YS flew Max Phillips to Madrid to look at the new 128K Spectrum.
Last week, we paid his tube fare to Bethnal Green (well, someone's
got to live there!) to try out the new UK version.
It's here, it's official, it's a 128K Spectrum.
Indeed some of you may already own one! It is different from
its Spanish ancestor but not a lot. In case you've missed
the stories while Sinclair took its time bringing the machine
to us, the 128 is two computers in one - a 48K Spectrum+ and,
in 128K mode, a greatly enhanced Spectrum with some new hardware
and software that s vaguely compatible with the old machines.
SOUND AND FURY
People are already moping about the 128.
It may not be as radical as the ZX80 was but it does have
some worthwhile new features. Sound has come to Sinclair at
last - using the sound chip through the TV is going to change
games as we know them. You've got three voices, alterable
waveforms and various special effects. It's pretty good from
Basic but machine coders with interrupt-driven sound routines
are going to blow your ears!
The monitor socket (both RGB and Composite
video) is simply a sight for sore eyes. BRIGHT colours are
no problem with RGB because there's an extra Intensity line
- but you'll need the right sort of RGB monitor. The Midi
musical instrument interface is gaining ground with pro musicians
everywhere - who'll be the first to use a Speccy on-stage?
And the RS232 is handy if Sinclair had taken the trouble to
The extra 64K is used as a RAM disk for
Basic and is an incredible time-saver. Machine code programs
can of course. use the whole of Ram giving around 104K to
play with - space for some mind-blowing games and some really
useful applications. The 'missing' 20K of RAM is apparently
used to hold a copy of the ROM and is writeprotected so that
you can't POKE into it. However, if you can unprotect it from
machine code, then you'll have 120K. You could even do tricks
like making alterations to ZX Basic.
A BASIC BASIC?
The 128K mode software is, however, a bit
of a dead fish. Pretty pop-up menus tape volume testers and
so on might be fun for a day or two. But remember this is
the first time Sinclair has had the chance to make all those
improvements to ZX Basic we've been asking for in the last
four years. All the 128K mode applications could be written
in a week flat for the old Speccy.
Fortunately, the situation with other software
is much better. Sinclair's had software houses labouring away
on 128K masterpieces for months and some of it looks to be
really impressive... we're in for some fun! The package comes
with two free new Ocean games (but no Horizons or Intro tape)
and a huge poster listing 128 add-one and software. Shame
we didn't get the Ocean games though... maybe one of them's
Scanning the poster for the 128K games is
like reading the charts for the last six months - Winter
Games, Three Weeks In Paradise, Robin Of The
Wood, Rasputin, Rocky Horror Show, Return
To Eden, Never Ending Story, Sweevo's Whirled
(note the new title for the current Castle Rathbone fave rave!),
Yie Ar Kung Fu, Fairlight 2: The Trail Of Darkness
... err hang on a sec, we haven't seen a 48K version of that
yet. Most of these are just bigger versions of existing games
so we'll have to wait for 128 originals but I don't think
it'll be too long.
Hardware's less of a rosy picture - it all
works in 48K mode but how many of your treasured add-one (your
Microdrive, ZX Printer, Kempston and so on) are going to work
in 128K mode? Then again, asking for miracles is always an
easy thing to do...
And I could moan for days about the documentation.
It's the old Spectrum+ User Guide and a 14-page booklet detailing
most of the 128's new features. Oh well, no doubt someone
will make a fortune by writing a manual for the machine.
So, who's gonna buy one? Well if you don
t own a Spectrum yet then get one of these. If you're already
one of the family then wait until your or 48K keels over and
dies of old age. Then get one of these. The price is crucial...
at around £120 it's a goer but if Sinclair does the
dastardly and comes in at £160 then there will be fewer
And now we can start dreaming about the