computing giant that was the real main rival. Enter the Commodore 64.
The ZX Spectrum and the C64 enjoyed a long and spicy rivaly.
Just like McEnroe and Borg, the tussle was constant to decide who was king of the hill. This rivalry spread from playgrounds to magazines to TV programmes, and no doubt added to the popularity of both machines.
What was better?
The C64's excellent sprites or the Speccy's detailled graphics? We won't go into sound because lets be honest here, the C64 SID chip blew anything else from the 80's away.
Please let us know your thoughts on your favourite of all retro computers ...
A Timex Sinclair 2068
The United States Version - Timex Sinclair 2068
In the United States a collaboration between Sinclair Research and industry giants Timex resulted in the Timex Sinclair 2068. It was a slightly different machine to the British ZX Spectrum, some of these differences were good, some bad.
On the plus side it had a better sound chip (the AY-3-8912 which would be incorporated into the later ZX Spectrum 128, ZX Spectrum +2 and ZX Spectrum +3) was far better than the Speccy's single channel beeper - excellent AY Music found it's way into many ZX Spectrum games. It also had a superset of Sinclair Basic giving it a few extra commands.
On the down side the two joystick connectors were not compatible with Sinclair joysticks (how bizarre) and it was difficult to get any in game music to play on this model - perhaps due to problems with bank switching. In our opinion, the actual looks of the machine were not as good either - not coming close to matching the classic jet black case and rainbow stripe in the bottom right hand corner.
It is rumoured that around 80,000 TS 2068's were manufactured in total for the US market - but it never really did compete against the Commodore machines of the day. The machine originally retailled at $199 - which was about average for the era.
These differences aside, the Timex Sinclair 2068 was still a fine 8-bit machine and was a good choice for many in the early 1980s. It's nice to see that our favourite Speccy managed to make it Stateside - albeit in a slightly different form.
A nice BASIC program displaying ZX Spectrum colour capabilites
1980's UK TV Commercial for the ZX Spectrum +
A ZX Spectrum +
Incarnation 1 - The ZX Spectrum +
In October of 1984 Sinclair Research released the ZX Spectrum + (or plus).
Now Speccy fanatics could finally use a proper 'typewriter' keyboard complete with a spacebar and cursor keys! :-)
Not only that, the machine now also had a soft reset button positioned on the side of the machine (which was very handy for any system crashes), and little pop-out 'legs' so it was possible to angle the keyboard if you desired.
These little features were the natural progression for the machine, and took an already popular computer which was full of character and improved it very nicely.
Roughly a year later the next generation of ZX Spectrum would be released...
ZX Spectrum 128
ZX Spectrum 128
Sinclair released the ZX Spectrum 128 within the UK in January of 1986 at a price of £179.95. New features included 128KB RAM, three-channel audio via the AY3-8912 sound chip, proper MIDI compatibility, an RGB monitor port, an RS-232 serial port, 32KB of ROM including an improved BASIC editor, and an external keypad.
Plenty of improvements to move with the times.
The Z80 processor used in the ZX Spectrum had a 16-bit address bus which only allowed 64KB of memory to be addressed directly.
To utilise the extra 80KB of RAM the designers used bank switching so that the extra memory would be available as eight pages of 16KB at the top of the address space.
Many existing games were released as new '128 versions' usually featuring better music and sound effects. Some programmers really made use of the new capabilities and expanded older games a great deal - Technician Ted by Hewson Consultants being a prime example.
Another advantage of the extra RAM was the fact that some multi-load games could be loaded direcly into memory in one go.
On the humble 48K spectrum, larger games required the game to loaded in portions (games such as the excellent Combat School took this approach).
How nice it was to be able to load the entire game in one and play it - no pesky interruptions for loading in the next three levels - especially when you were 'in the zone'.
ZX Spectrum 128 Music - Cybernoid II
Technician Ted Mega Mix Title Music - utilising the sound capabilities of the ZX Spectrum 128
A ZX Spectrum +2
ZX Spectrum +2
The ZX Spectrum +2 was the first machine released by Amstrad (a company who had bought the rights to Sinclair machines and also produced their own range of home computers).
Released in 1987 it was similar to the Spectrum 128 (a few ROM changed aside) but had a built in tape deck which was named 'The Datacorder'.
One annoying feature of the 8-bit era had been problems in loading cassette based software. The built in tape deck really ironed out these problems as it now had a standard volume, pitch and tone level.
Other storage mediums were still very expensive and most users had to put up with cassettes and standard tape recorders.
Although most games and other software would load in at the same volume and tone / pitch level, some tapes just would not play ball.
You would spend hours adjusting your tape recorders volume level, making small increases in pitch, and no matter how hard you tried, you would never get the thing to load! The release of the Spectrum +2 with it's standard tape deck ironed out this problem and added yet another string to machines bow.
Consequently software loading was now a lot less painful, and the ZX Spectrum +2 sold many, many units (a lot more than the nice but ill-fated Commodore 128).
At this point, the Speccy, and Spectrum games in general, probably reached their peak.
A ZX Spectrum +3
ZX Spectrum +3
The final incarnation of the ZX Spectrum was the ZX Spectrum +3.
This machine was released in the UK in 1987 and is generally regarded as the finest version of the Speccy.
It was very similar to the +2 except it now sported a floppy disk drive instead of the cassette 'Datacorder'. In moving with the times (floppy disks were rapidly superceding cassettes as a storage medium as the price of them had finally dropped) it allowed developers to produce software and distribute it on disks.
In a smart move a cassette recorder port was included to allow users to connect a tape drive and load in any existing software they already had.
At this point a lot of users had a huge library of games on cassette and would still want to use much of it.
By late 1987 a lot of users were turning away from the 8-bit machines (even the Commodore 128 struggled) and were looking at the more powerful 16-Bit models.
Still, the Spectrum +3 was a fine machine and carried on into the early 1990s. In fact, ZX Spectrum +2's and +3's were still used as games machines until 1993 - with software houses staying faithful to Sinclair's machine, releasing Amiga classics such as Stunt car racer, Carrier Command and Leaderboard on the ZX Spectrum - and doing a very good job of it too.
The ZX Spectrum +3 was a superb machine to close out the 8-Bit 'Speccy era'. In fact, Spectrum +3's and any software on disc format is highly sought after these days.
Software on +3 disks is quite rare, and good examples can fetch a high price.
I'm wiping a nostalgic tear from my as I finish typing....
An Interview With The Legendary Matthew Smith
Gaming on the Speccy today...
Games are still being produced for the machine today.
Chronosoft release games across a variety of retro formats and produce many titles for the ZX Spectrum.
Cult programmer Jonathan Cauldwell seems to to always busy creating another mini-masterpiece for our favourite 8-bit machine. His games are generally superb, being playable and technically impressive.
Useful ZX Spectrum and retro links
- Acorn Archimedes
A truly superb 16-bit machine
- Acorn Atom
The Acorn Atom was the ancestor to the BBC series of computers manufactured by Acorn
- Acorn Electron
The Acorn Electron was an 8-bit Micro manufactured by Acorn (who had also created the Acorn Atom) which was released in 1983. It was basically a budget version of the BBC Micro, or 'The poor man's Beeb' as it...
- Aliens: Infestation
A must play game for the Nintendo DS
- BBC Micro
The BBC, known as the BBC micro
- Best PC Games
Get the best in online games for free
- Commodore 16
The C16 was an 8-bit micro manufacured by Commodore
- Crash Magazine
Crash magazine was one of the most popular monthly magazines available covering the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and it's games
- Download Spectrum
How to download games for your emulator
Frogger is an arcade game which was released waaaay back in 1981...
- Funny Games
Games to make you chuckle
- Game Intro
Classic Game Intro's on a variety of formats
- Games Online
Play those classics again!
- Ground Zero
A gripping and grim text adventure
- Interface 2
Two player joystick heaven!
- Jim Bagley's Games Site
A top developer of Spectrum games is now active in the retro remakes area
- Jupiter Ace
A lesser known 8-bit machine
- Miniclip Games
Browser based online gaming heaven!
- Missile Command Games
Missile Command (along with Space Invaders, Pac Man, and Asteroids) must be one of the most well know arcade games of all time
- Ocean Software
Ocean Software was one of the biggest developers of arcade games within Europe during the 1980s and 1990s. Based in Manchester, England, they were formed by David Ward and Jon Woods. They became one of...
- Oric 1
The Oric 1 was nearly a competitor...
- Oric Atmos
Better than the Oric 1
- Pacman Game
Play Pacman again - we insist!
- Paperboy Arcade Game
A real 80s classic
- Spectrum emulator
Want to play those classic Spectrum games? Please read on...
- Space Invaders
Space Invaders, an all time classic...
- Star Wars Computer Games
A number of Star Wars Computer Games were released on the ZX Spectrum over the years. Some good, some bad, some truly awful...
- Stellar Forces
A very good retro remake
- TV Theme Songs
More funky tunes from your telly
A classic arcade console
- VIC 20
The Commodore VIC-20
- World of Spectrum
World of Spectrum, the official world archive for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the largest on-line gaming center on the Internet. Nuff said
The ZX81 was a sleek looking beast The Sinclair ZX81 was an 8-bit micro and was the follow up to the Sinclair ZX80. Released by Sinclair Research Ltd in 1981, the machine was named after it's year of release....
The Sinclair ZX80
- ZX Spectrum memories
Memories... all 48K of them!
- ZX Spectrum Reviews
A huge compilation of reviews from the 80's and 90's. A ton of Spectrum information is in here - well worth a read
- ZX Spectrum Scramble Games
Penetrator, Cavern Fighter, Scramble - which was the best version?
- ZX Spectrum Trashman
A brief and lighthearted look at an earlier release for the ZX Spectrum by New Generation Software