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Reminiscing the Wonderful ZX Spectrum

Reminiscing the Wonderful ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum

CPU: Z80A @ 3.5 MHz and equivalent.
Sound: 1 channel 10 octave beeper on 16K and 48K models.
128K models had 3 channel sound via an AY-3-8912 chip.
Display: 256 x 192. 7 colours with 2 levels of brightness, plus black. Colour stored separately in a 32 x 24 grid overlay
Memory: 16K ROM & 16K, 48K or 128K RAM, depending on the model.
Software Media: Cassette.

In the spring of 1982, one of the most popular 8-bit home computers ever made was released to the UK market - the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The basic model with 16KB of RAM cost 125, and the 48KB RAM model cost the princely sum of 175. Both came with a rubber keyboard. Later models offered proper keyboards with built in floppy disk drives.

The home computer offered colour graphics and sound at an affordable price. Yes, the limitations were stark. The graphics suffered from attribute clash (often known as colour clash) as only two colours could be displayed in any area of 8 x 8 pixels. The sound was also very limited, being generated through a beeper with a single channel. Yet, innovative programmers learned how to circumvent these issues, and this quirky piece of plastic took over a huge chunk of the home computing market selling more than 5 million units in the space of a decade. This was primarily because of the computer's low cost. But it was also because writing for the ZX Spectrum was more about invention than design. Because there was so little space on the computer, games had to be fiendishly difficult to stop gamers completing them too quickly. The ZX Spectrum offered a lot both to gamers and programmers. With its limitations, programmers had the possibility of writing entire, innovative games on their own. It generated a whole breed of eccentric bedroom programmers. Over 24,000 titles were released for the Spectrum family. The majority of the titles were games, but office applications and other types of software were also available.

There is a very interesting project underway to recreate the ZX Spectrum and more. The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum has been successfully crowdfunded, and it is due to go on sale in September 2014. If you want to go back to the 1980s - to the wonderful era of 8-bit gaming, you can instead try one of the many ZX Spectrum emulators. All of the emulators featured in this article are free to download, with the majority released under an open source license.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 5 ZX Spectrum emulators. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wishes to have some fun and reminisce about their misspent youth.

Now, let's explore the 5 emulators at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, screenshots, together with links to relevant resources and reviews.

ZX Spectrum Emulators
FBZX ZX Spectrum emulator, using the FrameBuffer
Fuse Accurate 16K, 48K, 128K, +2, +2A and +3 emulation
USP Portable emulator based on UnrealSpeccy
Spectemu 48K ZX Spectrum
Speccy Runs on many different platforms (not open source)

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Last Updated Sunday, August 17 2014 @ 04:36 AM EDT

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