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Sinclair ZX Spectrum

tezza

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A 48K Spectrum arrived today! That's 3 computers in the space of 5 days. Luckily I have a few day's leave to play with these things.

The Spectrum (and it's little brother the ZX81) must have the WORST keyboard interfaces I've ever seen. Apart from the rubber keys (quite forgivable given the original cost), each button does 3-4 different things. It's QWERTY but important keys like the arrow keys are not clustered well (and require you hold down another key) and the SPACE key is tiny!! Some of the key labels are written in a dark red, so you can hardly see them!

Yuck!!

Ok, I'm being a little unfair. The units were cheap, and became very popular gaming machines in the UK so there must be some redeeming features. But did keyboard input really have to be designed like that?? Ok, once you get used to it I guess but "standard" it was not!

I'm sure once I get some good games for this unit, I'll feel more positive towards it. In it's raw state though, it certainly appears eccentric.

But then, that's what we love about these old computers, right? ;)
 

carlsson

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Sinclair claimed to be user friendly, each command could be accessed with a shortcut (although some shortcuts take more keypresses than if you could write it out). The true answer is of course cost reduction. Since every command is already tokenized, they could leave out a large part of the Basic language, namely the part that takes text input and checks for valid Basic commands etc. Smaller ROMs (or more other code) = cheaper computer.

As regarding to the keyboard, I'm no fan of it neither, but reportedly there were other manufacturers with similar rubber keyboards that did much worse in membrane function underneath the keys. It also opened a lucrative 3rd party market for custom keyboard expansions as well as other items.
 

chuckcmagee

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Wow, at least the keyboard works!! On about 1/2 of the ones I have received, the keyboard ribbon cable has gotten super brittle with age and broken into several pieces. The break ends up as a tear across the ribbon so of course, that whole row of keys doesn't work (like the s, d,f will work but x,c v won't) I tried taking it apart and recutting the ribbon higher up. This doesn't work because it forces you to make an even sharper bend in the ribbon to get it to fit. This immediately cracks and you are back where you started. Glad they are usually like $5 apiece! I just take the good top from one and put it on the good bottom from the other one. Voila - crappy keyboard that works.
 

Dwo Shwoom

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You know, it just slipped my mind!
Thats great! I've been wanting a ZX Spectrum since I first played an emulator on the net :inlove:. But just one teensy problem, I'm AMERICAN.

maybe I'll get myself a timex sinclair 2068 and speccy (that's what they've been nicknamed down in the UK) rom/emu cart and start ordering in the software from the UK. Is there any way to record the data of a speccy game to a normal cassete tape?
 

carlsson

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Isn't the Timex 2048 even closer to the original ZX Spectrum? For that matter, if you get a TV or monitor that can take PAL input, you could import a real ZX Spectrum and add your own 9VDC power adapter.

As for your question, a regular tape recorder was the regular way to use it. Maybe you mean if there is any way to convert a TAP file to a WAV to be recorded onto tape? I'm absolutely certain this kind of software exists, even if I don't know its name off-hand.
 

nige the hippy

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The reason for the tokenisation of the basic was the price of RAM. On the zx80 the 2 2114 4kilobit rams were £15 each at the time, it was the most expensive part of the machine (almost 1/3 of the cost).
They were cheap, but were the reason that the UK lead (leads?) the world in games programming, just about every 15 year old in 1984 had a spectrum, and was familiar with BASIC.
 

Dwo Shwoom

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You know, it just slipped my mind!
Isn't the Timex 2048 even closer to the original ZX Spectrum? For that matter, if you get a TV or monitor that can take PAL input, you could import a real ZX Spectrum and add your own 9VDC power adapter.

Oh yeah! Almost forgot I could do that. But getting a zx spectrum into america is expensive. does anybody here in america happen to have one by any chance they dont need?
 

Bits-in-pieces

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Oh yeah! Almost forgot I could do that. But getting a zx spectrum into america is expensive. does anybody here in america happen to have one by any chance they dont need?

Why is it expensive ? Surely someone just has to stick one in the post ?? !

Or am I missing some silly tax law about 25 year old computers thats no threat to any major economy... :-o

I've got about six here ! somewhere.... :D
 
Last edited:

Dwo Shwoom

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You know, it just slipped my mind!
Cool, but still exspensive, for sure (PM me on them, I'd like to know.).

I think I've answered my question:

Tape2WAV

And..

Audacity

Words cut short: I can convert a .tzx file to wav. and then put that wav. in audacity and play it back with the speaker out port connected to the microphone in on a tape recorder.

So, are ZX Spectrum cassete players very picky on what type of tape I use? Like, will I need to get a offbrand tape player, or am I free to use any normal tape in the ZX Spectrum player?
 

carlsson

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Audacity is a good program, but couldn't you replay a WAV file in Windows Media Player, WinAMP, RealPlayer or whichever media player you usually use? Or maybe all those other apply equalizer settings to the sound that Audacity doesn't do.
 

tezza

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I use audacity to load wav-converted spectrum image cassette files direct to my Spectrum and it works just fine.
 

Dwo Shwoom

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You know, it just slipped my mind!
"Great minds think alike!" I always say.

But I'm curious on what pitch to set the wav. on, because if I set it too high, I fear the tape wont work, and pitch too low will mean choppy graphics and/or code, right? Not Right?
 

carlsson

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Hm, I thought the WAV format had built-in parameters for default playback rate (pitch). On the other hand, if you're going to record a tape to WAV, you will probably use Audacity anyway, so it is probably a good idea to always use the same software for both ways of transfer. I transferred a small BBC Micro program a few months ago, converted to WAV and played back through WinAMP without any loading errors.
 

Dwo Shwoom

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You know, it just slipped my mind!
Okay, so maybe I'm no computer genius, but at least I know my way around.

Back to my earlier question.. Is the ZX Spectrum cassete player picky on the type of cassete or not? and what exactly should be the length of time on a cassete for one game?
 

carlsson

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The ZX Spectrum loads at 1200 baud if I remember correctly. Roughly that would be maximum 150 bytes/second, or 8.8 kB/minute. A big game of 40 kB might take 4-5 minutes to load based on these calculations, but I don't have practical experience about this. I doubt it should be more picky about cassettes than other home computers using standard tape recorders. If the program doesn't load, maybe the signal level is too low/high, too much background noise or something strange happened with the WAV. Since the file was generated by software, it shouldn't be an issue unless the sound player fails to support the format and replays the file as good as it can (i.e. signed vs unsigned data, 8 or 16 bits, stereo or mono, fixed sample rate and so on).
 

DarthKur

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I recently acquired a Zx Spectrum +2 and it is a costly venture. Shipping out of the U.K. to the U.S. tends to be quite expensive. On top of that I had to purchase several other items to enable me to use it here in the States. Originally I assumed that I'd be able to use the Amstrad monitor I have with my CPC 464 since the Speccy +2's were made by Amstrad. Sadly, I was mistaken. So I had to figure a way to use it on either a TV or one of my composite monitors. I ended up having to get a RGB to scart cable, a Scart to Composite RCA / S-Video AV TV Adapter, a Female 21 Pin Scart F-F Coupler Adaptor Converter Box to go between the two cables and a PAL to NTSC Video System Converter. Then there's the Powerbrite voltage converter so I could use the original PSU. I don't want to take chances using other PSU's nor risk any mishaps with the different voltage rates between the two countries. I have a Japanese Sega 3000 that used to heat up terribly just plugging in a normal outlet here. Japan uses 100volts where the US is around 110 to 120. Once I got a voltage converter for that it hasn't overheated since, but I digress. Anyways, after all of that finally shows up I get it connected to my TV only to find the picture still rolls and that set has no vert. hold knob. Pleased to say though it works fine on a 1702 Commodore monitor, albeit the colors, or should I say colours ;), are washed out looking even with full adjustment of the color and tint. Oh well, at least it all works. I've been using winTzx0.8a to convert TAP/TZX files in WAV format and the results have been a bit dodgey. While some games seem to load properly and are usable a lot more do not. I'm going to try Tape2wav1.8, along with z802tzx, and see how that goes. I'm just overjoyed to finally have a Speccy.
 

carlsson

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I do believe the CPC464 outputs RGB as well, perhaps analog vs TTL levels on the Spectrum +2. It should've been possible to make a converter cable that scales down the voltages to expected levels, there are a dozen web pages describing different methods. But yes, the NTSC/PAL issue is a rather big one, in particular on your end of the world. In Europe and other PAL areas, it is quite common that the slightly more expensive TV sets can display a NTSC RGB/composite signal (not RF/antenna though). I've understood that the opposite is almost unheard of in e.g. the USA?
 

tezza

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I recently acquired a Zx Spectrum +2 and it is a costly venture. Shipping out of the U.K. to the U.S. tends to be quite expensive.

Having recently bought a ZX Spectrum which needed to be shipped from the Neatherlands to New Zealand, I can relate to shipping cost angst.!

On top of that I had to purchase several other items to enable me to use it here in the States. .

Yea, that's something you have to watch with getting old micros from other places. Buying converters for both the PSU and TV video adds to the cost and the bits and pieces of hardware.

Europe or the UK is ok for me, as NZ is also on 220-240V and PAL, but stuff sourced in North America would need the adaptors. That plus the shipping means I'm only collecting Micros from local sources, or at the most Australia (which is also 240V and PAL). Shipping costs from Australia to New Zealand are also expensive, but I couldn't pass up a mint-condition TRS-80 model 1 console being sold on e-bay there recently :D

Terry
 
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