Feeds

Happy 30th Birthday, Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The story of an historic micro

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Design cues

Dickinson's design for the computer itself originally called for a more angular, wedge-like look that took cues from the ZX81 - again reinforcing the notion that Sinclair viewed the Spectrum simply as an upgraded ZX81. The new machine's design began to be sketched out early in August 1981.

By the middle of the following month, Dickinson's sketches show something more like the final look: a flatter design with a raised rear section and rounded sides, though at this stage these were formed from angles rather than a smooth curve. The rear area also dipped from the sides to the centre.

Sinclair ZX81 Colour design sketch

Rick Dickinson's 11 August 1981 early ZX81 Colour design concept
Source: Rick Dickinson

The 'tweaked ZX81' concept would not survive, at least not from a marketing perspective. Sinclair would soon position the Spectrum - the new name undoubtedly part of the rebranding effort - as a more advanced machine than a mere upgrade.

After the Spectrum's launch, in an interview with Sinclair User magazine published in July 1982, Dickinson would say: "[The Spectrum] is a step upmarket, and I was really trying hard for a super-smart machine. It is not for quite the same amateur market [as the ZX81]."

Dickinson would leave Sinclair in 1985, after which he formed his own design agency and went on to devise the look of the Z88, the portable computer Clive Sinclair created in the late 1980s at his new firm, Cambridge Computers.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum sketch

The design begins to take shape in a sketch dated 15 September 1981
Source: Rick Dickinson

Back to Basic

But while Dickinson was working on the Spectrum during 1981, coder Steve Vickers was revising Sinclair Basic and the core OS at Nine Tiles Software. Nine Tiles had been hired to write Sinclair Basic for the ZX80 back in 1980 and was the natural choice to update the code for the ZX81. That was Vickers' task, then a fresh employee, and he penned the ZX81's manual too. During 1981, he added colour and sound commands to ZX81 Basic, as requested by Sinclair. The character set was extended with the addition of lower-case letters.

But Vickers also added multi-statement lines of code and other innovations in an attempt to make the Spectrum something more that a ZX81 with more memory, a better keyboard and colour bolted on. He significantly upped the data transfer rate to and from cassette tape, and in addition to programs, array variables - to enable primitive databases - and blocks of memory could be saved to tape.

Sinclair ZX82 final design

Early 1982 and the design is there... but not the name
Source: Rick Dickinson

Indeed, Vickers and his Nine Tiles colleagues had initially hoped to write the Spectrum's Basic interpreter from scratch in order to eliminate inefficiencies in the older code and make it run more smoothly. But Sinclair's tight schedule made this impossible. Vickers' views were ultimately justified: Basic programs ran slowly on the Spectrum.

"The Basic is slow," wrote Computing Today in August 1982. "Well, 'snail-like' would be a better description. The last test was done with a loop of 100 instead of 1000 as I thought that you might like to read the review before the Christmas holidays."

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
WTF happened to Pac-Man?
In his thirties and still afraid of ghosts
Reg man builds smart home rig, gains SUPREME CONTROL of DOMAIN – Pics
LightwaveRF and Arduino: Bright ideas for dim DIYers
Leaked pics show EMBIGGENED iPhone 6 screen
Fat-fingered fanbois rejoice over Chinternet snaps
Apple patent LOCKS drivers out of their OWN PHONES
I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you text that
Microsoft signs Motorola to Android patent pact – no, not THAT Motorola
The part that Google never got will play ball with Redmond
Slip your finger in this ring and unlock your backdoor, phone, etc
Take a look at this new NFC jewellery – why, what were you thinking of?
Happy 25th birthday, Game Boy!
Monochrome handset ushered in modern mobile gaming era
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.