Sinclar ZX Spectrum

First released in 1982, the ZX Spectrum is Sinclair’s most well-known brand of home computers.

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About The ZX Spectrum

First released in 1982, the ZX Spectrum is Sinclair’s most well-known brand of home computers.

Offering either 16k or 48k of RAM, the ZX Spectrum utilised the same CPU as the ZX80/ZX81, the Zilog Z80. There were 8 models of ZX Spectrum produced in its lifetime, ranging from the first rubber-keyed ZX Spectrum to the Spectrum +3 in 1987.

Competing primarily with the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC, the ZX Spectrum sold c. 5 million units. This was predominantly in Europe, but the ZX Spectrum certainly enjoyed the most success in the UK.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum
The Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Amazingly, over 24,000 pieces of software have been developed for the ZX Spectrum. With a still enthusiastic scene for the system, this number continues to increase.

The first ZX spectrum in its 16k and 48k guises was housed in a compact, neatly designed black unit. It has a membrane keyboard, but this time has actual rubber keys giving the user more feel than with the ZX80/ZX81. The sound on the system was delivered by an onboard ‘bleeper’, this is revered to this day and very much characterises the system.

The 16k and 48k rubber key ZX Spectrums were followed by the release of the ZX Spectrum+ in 1984. The Spectrum+ is essentially a 48k Spectrum but housed in a new case using an injection moulded keyboard.

About The ZX Spectrum 128

Released in 1985, the ZX Spectrum 128 is the first real upgrade to the ZX Spectrum family from its original systems.

Rather oddly, instead of pure innovation and drive to deliver a stronger system, it is for other reasons the system is said to have been produced. This was to assist the ZX Spectrum to be pushed in Spanish regions, to avoid taxation implications.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128
The Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128

Still utilising the Zilog Z80, the main difference is obvious in the name. RAM had been increased to 128k. This is a well-supported upgrade, as from this point forwards many 128k games were produced for the ZX Spectrum 128. In addition to the RAM upgrade, the ZX Spectrum 128 benefits from a new sound chip, the AY-3-8912. This allowed for much-improved sound and music.

The ZX Spectrum 128 did not begin to retail in the UK until 1986 in an effort to try to shift stock of the previous Spectrum+ systems.

This was to be the last ZX Spectrum that Sinclair produced until they sold the product and brand to Amstrad in 1986. Its successor is the Spectrum +2, released in 1986.

About The Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2

Released in 1986, the ZX Spectrum+2 is Amstrad’s first Spectrum following them purchasing the ZX Spectrum product and Sinclair brands.

The Spectrum+2 is based on the ZX Spectrum 128 but has been rehoused in a newly designed case with an integrated tape deck. This design choice has been lifted directly from Amstrad’s own CPC range. The keyboard itself was a major improvement over previous ZX Spectrums, with the keys being spring-loaded, it felt much more like a modern computer to use.

Sinclair Spectrum +2
The Sinclair Spectrum +2

About The Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3

There was a slight revision to the Spectrum+2 released, known as the Spectrum+2A. This utilised a slightly reconfigured board which meant it could be utilised for both the +2A and the Spectrum +3, reducing manufacturing costs. The +2A is notorious for being slightly less compatible with some older software. There is also a +2B model which was produced to resolve some audio output issues.

The ZX Spectrum+2 was succeeded by the final Spectrum system, the Spectrum+3.

Released in 1987, the Spectrum+3 is the final ZX Spectrum, released by Amstrad under the Sinclair brand.

The Spectrum+3 is similar to the Spectrum+2A but with a 3-inch floppy disk drive instead of a tape deck. It is worth noting that a tape deck can still be added to the Spectrum+3.

Production of the Spectrum+3 ended in 1990, bringing an end to the classic ZX Spectrum computer, at least in terms of the original machine. There is still a huge following for the ZX Spectrum with many ZX Spectrum-inspired clones having been developed.

Sinclair Spectrum +3
The Sinclair Spectrum +3