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    Congratulations to Workshopshed and paulpsomiadis!


    You have been selected as winners of Ben's ZX Spectrum Portable!


    The ZX Spectrum, an 8-bit personal computer from Sinclair Research Ltd., is a beloved retro computer from the 80s. While it didn't gain a lot of traction outside of the UK, especially in places where it was undercut by the Commodore 64, it did more to define British gaming culture than any dedicated gaming console. Much like the color used in Apple's old logo, the word Spectrum highlights the machine's color display.


    Since launch, over 24,000 software titles have been released for the ZX. Not including clones, it sold in excess of 5 million units worldwide.




    {gallery} ZX Spectrum Slideshow





    In 1983, the video game bubble formed during the golden age of gaming burst as the market became flooded with too many consoles and poorly designed games. Atari, the most popular video game console before the crash, reported $537 million in losses for 1983. Atari had the dubious distinction of releasing the poster child for this era when it rushed to market the highly anticipated E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial game. It's widely regarded as one of the worst games ever and is frequently cited as a contributing factor to the video game crash of 1983. The game was so bad, all remaining unsold versions of it got buried in the New Mexico desert.


    Around the time dedicated gaming consoles became widely regarded as a passing fad, home computer gaming continued to thrive. Low cost machines like the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum proved to be popular alternatives to dedicated gaming consoles.  While it didn't have the same impact outside the UK, its influence on gaming in the UK is undeniable. In its day, a British game publisher would develop for the ZX Spectrum and begrudgingly port to other machines later.



    The low cost of the machine, a catalog including thousands of games, and cheap distribution of games thanks to cassette tapes factored into its continuous popularity in the UK. The ZX Spectrum was widely adopted as a gaming platform despite its lack of built-in joystick ports, primitive sound generation, and color support that was not optimized for text display.


    Ben Heck's ZX Spectrum Part 1
    Ben Heck's Portable ZX Spectrum Part 2



    Enjoy games on the ZX Spectrum?


    Tell us what the ZX Spectrum means to you.



    If you were influenced by the ZX Spectrum let us know what makes the ZX Spectrum special.  Tell us about what games you enjoyed or what made the system stand out. Feel free to share images, an achievement such as a high score, or anything you can think of related to the ZX Spectrum.


    If you haven't had a chance to experience the ZX Spectrum then feel free talk about a rival system such as the Commodore 64 instead.



    Here are the highlights:


    bootlegger writes:


    Still loving the spectrum and all other Sinclair products 30+ years later. I am currently trying to relive my youth and am slowly building up my stock of everything Sinclair. I so far have my +2 with interface 1 and microdrive. I have a Sinclair ql. Just recently got a faulty zx81 awaiting repair. Got the 'recreated zx spectrum' by elite. Got 1st and second batch 'Sinclair zx Vegas'.  Have backed the 'Sinclair zx Vega+' and am keeping a very close eye on the 'Sinclair spectrum next'.  Got a mug with spectrum keyboard on it. Got a small rubber keyboard keyring. Got a spectrum wallet. And am still developing software for it as well having just wrote a berserk clone for the YouTube video series 'the spectrum show'. Every console I have ever owned had always been hacked for homebrew and a spectrum emulator added to it.  Have purchased spectacular for the pc which is probably the best pc spectrum emulator.   So winning one of these Ben hecks spectrums would just be the best. Loved watching the show and envy Ben's abilities! Jason.



    wmoecke writes:


    Just like previous 3 commenters (well, perhaps not as avid as Jason, in all honesty), I'm a sucker for the ZX.

    But there's a slight twist to my story, as circumstances surrounding me had my first ZX coming my way in the form of a clone machine.

    It was around mid-80s when I had my very own Microdigital TK-90X from Brazil. Back in those days, under the excuse of willing to enforce the development of nationalized technology, politicians had passed a law embargoing the import of any technology; so to stay afloat, manufacturers had to come up with creative ways to deliver in a short time. Which led them to reverse engineer tech "informally" brought over from overseas and the US, thus we had clones of all sorts at the shelves.


    The Sinclair family was amongst the most popular since the ZX-81. There was even a "breed" of the ZX-81, namely, TK-85. Interestingly, it had the same form factor and basic hardware (CPU, ULA, RAM and I/O) as the Spectrum but no colors and no sound. It became immensely popular over here, despite its limitations.


    Our Spectrum clone was here re-christened as TK-90X; the X stood for "extended", not just because it beared the full specs of a newest-generation Spectrum, but the engineers also crammed some custom code in the ROM to allow for certain custom peripherals to be added to the machine. Most widely known of (and to my knowledge, the only ever released) these peripherals was a light pen that consisted of an appendage that would be plugged in via an interface card that would connect to the back expansion connector. The custom ROM subroutine would drive the light pen, which only contained a photodiode in the inside. The pen would be read via a PEEK USR 63109 instruction from a BASIC program which would return a decimal value converted from the binary output sensed by the pen. This value would basically indicate which "row" on the screen the pen was currently pointing at. They also supplied a few demo programs on cassette - one of these demos allowed for drawing directly on the screen with the light pen.

    My very own ZX Spectrum clone with light pen in all its glory



    (Above, you can have a peek at my original TK-90X carefully stored in all its glory and with the light pen interface (upper right corner)).


    One of my project ideas from back then that I remember very clearly, was to add a LCD display and a battery pack - a 90's era portable laptop setup for my Spectrum/TK90X - but back then we only had monochrome LCD screens which were neither widely available nor cheap; and the battery packs I found were NiCd (extremely bulky and as expensive as the LCD screens). So I never really got to do it. Nowadays it would be much more feasible to go down that path (and beyond, as Ben cleverly shows us).


    The one thing I would definately do nowadays with the portable Spectrum (if either I was awarded one or if I build one based off Ben's design files) would be to add a ZX expansion port. In my mind I see it implemented as tapping the address/data and control lines directly off Ben's board using a flat cable, then exposing it to the outside (one way to do it would be soldering the other end of the wires to a header such as this or this, conveniently cut to size and carefully make way in the case with a dremel then affix the header to the case with a few drops of hot glue) - the other part of this "Portable Spectrum v2 Interface Adapter" would be to make an "edge connector" cut out of a suitable universal prototyping PCB with edge strips etched to it and solder wires to it out of a flat cable, with the other ends soldered to an appropriate male header - this little appendage would plug into the header previously fitted to the case. This would allow me to add some interesting external hardware such as a DivMMC or DivIDE interface to load games in .tap format off an SD card; it comes loaded with the EXDOS filesystem, making it a nice expansion to the Speccy v2.

    My little TK-90X's inner self...

    (For those who have trouble believing it is an actual Speccy, there's the proof: the TK-90X mainboard, RAM memory bank - video & user - to the left edge, LM1886 and video circuitry at the mid-top, followed by ULA (this one kept intact), CPU at the middle, ROM at the bottom.)


    In my first internship job, my boss at the time gave me his own original 48K Spectrum which he had bought while living abroad for a year. By then I considered myself proficient in Spectrum BASIC language and its hardware, thanks to my TK-90X. I was still a freshman at the technical college, but I was able to convert that Spectrum's TV output from the british PAL-50 TV system to PAL-60 by slightly modifying the circuitry around the LM1886/LM1889 D-to-A video encoder/modulator to output the the correct timings and luminance/color difference levels. Both these linear ICs are very convenient to work with - proof of it is that I've also managed to extract the composite signal out of LM1889's pin 13; it required just a simple darlington transistor and some passives to get the job done. Piece of cake.


    Funny enough, I ended up stripping the ULA chip from that very Spectrum; after having watched in awe Ben's 2014 hand-wired Speccy episodes - I think someone from the team asked if anyone could donate another Spectrum or an ULA - I thought in stepping in and sent my Speccy's ULA on its way to Ben. I wonder if any one of these new breeds would bear my donor ULA.  ;-) That would be interesting to find out...


    I also have my eye on the upcoming ZX Spectrum Next project - and I'm especially proud of it being an almost fully-brazilian team who came up with this beauty of a concept. Make no mistake, these guys mean business; Victor Trucco and Fabio Belavenuto have been in the retro scene since forever and I'm especially a fan of Fabio's TK-3000 //e emulator (this was an Apple //e brazilian clone brought by the same Microdigital who came up with the TK-90X) and also his partnership with Victor to create their very own ULA+ implemented around an Altera Cyclone II FPGA. Imagine reverse-engineering the original Speccy's ULA (their work was based on the same book Ben recommended in his portable Speccy v2 episodes) and making a clone that works so well it can be simply plugged in place of the original ULA socket with no compromise to the Speccy! That development led to a whole new project - namely, TBBlue - an FPGA-based implementation that runs all variants of the Spectrum ROM (up to the 128+ 3e) and the ULA+ with VGA and HDMI video outputs (with 50Hz/60Hz selectable via a bootloader menu), SD card reader and PS2/Spectrum keyboard interface (by the way, this one's going to be the core of the upcoming ZX Spectrum Next - check video below). One word? Genious.





    I've ordered Victor Trucco's TBBlue board and the process of converting my old TK-90X into a brand new machine with 8 different hardware configurations and 3 expansion options (check out the boot menu screenshot below) has begun:


    Yes, the TBBlue does recreate the DivMMC/Multiface/Explorer boards, plus the ULA+ and more. And for the conversion I've had to provision the holes in the TK-90X case for the extra connectors and buttons - check it out:



    First, there's going to be a VGA and PS2 Keyboard connectors in place of the old RF output (the MIC and EAR jacks in the TBBlue are actually reconfigured as MIC/EAR and stereo audio output.)




    Those 2 push-buttons are respectively, for the DivMMC and Multiface interfaces (both internally recreated in the FPGA).




    The TBBlue's soft-reset push-button and SD card slot (used to hold some boot config files and also ZX-Spectrum content in *.TAP/*.Z80 file format.)



    Next step is (while waiting for the Cyclone II FPGA daughterboard to arrive in the mail) to give some more TLC to the plastic case (sanding/painting) which will have a "piano black" finish and possibly ordering some extra replacement parts (keyboard membrane, rubber mat, metal keyboard plate) from Retroradionics  to make this a unique "special edition" case worthy of the new hardware it will be housing.


    And like I said before, now's the time to get those old project ideas out of the drawer and make them happen: After I'm done with stage one (refurbishment), stage two will consist in getting a 9~12V rechargeable battery pack + Li-Po charger/5V power converter and a 7" or 9" rear view TFT color monitor attached to the case (that will fold over the keyboard), to make my "Turbo-charged Speccy" a true laptop computer - this is now completely doable with today's affordable tech. Thanks to Benjamin Heckendorn for the inspiration.


    the-dubster writes:


    What does the ZX Spectrum mean to me?


    How about being sat there for ages watching the load screen (at least they gave you disco lights either side of the window).

    Being disappointed when the load failed, adjusting the volume control on your tape player and trying again . . . .


    At least it was a step up from the old blue ZX80 (remember that one?) or its marginally bigger brother the ZX81!


    To be honest I never had a home computer until I got a job and moved out, my parents genuinely couldn't afford one (you can't have free school dinners and vouchers for your uniform and shoes and then splash the cash on luxuries like home computing)!!


    My exposure was limited to popping next door to my best mate's house or using one that the school had during summer holidays.

    My dad was the caretaker of two schools, unlimited use of the woodwork room d I got to climb the ropes / wall bars ALL summer long!!!


    So yeah, some fond memories of bashing away at a keyboard typing endless lines of basic code (and if it was on the ZX81 WITHOUT the extra RAM) getting the 'out of memory' message!




    Oh yeah, nearly forgot! My mother is a hoarder and kept so much of my guff from being a kid (I'm 48)!!!


    She gave me this last time we went down - dunno where I got it from, as I said, I never even had a computer back then . . . .




    Workshopshed writes:


    For me the Zx Spectrum was what got me into computing and hence drove my eventual career. As I could not afford many new games I spent my time typing in code from magazine articles and then correcting any bugs and enhancing them.


    The Zx Spectrum helped me pass my GCSE Design Technology course as it was the host for an X-Y plotter. I learnt the hard-way not to directly attach switches to the expansion bus and my poor Spectrum was out of action for a few weeks whilst I had the blown RAM chips replaced. I found a suitable buffered output expansion pack which then allowed me to complete the project.

    2014-08-24 19.01.48.jpg 2014-08-24 19.00.31.jpg

    2014-08-24 19.01.03.jpg 2014-08-24 18.59.06.jpg



    After that I moved into coding my own games, first in Basic then in Z80 Assembly Language. I dreamt of becoming a famous games programmer like the people I read about in the magazines such as Your Sinclair and Sinclair User. The King Penguin game never got finished as it was just too ambitious. I did managed to create some routines for moving double height sprites along with masking and generated backgrounds. My favourite piece was the fish health indicator which changed from a mackerel to a skeleton as your health dropped. There were some cool sound effects too for the beak-butt and karate chop moves.



    I even used the Spectrum as part of my A-Level Chemistry course with an animated guide to making sulphuric acid on an industrial scale.


    I donated my old Spectrum and accessories to the computer museum in Cambridge a few years back as I did not have space to keep it all.

    2014-08-16 19.57.51.jpg

    In summary, the Zx Spectrum helped me get where I am today.


    Ruth Bramley reflects on working at Sinlcair Research in the early 1980s.



    zelja74 writes:



    It isn't really true that ZX Spectrum wasn't popular outside UK. It was very popular in the eastern bloc, so it was in Croatia (then Yugoslavia). The main reason is the price, probably. We had several domestically made official school computers back then, but ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 was main computers for home use.


    The problem was the import of such computers was banned, and you had to be a little innovative what to say to customs officer what that little black box with the rainbow is:


    Customs officer: And what's this?

    You: Well, it's programmer for my washing machine. Don't you see it's all made from rubber?


    I got my ZX spectrum+ in 1985-1986. Oh boy, I was one of the lucky ones. Almost nobody owned a computer. Later, there was some Commodore 64's, Atari 600XLs, and even Sinclair QL (one friend father was computer savvy and had money to spend it). My other friend's father bought Amstrad CPC6128 for his thesis, and while it was really good computer with 3" floppy, it wasn't very good for games (monochrome monitor, not so many games).


    At first, I worked on black and white small TV that my grandpa gave me. That means games were less attractive, and programming was more interesting (I finally found myself in IT sector, and I'm still in it now). This means gaming parties were common, I would grab my ZX and go to friends to play. Later, I got my own colour TV, but by then my longings turned to Amiga 500 (which I never got, the war started).


    During tha war in Croatia 1991-1995, I turned back to my old ZX and played like I never played before. I draw some pictures, and played until 3 AM or so. It helped not to listen to shells falling to the city all the time (even when there was cease fire). This was in late 1992 and early 1993. I bought first PC in 1997.


    I never owned Interface II or joystick, but eventually got Interface I and microdrive (but no cartdridges). So, I never experienced ZX network or ZX printer, but I don't mind.


    ZX was one the best parts of my childhood, and offered some kind of relief during the war. I still own it, but unfortunatelly I'm on vacation and cannot get any pictures of it now, nor my trusty "Rudi Čajavec" cassette player, or games I own (all of them are pirated, back then there were no official distributor for ZX spectrum - although, later some domestic games could be bought).


    I'm so thankful that my mother realised how important computers will be, and bought me computer, even if it was unofficial distributor (that means, bus driver who, for commision, would carry this kind of goods over West German-Austrian-Yugoslavian borders).


    PS: I don't know about other countries, but it was common for certain computer radio shows to publicly broadcast games and other software on radio? You only needed to press record and presto - new game is yours. Never used that service, the reception was poor, never worked for me.



    I loved the spectrum, my parents bought one for me and my brother as a joint Christmas present when we were kids (best Christmas EVER!) I remember not being able to sleep properly for weeks I was that excited about playing on it. The games were awesome, it's been a while since I played a game where you only had 3 lives and no saves or sometimes only one life or many (Jet Set Willy).


    Many, many, hours I whiled away typing code I found in magazines only to have to retrace my steps after inputting the wrong number somewhere.


    My favourite games were the text adventures it was brilliant to be able to play a book! I even had a go at creating my own.


    Everything about the Spectrum brings back fond childhood memories especially the sound of the tapes loading which used to go hand in hand with fingers and toes crossed praying it wouldn't crash!


    Quality machine with great games...loved it!




    derekjc writes:


    Although I started with the ZX81 at home (and Commodore Pet at school) it was the ZX Spectrum that was the computer on which I learned to program, both basic and Z80 machine code. Having learnt the basics I went on to program friends' VIC-20 and Commodore 64s, as well as BBC Micros at school.


    I also enjoyed playing the games, and the social element of working out how to play them with my friends. My particular favourites were the Ultimate Play the Game, Ashby Computers & Graphics games, particularly Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Knight Lore and Alien 8. I also enjoyed playing Micro-Gen's Wally series (Pyjamarama, Everyone's a Wally and Herbert's Dummy Run), Hewson Consultants' Avalon and Dragontorc, and Vortex Software's Highway Encounter, Android 1 & 2, TLL and Cyclone, as well as many others.


    Nevertheless, it is the Spectrum that I cite as the catalyst for me becoming interested in computing, programming and electronics, leading me to study electronics at college and university, and a career of over 20 years (and counting) programming computers. Nowadays in spend my spare time I enjoy picking up old Spectrums (and ZX81s), testing them and repairing them if necessary, to ensure that these now ancient home computers are still in working order so that future generations, who have always known powerful computers, do not forget how computers used to be.

    New spectrum keyboard membrane


    Replacing the keyboard membrane of a Spectrum.

    Repaired Spectrum with new faceplate

    Repaired Spectrum with new faceplate.




    simonprickett writes:


    I got a ZX Spectrum 48k rubber key edition for Christmas one year, and it was the family's first computer.  I spent ages reading the manual back to front, wrote a lot of programs in BASIC with it and that's led to a career in software development and messing with hardware that's happened to coincide with this great era when everything is now programmable and made to be taken apart and messed with.  I now have a son of my own, he's 14 and retro gaming and coding activities are some of the things that are bringing him out of his shell and helping him overcome social difficulties that his Autism imposes on him.  We've done some cool projects with putting Raspberry Pi inside the original Gameboy case, using LED matrix displays and wiring all the buttons up to build our own custom Flappy Bird console, and I've been teaching him coding with JavaScript and arcade button wiring too. He'd love being able to see something like this in real life and I'd hope it would inspire him to maybe realize that there's a job at the end of all this tinkering, which would help with his anxiety about what he's going to do in the future.


    rd01 writes:


    For me it all started during the Christmas holidays of 1982 when my dad gave a ZX81 kit to my brothers and me. We eagerly spent a few hours assembling the kit into a 'real' computer. Being the oldest brother entitled me to hog the user guide (or so I thought) and learn how to program in BASIC. Little did I know that it should be the foundation of a life long career in electronics.


    Even though it had to be hooked up to a black and white TV, had no sound and a puny 1KB of working memory, it was a like a revelation to me. With a tool like this and a little bit of imagination, all sorts of interesting things could be programmed and achieved.


    A while later, I read the announcement that SINCLAIR was about to release the ZX Spectrum. Ready-to-use, color, sound and an astronomical amount (48KB!) of RAM. I was hooked. And so I sold (big mistake) my ZX81 eagerly awaiting the release of the ZX Spectrum. Boy, did I suffer from 'withdrawal symptoms' when that promised release date got pushed back. Once I finally had my own ZX Spectrum, I managed to write a couple of games, which were successfully released by some of the leading UK software publishers of the era.


    Along the way I also programmed on a variety of other systems (gosh, haven't really thought about this in ages but I seem to recall some of the more obscure ones... EPSON (QX-10/HX-20/PX-8), SHARP PC-1402, ORIC (1/Atmos), Nokia AWS (yes, they were into IBM compatible ones too, back when compatibility was still expressed with a percentage compared to the original), and then of course the Apple (II/IIC), IBM (original PC/XT with its incredibly clanky keyboard), MSX (various), AMSTRAD/Schneider (CPC-464/CPC-6128/PC-1512/PCW 8256),Commodore VIC-20, Atari (ST/STE/TT), and a few more that seem to have faded away).


    Yet, the ZX Spectrum still holds a special place for me. It was the first one for which I got a real graphics tablet (no mice or 'pencils' back then to be used as an input device). The tablet made by BRITISH MICRO and tended to get quite hot and I got cramps in my fingers trying to push the button on the side of the rather bulky pen. Back then doing graphics on a computer pretty much consisted of shading squares on a ruled piece of paper, then entering the bit patterns by hand. The assembled bytes then needed to be joined into user defined characters and sprites. For me, moving on to a graphics tablet was pure luxury (and I remained an ardent user of SUMMAGRAPHICS tablets for years to come).


    Another big help was when I moved on from the dreadful cassette tapes for storage, to the SINCLAIR MICRO DRIVES and then finally to the DISCOVERY 3.5" floppy disk drives. What a relief when you could load files and store them faster and more reliable than ever before.


    Nowadays I smile when I think about the capacities that these early storage media afforded (95KB on the MICRODRIVE, 3.5" floppy with 180KB and then the jump to 360KB after I tinkered with the programming of the Western Digital FD-1772 floppy disk controller, yes there was a time when WD used to sell controller chips). Even my first HDD (years later for the Atari ST was only able to store 5MB, and needed to be hooked up to the computer through a monster cable and literally was the size of a shoe-box).


    I pretty much 'modded' my original ZX Spectrum throughout the entire time I used it. In the end it was barely recognizable as a ZX Spectrum any more. A real monitor, real keyboard, disk interface, graphics tablet, video digitizer, EPSON printer (had to write my own screen dump routines for B&W and later color), graphics plotter (DYI), 80-character video display (DYI), and an extended BASIC, computer-to-computer file transfers using the 'network' features of the Sinclair Interface 1. It was journey, and it taught me a lot.


    In retrospect, I guess what these systems afforded, more than many others since, was total control over all the nooks and crannies. Everything needed to be explored and tweaked to wring the maximum of performance from it. More by necessity than choice. And I firmly believe that it is this kind of in-depth knowledge of each system that really honed a whole generation of programmers and engineers. It was a time full of optimism and enthusiasm. And I remember having clipped and framed an illustration from a British magazine showing and exploding ZX Spectrum with the rather fitting tag line: Limitations? What limitations!


    nuclear235  writes:


    ZX Spectrum was the first computer I meet. It was in year 1984 before Christmass. Father bring it home, said that it bought randomly from Any man in work. We connected it to TV and only one thing it did was the black black flash after NEW command and Enter. We had no localized manuals to Czech language. Nobody knew English language. Only one commad we understand was LOAD "". So we connected tape and did pull eyes on Horizons cassette programs. Thanx God there was Brick the Wall game! We played it many days and nights. After few days somebody translated at home (with many mistakes and bugs) Instruction manual book and we started to try do Basic programs. First time from Book then own. After time friend gave us cassette with JetPac, Flag and Flight Simulation. I still love JetPac as the best Spectrum game all times. Real arcade. I was just child in 7.class of school. It was nice time. We learned some English word "from games of course". I wrotte my first game Teofil (I did not find it now) and game Hy pogodi! (This I found on web).


    After a moths I learned Z-80 machine code a started writte better programs. I finished by Z-80 monitor app inserted to free space of ZX Rom. We build Eprom programmer and Eraser and replaced original ROM with my Omega Eprom.


    Second project was Multirom which was working as Multiface. Just press NMI and Save complete memory to tape as functional file with Basic loader, Screen and body. Possibility of Poke and Save Screen too.


    Today I bought old Spectrum +3 and return to old 8bit days. I found my Eproms and Try improve them for today DIVmmc compatibilty. I am child again.

    Michal NuClear Polak


    Czech Republic


    marckl writes:


    Like so many others, the ZX Spectrum kickstarted my career in computers. It was my first computer (aside from 2 weeks with a broken ZX81) and it tought me how to program. It may have been just Sinclair BASIC, but mind you, it's a very clever dialect, especially how to manipulate strings. The knowledge of it still comes in to use now and then.


    Also it taught me to read and write English. Here in the Netherlands, the Commodore 64, and later the MSX range of machines, was hugely more popular than then Sinclair machines. That means that the computer magazines that mattered were the British mags Crash, Your Sinclair and Sinclair User. (there were some attempts at creating Dutch magazines, but those went belly-up within months). I picked up expressions you would not learn from text books in school! ('cor blimey', 'oo-er', and the meaning of the word 'anorak', among others). This too has helped me greatly.


    Some 2 years ago I dug up my old Sinclair stuff from the attic. I still had my Spectrum 128 and other bits and pieces. This got me interested again and I found there is a thriving community on Facebook of equally Spectrum nutters. One thing I remembered from back in the day that there supposedly was an American Spectrum. I looked on ebay and discovered those mythical Timex Sinclair machines from the USA. I started collecting, expanded to clones from other countries (notably the former Iron Curtain) and hey presto: I now have in excess of 2 dozen machines! You can find my collection here:

    A pile of Spectrum clones (and some real Sinclairs as well)


    I'm not sure, but I think, without the ZX Spectrum, my life would've been a little different!



    I can recall playing with my spectrum 48, and later the QL and 128+3... we had a big radio, and I spent many hours trying to load  cassettes... Paperboy was a favourite, but I recall it took a good 5 minutes to load, an age to a young boy. I remember sitting with my father, typing in listings from books, spending ages only to find they were wrong, or I'd typo'd something... My first, stumbling, attempts at programming were done on spectrum and BBC microcomputers. Without these, I wouldn't have my career (programmer), the ability to type (I learned on a typing program I can't recall the name of on a speccy), or my curiosity into computers in general.  They mean a great deal to me - I've still got a nonfunctional 128 and QL somewhere...


    mfprysl writes:


    ZX Spectrum made me who I am. This year I celebrated 30 years of being a developer. My first large application was a text editor for ZX Spectrum 48k written in 1986 and used with success to edit and publish my school's newspaper. It supported several 8x8px fonts and some wingdings. The computer was smuggled in 1983 by my mother from West Berlin to soviet-occupied Poland. Years later I worked for the biggest newspaper publishers in my country creating their CMSs, including mobile and multimedia interactive journalism. All thanks to ingenuity of Sir Sinclair and my mother.


    Those days it was useful to write code first on paper. Here's a fragment of the editor's code in ZX Spectrum's BASIC:




    And here is a sample output, printed on the original thermo-printer (or however it was called):


    There were also wonderful games like JetPac or groundbreaking Lords of Midnight. The latter was also great to hack and experiment with sprite animation:



    Big hugs for bringing me all this sweet memories with your video


    zastil writes:


    I grew up on the ZX spectrum and wrote my first program and also some from ZX spectrum magazine in the UK and got hooked. The best game I created was Worm type game and wanted to be game developer ever since. Although never come up I design websites and mysql database all thanks to this fantastic console in its day.


    So love to have this portable version as bring back so many memories!


    amort42 writes:


    A ZX81 was my very first computer as a child, it was my introduction to a whole new world. From the 1KB memory (until I saved up for the 16KB RAM Cartridge), I eventually progressed through Ataris, Commodores, MSXs, even a snazzy ZX Spectrum +3 with its built in 3" floppy and amazing 128KB!  I learned to code, played games, made friends, swapped tapes, typed in code from magazines, even taped a game that was broadcast over a national radio station (must have been an odd few minutes for anyone just tuning in!) and developed an interest and hobby that informs my life to this day. And I'm happy to say I still have that original ZX81.


    xenomatica writes:


    When I was about 8 years old i finally convinced my parents to buy me a Spectrum. When I got it on Christmas morning 1984 my eye just lit up. From that day on I spent almost every night, awake in my bedroom playing games or programming when I was supposed to be asleep, and I loved it. So yeah, the ZX spectrum meant a lot to me, and I would love to see how a portable one would work, especially one made by Ben Heck.


    highlandsteam writes:


    I am a child of the 70s and 80s. I started with a ZX81 which I had to solder together myself as I could not afford it Pre-assembled. I then saved up and parents got me a ZX spectrum for my Christmas which I cherished. At school I got involved in program creation for various departments including Physics, Chemistery and History. While at school i also started hobby electronics and produces a verity of interface modules and devices to help the physics department with data logging and automation of experiments.


    The specci gave me an excellent foundation which lead to my working profession of electronics and telecommunications.


    My ZX spectrum finally expired on me during the late 90s and at that time I could not get a new ULA so the computer eventually went in the recycle bin.


    I would love to get a replacement ZX Spectum to rekindle by passion for programming and interface design.


    jolw writes:


    The ZX Spectrum 48K was my very first computer. I got it used from my cousin, along with a box of computer magazines and unmarked tapes.


    I learned my first programming on it, reading through the manual, following the instructions and examples. At times, my mom was actually so kind, she would read the examples out loud, while I was typing it in. Computers and programming have been a big part of my life ever since, both as hobby and career.


    I did mostly use it to play games though. One of my all time favorites, which I still have the original Cassette for, was Manic Miner. So many other games are still clear in memory too though (Saboteur, Jetpac, Skool Daze, to name a few), and I still sometimes play them on an emulator.


    I was very curious, and tended to take things apart, to see what was inside and how it worked, unfortunately not always in a reversible way. When I bought my Commodore 64 some years later, my Spectrum went through a thorough tear down.


    Today I of course regret this, because I would really like to have it now. On the other hand, taking things apart to study them, is just who I was (and still am), and I learned a lot from it.


    So it would be great to have this portable version, to get to relive it all again, in a new way. I for sure would also be bragging about it, to everybody I know, taking it with me to show the people I know would appreciate it too.


    The attached picture is of me, back in 1986, using my ZX Spectrum in front of the living room TV, as I often did, since I just had a little black and white TV in my room.




    ssilva1983 writes:


    ZX Spectrum was my first love, you know what they say, first love is never forgotten. My wife made me a surprise when I turned 32, bought me this cake, and on the other picture I present you the whole family living with me. You can see this and more pictures on my facebook page:

    My Birthday cakeMy family


    aawood writes:


    I come from a pretty poor family. University was never on the cards for me, which was a shame, because from a very early age I was absolutely enamoured by computers. Luckily, what little spare money my parents had wound up going on home micro-computers... a VIC-20, a ZX-81, and most importantly, shortly after I was born, a ZX 48k Spectrum (the original rubber-key version).


    The Spectrum was a window to the future for me, in a very real way. It was unbridled potential, a magical device capable of so much, if only I could fathom how to make it do it. And at that age, it really was magical; I learnt to read at least partially on Spectrum programming books, including one on machine code, filled with pictures of imps with 8 fingers on each hand who counted in binary. I didn't necessarily understand it at the time, but it was a view at something huge and complicated and incredibly interesting.


    I naturally gravitated to programming on the Spectrum, although for all the potential I saw, I certainly didn't understand it at first. My very first attempt at "programming" was to look at the *whole page* of BASIC instructions, decide that was far too much work, write the name of the program on a blank cassette, and then wind up in tears, unable to understand why the program wasn't loading. But I didn't give up, making lots of little things over the years. (I was most proud of a well-featured art package that included a basic fill routine and some nice curved lines, and my own little variant of Eliza).


    The Spectrum sparked a love of programming in me that never left, and this year, with no qualifications but an awful lot of drive, I got my first developer job. It never would have been possible without the little Speccy.


    (Also, Elite was just incredible, and had a profound effect on me in many ways ...But that's another story.)


    aricsdaddy writes:


    As a 8 year old, my first computer was a ZX81 computer.  It was very primitive but easy to grasp.   In 1982 whilst my friends were buying C64 and Atari computers, my parents could only afford to buy me a ZX Spectrum with the 48K Ram upgrade.


    At first the Spectrum was hugely better than the ZX81, but compared to my friends new computers with their hardware scrolling, sprites and sound, not forgetting real keyboards, the Spectrum was disappointing.  School playground conversations would often turn into 8 bit wars, comparing specs.  The C64 with its advanced graphics and SId sound chip was always ahead, followed closely to the Atari 800XL, until we talked about CPU clock speed, something which quickly shut up Commodore fan boys.


    Things quickly changed though.  Compared to my friends computers, I had a computer that had cheaper accessories, cheaper software, more reliable and usually much faster tape loading and saving.   Having had a ZX81, programming the Spectrum was a continuation of what I already knew, and from what I understand, much easier to program than the systems my friends had.  It was not long before I would run home from school, power up the Speccy, and wait to see "(c) 1982 Sinclair Research" on the screen, because by then I was ready to go.


    To this day I still think the ZX Spectrum has had more influence on computer programmers than any other system ever made.  Today we used the term OS for 'Operating System' whereas the Spectrum was an 'Operators System,' encompassing programmers, game players and software users alike;  requiring little more than a creative mine, and possibly a simple programmers guide for those times when I wanted to use a machine code routine, my ideas were quickly translated to what I wanted to see on screen.  I clearly remember the days writing a variety of games and programs, sometimes with my fathers help, often spending long periods of times together discussing ways to save just a few bytes of data.   Back then, a child's smile was always bigger when running the game they created, than today's children who mostly only play others games.  Not only was the joy in waiting to see what the game was like, but also the anxiety in wondering if I was going to get a syntax error.


    Later on in life, the Spectrum was one of only a few systems that shown the computer had become more than a sum of its parts, with some amazing games and demos many would have thought never possible.


    To me, the Spectrum was access to the new world of home computing, in which I was given all the tools right out of the box to be creative, or I could enjoy the creations of others for very little.  I have many happy memories of those good old days, and nightmares of that nasty rubber keyboard.  OK it was not that bad and much better than the ZX81 keyboard.


    lightconsole writes:






    Here is all that is left of my early 16k ZX Spectrum my parents bought when I was a toddler. I am lucky to live in the UK, and was born in 1981. My parents even brought the printer and later a "Cheatah" to up the ram to 48k.

    As I grew up, I learnt to program following the various books my parents had used. At primary school, we also had BBC Micros, so programming became a hobby. Around 1993, the membrane of the keyboard packed up after far too many hours of programming and playing Dizzy games from Codemasters.

    People knew I was interested in electronics and would give me things to take apart, and many of the "goodies" is saved are still there waiting for a project. One such gift was an electronic typewriter, which was quickly taken apart and with vero board, a new keyboard was constructed and soldered in. It worked, but it wasn't the same programming. At some point I cut the keyboard off for another project, so here it sits in a sorry state.

    We had bought an early Amstrad 286 PC which came with QBasic which I really enjoyed using.

    I studied electronics at school, creating a measuring jug for my blind grandfather that played a different note as the water level increased. This also won me the school cup for technology. I went on to study engineering at college and stage lighting at university, where I helped to restore the first lighting desk with a plug (the size of an Iron!) called the Light Console by Strand. I conected IT to 4 MIDI keyboards, and via some code my tutor wrote following my logic chart, it would output DMX.

    I have really enjoyed watching the series on the ZX Spectrums, learning how they actually worked has been fascinating.


    clechuga writes:


    OMG! I remember the spectrum from my childhood, it brings so much great memories. My dad gave it to me as a gift 1988 next to a nes system for my 5th birth day and made me the happiest kid in the world. My dad owned a computer store in los angeles and he gave me my first spectrum games which were frogger and pacman! Oh the best years of my childhood were spent on on that machine. I love it. Thank you for bringing back beautiful memories.


    warbus83 writes:


    When i saw the zx spectrum portable the memories came flooding back . I remember when i was nearly 9 and my dad kept bringing home these amazing personal computers my first being a Dicksmith VZ200 ( as we live in australia ) and the hours of fun we had programming in Basic to play games like moon patrol and hoppy . Makes me laugh to think all the trouble we went threw with the manuals just to play a game. when i turned 10 my dad had brought home a zx spectrum which we had till 2011 when it finally broke down after many many repairs and upgrades to keep our classic computer kicking , (now its Well Loved Shell is my raspberry pi housing) im very sad it died as i was thinking of buying a VEGA but still never got around to it yet  . For me that computer got me deeper into collecting classic computers , i even now have a refurbished TRS-80 which is only used for Dungeons of Daggorath ( i wish someone would make that portable lol) . But to have a portable zx and play those classic games again and see the amazing time and effort ben went threw to make a portable system would be the most amazing thing in the world , as his show has kept me alive in retro geekyness and broadened my mind into the possibilitys we now have to keep creating .


    thanks Ben for an amazing show and keep inspiring us to keep tinkering


    memphiz writes:


    ZX spectrum was my very first computer
    As Ben said ZX wasn’t very popular outside UK, but in fact was very popular in my country – Poland.
    Although ZX remains relatively cheap, it was extremely hard to get one.  At that time (end of the communist regime) everything in Poland was hard to get (food, coffee, toys, everything) -  … hmmm computers – I Wasn’t even dreamed  about it.

    But one day, for some unknown reason, my dad brings a mysterious black box. It was my first personal computer ZX Spectrum 48 with rubber keyboard. I remember this evening very well. We spend long hours until morning , trying to make this machine work. We barley know how to load a program.

    That’s how my journey begins. Why journey?
    ZX Spectrum was the equipment which undoubtedly started my interest in computers.
    Today I’m working as an IT administrator  - in a way, because  of the ZX spectrum.

    Here are some of my random memories related to ZX Spectrum (commonly known for every ZX user):

    • Squeaky tape loading noise
    • Kempston joystick interface upgrade
    • AY-3-8912 – sound interface upgrade - HI FI 3 channel audio   
    • Keyboard membrane repair (replacement)
    • Thousands of minutes spent waiting  on game loading
    • Hundreds of basic language lines typed from computer magazines to run some useless apps
    • Message : “R Tape loading error, 0:1”
    • Sunday travels to computer fair
    • Computer magazines (only source of knowledge)
    • Tape head adjusting
    • Endless ZX spectrum, Atari and Commodore users wars.


    My setup was:

    ZX Spectrum 48
    Kempston Joystick Interface + reset button (that was something)
    AY interface
    Neptun 156 green monochrome monitor
    “emilia” tape recorder

    ZX Spectrum + monitor (i never had FDD drive)






    tape recorder





    You may not believe but initially my ZX spectrum was connected to this BIG soviet  construction Color  TV RUBIN.
    Of course  ZX Spectrum image was B&W because of PAL/NTSC incompatybility…



    Greetings to all the sinclair machine fans....


    cheesyboofs writes:


    I believe owe my career to the ZX Spectrum. I am now a 41 year old IT engineer deploying  3PAR and VMware clusters.


    When I was young my Dad didn't have much money but he bought a Sinclair ZX81, in kit form through the post. This was simply amazing to me, like an airfix model that would do something after not just sit there looking all fragile and useless.


    It held so much promise, so light, so compact, so plastic. It was the future!



    Imagine my disappointment when Dad put it all together and loaded up the supplied game, 3D Monster Maze.




    To be fair I had such high expectations of this thing it would never have been able to live up to them anyway.

    In the end the ZX81 sat there looking fragile and useless, just like my airfix models and eventually found its way into the attic.


    Take 2:

    Then one day a couple of years later Dad brought home a ZX Spectrum 48k!




    This seemed better than the last one. Heavier but still compact. Flashier, just better.

    Apparently the 48k bit was significant as my Dad kept going on about it as I recall. I’m not sure where he got it as we still didn’t have much money. I think a work colleague had bought it and got bored and sold it to my Dad.


    This time when Dad loaded up the 1st game I was instantly hooked. Manic Miner!



    It was so colourful and the suspense while the game loaded. When the game had loaded it was a joy to behold. The coloured keys that you felt compelled to collect them all (like Pokemon, I guess or panini stickers as it was back then)

    And the colour of the keys, so alluring. It was a colour I had never seen before, it was the colour I imagine unobtainium to be.


    In them days you could just copy a tape with a half decent cassette deck. Better still you could fit many games on one tape. Dad would frequently bring home a tape from work and we would wonder at what joys it might hold. This was of course not legit but that just seemed to add to the excitement.


    Then one day Dad brought home a loaner game. This was a REAL GAME in the original cover. OMG it was a thing of beauty, it was of course Jet Set Willy II.



    Why did he have the real deal and not a copy? Because this game had a security measure whereby you had you use the cover sheet you unlock the game before you played it.


    This game must be truly special to go to all this trouble.



    And it was. Me and my brother played JSW2 for hours and hours. Even drawing out all the rooms we found on a map because unlike Manic Miner you could leave some rooms by different exits and choose where you wanted to go. It was a real adventure. I was pig sick when he found the room that took you into SPACE!


    Eventually this game had to go back to it true owner. Mortified I had a cunning plan. A machine had just been installed in our local village shop called a photocopier. This thing was amazing also. For the princely sum of 5 english pence it would copy a picture in black and white. Any picture. So I took the Jet Set Willy II cover down there to be copied into black and white. Money well spent I thought. I thought I’d be able to work out the code from the various shades of grey. Of course it was a complete failure.


    There was nothing for it we’d have to BUY our own copy of the game. It was then I learned that the cover and the case were all part of the whole package and were just a valuable as the game itself. It made the game something to own and cherish and collect.


    From then on I would spend what pocket money I had on games I bought myself from the local Spar, (Spar was basically our local grocery store). Equinox, Olli and Lissa, Dynamite Dan 2.


    Eventually thanks in no small part to Daley Thompson's Decathlon the trusty ZX Spectrum 48k became knackered. The constant hammering on the rubber keys in the lower right hand corner meant the metal keyboard surround became detached and then the rubber keys became torn. This was in the days before ebay and spare parts hard to come by.


    I think eventually it to found its way into the loft with its brother (the zx81) with them both thrown out during a house move.


    After that Dad got given an apple 2 where I learnt the joys of BASIC and copying the code for a game out of a PC magazine. Later I went to college to learn graphic design but all I wanted to do was use the Macintosh Computers all day.


    I then worked for an opera company and spent my 1st pay slip on a ‘multimedia PC’ at just under £1,000. My mum went mental and said I should have spent it on a car. But I knew one day we’d all have one because this one could talk to OTHER computers.


    I found computers fascinating just like I did that day Dad loaded up Manic Miner. Running Memmaker over and over trying to build that ultimate boot disk to give you the most available free memory and loading the CD-ROM driver into upper memory.

    Now 18+ years on from that, it’s “what I do ….”


    pluribus writes:


    When I was 4 years old, my Father was the manager of a small furniture store in a small town on the southern coast of the UK.  The story goes that someone needed a dining table for an urgent event but didnt have the money to pay for it, so swapped a very rare briefcase model ZX Spectrum for one instead.  This thing was truly amazeballs.  The entire computer was purposely built into the briefcase and it also contained the cassette deck, 2 microdrives, a thermal printer and the power brick.  To hook it up to the TV you unscrewed one of the feet on the bottom of the briefcase and it revealed the RCA (I think...) socket.  When the briefcase was closed, you had no idea there was a fairly powerful (for its time...) computer inside.


    Growing up watching James Bond at Christmas time, this briefcase made me feel like a secret agent.  Remember, I was just 4 years old!


    By the age of 5 I was programming my own BASIC programmes and by the age of 7 I could write my own software - albeit very basic.


    The year after I started junior school, they were given 4 186 IBM computers and hooked them together into a basic network.  The problem was, not one of the teachers knew how to use them.  At 8 years old, I was completely in charge of that network and nothing got added or installed without my permission.


    As computers got more advanced, the school upgraded and I learned more and more.  I studied programming languages like other people studied maths.  I moved on to secondary education and concentrated on computer science.  I was still running networks for other people and before I left school, I had mastered several programming languages and attained my MCSE, the most technically challenging qualification you could get at the time.  I was the youngest person to get it, and held that record for a few years until I was beaten by someone even younger.


    I am now an award winning web designer and have written software which is used in every hospital in Saudi Arabia and the wider UAE, all because of a chance meeting with an old teacher of mine who now lives over there.


    None of this would have happened, and my life would have been dramatically different had it not been for that Sinclair Spectrum ZX, swapped by some random man for a dining table all those years ago.


    aukondk writes:


    The 48k Speccy was my first computer, not even 3 years old when my family got one. The sight of the little rubber keys, that rainbow logo and even the font gives me tingles. Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy are my formative games. We went through a few models, the 48k, 128k, QL. I was super jealous of my great uncle who had the 2+ with a built in cassette player. We even digitised photos to feed into a machine to make knitware.


    Seeing Ben do this project was a joy, especially as the people who own the rights to the Spectrum thought it was a good idea to turn it into a games console. The first thing the Spectrum does when it boots is give you a prompt to start typing BASIC code, inspiring a whole generation of programmers. I love that Ben's portable one still has the keyboard.


    balint writes:


    The Spectrum was our family's first computer. My older brother got it not long before I was born. I remember watching him code BASIC and play mysterious looking games on our tiny black and white television. It seemed like some kind of magic, typing those mathematical functions into a text editor that would end up producing flashing colors and beautiful (but pixelated) curves and shapes on the TV. Would love to relive the magic!


    prefim writes:


    Was the first colour computer we had in our family. Originally had the old 16K version but upgraded it (installed the ram chips into the board) to bump it up to a whopping 48K. Learnt to program on it too. Learnt how to blow them up by removing the joystick pack from the edge connector but more importantly, how to swap out TR4 and TR5!! Made a bit of cash as a kid repairing 'dead' speccies!!!


    Love this build, would love to see something even smaller (Vega+ sized!) or maybe FPGA emulation which seems popular these days.


    Keep up the good work Ben and Team.




    pi314159 writes:


    Like many of us born before the PC age in the UK, the spectrum was an invaluable introduction to computing, the BBC micro was too expensive, the commodore 64 was seen as too tacky (or marketed as such). The spectrum was by a small British company with a quirky eccentric head known for releasing before their time innovations (sometimes even before they did exist), it fit the british zeitgeist, an underdog, a scrappy (up for a righteous fight) survivor from it's cpu upwards (read the story of Zilog) and for the most part it did work, providing users with a working base with just enough to be an entertainment system, but not too much leaving room for clever innovative people to add value to the system and make money. Add to that the system has retained it's appeal for over 20 years it is rightfully a member of the computing hall of legends.


    ai91 writes:


    Omg, what do you do to me? :-)

    Now, over some nights, I'm playing ZX emulator.

    I've found some old tapes from childhood, digitized... Most are not-readable anymore. :-(

    I was literally crying when successfully loaded some of my first naive games.

    For example here is one of them:

    Lyaguh game loader

    (my ZX-clone had ROM with Cyrillic letters... so now, on original ZX48 ROM, all texts gets transliterated and screwed :-) ),

    Lyaguh gameplay

    And it's terribly not playable at all So slow and game-loop is awful. But I was teenager, self-learning and self-inventing algorithms...


    Also found some graphics I drawn for another game, which I've never finished. It had to be an 'economical strategy'. I wrote some graphical editor to draw and save simple graphics in my own format. Unfortunately I restored only one animation:


    (yes, that's Lenin. and yes, I was Soviet pioneer   )


    Also found my implementation of Conway's game of Life (written with machine codes):



    Damn, what did you do to me?! Entire week, after work, I'm hurry back to home, to continue my nostalgia...

    I have to get the ZX-Spectrum!!!111


    snapbliss writes:


    OK my first programming was on an Atari 2600. Yes I drove all over Chicago finding the programing cartridge & keyboard control's. Not in the same place, took me three days & endless phone calls (Thank god for ebay). After I got it set up I found out I had only 64 bits of programming space yes bits! got the bug and two weeks later whent to Sears and got my first Sinclair 1000 and 16KB ram. God I loved that tiny little box My favorite game was flight simulator. make the little dot that represented the Cessna to land on the 2 mile runway Hey hours of fun. don't even get me started on my Vic-20 the next computer I bought.




    jonnblanchard writes:


    The ZX Spectrum was my first real home computer, the first machine I programmed on and the first machine I wrote a commercial program for (a fanzine program for a local collectables group, I made 4 tapes for their members over a year and got paid a mighty £50)


    Other than that heady days of playing Skool Daze, Rex and Kickstart 2 are part of my enduring childhood memories


    benke writes:


    ZX Spectrum was the first color personal computer in my life. Because at this time we were living "behind iron curtain", my father basically smuggled one Spectrum accros border in suitcase inbetween his clothes. This Speccy gave us lot and lot fun for many years, we were playing games, learning to program, leraning English. Since we had microdrive and Spectrum has separate power unit, at some point we decided to make things easier so we put all this in one case.

    Old Spectrum in fancy case

    As you can see from behind, it's still Spectrum:

    It's Spectrum inside

    New keyboard also had Basic commands printed on it but keys was mechanical, much nicer to type on it :-)


    Dusty fingers

    My firts book in English because in school I was learning Russian and French :-)


    ZX Spectrum manual

    My first database of games, in analogue form. Now I am typing SQL commands on daily basis.


    Games DB

    And some nice maps for those games (Nightshade):


    Nightshade map

    Then there was time to put Spectrum on retirement and move on, so we archived all games from casettes to one tape reel:


    All ZX Spectrum games we had


    I hope you enjoyed this short photo journey. I'll try to find more memorabilia like my Kempston joystick (which when got broken my father fixed with micro-switches), original casettes and microdrive cartridges. I'll put all related photos in my gallery: ZX-Files


    taylorza writes:


    Like others, I got my start in the field of computers on the ZX Spectrum. I first learned Sinclair BASIC and by the age of 11 had started Z80 Assembly programming. This all culminated in my becoming a software engineer, but I have never forgotten my humble beginnings on the ZX Spectrum. To this day I continue to use the platform for learning new technologies, have built a full functional ZX Spectrum clone on an FPGA (only using an existing Z80 core and ULA). I have also restored an only ZX Spectrum to working condition and modded it to bypass the RF Modulator, so that I can use the machine with a more modern LCD display.


    Originally from South Africa, I now live in the USA and getting original ZX Spectrums is not quite as easy. Fortunately a good friend of mine sourced two from the UK which I used to get a working system up and running. This video was originally created to share the results with my friend in the UK.



    he next video is something I am quite proud of. When I started learning about FPGA's I did the usual, flashed some LEDs, developed a driver for a 4 digit 7-Segment display etc. But I quickly started building VGA drivers, which led me to building a fully functional ZX Spectrum clone on my FPGA board. It supported loading .tap files form the IPAD audio jack. Unfortunately this video is of an early version which lacked the audio circuitry and load save capability at the time of the video.




    Just for some fun, here is a video of my meta ball implementation on the FPGA. These meta balls are generated directly in "hardware" using VHDL.



    Right now I have sourced new Z80 processors from ebay and am in the process of building a custom 8-bit computer with a CPLD for the glue logic. This has come full circle, my original experience with the ZX Spectrum set me on my path as a Software engineer and still supports my thirst for knowledge as I that same technology to learn about how computers function from the basic principals.


    gucek001 writes:


    ZX Spectrum+ was actually the first computer I ever touched. Earlier I "learned" BASIC just reading the course in Polish magazine "Młody Technik" ('Young Technician'). I quickly fell in love with Attic Attack and later of course in Knight Lore. I bought one for me much later - already in 'nostalgia' times, but had it only for short period of time.. Played Dizzy on it, but I got stuck (afair). Absolutely have to go back to one again.. finishing Knight Lore is actually on my bucket list..


    lifeless writes:


    My experience is a  DIY ZX Spectrum with real Z80 processor, CPLD



    bartsblue writes:


    Having grown up in communist Poland of the eighties, I craved for ZX Spectrum. Back then for us, it was more than just a microcomputer: it was both a glimpse of future to come and a window to the colourful outside world. My parents were fairly poor, middle class "inteligentsya" trying to make the ends meet in the turmoil of political system changes, so they could not afford a machine that would cost equivalent of umpteen salaries or a car. The only contact with ZX Spectrum they could provide me was at my father's work: the technical university where he worked had a few, so every now and then he would sneak me in for a couple of hours of wonderful screen time.


    That's me showing my younger brother how to play video games. Attached is Russian black-and-white TV "Junost" and Polish casette player Unitra 232.


    I finally got my own ZX Spectrum+ in 1991. The communism was crumbling, the whole world was moving towards 16-bit systems, more wealthy colleagues had their Amiga computers or early consoles, incredibly beautiful by comparison. But it didn't matter, because it meant we could finally afford to have a ZX at home. Hours spent in front of my Speccy left me with basic knowledge of programming (in Basic, pun not intended), great memories from various virtual worlds and a knack for all things British.


    Fast forward to present day: I'm working for a British IT company in Poland, love video games and have my own column on one of most popular Polish gaming websites. I still own my ZX Spectrum+, the very same one where it all begun. I travel a lot and visit UK regularly (here's hoping Brexit won't change that!). Given that for various security and legal reasons we cannot have any alien software on our company laptops, I carry with me Sony PSP console with custom firmware and - what else? - ZX Spectrum emulator.


    It is great to have ye goode olde Speccy in my pocket, but it doesn't allow 100% accurate experience. Limited number of buttons on PSP means having to resort to virtual keyboard, which is fine for a quick round of Bomb Jack or Who Dares Wins II, but for anything requiring more key presses than a couple, it's a bit of a nightmare. So, no chance to finish Hobbit on the go or our own Polish text adventure Mózgprocesor. Lords of Midnight is feasible, but far away from comfy.



    Three Weeks in Paradise on the go! Plus there is an option of monochrome display, just like the old days!


    So, what does ZX Spectrum mean to me? Initially, it meant the promise of the better worlds and the advent of computer age. It has undoubtedly shaped me as a child and directed me towards life paths that I would have missed otherwise. Now it is a distant echo of childhood, when things were simpler and colour-bleeding pixels were cutting edge. In other words: it used to be my gateway to the future, now it's my gateway to the past.


    I remember when I saw Ben make the portable ZX Spectrum and thought "bugger me, it would be so great to have one of those!" Sadly, I have absolutely no skill whatsoever when it comes to electronics and soldering, and these portables weren't available anywhere to buy (assuming I could afford one, that is). Fortunately, I've found out about this competition before it ended and I simply had to make an attempt. Even if I don't win, I'm happy to share my story here with other Spectrum fans!


    quangdx writes:


    The ZX Spectrum was the first computer I owned as a child,

    after playing games on it for a while, I became more and more curious about Spectrum BASIC.

    I read the manual over and over, typed in all the listings, went to the library to get every book I could find on BASIC programming, bought all the magazines with listing in them.

    Then at age 10 I was able to write my very own game in Spectrum BASIC.

    Much of my time was enjoyed playing the games and learning to code on the Spectrum, which inspired me in 1999, to learn to code for the GameBoy z80,

    where I created a homebrew port of Jet Pac, for the GameBoy and GameBoy Color, called JetPakDX.
    Without the ZX Spectrum, I will not be making videogames now.
    It would rock my world if I could win a portable ZX Spectrum, so I could actually code and play games on the go.



    thalium77 writes:


    Whoa.. "What the ZX Spectrum means to me". I don't know where to start. Also, I am a realist and I am not even trying to win this gorgeous piece of history combined with Heck-Tastic Taste of Divinity. I see all those other posts with pics etc. I can't compete with all that. We lost all our old photo albums in unfortunate circumstances but I can assure you; The Sinclairs were featured in so many photos over the years they could've filled their own album with ease. All I can say is that when I was introduced to the glory of Sinclair I was amazed. I had no idea stuff like that was possible and I spent hours trying to code my own games and learning what was to be become the basis of my understanding of computer coding. The question "WTH doesn't this work?" was a great curiousity feeder. I had them all except for the ZX81 Model, I never could get my hands on that unfortunately. I had the original one with the rubber keys, the 48 after that and of course I HAD to have the 128.. What a brilliant time that was. And the design of the whole Sinclair, basically all the models after the first one, every aspect of them, projected potential and the future. Just the mere LOOKS of the computer itself, a glorious statement to the fact that functionality can be elegantly packaged to look dashing, were a message not to be taken lightly. It looked awesome, it was awesome. It made no false promises and it didn't mess around. It came through on every expectation of grandure my young mind could come up with, and then some. It changed my life. I mean, with Currah Speech the gorgeous machine even spoke, how cool was that? The first time I saw a Sinclair, it was love at first sight, and rightly so. Cheers to the Sinclair days and what they meant for the world. Oh, and cheers to the Ben Heck Show! Because you guys are awesome, I really enjoy your shows and find them very informative and most importantly; inspiring. Thank you so much for your work. It is appreciated all across the world as I am from The Netherlands. You guys have dutch fans! So keep it up! Kudos! ^_^


    bkraft writes:




    Sinclair ZX Spectrum was my best and only friend for a few years. It came in my life at late 1982 when I was only 3 years old. It took a couple of months to get to know each other, but after that we were practically inseparable. Other human children were not interested in me and my life, so the ZX kind of filled that gap of loneliness. It showed wonderful pictures of art and played comforting beeping melodies. It even taught me how to read and write. It may have had some limitations but so did I. It never judged me for what I was. It never let me down. It never promised me something and didn't deliver. But like everything has an ending, so did our friendship. The ZX had to retire, and we found the perfect place for it's later years. Someone took good care of it, and although we are not together anymore I will cherish our friendship for the rest of my life.


    drdavew writes:


    I owe the ZX Spectrum everything. As a child I could not communicate; I knew what I wanted to say but could not make the words come out of my mouth. Unfortunately this meant that I was regularly bullied at school.

    I will never forget the day I walked into Dixons and had the sales guy type: 10 Print "buy me" 20 Goto 10.  I was totally hooked.

    My bedroom walls were covered in the ZX Spectrum games posters that were in the magazines and I would spend weeks typing in the listings from the games books which always had typing mistakes in the publication. You would then spend ages trying to work out what each line should have said when you hit all the runtime errors.

    Being able to get the ideas from my head out through my fingers and into the computer was pure ectasy; at last... I could communicate and prove that I also had ideas.

    I would save up for expansion packs and upgrades - I loved the different keyboard upgrades you could buy but preferred the rubber-keyedSpeccy with a decent Kempston joystick. The sound(s) of a game loading is still the best sound in the world. How many of us borrowed our mum's nail varnish to mark the volume control on the cassette player?

    This love for computers allowed me to somehow get through school. A new computing class was added to the school syllabus - which were ZX Spectrums. This was great as the class was oversubscribed and we had to take an enrolment exam. I was one of fourteen that hit the top marks and spent 4 days at school and 1 day a week at college learning CAD & CNC. I then went on to work my way through a Ph.D in Computer Sciences and having my own computer consultancy business.

    As for games, there were so many great ones out there.  The one I still play the most online would have to be Chuckie Egg.

    Thank-you Sir Clive Sinclair for the ZX Spectrum; it gave a lonely kid a light at the end of a tunnel and totally changed my life... Unlike the Sinclair C5's brakes that nearly made it short-lived.(!)


    rslegion writes:


    My first home computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k that I got in 1981 and started love of computers and games, I upgraded with the times to a 48k + then to the 128k +2 & 128k +3 before moving to Atari ST and finally to the PC.  I loved all the systems at when they were released but will always hold a special place for the 48K Spectrum.


    I recently made a nice display with my old systems ill include a picture.




    jaycosplayprops writes:


    My first computer was a ZX Spectrum +2, I remember the day my dad brought it home with a large bundle of tapes, being facinated by the 3rd party joystick it came with, and then just the sights, sounds and colours of its very distinctive loading screens. To this day it holds a very special place in my childhood. Getting to play games like hungry Horace and adventure games like Atic Attack and The Oracles Cave, it started a lifelong fascination with gaming and electronics. I'd love if I won this just so I could revisit that piece of my childhood again, but good luck to everyone else involved.


    andyuk1 writes:



    I can remember the day when I purchased my 16K Spectrum from our local Video rental shop in Barnet, North London. For Months I had been nagging my mum to buy me one, and eventually she gave in (Joint Birthday and Christmas present). £125 was the price and I couldn’t wait to try it. The first game played was ‘WALL’ which came on the included Horizons tape.

    Back then it was cutting edge, 16K Memory, 8 Bit Graphics, 8 Colours. After a few Months of hogging the lounge TV I eventually saved up and bought a Black/White TV. I quickly covered it with various coloured plastic so to give the black/white images some colour. I couldn’t stretch to a colour TV.

    This computer overnight turned me into a total anti-social 12 year old until I noticed girls. Copying line after line of Basic programming from my favourite ‘CRASH Magazine’ and spending hours trying to find out which line of code was wrong, well it taught me patience.

    Amongst all the game play also came the playground rivalry between different Computer users. The Speccy verses the C64’s were the biggest rivals. We took pity on the likes of Oric 1, Dragon 32 users; they just didn’t have the software. I look back at this and compare it with what Android and Apple are today, one side or the other.

    I think I will always look back at the spectrum with fond memories of my pre hormonal youth and say thanks Sinclair. Since hitting the Forty Something age I have collect all versions of the Sinclair up to the Amstrad takeover, sorry can’t accept an Amstrad dressed up as a Sinclair.

    Just to finish off I must state my favourite top five games (in descending order )

    Chuckie Egg, JetPac, ManicMiner, Horris and the Spiders, and first place….3D Deathchase.


    westervik writes:


    ZX Spectrum 48K was my first computer. It was with that I started programming, first Basic but then with assembly language to make programs faster and to access the hardware.

    I built a lot of devices to it, including the I / O modules for electronic experimentation, programmable joystick interface, motor controller, audio sampler and speech synthesis. It also got a new case with a more normal "click" keyboard.

    Using these new skills I then built a own computer with Z80CPU for my first home automation projects ( HEX keyboard and LED display ) . With that I controlled lights, music and more with time control and a homemade IR remote.

    Soon after that I got a job repairing computers ( mostly Commodore  … ), and the rest is history …


    ZX Spectrum was a really good start for all my further experiments and work with electronics and computers.


    It would be really fun to win and revive Spectrum memories and play Manic Miner again !


    Attached is a picture of my Spectrum case with keyboard, but without any of my expansion modules.




    2016-07-27 20.38.27.jpg



    deathfunkmcnally writes:



    The ZX Spectrum, the 48k model, was my very first computer and our family's very first computer. Being the youngest of 4, I had to wait patiently for my opportunity to get 5 precious minutes tackling "Head Over Heels", "Wizball" or "Jet Set Willy" before being kicked off by an older sibling. Never the less, the worlds that hid inside this tiny black box with blue rubber keys, replete with cables snaking outward from dodgy jacks into the TV / cassette player enthralled me. I was very young, possibly 6 or 7, when I first began leafing through my brother's Your Spectrum / Your Sinclair subscription and methodically tapped into the pages of BASIC to see what I could make. Something simple such as changing a colour from the default "cyan" to "magenta" awoke a trait in me, one which is still with me today; I had the power to *build* and *create* things. I now manage the IT infrastructure for an organisation with over 20,000 servers but I've no doubt that my troubleshooting skills, my thought processes and my systematic approach to problem solving all have a huge basis in my early exposure to the Speccy.


    As the years went by and 48ks in our house became +2s and +3s, I would spend many an evening as the figurative "Player 2" to my older brother has we hacked our way through a myriad of games on blank cassettes. With no instruction manual and a scarce enthusiast community in Ireland, it was simple trial and error that got us through games. Now I have two boys of my own and this chance to see *them* interact & bond with a modernised, updated version of the machine that was so instrumental in my upbringing is the chance of a lifetime.


    The icing on the cake for my entry is as follows It was I who originally answered Ben's call searching for a Speccy on Twitter; I let him know I had one I could get my hands on and immediately sped over to my parents' house. I knew exactly where my old 48k Sinclair ZX Spectrum was, stored safely away with my precious childhood memories in the (relatively damp-free, I was relieved to find out!) attic. To have that travel all the way to the US, be worked on and studied by Ben and used in part as inspiration and even possibly in *literal* part towards building a portable version is amazing... To have it return to me so as that I could pass the mantle down to the next generation would be sublime.


    wedwo1 writes:


    My Speccy was the best thing I owned as a kid.  I can't tell you how many hours I spent pottering on the thing to the dismay of my mother.  While I loved playing games, I always had a fascination with programming.  I learned to program basic as a 10-11 year old in a small town in South Africa in the early 80s.  I got familiar with the z80 machine language to some degree but not quite as much as I'd liked back then.  A couple of my friends had the all powerful Multiface 1 - we all wanted one of those - instant access to the registers and ability to mod to your hearts content.

    The Speccy was in fact the start of my career though I didn't realise it at the time.  Today I work for a multinational doing software development and project management under foreign aid grants to developing world countries.  What the Speccy gave me above everything was confidence in my ability and a passion for programming and IT.  Many of my staff give me blank stares when I tell them I learned to program on a home computer that connected to my TV and loaded software from magnetic tape.

    Any bad memories?  Probably just one... spending HOURS and HOURS hand typing a text adventure called 'Time Slider' from one of the popular mags in the day - not sure if it was your Spectrum or your Sinclair - one of the UK based mags that found it's way to our African shores... Every day after school I'd do a few more lines of code and save my work - over the day before's... until one day the power tripped... HALF WAY THROUGH MY SAVE!!!

    I now had half of one piece without a header and half of another with a header and no way to possibly Ctrl-Z / MS Office recover... of course a UPS would have been too much to ask in those days.  To this day I use that example of why multiple off-site backups are essential.


    My fav games?


    *Manic Miner - The first 48k game I ever played

    *Skooldaze - I haven't met a school kid who didn't fantasize about getting away with what Eric did on a normal school day.  Writing stuff on the blackboards was fun.

    *The Hobbit - One of the best graphic / text adventures ever.  Super frustrating at the same time!

    *Tir na Nog (as well as Dun Darach / Marsport / Heavy on the Magik) - I never could figure them out, but the graphics and animation were superb enough to create atmosphere.  Loved these!

    *3D ant attack - this game was absolutely unique.  A masterpiece - the '3D' scrolling and multi-perspective effect was matched only by superb playability.  One of those games that genuinely invoked fear when the ants found you or were chasing you back to 'den'.

    *Sabre Wulf - The best looking Ultimate game.  I was astounded to discover that my favourite Nintendo software house (Rare - they did Donkey Kong Country) - was one and the same as 'Ultimate Play the Game'.  They were leagues ahead with graphics.

    Anything that Ultimate did was pretty much in my fav's list

    *Knight Lore - my first '3D' Ultimate game

    * Bruce Lee - mostly 'cos the text was stored in an easy to access way in the code - making it easier to change.  It may also have been pre-speedlock which meant it was easy to edit the loader and stop it before it launched the game (those famous Randomize USR / Print USR statements!) - allowing you to access the code.  I wrote a nice little peek loop that hunted for ASCII and returned the registers for you to poke and update.  We had loads of fun putting our own nonsense into the text of this game.

    *Manic Miner - The first 48k game I ever played

    *Movie - this game had hints of AI that intrigued me... I could never figure out the storyline but I spent enough time trying just because of the in-game 'atmosphere'

    *Target Renegade - I went through a 'fighting game' stage when this was out.  This was my fav followed by 'The way of the exploding fist' and that bizarre vector kung fu game (called Kung Fu if I'm not mistaken)

    *Ghostbusters - any game I could finish ended up at the top of my fav list - no matter how dull the game play.


    I recently bought two faulty Speccy's and resurrected one (a type 2) - it has a new membrane and works well, though it's going to be mounted on my wall in the office as a reminder of where it all started for me.


    I'm a touch disappointed with Sinclair's recent reboot of the Speccy as an 8 button 'gaming' console.  It was way more than that and I personally think they should have consulted with Ben Heck to release a full-KB version.  Now that would already be on my shelf next to my other consoles if they'd gone that route.  Thanks for the blast from the past!  Never grow old


    I have a theory about why these old machines are so well loved - it boils down to the sheer number of hours invested in getting things to load, and the satisfaction of getting it to work.  Sometimes it was those games with the tapes in the worst condition that were your fav - simply because you invested more time in them in the long run.  These days, in the microwave age, we don't invest nearly as much in one thing or another - we flip-flop from one fad to the next.  It all boils down to distractions and the quest for instant gratification.


    I still ask myself how I can forget the name of the person I just met, yet:







    Il let the guys who don't get it Google



    paulpsomiadis writes:


    My first Professional Computer was the Commodore Amiga 500

    (which my Uncle still has, and was recently fully renovated and now fully web connected with HDD, full ECS chipset and 8MB RAM). Before that I had a SEGA Master System, but the Grand Daddy that started it ALL was the Speccy 48K+.


    Some of you folks may remember me from HERE:




    And so I present my Porta-Speccy compo entry...



    (I will try to include as much detail as I can)


    Speccy Horde 1

    Spectrum 48k+ and PSU, Sinclair Printer and PSU (yes we still have boxed thermal paper too), Interface 1 and cables, ZX Microdrive and demo carts [boxed](loose homebrew carts in bubblewrap bag), Expensive Lloytron Casette player (was able to play high pitch tapes without distortion - essential for loading Speccy tapes!)


    Speccy Horde 2

    Defender Light gun with homebrew sound mod and tape [boxed], Delta joystick with interface [boxed with instructions], Multiface 1 [boxed with tape and instructions], Videoface [boxed with instructions]


    Speccy Horde 3

    Art Studio [boxed with instructions and that GODAWFUL squinty-eye protection thing], 30 games, History of Music, Speccy User Guide and tape, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Spitting Image, Make-a-chip, Tasword 2, Entertainment Centre, and...[sorry box glare]


    Speccy Horde 4

    Everything you need to know about Spectrum Vol 1-6 Magazine


    Speccy Horde 5

    VTX5000 Micronet Modem [boxed with instructions](before the Internet - there was this!), AMX Mouse - yes THREE buttons! [boxed with instructions], Music Machine Audio Sampler [boxed with instructions], Teletext Adapter [unboxed black thing]


    Speccy Horde 6

    Maniacs Computer Diary 1989, 3D Construction Kit (SAM Coupe compatible also), Thunderbirds, Run the Gauntlet, Elite, Buggy Boy, Captain Blood, Rockstar Ate My Hamster, Gargoyle Classics, Batman, Ultimate Play the Game [glare]


    Speccy Horde 7

    Total Eclipse, Sherlock, Game Set & Match 2, Nigel Mansell Grand Prix, Flintstones, B.T.T.F. II, Red L.E.D., Black Lamp, Fairlight, Impossible Mission, Crazy Cars 2


    Speccy Horde 8

    Assorted Retail Tapes and Magazine Tapes


    Speccy Horde 9

    Loose Magazine tapes


    So what would I do with the Porta-Speccy?


    Easy! I plan to archive my tapes collection for posterity and then get them loaded onto the portable speccy for some retro goodness! :-)


    [had to type this TWICE, as my browser crashed half way through! :-(]