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Timex Sinclair ZX81 Back On the Market

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the will-it-have-a-rc5-client? dept.

Technology 266

Eugene Blanchard writes: "You still have the chance to purchase that Timex Sinclair ZX81 computer. Someone has kept a warehouse full of them. I had a few and thought that they would make a pretty good controller board with the Z80 processor. Now let's see if we can load Linux on them! "

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266 comments

Missed it by "THIS" much (1)

ToddN (190561) | more than 13 years ago | (#727541)

Now I can relive my high school days.... with a Sinclair. Oh how I wanted one, after my infatuation with the TRS-80 faded....

This will look great on my horse and buggy! (2)

danpbrowning (149453) | more than 13 years ago | (#727543)

This will look great on my horse and buggy! Now if only I could find that "fire" invention that everyone was talking about...

Sinclair is crap Commodore rules! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#727544)

Ofcourse you can't run anything usefull on it...a Vic 20 on the other hand was a very usefull computer.

uhf channels? (3)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 13 years ago | (#727621)

you can hook it up to uhf channel 33?

uhm, will they sell me a 70's era tv that has UHF channels still on the "dial"?

I started off with the trs-80 model 1, so while I'd like to own one of these for memory's sake [sic], there's no friggin way I'm paying a c-note for a chip that can't even be given away (the z80).

and I bet you'd have to take steel wool to the pcboard since its probably tarnished beyond all believe from oxidation.

--

Hurry while supplies last! (2)

soulsteal (104635) | more than 13 years ago | (#727623)

You too can live in time when men were men and sheep were scared.

Put together your own computer and watch that BASIC fly. For only 99.95, you can own a piece of history and have a truly 3l337 paperweight. "I built this wrong all by myself."

the /. effect... (1)

Wepeel (231931) | more than 13 years ago | (#727627)

I'm willing to wager that those two lots of kits, after sitting around in a warehouse for who-knows-how-long, will sell out within the next month. And thats too short of a time period for me to get the money and make the decision to actually buy one, which is too bad because they look pretty cool (not that I was around back when they were first on sale, or at least not technologically aware).

Bah, who needs a PS2 (1)

thegrommit (13025) | more than 13 years ago | (#727629)

when you can load games from a casette tape!

I still remember putting a carton of milk on the back of a ZX80 to keep it cool...

Linux? (3)

/dev/kev (9760) | more than 13 years ago | (#727633)

Now let's see if we can load linux on them!

Ugh, must EVERY story mention Linux? I mean, I know we like Linux and everything, but mentioning putting it on a 4.77MHz Z80 just makes me feel sick.

What would be an otherwise excellent nerdy retrocomputing story is tarnished by the ObLinux mention. Can't people just appreciate this stuff for what it is?

I'll say it again, ugh.

1024 bytes of RAM (3)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 13 years ago | (#727637)

Just remember how little you can squeeze in there. Your program and data have to fit in 1024 bytes... unless you get the memory pack.

A PC 80x25 character screen is 2000 characters.

I bought one of these at a garage sale for $15CDN when I was in gradeschool. It was so cool.

I think that exhausts all I have to say about the machine.

Smaller control system... (3)

bonzoesc (155812) | more than 13 years ago | (#727639)

The Z80 processor finds its home currently in a far more compact device: TI Graphing Calculators. I have seen these controlling all sorts of things: infrared transmitters, light displays, and an affordable combination between educational calculator, and gaming machine.

The TI-83, the most popular one, retails for about $100, but is smaller, uses only 4 AAA batteries, has a serial port, and can be carried around in a pocket to show off your geekiness. Still, you could use the Sinclair ZX81 as sort of a base station, or one with an AC adapter and TV out. But never underestimate the utility of a programmable Z80 graphing calculator.

Tell me what makes you so afraid
Of all those people you say you hate

Odd.. Was the ZX81 also sold in assembled form? (1)

The Optimizer (14168) | more than 13 years ago | (#727642)

I remember the ZX-80 (white case, 1K RAM) being sold as a kit, but I could of swore that the ZX-81 was sold already assembled here in the US. The Sinclair ZX-81 was obviously before they cut the distibution deal with Timex.

Can anyone shed some light on this bit of computer history trivia?

No more UPN for me... (4)

joshv (13017) | more than 13 years ago | (#727644)

When completed, the ZX81 computer can hook up to UHF Channel 33 on any black & white or color TV for its video display (U.S. NTSC Compatible).

Oh man, that's UPN where I live. There goes Moesha...

-josh

Great computer... (5)

kzinti (9651) | more than 13 years ago | (#727652)

I remember ordering and building my Sinclair back before Timex became involved and it became the ZX81. Wow, what a memory trip it is to think about putting together that thing... I can almost smell the 60/40 now.

Unfortunately, I never got to do much programming on mine... it had a temperature problem. After a few minutes of running, the TV would lose horizontal sync. Turned out that my ROM chip ran way too hot, and as it warmed up the TV signal went out of sync. Sinclair must have saved money on components by interleaving the sync of the ROM with the video generator, instead of having separate clocks for each. My girlfriend's techhead brother figured this out for me -- never would have discovered it on my own.

We solved the problem by keeping a piece of ice on the ROM chip, in a little plastic bag. Every so often, when the ice had melted, I'd have change the bag for one with a fresh piece of ice. Talk about your cooling problems -- and I wasn't even overclocking!

--Jim

Re:Missed it by "THIS" much (2)

petulance (175644) | more than 13 years ago | (#727655)

Ah ... the memories it brings back ... this was my first computer. I learnt to program in BASIC in the ZX81. If memory serves me well, the BASIC manual that came with the machine was an excellent book. And who can forget the dodgy 16K RAM extension pack? One slight wobble and all your hard work will be gone ... I never managed to get the cassette recorder to load stuff, so I had to type in all the games from scratch ...

Little chance for Linux (2)

rjamestaylor (117847) | more than 13 years ago | (#727657)

Linux is amazing and I'm a fan of putting it on everything, but I doubt you'll have much luck putting on a machine with just 1K of RAM!
The TS1000 computer has 2K of random access memory built into it. (The ZX81 has just 1K.) The Sinclair 16K RAM Pack will increase your computer's memory capacity to 16K so that you can load and run all of the most popular software titles. This 16K RAM can also be used to extend the TS1500's built-in 16K RAM to 32K.
For comparison, I run NetBSD on my Workpad z50 [netbsd.org] but I have 48 MB of RAM and a 96 MB CF card.

Now hiring experienced client- & server-side developers

Re:Do you have to load linux on EVERYTHING? (1)

Samus (1382) | more than 13 years ago | (#727659)

The answer? To be an Uber Geek. Why hack a palm pilot? Why write a web server in postscript? Why turn a tall building into a tetris game? Because its challenging and some people like that kind of challenge. Now go back to your little complacent windows world and keep telling yourself that you really aren't a lemming and that you do lead an intersting life.


"What are the three words guaranteed to humiliate men everywhere?

99 Bucks?? (1)

Pyramid (57001) | more than 13 years ago | (#727663)

Who in their right mind would pay $99 for a Z80? I bought my Timex Sinclair WITH the 16K ram module for $33!

Jeez, just because it's old, doesn't mean it's worth anything. I've got an old pair of underwear for sale; only $50! Any takers?

"That which is does. That which does can. That which can won't"

Re:1024 bytes of RAM (1)

/dev/kev (9760) | more than 13 years ago | (#727668)

A PC 80x25 character screen is 2000 characters.

Well, it displays 2000 characters, but the video memory required for that is actually 4000 bytes. Each character displayed needs a byte for the character to display, and a byte for the attributes (that is, color) with which it's displayed.

Re:What? (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | more than 13 years ago | (#727672)

How much did those bad boys cost in 85? I like to collect old machines, but my price limit is 25 bucks.

If anyone wants to pick up a very cool old computer, get a hold of a Tandy 100 or 102. It's a portable computer about the size of a dictionary that runs on 4 AA batteries for a month. I used to keep addresses and phone numbers in a 102 at school. You get some really great looks when you pull out a 15 year old computer in a EE class to get someone's number.

-B

wax nostalgic (3)

fudboy (199618) | more than 13 years ago | (#727673)

a lot of folks are going to wax nostalgic over this here machine, but I'm gonna have to disagree. This was my first computer. I recieved it IIRC around Oct 1982, and I was stunned at how crappy a machine this was. I was 9-10 years old, personal computers were an utterly and completely brand new phenomenon, but I could immediately sense the uselessness and cheapness of this machine.

My dad, who bought it for me, had previously engineered some of the first networked cash register systems in the mid 70's (for the Burger Chef chain of fast food resturants), he was/is a primordial hax0r, but even he couldn't get into this dog. But he could understand my dismay, so he got me a TI994a.

I would love to get a bevvy of brand new TI99 parts, maybe even c64 or some '086's, but I can't quite bring myself to embrace this amazing find.

just my $.0200251

:)Fudboy

Commodore used to build decent computers... (1)

driehuis (138692) | more than 13 years ago | (#727675)

I still am the proud owner of a PET 2001. Say what you will, the thing is built like a tank (well, a tank with a real cheap cassette player, but you get the idea). A real sharp display, the kind that to this date inspires movie directors, a well layed out motherboard, and the most yucky keyboard I've seen in my life. And, it had the GP-IP bus.

The thing worked, and the 6502 still is the hallmark of 8bit CPU design to me. Z80 is sort of ... ugly. Sort of like Pentium, only slower.

Of course, the VIC was a real stupid thing to do marketing wise: it looked like a toy, but had more features than their business machine.

My next computer was an Atari ST, 'cause I couldn't afford a Mac.

To this date it is beyond me why 808x won out.

REALLY old story. (1)

atrowe (209484) | more than 13 years ago | (#727678)

Site last updated: Nov 29, 1999

Man, and I thought some of the other Slashdot stories were old. This one should get a medal or something.

Re:Smaller control system... (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 13 years ago | (#727680)

The added performance is hardly "free." The TI graphing calculators' processors are deliberately underclocked to preserve battery power. The time you save doing calculations (valuable seconds!) is more than paid for by the added cost of batteries.

Re:99 Bucks?? (1)

Lotek (29809) | more than 13 years ago | (#727681)

well, can we load linux on that old pair of underwear? If we add in a pair of socks, could we make a beowulf cluster?

Okay, that should just about be enough of that.

TV Tuner Card? (1)

spagthorpe (111133) | more than 13 years ago | (#727683)

I guess if you don't have a TV that can do UHF anymore...can you use one of those PC TV cards to do it? Then you can have your ZX display on your nice big 19/21-inch monitor!

WWJD -- What Would Jimi Do?

Re:What? (2)

atrowe (209484) | more than 13 years ago | (#727686)

You get some really great looks when you pull out a 15 year old computer in a EE class to get someone's number.

Think of all the girls you could get with one of those. And most geeks are still wondering why they're still single.

Re:Odd.. Was the ZX81 also sold in assembled form? (1)

Gusano (166423) | more than 13 years ago | (#727689)

I remember that my uncle assembled his own and acctually made a few modifications to the machine (he's a lawyer! a geek lawyer, go figure!)
Now, iirc when my dad bought ours, it was already assembled.
does anybody remember?

Wow consider a beofulf.. (1)

sniggly (216454) | more than 13 years ago | (#727692)

Arrrr you know I have a TIMEX/Sinclair 1000 I think it is - I guess thats when the ZX81 was built by timex so I don't have a genuine ZX81. Had this great game called merchant of venus (or venice) where you had to steer a cargo vessel over Venus and dock at ports and make money. Really nice graphics and difficult steering to boot.

I have a 16k ram module so if anyone deperately needs to upgrade their $100 ZX81 let me know, it might still work :)

Re:What? (1)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 13 years ago | (#727694)

You'd have to be insane to pay that price! 2 years ago I bought a Sinclair for $1 including the 16k ram expansion!

Zed-X-81 *Linux*?!??! (1)

kd5biv (129563) | more than 13 years ago | (#727697)

I was just mentioning to someone today that I remember when 64K was a lot of memory, and here someone dumps a real blast from the past in my lap that had only *1K*. Now, you can do a lot in 1K with Z-80 machine code, but then again, you have to program in Z-80 machine code.

And as if that ain't scary enough, I still remember a few Z80 opcodes .. C3 xx xx and CD xx xx->C9 being my favorites ..

Info on the ZX-81 and Tmex Sinclair 2068 Website (1)

Endimion (89056) | more than 13 years ago | (#727700)

Processor: Sinclair Research Ltd. Z80 A
Clock Speeds: 3.5 MHz - Introduced: 1981
Text mode: 32 by 24 - Graphics mode: 64 by 44
Interfaces: TV, Earphone, Microphone, Expansion Bus
Loaded programs via tape, of course. This computer was sold as a build-it-yourself and pre-built. Came with 2k ram on it, and you could clip on a 16k module to actually do something productive with it. The keyboard sucks, its a membrane that you basically have to hammer to type something.

I'd laugh quite a bit if someone could make linux run on this. Didn't linus start programming linux on a Sinclair QL (much later sinclair, with a motorola 68k chip in it)?

----
As a side note, I put together a website about the big brother to this computer (this was released in kit form in 1981), the Timex Sinclair 2068 (released in 1983)...
If you like some retro computing, head out to http://www.unixville.com/2068

Also check http://www.obsoletecomputermuseum.org/ for LOTS of retroputing stuff...

Re:Do you have to load linux on EVERYTHING? (1)

alcohollins (64804) | more than 13 years ago | (#727701)

Come on man, it's all linux these days. I plan on loading linux on the digital clock in my car.

Re:What? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 13 years ago | (#727703)

I bought mine in '84 for about $40 at K-Mart. Of course, the 16K RAM Module was another $40...

Re:Great computer... (1)

rmorgan (19647) | more than 13 years ago | (#727704)

When Timex got involved, it became the TS-1000. Sinclair had the ZX-** moniker.

I have one here on my rack, right on top of my Linux box that has an uptime of 332 days.

The avg uptime on that damn Sinclair was about 2 hours. Gawd, how many times I retyped a program because I bumped that 16k RAM pack and lost it all....

$99 is way too much though.....

Re:Odd.. Was the ZX81 also sold in assembled form? (1)

gurudyne (126096) | more than 13 years ago | (#727705)

It most definitely was sold assembled. I bought one (before Timex branded them, but had always built them) for $149.95

I also purchased (later) all sorts of goodies from MemTech (sp?), including a "real" keyboard and a 64K memory module. All of the inerfaces "centipeded' off the rear edge connector.

Re:What? (1)

titus-g (38578) | more than 13 years ago | (#727706)

I'm holding out a bit longer before I sell mine, should be worth a fortune.... :)

Now if only I can get my BBC microcomputer fixed I could be a millionaire, it even has colour!!

Re:ELKS (1)

Requiem (12551) | more than 13 years ago | (#727708)

Nope.

My 8086 can run elks, but that's only because it has 640kb of ram. This computer, on the other hand, has only a few kb. It's not going to work.

Re:1024 bytes of RAM (1)

sniggly (216454) | more than 13 years ago | (#727709)

actually if i remember correctly the zx81 had more like a 40x20 screen without colors at 8 bit a character that would be 800 bytes.

Re:Odd.. Was the ZX81 also sold in assembled form? (1)

daverk (38859) | more than 13 years ago | (#727711)

I ordered a kit because i wanted to build it, but after a while they said that kits were no longer available and sent me an assembled one. I still have it in the original box. I did use it a little bit but it was too under powered and I already had a TRS80 Model 1. I do remember that there was an instruction in the ZX81 basic to turn off the display so the program would run much faster (2X?). I also remember that the assembled ones were selling for about $20 more than the kit. The main thing about the ZX81 was that it was 2-5 times cheaper than anything else at the time.

Re:uhf channels? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#727712)

uhm, will they sell me a 70's era tv that has UHF channels still on the "dial"?

Can't you switch the source on your TV from cable to Antenna?

Re:Commodore used to build decent computers... (2)

gurudyne (126096) | more than 13 years ago | (#727713)

Another way of looking at the Z80 is sort of like a 286, only faster.

Ahh nostalgia (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 13 years ago | (#727714)

I never had a ZX81, I had the TS2068, very similar but with more memory and colour. Very nice computer at the time, light years ahead of the competition back then, but a trifle out of date right now I fear. Still, a fun thing to play with. The system used the high ascii characters to represent basic keywords and one used keyboard shortcuts to input them, which was actually a very handy feature once you got used to it. And of course you could use basic commands to load and execute Z80 machine code for your most commonly called functions, allowing for some very fast programs. The peripherals were interesting too, there were endless loop tape drives for instance, that actually were pretty comparable to the much more expensive hard drives available in the day - high seek times, of course ;^) but linear read/write functions were blindingly fast for the day.

This wouldn't be a bad machine at all for someone that wants to learn Z80 machine code (NOT assembler) - anyone out there working on embedded systems with that particular chip? But as for putting Linux on it, forget that right off, the Z80 has, what, 64k of address space if memory serves. No way you can run any sort of *nix on that - this isn't segment:offset, it's just one segment, period. Still, if you are clever and don't mind a little work, you can do some pretty amazing things in 64k. ;^)

Anyone got info on the actual hardware behind it? I'd be interested in knowing how much trouble it would be to replace the ROMs with EPROMs, make it work with python or something like that instead of basic, maybe rewire it with an LCD display too... you might could make a really cool PDA or something out of one of these...

Pop quiz (1)

driehuis (138692) | more than 13 years ago | (#727715)

And as if that ain't scary enough, I still remember a few Z80 opcodes ..

Which reminds me of a pop quiz I've wanted to take out for years... Who are the knights that say Nu, which processor did they use, and why is it a good thing that some opcodes have a printable ASCII representation?

Re:What? (5)

tgeller (10260) | more than 13 years ago | (#727716)

Anybody who pays $99.95 for these is -- excuse me -- a fucking moron.

I was at the Vintage Computer Fair [vintage.org] last weekend, and the going rate is about ten bucks. Yes, with manuals and everything. My VIC-20 isn't even worth a quarter of that price, and that's including the original boxes, manuals, an expansion card, programs on tape, and a bunch of other cool original stuff.

By the way, the original price was... $99.95! (Oh, O.K.... they started out at $199.95, but were later lowered to $99.95. I last saw a new one in a store in New York City in the late 80s for $14.95.)

This link [zianet.com] may be of interest to the ZX-curious. --Tom

Re:Linux? (1)

/dev/kev (9760) | more than 13 years ago | (#727717)

I have a 4.77MHz Z80A Osborne 1... I thought the original Z80 would also do 4.77MHz, but I'm not sure. Aha, a quick websearch has proven me wrong - the Z80 was about half the speed, "2.5MHz".
The 8086 was 4.77MHz, but was 16 bit so also in a different league.

Re:Do you have to load linux on EVERYTHING? (2)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 13 years ago | (#727718)

I plan on loading linux on my penis, maybe that stupid bird will stop crashing.

is it for real? (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 13 years ago | (#727719)

Has any one actually purchased one of these? I'd love to have one but i'm afraid it might be a scam. Sounds to good to be true. (but i hope it is)

Re:wax nostalgic (2)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 13 years ago | (#727720)

Heh. Nice DeVo play in the .sig there, my friend.

For the record, I have no idea what kind of Sinclair the first computer I ever used was, but I remember it as a Timex-Sinclair 2000. It had a chiclet keyboard and I used to plug it into a small black and white TV and write BASIC programs, mostly Mad-Lib type things and random pattern generators (the easy kind you can make with "10 print something stupid, 20 goto 10". My friend had a tape deck and we managed to waste alot of time typing in stupid little programs like one that gave you an ASCII-graphics drawing of dice and randomly "rolled" them for you, and then saving them onto tape cassettes and loading them back in. Woohoo.

Re:uhf channels? (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 13 years ago | (#727721)

you can hook it up to uhf channel 33?

uhm, will they sell me a 70's era tv that has UHF channels still on the "dial"?

Last time I checked, current TVs still tune up to channel 69. (Channels 70-84 were removed sometime in the mid-to-late 80s to keep people from using TVs to listen in on cellular-phone conversations, or something like that.) It's a good thing they do, too, since the local UPN station hasn't been on cable since it started up. You have to break out Ye Olde Rabbite Eares to watch Voyager. (That changes next month...finally!)

Hopefully it could put out a signal on a channel other than 33, though, as that channel is used by another local UHF broadcaster.

_/_
/ v \
(IIGS( Scott Alfter (remove Voyager's hull # to send mail)
\_^_/

Re:Want a cultural icon? (2)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 13 years ago | (#727722)

If you look up ZX81 on eBay, there's another auction for two of them, all in pieces. So you have a choice :-).

D

----

MHz (1)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#727723)

I have a Coco2, which is oodles faster than the Sinclair, and it uses the Motorola 68B09E processor at 0.89Mhz. With one POKE you can double the clock to 1.7 Mhz. So I doubt that the Sinclair be even One Megahertz

Z80 I Program ASM on a TI-86 Calc with that (1)

yup2000 (182755) | more than 13 years ago | (#727724)

Wow i did't relize how OLD that processor is... I've been programming in ASM on my TI-86 calc which has a 6 mhz Z80 processor in it... That Processor is OLDER than I am !!! WOW

Long Live the Z80! (3)

fm6 (162816) | more than 13 years ago | (#727725)

A better-known example of a current Z80 product is the Gameboy. Plus there are a zillion controller or embedded systems.

This chip is a definite classic. Has any instruction set been in use as long? Indeed, before IBM jumped into the microcomputer market, Z80-based systems were the standard for desktop business computing. And probably the most popular config was an Apple ][ with a Z80 coprocessor board. (I once nearly bought the Microsoft version of this one!) If Apple had known how to exploit its dominance in this market, history would be very different.

I just went to the Zilog web site to see what they were up to, and found the latest Z80 product: an embedded web server! [zilog.com]

__________

Re:Do you have to load linux on EVERYTHING? (3)

tokamak (240646) | more than 13 years ago | (#727726)

I've just installed linux on my bodylotion box and I am creaming it all over my body.

Re:99 Bucks?? (1)

Parsec (1702) | more than 13 years ago | (#727727)

I've got an old pair of underwear for sale; only $50! Any takers?

Not unless they're Sarah Michelle Gellar's.

Played a nice game of Frogger (1)

RobertW103 (54252) | more than 13 years ago | (#727728)

Seriously, we had a TS1000, 16k ram pack and the printer. We had to get a new tape recorder for it becuase ours couldn't save right. I remember the screeen display when it saved or loaded. The TV would just go to hash and when the picture came back, it was done. BTW, it wasn't UHF ch 33 it was VHF 2 or 3. Ah, the joys of trying to program in BASIC, remember those preprinted statements on the keys? I think it was shift-4 to get a Print statement. Used to have a heck of a time trying to run Flight Simulator, not so much the running but the playing. It used to have two modes, Fast and Slow. Fast used to slow down the refresh of the screen to let the CPU concentrate all of it's 1 mHz on actual processing. The printer ran on 24VDC and was thermal. Printed on rolls of 6 inch wide paper. Odd blue print on waxy white paper. Plugged into the expansion slot. Had to be really careful that the ventilation slots were kept clear cause it tended to catch fire. We didn't have a word processor for it, so I remember writing my Christmas list as a bunch of Print statements in Basic. Hey lay off, what did you expect from a nine year old.

It's an 8 bit processor. (2)

Performer Guy (69820) | more than 13 years ago | (#727729)

Title says it all... run Linux? I think it has 1k of memory unless you get the memory pack which gives you a whopping 16k, and make sure you don't jiggle it or the system will crash.

Why BUY one when you could BUILD one from scratch? (2)

Tassach (137772) | more than 13 years ago | (#727730)

If you want really neat hack value, try building one of these puppies from scratch. Perhaps somebody could make a really nice high-res scan of the mainboard of this thing. I seriously doubt if the board is multilayered; you could probably build an equivilent machine yourself on a breadboard. It was a cheap POS when it was new; even paying rat shack's inflated prices for components you could probably build one for

interesting... (1)

iamblades (238964) | more than 13 years ago | (#727731)

.. but way too expensive, I guess the company doesnt wanna lose money, and is betting on nostalgia to sell these things.. Oh well, their choice. I'm not old enough to have been around back then, my first computer was an old (even then!!) Zenith 8088 that I got around '89. Alas, what ever happened to Zenith?

Re:1024 bytes of RAM (2)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 13 years ago | (#727732)

There's no way I was implying that they could cram that much text onto a television display. A C=64 could barely do that.

The ZX81 did something weird with the programming language too. It was BASIC, but the way statements were constructed made me think that they were not relying on the characters to make up statements, but on the order of character sequences.

I.e. A couple characters for a line number, a single character for a command (goto, print, for, DIM etc) another single character for the parameters for that command, or several characters for a line number.

If that is not how it was stored internally, it certianly was how you would program the thing.

My comment on how little 1024 bytes was only to emphasize how terribly small that was.

Gawd... I remember noticing all these strange things for the first time... somewhere in a New Brunswick campsite with an extension cord, a picnic table and a black and white T.V.

I still have mine! (2)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#727733)

I still have my Timex Sinclair, that we bought in 1982. It sports the following:

- 2KB RAM
- 150bps cassette interface
- 16KB RAM Pack
- 32 column printer

The damn RAM pack was the worst POS I ever saw. After a few hours plucking away at assembly language, one false wobble would make the whole thing crash (hmmm, is there a RAM pack in WindowsÉ heheh).

I also remember doing some BASIC on it. The computer would refresh the entire line you were typing at every character. For the first 32 characters this was fine, but after 2-3 lines, typing became utterly sloy, hence the "Fast" button.

In any case, this gem got me started on computers. I still have the original box and booklet. History in the making!!

The original Z80 was 1Mhz... (1)

Catroaster (176308) | more than 13 years ago | (#727734)

The Z80A (as used in the ZX Spectrum) was 2Mhz, and the Z80B was 4Mhz. I remember articles about trying to get a ZX Spectrum to accept a Z80B... the first overclocking ever?

Re:Long Live the Z80! (2)

bonzoesc (155812) | more than 13 years ago | (#727735)

The problem with the game boy/pocket/color is that there is no easy way to load a program into it short of burning a cartridge. The TI-73/82/83/85 have a serial port that allows the user to download a basic or assembly program into the calc's onboard memory of about 300K. This is why ticalc.org [ticalc.org] has hundreds of user-created programs for each calc TI makes.

Tell me what makes you so afraid
Of all those people you say you hate

Re:Long Live the Z80! (2)

BlueLines (24753) | more than 13 years ago | (#727736)

Don't forget the color gameboy has 2 Z80's. One for pixels, and one for color :-)

They were sold both assembled and unassembled. (1)

Catroaster (176308) | more than 13 years ago | (#727737)

I remember the cost difference to get an assembled model was about £10 (UK).

Re:What? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 13 years ago | (#727738)

you were able to get a 166mhz Alpha UDB for 99.95 a while back. They soon dropped to even less. I got mine for like $50 or something. Granted, it doesn't come w/a TV out to your TV but umm, 166mhz, possibility of tons of mb's of ram, and 1k.. What do you want?

- Bill

Re:What? (2)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 13 years ago | (#727739)

In '85? They were already pathetic has-beens even back then. I remember me and my buddies used to self-rightously look down on these and laugh at 'em in '83. I was soooo glad that my parents got me a Vic20 instead. ;-)

Although the VIC was it's own kind of hell, at least the screen didn't start to shrink as it ran low on memory.

In the late 80s I saw an ad in the paper, some old geezer was selling a pair of them for 20 bucks, with 16K RAM expansions. Actually, one was a ZX81, and the other was a TS1000. I bought 'em and gave one to a friend for a laugh.


---

Re:99 Bucks?? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 13 years ago | (#727740)

I've got an old pair of underwear for sale; only $50! Any takers?

No way. I wouldn't pay a penny over $35 for your underwear.


---

Re:Don't forget... (1)

/dev/kev (9760) | more than 13 years ago | (#727741)

It's 50/50. I know it was the guy who wrote the submission who suggested Linux, but sometimes it just feels like you have to mention Linux to get a story accepted these days. Would this story have been posted if it didn't have the Linux bit? Ordinarily, I'd say of course, but the way /. has been going lately, I'm not so sure.

Re:the /. effect... (1)

CygnusTM (233935) | more than 13 years ago | (#727742)

$100?!?!?!? If you win that wager, I've severely underestimated the cash-to-gray-matter ratio for the average Slashdotter.

Controller? (5)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | more than 13 years ago | (#727743)

I had a few and thought that they would make a pretty good controller board with the Z80 processor.

I did a project in high school (~1985) trying to use a ZX81 as a controller for a robot. It worked, kinda. Very susceptible to emi, especially the sort that small DC motors put off. It used technology that was "good" for the time, which translated to today's technology, means "slow and power hungry."

Other than the "vintage-cool" factor, as a controller, you can do a whole lot more with a modern microcontroller. More I/O, similar amount of memory, much more in terms of MIPS/W. You do lose the video display and the ability to program it in BASIC.

The ZX81 was a great hack. The ability to implement a GUI (it did output to a TV) and an interpreter with that little amount of processing horsepower, RAM and ROM is a pretty impressive feat, especially keeping it relatively cheap.

I think that we could all learn something from the ZX81- it is amazing how far you can stretch your resources when you don't have many. The real power of such knowledge is knowing when it is appropriate to use it.

Re:Do you have to load linux on EVERYTHING? (1)

Corporate Gadfly (227676) | more than 13 years ago | (#727745)

I plan on loading linux on my penis, maybe that stupid bird will stop crashing

Imagine what your "uptime" will be?

Ahhh. Fond memories... (1)

Special J (641) | more than 13 years ago | (#727746)

The Timex Sinclair was my very first computer from my childhood. Its like seeing an old friend.

:)

Though I'm sure as hell not paying $100 for one nowadays!

Oh lord... (1)

Catroaster (176308) | more than 13 years ago | (#727747)

I still remember ...

AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

The only instruction worth using in Z80 machine code on the ZX81 was C9 (EXIT).

Anyone else here ever use the HEXLD program (Ah.. THERE was a MAN's text editor)

A Wonderful Little Machine (5)

DigitalDreg (206095) | more than 13 years ago | (#727748)

I still have my original TS1000, which was my first computer at the age of 12. I picked up another one for parts later on. The TS1000 was the Timex/American version of the ZX81, a product of "Uncle" Clive Sinclair. It's notable features where:
  • BASIC in an 8KB ROM.
  • 2KB RAM on board
  • Expandable to 16KB RAM with a "backpack"
  • Expandable to 54KB RAM max with some mods.
  • A 40 key keyboard with multiple shift modes to get all of the characters and BASIC keywords.
  • Cassette interface for program loading and storing.
  • A low cost thermal printer.
This was not a serious machine; it had major shortcomings. But the price was right.

The keyboards were very troublesome. The thin ribbon connector often cracked from the heat and aging, disabling the membrane keyboard. With a little experimentation you could still "pick" it with wire ties. ;-)

The cassette interface was flakey too. They recommended a mono portable cassette recorder, run from batteries. The volume level had to be "just right."

The memory backpack was troublesome as well - it wiggled too much, breaking the connection to the card edge connector on the back of the machine.

Entering programs on this machine was truly unique - you didn't type the word "PRINT". You pressed "P", and depending on where you were on the line, the BASIC interpreter knew if you were going to enter a keyword ("PRINT"), or if you wanted the letter "P". Sorry, uppercase only.

It was amazing was assembly language programmers could do with this thing. I fondly remember the Flight Simulator, which fit on a 16KB machine. There were programmers toolkits on cassette, and other little applications. Data storage was a serious problem though.

Is there an archive of ZX81 software anywhere, possibly in WAV or MP3 format? I still have my cassettes, but after 16 years of disuse I doubt that they are readable.

Mike

PS: Search on google - there are several projects out there for emulators.

I am building a ZX-81 Clone (1)

andrewmuck (89322) | more than 13 years ago | (#727749)

the details are on my website (under Z180), fairly simple to build. If anyone wants to assist let me know.
The ZX-81 was a classic for learning assembler.
mirrors here [webjump.com] , here [8k.com] and here [geocities.com]

cya, Andrew...

Re:Little chance for Linux (1)

Slef (8700) | more than 13 years ago | (#727750)

You could always use virtual memory....
...on a standard cassette tape!

I have a sinclair 1000 (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 13 years ago | (#727751)

New -- in the box. My father gave it to me before I went off to college. He even bought me the 16k add-on pack from eBay :) I am considering handing in one of my coding assignments for computer science on a casette.... just to see the look on my TA's face. Question: Does anyone know how to dump files from the sinclair 1000 to a PC? I don't have the machine here in my room (so I can't check) but I don't remember any ports other than the video-out.

Re:wax nostalgic (2)

Sethb (9355) | more than 13 years ago | (#727752)

I've still got both of my TI99/4A computers, and they work great. I've got both the standard beige model, and the black/chrome one. I've even got the speech synthesizer attachment! Ahh, the days of playing Parsec, Hunt the Wumpus, and Slymoids come back to me now...

The stupid adapter to make Atari 2600 joysticks work with the thing rarely functioned, I usually wound up not being able to move my guy in one direction or the other, but I mastered the keyboard controls. I think I still have the tape recorder and necessary cables to hook that up, then you could actually play BIG games that loaded from the cassette tape.

I had a big book of BASIC programs that I messed with, actually learned quite a bit about programming BASIC just from playing around with those, but the machines have sat under my parents' and grandparents' basement TV's for about 10 years now, neglected and gathering dust. They're right next to the pong machine...

I never knew anyone who had one of those, besides myself, everyone had C64's...
---

Don't forget... (2)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#727753)

Hemos isn't the one who suggested Linux on this thing... Eugene Blanchard did.

Just making sure you ain't slamming the fine folks at Slashdot (there's my suck-up comment)

D.

Re:Little chance for Linux (2)

rjamestaylor (117847) | more than 13 years ago | (#727754)

You could always use virtual memory....
...on a standard cassette tape!

I had forgotten that option...

That reminds me of the Apple documentation that came with my Apple ][+ (in 1979, IIRC). In the section on using the cassette tape storage device it made reference to the amazing abilities one may possess if he could understand the program code whenthe tape was played through a speaker. Needless to say, I spent a couple hours trying to figure out if I had such abilities...

Hey, I was 13!

Now hiring experienced client- & server-side developers

Re:Do you have to load linux on EVERYTHING? (1)

cosmic heat death (227938) | more than 13 years ago | (#727755)

Now go back to your little complacent windows world and keep telling yourself that you really aren't a lemming and that you do lead an intersting life.

oh the sweet blessed irony!

I got mine free (1)

smnolde (209197) | more than 13 years ago | (#727756)

I got my Sinclair free from a friend a few months ago. I'm holding it for posterity... to show my kids what got me into computers. Heck, I don't even have kids yet... they'll appreciate it anyway.

My better memories of early computing is my cousin first saw it advertised in Popular Mechanics. He sold enough of my grandfather's tomatoes on the street to buy one in a few days. He had a plan.

It was cool, too. Biorythms and the flight simulator bring back memories. He had the 16k rampack. After a long while the thing would wear out the TV though....

way cool

Why you would need to put a jug of milk on it (1)

BattyMan (21874) | more than 13 years ago | (#727757)

would only be because you were overclocking the piss out of it. At stock clock speeds the machine didn't have a cooling problem.

By 1985, Z80 family machinery achieved, I believe, something like 12 or 16 MHz. It may go faster now.

If you took all the silicon (memory chips, maybe a logic gate or array) out of the board and replaced them with modern production, you could crank it a LOT faster than standard. Fast Z80s kept up with 8088s. Linux will fit on neither.

They've got to be kidding (1)

Potent (47920) | more than 13 years ago | (#727758)

In the last two years, I've seen dozens of these things hogging space at hamfests around the U.S.. I still have yet to see one bring $15.00, much less $100.00. You can find Amigas for far less money. Nice try, guys. Now if they have a warehouse full of TRS-80 Model 16 systems, they might really have something (a Z80 plus a MC68000 - killer box for 1979, eh?) :)

Re:Great computer... (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 13 years ago | (#727759)

how many times I retyped a program because I bumped that 16k RAM pack and lost it all....

There were too many times that happened to me, so I soldered the ram pack directly to the back. That, and adding more aluminum to the voltage regulator heat sink made it very reliable. Things were great until I developed larger programs enough to notice anything greater than about four kilobytes would freeze. Turned out there was a bit stuck on a 1 in RAM about 4K in one of the chips. RAM was expensive back in those days. It cost me $49 for 16 kilobytes (and that was cheap!)

I got a lot of use out of that little computer [attaway.org] .

Ah, memory (1)

BlackHat (67036) | more than 13 years ago | (#727760)

Try to tell kids today that successful programming included a thick rubberband and a soldering iron and they won't belive ya'. Put the kit togther in a couple of hours. Ah Sweet memories, not of that 16k expander tho...

ZX (1)

DavidOgg (200113) | more than 13 years ago | (#727764)

I never used a Timex, Started with a Vic-20, then a c64,c128, Amiga2000HD, Watched Amiga fall, lost interst in computers and faith in the world, got PC, still no interst / faith.

I want my Amiga back

WAY too expensive. (2)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 13 years ago | (#727767)

I make a hobby out of going to surplus stores and picking up surplus hardware real cheap. I've got all sorts of crufty old stuff, none for over 15 dollars. They were selling VIC-20s and C-64s for $50. This is way too expensive, and even though it'd be a nice little piece of hardware to have, it's too expensive and not worth the price they're asking.

Let me put it this way. I picked up a drawing tablet that works with mouse protocol for $15. I picked up a much more recent, in fact, brand new, microcontroller-based device that only needs reprogramming for $5.

That price is outrageous. Wake me when they sell them for $10.


If you can't figure out how to mail me, don't.

Re:Great computer... (1)

jerdenn (86993) | more than 13 years ago | (#727770)

Yup, does anyone remember the command to blank the screen display to make everything run faster?
Those were the days...

-jerdenn

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