The Sinclair ZX80
The Sinclair ZX80 was a home computer manufactured by Sinclair (who had been known as Science of Cambridge Ltd in the late 1970s).
The computer was released onto the UK market in 1980 - hence the name 'ZX80'.
The ZX80 really is one of the machines that kick-started the home computer boom of the 1980s in the UK.
This page details yet another legendary machine from Sinclair...
The ZX80 Arrives...
The ZX80 was notable for being the first computer available in the United Kingdom sold for less than a hundred pounds, as it retailled at an excellent and affordable £79.95.
For those who loved the nuts and bolts of hardware it was available to purchase in kit form, where the buyer could assemble and solder it together.
Much fun and frustration to be had!
For mere mortals who just wanted to use the thing, a ready built version (at a higher price of £99.95) was available for purchase. This was still very good value for money.
The ZX80 was a very popular machine from the beginning, and for some time there was a waiting list of several months of buyers for the machine!
The machine had been designed by Jim Westwood and was based around a Z80 CPU with a pretty impressive (for the time) clock speed of 3.25 MHz.
It was equipped with 1KB of static RAM and 4KB of read only memory which held the Sinclair BASIC programming language, the editor and the operating system.
It is amazing to think that so much could be squeezed into so little...
Magazine advert for the ZX80
The Innards Of The ZX80
Using the ZX80 computer
BASIC commands were not entered by typing them out in full (as Sinclair users would come to know and 'love' over the next few years) but were instead selected in a similar fashion to a scientific calculator.
Each key had a few different functions (printed on the keyboard above each key) selected by both context and modes as well as by use of the shift key.
Display was via an RF connection (connected to a standard household television), and program storage was possible using a generic cassette recorder or tape-deck (which were popular in UK households back in the 1980s).
The video display generator of the ZX80 used minimal hardware plus a combination of software to generate a video signal.
As a result of the display technology the ZX80 could only generate a picture when it was completely idle; as in waiting for a key to be pressed.
So, when running a BASIC program, or even when simply pressing any key on the keyboard, the display would 'black out' momentarily while the processor was busy.
This made shifting graphics around difficult, since the program had to introduce a pause for input to display the next change in graphical output.
It did make creating your own indoor monochrome disco easy though by repeatedly hitting the enter key whilst listening to ABBA.
Space Invaders on the ZX80
Steve Benway Talks About The ZX80
A Version Of Pacman For The ZX80
The legacy of the ZX80
The ZX80 was never a technical masterpiece or a powerhouse of hardware.
It had no sound whatsoever and the display was completely monchrome (black and white). It was also never a swanky looking unit - the tiny white plastic case with the one piece blue membrane 'keyboard' always looked a little naff.
On top of these shortcomings it was not the most durable of machines either and was prone to bouts of overheating.
Having said that, it did bring computing into the homes of the UK at an affordable price, and made computing available to those of us that were not techno-geeks or hobbysists.
It also provided the computing platform for Sinclair, who would go on to release more successful machines over the next few years, including one of the most popular 8-bit micro's ever, the ZX Spectrum.
Sales of the ZX80 reached somewhere in the region of 50,000 which was an unheard of number back in 1980! Considering the era it is an astonishing number.
These sales helped to establish home computing in the UK and also contributed to the UK leading the world in home computer ownership throughout the 1980s.
It also helped to usher in the era of the 'bedroom programmer' due to it having built in BASIC which you could use as soon as the machine was switched on.
A few games were also commercially available for the machine (such as Space Invaders), which are extremely rare these days.
Owing to the unsophisticated design and the tendency for the units to overheat, surviving machines in good condition are uncommon.
If you want to pick one of these up be prepared to pay a few quid!
Rick Dickinson Recalls Sinclair Design with the ZX80
A Time Lapse Capture Of Simple Animation On The ZX80
Programming The ZX80
This machine really helped to introduce many users to the wonders of computer programming.
Since the machine had a version of BASIC built in it was possible to switch it on and start typing away.
Many magazines and books were soon released with tutorials in BASIC programming teaching users how to process numbers, display text, create loops, use arrays and so on.
BASIC programming in the home was revolutionary and created a generation of enthusiasts who could unleash their creativity in new ways.
We may look back and laugh just now, but back then it was completely awesome.
10 Print "Martin Allan"
20 GOTO 10
It never gets old...
A Short BASIC Program On The ZX80
Sir Clive Himself Talks Sinclair Computers
- 80s theme tunes
The best theme tunes from the 80s
- 8-bit to 16-bit
Two classic machines from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras...
- Acorn Atom
The Atom was the ancestor to the BBC series of computers manufactured by Acorn
- Acorn Electron
The Electron was an 8-bit Micro manufactured by Acorn
- Amiga 1200
The Amiga 1200 (which was sometimes known as the A1200) was Commodore International's third-generation Amiga computer
- Amiga CD 32
Quite a rare console
- Amiga Games
The best in 16-bits
- Amstrad CPC 464
During the 1980s entrepeneur Alan Sugar made a foray into the home computer market...
Asteroids (along with the seminal Space Invaders) must be one of the most famous arcade games of all time
- Astro Blaster
A table-top scramble clone...
- Astro Wars
A legendary table top arcade game
- Atari Falcon
The Falcon was Atari's final home computer product before they concentrated on consoles such as the Jaguar
- Atari ST
The Atari ST was a 16-bit home computer that was commercially available from 1985 through to the early 1990s
- Awesome Graphics
Some awesome graphics were created on many retro computers
- AY Music
During the 1980s a lot of the 8-Bit micros used the AY3-8912 sound chip to generate music and sound effects
Bagman was an arcade game released in 1982 by the lesser known Valadon Automation
- BBC Micro
A chunky heavyweight computer...
- Best PC Games
Best PC Gaming - get the best in online games for free
- Commodore 16
The C16 was an 8-bit micro manufacured by Commodore which was developed and released back in 1984
- Commodore 64
The C64 was the flagship of Commodores 8-bit fleet
- Commodore 128
The last of Commodore's 8-bit machines
- Commodore Amiga
The best 16-bits money could buy
- Crash Magazine
Crash magazine was one of the most popular monthly magazines available
- Funny Games
Funny games from past and present
- Games Online
Games online are both modern and classic
- Miniclip Games
Browser based arcade action
- Missile Command Games
Missle Command - a world famous arcade game
- Ocean Software
Ocean Software was one of the biggest developers of arcade games...
- Oric 1
The Oric 1 was 8-bits of almost there...
- Oric Atmos
The Oric Atmos
- Pacman Game
For those retro gaming fans among us, who can forget the year of 1980 when Pac-man first appeared in the amusement arcades?
- Scramble games
Arcade classic Scramble...
- Sinclair Interface 2
ROM Carts and 2 player joy
- Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Sinclair's flagship machine
- Space Invaders
Space Invaders, an all time classic that really launched the genre of the shoot em up
- Spectrum Emulator
Want to play those classic Spectrum games? Please read on.
- Spectrum Games
Games, quizzes and programmer interviews. A rainbow of nostalgia...
- Spectrum Music
- Star Wars Computer Games
A presence I've not felt since...
Tetris is the all time classic puzzle game that spawned many sequels and clones. The Game Boy version remains a firm favourite
- Tomy Sky Attack
Tomy 3D Sky Attack
Home video game system
- VIC 20
The Commodore VIC-20
- Vintage Classic Toys
Toys from yesteryear...
Son of the ZX80
- ZX Spectrum Programmers
The 48K Spectrum was pushed way beyond it's limitations There were many fine developers who worked on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (and other retro computers) during the 1980s and into the early 1990s. They...
- ZZap64 Magazine
ZZap 64 magazine was one of the most popular monthly magazines available
A ZX80 Is Turned Into A Robot!
More by this Author
The Amstrad CPC 464 or the Colour Personal Computer was an 8-bit micro from Amstrad
Ocean Software produced many classic games in the 1980s and 1990s
- EDITOR'S CHOICE2
Some handy tips for anyone buying a new used car from a dealer
Any fans of the ZX80?
No comments yet.