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TS1000/ZX81 fanboys?


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I've been on a little bit of a Timex/Sinclair kick lately, snooping through the old Sync and Timex Sinclair User magazines online and such. I didn't realize there was such a large aftermarket industry for hardware addons, RAM expansions, sound interfaces, printers, video kits, disk systems (!), joystick interfaces, keyboards/enclosures, etc. And of course there were loads of software and games, even many British-produced ones that made their way over via licensees and importers, and even companies like Quicksilva, Melbourne House, and Sinclair themselves setting up offices in the U.S. I suppose it stands to reason since the ZX81 was a monster in the UK and in Europe, and even saw a flash of popularity in North America, along with the TS1000. Kinda cute, such a goofy little system being as expandable and customizable as "the big boys."

Getting to the point, it was possible, evidently, to become quite invested in a Timex/Sinclair system if one were so inclined. And that made me think of the followings and scenes that other systems and brands had garnered, and how often that devolves into fanboyism. It then occurred to me that while I have seen Atari 7800 fanboys, Jaguar fanboys, and fanboys of other platforms conventional wisdom would probably deem undeserving of such fanaticism, I've never, ever heard of a Timex/Sinclair or ZX81 fanboy. Which is as logical as it is puzzling; yes, it was an unbelievably underpowered and cheap piece of hardware in every sense, but it was also immensely popular for a time.

I mean, yeah, the TS1000/ZX81 has its proponents, people who use it and enjoy it for what it is, and even a flourishing homebrew scene. But I don't think any of them are going around saying it's a better system than an Atari 400 or VIC-20 or TRS-80 Color or what have you.

I would love to see a flamewar between a Timex guy and a C64 guy. :P :rolling:

(Sidebar: As improbable as this probably seems, I once had a guy talk to me at MGC about my Channel F, like it was the pinnacle of videogames; he actually said videogames went to shit as soon as the Atari came out. He was dead serious. :| )

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My very first computer was a zx80. I wrote my very first program on it too, a BASIC version of "Lunar Lander" with an 'M' for the lander and a landscape of periods and dashes. Makes me mist up just thinking about it.

 

Fast forward to now - alongside all my atari stuff I have a giant box filled with Sinclair/Timex stuff.

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When I was a kid I used to introduce BASIC programs from a magazine into a TS1000.

 

More recently I bought a TS1000 CIB and I have 2 or 3 memory expansions waiting to be repaired.

 

The most urgent thing needed would be a means of transfering programs, as now I don't have lots of time available :grin:!

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The most urgent thing needed would be a means of transfering programs, as now I don't have lots of time available :grin:!

There is the ZXpand interface now. :)

 

You bring up an interesting point. Most 16K programs for other systems only took a couple of minutes to load from cassette, tops, but several 16K Timex/Sinclair tapes show load times of 4, 5, or even 6 minutes! I think Frogger was 6:15 or something. I want to say Grimm's Fairy Trails takes something like 4:30 or 5 minutes to load.

 

When people talk about slow cassette loading times of old school computers, I wonder if they're talking about the Timex/ZX81 specifically. :P :-D Loading 16K tape games on an Apple II+ is a snap by comparison. Ditto for TRS-80, TRS-80 Color, MC-10, Atari 400/800, VIC-20, TI-99/4a...

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Kinda cute, such a goofy little system being as expandable and customizable as "the big boys."

Well... One thing I'll say in relation to this: the ZX81 (and other Sinclair computers and consumer electronics) were built to a price, and in many ways it showed. A great deal of what was being sold for them was intended to correct certain shortcomings that they had, which was a common theme amongst Sinclair products.

 

Note that this isn't to knock the machine: they're very much a product of the time, place, and market conditions that they were developed for and in, and a really interesting part of computing history.

 

Getting to the point, it was possible, evidently, to become quite invested in a Timex/Sinclair system if one were so inclined.

Absolutely. And therein lies the irony: you could end up spending as much (or more) on bringing a ZX81 up to only part of the capabilities of a more powerful machine. Of course, if you're working on a budget, you can do this over time, so the initial outlay isn't as great.

 

And that made me think of the followings and scenes that other systems and brands had garnered, and how often that devolves into fanboyism. It then occurred to me that while I have seen Atari 7800 fanboys, Jaguar fanboys, and fanboys of other platforms conventional wisdom would probably deem undeserving of such fanaticism, I've never, ever heard of a Timex/Sinclair or ZX81 fanboy. Which is as logical as it is puzzling; yes, it was an unbelievably underpowered and cheap piece of hardware in every sense, but it was also immensely popular for a time.

ZX81 (and even ZX80) fanatics are out there. But you really have to look to the UK-based forums to find them; they just didn't quite catch on to the same extent anywhere else. The Spectrum line onwards did reasonably well in the rest of Europe, however.

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There is the ZXpand interface now. :)

 

You bring up an interesting point. Most 16K programs for other systems only took a couple of minutes to load from cassette, tops, but several 16K Timex/Sinclair tapes show load times of 4, 5, or even 6 minutes! I think Frogger was 6:15 or something. I want to say Grimm's Fairy Trails takes something like 4:30 or 5 minutes to load.

 

When people talk about slow cassette loading times of old school computers, I wonder if they're talking about the Timex/ZX81 specifically. :P :-D Loading 16K tape games on an Apple II+ is a snap by comparison. Ditto for TRS-80, TRS-80 Color, MC-10, Atari 400/800, VIC-20, TI-99/4a...

I think the original TRS-80 Model I was 250 baud in Level I BASIC, and 500 baud in Level II BASIC.

The Model III was 1500 like the CoCo.

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Doesn't the ZX-81 use 1200 baud for tape? Eh, apparently not. I looked up that is uses 250-300 bps, which is in line with what the Commodore machines are using (IIRC 600 baud but recorded twice). You should also be careful so the 16K expansion in the back doesn't come loose while you're using it.

 

And yes, back in the days it was a cheap and popular computer to rebuild. Make your own keyboard, install memory expansion so it is permanent, get a better power solution, other improvements as you could afford and had the time. It also saw a few clones, most notably the Lambda 8300 also known as Power 3000, Marathon and a half dozen more names. That clone had a rubber keyboard like the ZX Spectrum, built-in joystick port which was Atari compatible, a whopping 2K of RAM and a single channel of sound. ZX-81 BASIC programs were compatible, machine code required a translator I think in order to run. Hardware wise the Lambda 8300 also offered RAM and colour (!) expansions but it arrived at a time when the '81 already was starting to fall out of fashion and not even the economically minded Europeans strictly would buy the cheapest you could find, but instead aim for something with a little more bang for the buck.

 

I've noticed the current day expansions, which seem a bit costly but I suppose are essential for an enthusiast. This is probably true no matter which computer or console you look at, if you only have a brief, casual interest you are less likely to spend a big amount of money.

Edited by carlsson
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Fanboy here! I built the ZX81 kit in 1982 and had great fun learning all the clever tricks they used to make it small and cheap. Single stroke keyword entry made the keyboard tolerable. I eventually expanded the internal SRAM to 16K. The software generated video was interesting and I challenged myself to write a hi-res graphics driver for it.

 

Mine has been opened one too many times and the keyboard cable has cracked, so my next project is to wire up a TI keyboard which has a nearly identical matrix.

 

http://atariage.com/forums/gallery/image/12227-zx81/

Edited by ClausB
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Theres a nice ZX81 scene in Brazil too!

 

Unfortunately im not in it. But we had a few ZX80/ZX81 clones around, including a very well built called TK85 that apparently is amazing for hacking.

 

Some friends are really passionate about the platform. They even claim that one of the best ZX81 games ever made is Brazilian: Em Busca dos Tesouros (In the search for treasures), a really impressive Pitfall clone.

 

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Theres a nice ZX81 scene in Brazil too!

 

Unfortunately im not in it. But we had a few ZX80/ZX81 clones around, including a very well built called TK85 that apparently is amazing for hacking.

 

Some friends are really passionate about the platform. They even claim that one of the best ZX81 games ever made is Brazilian: Em Busca dos Tesouros (In the search for treasures), a really impressive Pitfall clone.

 

...

I'd love to get a-hold of a TK95. That was a cool little machine.

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I'd love to get a-hold of a TK95. That was a cool little machine.

They’re not über-rare around here. But lately retrocollecting is getting pretty expensive. There’s quite a few TK95 for sale at online auctions right now for about 600-800 Brazilian Reais, around 150-250 USD.

 

If you really want one I’ll be glad to help you out at no cost. :-)

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They’re not über-rare around here. But lately retrocollecting is getting pretty expensive. There’s quite a few TK95 for sale at online auctions right now for about 600-800 Brazilian Reais, around 150-250 USD.

 

If you really want one I’ll be glad to help you out at no cost. :-)

Sadly, tis not the season at the moment but I may take you up on the offer in the future

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Sadly, tis not the season at the moment but I may take you up on the offer in the future

 

I´ll be glad to help anytime. :-)

 

Meanwhile... ;-)

 

Here´s a great looking Tk95 for auction right now. 999 BRL, ouch. https://produto.mercadolivre.com.br/MLB-913725574-microdigital-tk95-zerado-sem-mods-frete-gratis-_JM

 

A heavily modded TK95 with AV out. That´s nice! https://produto.mercadolivre.com.br/MLB-891684903-tk-95-tk95-microdigital-c-av-msx-expert-atari-c01-_JM

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Random thought:

I have two Memotech 16K RAM packs in addition to my Timex 1016 RAM pack. I know the Memotechs can be "stacked" or "chained" in a master-slave configuration, but the manual seems to indicate that only two can be connected this way. Which is fine, I guess; the 32K I would get from my two Memotechs is probably the most I would realistically need for my TS1000. But for grins and giggles, would I be able to add my 1016 to that and bump it up to 48K (and create an unsightly 32Xian abomination in the process :P)?

Also, I'm interested in casually collecting for the TS1000. Does anyone know of a good source of ZX81 and Timex tapes, peripherals, books, and paraphernalia that aren't outrageously priced? I know SellMyRetro is a good source for replacement parts and mod components. Ebay occasionally has some good deals, but not that often.

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