ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum is a home computer that was first released by Sinclair Research in 1982. It quickly became one of the most popular home computers of the 1980s and has since gained a cult following.

This article will provide an overview of the ZX Spectrum, including its history, technical specifications, and impact on the world of computing.

History of Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was developed by Sinclair Research Ltd., a British electronics company founded by Sir Clive Sinclair. It was released in the United Kingdom on April 23, 1982, and became an instant success, selling over 5 million units worldwide. It was designed to be an affordable home computer that could be used for both entertainment and educational purposes.

Technical Features

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was powered by a Zilog Z80A CPU clocked at 3.5 MHz, which was considered fast for its time. It had 16KB of RAM, which could be expanded to 48KB with an additional RAM pack. The computer featured a 32-key keyboard with rubber keys, which were criticized for being difficult to type on.

display had a resolution of 256x192 pixels with 8 colors

One of the most significant technical features of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was its display. It used a television set as a display and had a resolution of 256×192 pixels with 8 colors. This was a significant improvement over previous home computers, which had monochrome displays.

The ZX Spectrum's operating system

The ZX Spectrum’s operating system was stored on a ROM chip, which made it difficult to modify. However, the ROM also contained a built-in BASIC interpreter, making programming accessible to users with no previous experience.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum left a lasting impact on the computer industry. It popularized home computing in the United Kingdom and influenced the design of future computers. Many famous programmers, such as David Braben and Ian Livingstone, got their start programming on the ZX Spectrum.

ZX Spectrum Models: Sinclair Research, Amstrad, and Unreleased Models

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum is one of the most iconic home computers of the 1980s, with a loyal fanbase to this day. However, there were several models of the ZX Spectrum released over the years, and not all of them made it to market. This article will explore the different models of the ZX Spectrum and their unique features.

Sinclair Research Models

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K was the original model released in 1982, featuring 48KB of RAM. It was followed by the ZX Spectrum 128 in 1986, which had 128KB of RAM, an improved keyboard, and a built-in tape recorder.

ZX Spectrum + 2

The ZX Spectrum +2 and +2A were released in 1987 and 1988, respectively, and featured a built-in floppy disk drive.

ZX Spectrum +3

The final Sinclair model, the ZX Spectrum +3, was released in 1988 and featured a built-in floppy disk drive and an improved keyboard.

Amstrad Models

In 1986, Amstrad purchased the rights to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and began producing their own models. The first Amstrad model, the ZX Spectrum +2, was released in 1986 and featured a built-in tape recorder and improved keyboard.

The ZX Spectrum +3, released in 1988, was similar to the Sinclair model but had an even better keyboard and a slightly different design.

Unreleased Models

There were several ZX Spectrum models that were developed but never released to the public. One such model was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum +4, which was intended to be an upgraded version of the ZX Spectrum +3 with 4-color graphics and 256KB of RAM. Another unreleased model was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Portable, a handheld version of the ZX Spectrum +2.

The different models of the ZX Spectrum each had their unique features, catering to different needs and preferences of users. The Sinclair models were the original, with the +3 being the most advanced. The Amstrad models were similar but had some improvements, particularly in the keyboard. Unfortunately, some models, such as the ZX Spectrum +4 and Portable, never made it to market. Nonetheless, the ZX Spectrum remains an iconic piece of computing history.

ZX Spectrum was not only a machine for games, but also a tool for programming and learning. To extend the capabilities of ZX Spectrum, various peripherals were developed

The most notable peripherals of ZX Spectrum

The Kempston Joystick Interface

The Kempston Joystick Interface

One of the most popular peripherals for the ZX Spectrum was the Kempston Joystick Interface. This interface allowed the user to connect a joystick to the computer, which made gaming more intuitive and enjoyable.

The Kempston Joystick Interface became the de facto standard for joystick connectivity on the ZX Spectrum and was widely supported by games.

The Microdrive

The Microdrive

The ZX Microdrive was an innovative storage device that used compact audio cassettes as its storage medium. It was a quick and reliable way to load and save data, including programs and games.

The Microdrive was also much faster than the traditional cassette recorder and allowed for fast loading times. The Microdrive was a popular peripheral, but it was relatively expensive and not widely adopted.

The Interface 1 and Interface 2

The Interface 1 and Interface 2

The Interface 1 and Interface 2 were expansion devices for the ZX Spectrum that provided additional connectivity and functionality. The Interface 1 added a Centronics printer port and a serial port, which enabled the user to connect printers, modems, and other devices.

ZX Interface 2

The Interface 2 added two joystick ports, a floppy disk controller, and a parallel printer port. With the Interface 2, the ZX Spectrum became a more capable computer for both gaming and productivity.

The ZX Interface 2 Floppy Disk Drive

The ZX Interface 2 Floppy Disk Drive

The ZX Interface 2 Floppy Disk Drive was an external device that connected to the ZX Interface 2 expansion device. It allowed the user to use floppy disks for storage, which was faster and more reliable than cassette tapes.

The floppy disk drive was not widely adopted due to its high cost, but it was an important peripheral for those who needed faster and more reliable storage.

The ZX Spectrum +3

ZX Spectrum +3

The ZX Spectrum +3 was the last model in the ZX Spectrum line, and it came with a built-in floppy disk drive. The +3 was designed to be a complete solution that included everything the user needed to use the ZX Spectrum, including a keyboard, a floppy disk drive, and a power supply.

The +3 was a commercial failure, but it remains a favorite among collectors and enthusiasts.

Programs for the ZX Spectrum: Most Popular Games and Emulation

Programs for the ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum was one of the most popular home computers in the 1980s, and it had a rich library of software that included everything from educational programs to video games. In this article, we will take a closer look at the most popular games for the ZX Spectrum and how to emulate them on modern devices.

Most Popular Games for the ZX Spectrum

  1. Manic Miner: This classic platformer was released in 1983 and has become a cult favorite among retro gamers. The game features 20 challenging levels and a memorable soundtrack.
  2. Jet Set Willy: A sequel to Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy was released in 1984 and added even more levels and complexity to the platformer genre.
  3. Dizzy: The Dizzy series of adventure games was incredibly popular on the ZX Spectrum, featuring cute and colorful graphics, clever puzzles, and charming characters.
  4. Elite: This groundbreaking space simulation game was first released on the ZX Spectrum in 1984 and has since become a classic of the genre.
  5. Sabre Wulf: Another classic game from the legendary developer Ultimate Play the Game, Sabre Wulf is an action-adventure game that has stood the test of time.

Emulating ZX Spectrum Games

While the ZX Spectrum is a classic piece of computing history, it can be challenging to find working hardware and software to play the games on. However, there are several ways to emulate the ZX Spectrum on modern devices, including:

  1. Online Emulators: There are several online emulators that allow you to play ZX Spectrum games directly in your web browser, such as the ZX Spectrum Online Emulator.
  2. Emulator Software: There are also several software emulators that can be downloaded and installed on your computer or mobile device, such as the ZX Spectrum Emulator for Windows.
  3. Raspberry Pi: The Raspberry Pi is a popular single-board computer that can be used to emulate the ZX Spectrum, and there are several pre-made kits available for purchase.


The ZX Spectrum may be a relic of the past, but its legacy lives on in the hearts of retro gamers and computing enthusiasts around the world.

By exploring the most popular games for the ZX Spectrum and learning how to emulate them on modern devices, we can keep the spirit of this classic computer alive for generations to come.

ZX Spectrum 128K +3 – History and Games