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Twelve... classic 1980s 8-bit micros

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Sinclair ZX81

Reg Hardware retro numbers

You could say the ZX81 was its predecessor, the ZX80, done right. Both sported comparable specs, but the ZX81 was cheaper and, thanks to designer Rick Dickinson, much better looking. The vacuum-formed ZX80 looked liked someone's dad had made it. The ZX81 looked like a real computer.

Sinclair Research ZX81

Sinclair pulled 21 of the ZX80s chips into a single part, in the process cutting the cost of production sufficintly to double the Rom for a better Basic and offer the ZX81 for £30 less than its predecessor.

It was an immediate hit with hobbyists - and sales skyrocketed when newsagent chain WHSmith took the machine on. More than 350,000 were sold in the first year. Could Sinclair top it?

Check out our full history of the ZX81 here.

Sinclair Research ZX81
Release Date January 1983
Price £50 (kit) £70 (pre-built)
CPU Z80A @ 3.25MHz
Memory 1KB
Developers Sinclair's Richard Altwasser, Rick Dickinson; Nine Tiles' Steve Vickers, John Grant

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Reg Hardware retro numbers

How do you follow up a hugely successful machine? You address all the complaints made about the previous one. And that's essentially what Sinclair did with the Spectrum.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Source: Wikimedia

The ZX81 was black and white, was slow, had only 1KB on on-board memory and lacked moving keys on its keyboard. So the Spectrum, introduced 13 months later, could do colour, came with a fully mobile keyboard (kind of), a faster CPU (just about) and more Ram.

Sure, it was more expensive, but was still well under £200 and half the price of a BBC Model B. It was compact too, and very quickly there were tons and tons of games for it. No wonder it became the UK's best-selling home micro.

Check out our full history of the ZX Spectrum here.

Sinclar ZX Spectrum advert
Release Date April 1982
Price £125 (16KB) £175 (48KB)
CPU Z80A @ 3.5MHz
Memory 16KB or 48KB
Developers Sinclair's Richard Altwasser, Rick Dickinson; Nine Tiles' Steve Vickers

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