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?

An original rubber keyed ZX Spectrum 48K
An original rubber keyed ZX Spectrum 48K

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.

This was an apt name as it highlighted it's colour display, compared to the black and white of its predecessors, the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81.

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.

The Spectrum managed to fend off most of the other 8-bit competition of the age, with machines from Oric (such as the Oric 1 and Oric Atmos), Dragon, Tandy, the Vic 20 and some from Acorn (such as the Acorn Electron) falling by the wayside as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 emerged as the leaders of the pack.

The Amstrad CPC 464 ended up 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 and look up and down within 48K of memory.

Whilst not an 'action game' - Driller came out around six years before Doom appeared and is a true landmark in proper 3D gaming.

Overall Driller (and the follow up Darkside) was a purveyor of awesome graphics.

As the 80's wore on, the ZX Spectrum was pushed way beyond it's intented 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 1980s.

Still, it is highly unlikely that we will ever see a machine with such longevity ever again.

Sadly, all good things eventually come to an end...

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 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

Bombjack was one of the great arcade conversions for the ZX Spectrum
Bombjack was one of the great arcade conversions for 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.

Rival machines included the Oric 1 (and Atmos), Amstrad CPC 464 (and 664), the Dragon 64 and the Acorn Electron.

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

A nice and shiny Timex Sinclair 2068
A nice and shiny 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 +

A resplendent looking Sinclair ZX Spectrum +
A resplendent looking Sinclair 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 ZX Spectrum, and took an already popular machine 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

A nifty looking ZX Spectrum 128
A nifty looking 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

A ZX Spectrum +2
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'.

The built in tape deck really ironed out the problems of loading software in from cassette as it now had a standard volume, pitch and tone level.

One annoying feature of the 8-bit era had been problem in loading cassette based software.

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, the damn thing would just not load! The release of the Spectrum +2 with it's standard tape deck ironed out this problem and added yet another string to the Spectrum's bow.

Consequently software loading was now a lot less panful, and the ZX Spectrum +2 sold many, many units (much more than the nice but ill-fated Commodore 128).

At this point, the Speccy (and Spectrum games in general) probably reached it's peak.

A ZX Spectrum +3

A nice jet black +3
A nice jet black +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.

The ZX Spectrum +3 did well, but it was released at a time when the 16-Bit machines such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST were taking hold of the home computer market.

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

Sir Clive Himself Tells Us His ZX Story...

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.

Also check out Bob's Stuff - he has created many fine modern games for the ZX Spectrum and also the Sinclair ZX81.

Which model of the ZX Spectrum did you own?

Which ZX Spectrum did you own?

  • 16K Rubber Key
  • 48K Rubber Key
  • 48K Spectrum Plus
  • ZX Spectrum 128
  • ZX Spectrum +2
  • ZX Spectrum +3
  • More than one model of Spectrum
See results without voting

More by this Author


Any Speccy fans care to commet? 10 comments

GibsonRickenbacker 7 years ago

Nice article guys... I spent many hours on my trusty 48K rubber-keyed Spectrum - and Technician Ted was very addictive. Some nice memories brought back...


Harvey 7 years ago

Smashing to see someone still loves the speccy, i enjoyed the sinclair range of 8 bit machines zx81/speccy+48/speccy+128.

I had the amstrad +2 but they messed with the hardware ula and roms, still like the originals better.

I got all my understanding of computers from repairing and making hardware for thease little machines, long live the speccy :-)


Bob 7 years ago

Does anyone know how to modify the Spectrum's UK video out format to the standard analog US TV format? Please email me if you have any info on this, at classares@aol.com

Thanks!


SimeyC profile image

SimeyC 7 years ago from NJ, USA

Another nostalgic hub - I still have a working ZX spectrum 128k with box and all! It'll make me a millionair in about 700 years! I loved the Dragon 64 - it was a pretty decent machine (made in Wales!) but simply got overlooked because of the Amiga, Commodore and Atari....thanksf or the nostalgia!


RetroBrothers profile image

RetroBrothers 7 years ago from Sunny Scotland Author

Cheers SimeyC. We also remember the Dragon (32 and 64) it never really took off as you say, the 8-bit market in the UK was cornered by the Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad CPC.


ZX Zeido 6 years ago

Nice round-up, but there's a mistake. The ZX Spectrum +2 actually launched in October 1986, not 1987.

And you did not mention the ZX Spectrum +2A, which was a 'black' model that replaced the 'grey' +2, and was basically a +3 on the inside but with a tape drive instead.

That was the final Spectrum.

Again... thanks for the great summary... and cheers!


Crazy tim SAYS: 6 years ago

Ever since i bought the timex sinclair 2068, i thought it was

a good computer, now that i see the Spectrum +2 has a recorder built right in. To bad timex sinclair, would of did that as well. Even tho i wish it was a floppy disk, instead of, but i still had like the sinclair 2068. but now it's hard to find at this time tho.


roger 5 years ago

+d whacker n e 1 get it 2 run on zx spin real speccy or others?

no one get fdd3k micro command speech keypad pic microcontroller running in emulators?

app e chrimbo n new year

ne1 get retro X to save atom lite hdf sam mode4 screen$ to records?


victor 5 years ago

Hi!

25 years ago I worked with ZXSpectrum and the TS2068, I have ones and I loved they !!!


Pamela 4 years ago

Fantastic article on a fantastic series of machines!

I'm off for a game of 3D Deathchase just now...

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