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What Is Spectrum

Now that there is  the brilliant DREAMSPEC EMU for the DC thanks to BIGBOY which allows you to play Spectrum games on your dreamcast  Ive heard a few people ask exactly what a spectrum was . ( Is it just me or does remember having owned a Spectrum make me feel old ?)

The Spectrum ( SPECCY ) Came out in 1982 from Sinclair Research Ltd . Based around a

Z80 processor .


Processor : Z80A (3.5 MHz)

Screen Resolution : 256 by 192 pixels

Video : 32 columns by 24 rows

Colours : blue, red, magenta, green, cyan, yellow, white & black

with 2 brightness levels.

Clive Sinclair effectively created the UK computer industry with his ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum. Clive sinclair intended the spectrum to be more of a business use machine but it quickly became a games machine and also allowed people ( Bedroom coders ) to make there own games and programmes and a lot of the  UK Spectrum magazines printed peoples work. There was also a strong demo scene which is still alive today ( Mainly in european countries)

There was some truly classic spectrum games such as Jet set willy , The monty mole series ,The horace games , Manic miner . The games dont compare well against even any of the 8 bit consoles Graphics wise but the gameplay on some of the games is still of high quality and not too mention some really tough levels. Strangely  there was games that could not be completed . Some were bugs in the games but others were the actual games companies fault . They advertised like 100 levels but made it impossible to get past level 50 .

There was hundreds of games released for the spectrum , clearly to many to list here but the spectrum games database can be found at .

Where can I get a  Spectrum ?
If you want to buy one of the original British models, you'll be buying second-hand. However, the SAM Coupé, the Spectrum's spiritual big brother, is still being made in Eastern Europe and can be found at computer fairs sometimes, and at least one Russian clone, the scorpion is still being manufactured.

Real Sinclair Spectrums are often to be found at car boot sales, in the classified ads sections of local papers/dedicated FreeAds type papers and in second-hand shops. People sometimes offer Sinclair hardware for sale on Internet auction sites.

What are the differences between the different Spectrum models?

·        16K - original model. Rubber keys.

·        48K - (most widespread) original model with RAM extension

·        TC2048 - From Portuguese arm of Timex. Black with grey plastic keys. Built in Kempston joystick port, some higher resolution screen modes (as in the TS/TC2068), 48Kb of memory, had a paging system but no actual extra RAM there to use it. Also blessed with an RGB composite video output and an on/off switch as well as a built-in speaker of much better quality than the Spectrum's buzzer. Not fully Spectrum compatible; a few games didn't work, e.g. Ole Toro and Sidewize.

·        TS2068 - American version from Timex; had an AY-3-8912 sound chip (same chip as in the Spectrum 128, though it uses different port addresses), cartridge ports, two joystick ports (not compatible with any other Spectrum joystick standards) and an additional 8Kb extension ROM with extra BASIC commands to support these devices. Three extra video modes and a built-in speaker of much better quality than the Spectrum's buzzer. Not entirely Spectrum compatible because of ROM changes, but a cartridge based Spectrum emulator (basically a new ROM) was available and gets most programs to cooperate. Silver plastic case and plastic keys (with a space bar!).

·        TC2068 - same as TS2068; sold by a Portuguese arm of Timex away from usual Sinclair markets.

·        TK90X - Clone of 16/48K by Micro Digital of Brazil, with a built-in joystick interface (Interface II compatible) and two new BASIC commands - TRACE, for tracing execution, and UDG for editing UDGs. This modified ROM caused some compatibility problems.

·        TK95 - as TK90X, but with a real keyboard (not unlike the C64's) and a more compatible ROM. Apparently a TC2048 in disguise.

·        CZ2000 - made by Czerweny Electrónica in Argentina. A 48K with a few differences in the case.

·        CZ Spectrum - again from Czerweny Electrónia; similar to the CZ2000, but with 2 joystick connectors.

·        48K+ - as 48K, but had "real" keyboard.

·        Inves Spectrum 48k+ - A 48K+ clone from the Investronica company. Released after Amstrad bought Sinclair Research Ltd. Looked much like a normal 48+. Compatibility problems with some games (Bombjack, Commando, Top Gun, etc...).

·        CZ Spectrum+ - similar to the CZ2000, but with a Spanish or English keyboard similar to the 48K+.

·        128K - 128Kb RAM, AY-3-8912 sound chip, keypad, RS232 port and "real" keyboard. The last real Sinclair machine.

·        +2 - 128K with built-in tape deck, new (grey) case and keyboard. First Amstrad-produced model.

·        +3 - 128K with built-in disk drive, new ROMs including a DOS and some internal changes on the bus. Back to a black case.

·        +2A - +3 with a tape deck instead of disk drive.

+2B - Basically a +2A (identifies itself as a +2A on the main menu, but has '+2B' rather than '+2A' stamped on the bottom). The name change was associated with a move in production from Hong Kong to Taiwan.

What peripherals exist?
This would be a big list, so I'll keep it to what I consider are major ones; for more, see the

·        Interface 1 - joystick and microdrive interface, network capabilities.

·        Interface 2 - joystick and cartridge interface.

·        Microdrive - fast tape storage (requires Interface 1).

·        ZX Printer - thermal printer (aka silver bog roll burner).

·        Keypad - extension keypad for the 128K models that offered extra editing facilities in 128K BASIC.

·        Multiface - Romantic Robot's excellent device to stop the Speccy cold, enabling you to save the current state of the machine to tape or disk and enter POKEs.

·        Joysticks - many interfaces exist; Kempston, AGF/Protek, programmable interfaces (which mapped joystick positions to keypresses), etc. etc.

·        AMX Mouse - well, a mouse...

·        BetaDisk - an interface to enable attachment of a 3.5" drive (also known as TR-DOS).

·        Disciple/+D - MGT's interface to enable attachment of a 3.5" drive.

·        Wafadrive - not unlike a Microdrive.

Is it legal to use ZX-Spectrum ROM images/manuals?

Yes, it is. The official position, as stated by Clive lawson  of Amstrad, who own the copyright on for the ROMs, is: "Amstrad are happy for emulator writers to include images of our copyrighted code as long as the copyright messages are not altered and we appreciate it if the program/manual includes a note to the effect that 'Amstrad have kindly given their permission for the redistribution of their copyrighted material but retain that copyright'". They have also granted permission to modify the ROMs and distribute those modified copies, so long as their copyright message is maintained

They are also happy for people to freely distribute the manuals: "The more the merrier. People scanning, OCRing, HTMLing & PDFing any manuals that are genuinely copyright Amstrad are actually doing us a favour because if someone asks for a copy we can just point them at a URL". The manuals are available on

Is it legal to use snapshots (i.e. games etc.)?

Despite what various people have claimed on Comp.sys.sinclair  it is still the case that it is illegal to distribute the vast majority of Spectrum programs; therefore, if you use a snapshot/tape image/disk image without owning the original program, you could in theory end up in court. Until recently, copyright holders were doing little to enforce their rights, and games for various systems (including the Spectrum) were freely available on the Internet.

( Some parts extracted from the SPECTRUM FAQ . Put together by Fett , A Big thanks to Philip Kendall  for use of the SPECTRUM FAQ .)

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