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ZX Planet - Spectrum Heaven! - History In The Making - Hardware

The ZX Spectrum was just as technically elegant as the BBC Microcomputer but as you can see from the image the mainboard was a fraction of the size.

The first image is the mainboard of the ZX Spectrum and the one below this is of the BBC Microcomputer Model A. At a fraction of the price of its nearest competitor the Spectrum realy kicked the wind out of the competition and soon enough it brought many homes into the world of high power, easy to use and understand computers.

Spectrum Mainboard


Now, looking at the BBC board it's pretty hard to believe that the ZX has more usable RAM, twice as many colours, a brightness and colour control, a 25 percent faster data transfer rate with a very easy to use dialect of the popular BASIC (modified by Sinclair Research) which was already in use by 400,000 computers worldwide.

This specific board pre-built (not solder yourself) has 16K of RAM and cost around £125, it could easily be upgraded to 48K for an extra £60. On the main board you can clearly see the TV/RF modulator (top left corner), power supply socket, tape player socket, expansion slot (the big bar code in white) and an unknown socket on the far right. The large microchips control the sound, input and output devices and of course the legendary Z80 processor with integrated Sinclair BASIC. A whole lot of the other microchips are mainly the RAM but a few of them controled other aspects.

BBC Mainboard

The Microdrive

Designed exclusively for use ONLY on ZX Spectrums the new Microdrive was set to revolutionize the computer industry and storage media.

Each Microdrive could hold up to 100KB on a small interchangable floppy disk, with a transfer rate of 16KBs per second. So what did this mean?, well users could store vast amounts of information on a fast strong media type and retrieve that information much faster than they could via cassette plus there is no need to rewind the disk once it has finished loading your data.

Software houses soon caught on to this new media type and before too long software came pouring out and people spent as much money as they could to make use of this wonderful new piece of technology. The great thing about the Microdrive is that your Spectrum computer was not limited to just one unit per machine, not just two either - no a massive eight Microdrives could be chained together and connected to your Sinclair (rather like the SCSI devices we know today). The Microdrive was made available soon after the initial launch of the ZX and sold at around £50 per unit.

Click here for more pictures of the Microdrive.

ZX Microdrive

The Printer

Designed exclusively for use ONLY on ZX Spectrums this printer offered full ASCII character set recognition, including capitals, and high resolution graphics.

The most advanced feature about this new printer is the COPY button, this would grab everything that is currently on your TV screen and print it out without the need for any further instructions. The printing speed was 50 character per second, 32 characters per line and 9 lines per vertical inch.

Users would connect the printer to the back of the Spectrum and a roll of paper 65ft long and 4 inches wide was supplied along with full user friendly instructions. The rolls of paper were sold in most conventional computer stores in packs of five.

Click here for more pictures of the ZX Printer.

ZX Thermal Printer

The RS232 Network Board

This piece of hardware raised a few eye brows at the meeting in which the Sinclair Spectrum was announced, it allowed Spectrum users to connect to a whole range of printers, terminals and other computers. You may think that at the time of the release this piece of hardware would be expensive, well you're wrong because the RS232 board was sold for a very low £20. This price was only made possible because of the integrated BASIC operating system already found in ZX computers.

Spectrum Webring
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