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ZX Spectrum
Sinclair Research / Amstrad, 1982-88


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Spectrum 48KBy far the most famous and successful of his many products, the ZX Spectrum earned Clive Sinclair a fortune, a knighthood for "services to British industry" and a lasting place in the national consciousness. Huge numbers of Spectrums were sold around the world, making it by some way the most successful British computer ever made. Sinclair's standing rose so high that in 1983 Margaret Thatcher personally presented a Spectrum to the Japanese Prime Minister as a symbol of British technological prowess (although this turned out to be more of a symbol of Thatcherite hubris).

The Spectrum was the longest-lived Sinclair product, eventually appearing in seven distinct versions produced over a six-year period:

The latter three machines were produced by Amstrad following its 1986 buy-out of Sinclair's computer business. As well as all of these different product versions, no less than thirteen different versions of the basic hardware appeared during the six years that the Spectrum was produced. See the Spectrum 48K Versions and Spectrum 128K Versions pages for more details.

The Spectrum continued to sell into the early 1990s, but by about 1992 it had been squeezed out by the more advanced 16-bit computers and the cheap but more capable Sega and Nintendo games consoles.

A licensed clone of the ZX Spectrum, the TS 2068, was launched in the United States by Timex in late 1983 (see the Timex/Sinclair page).  However, the machine's simplicity meant that it was easy to copy and many illegal clones were produced elsewhere in the world. Spectrum clones were produced in many Eastern European and developing countries, including the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hong Kong, Argentina and Brazil (see the Clones page). Even today, cheap variants of the Spectrum continue to be produced in Russia.

The simple architecture of the Spectrum also makes it easy to emulate on modern computers. Spectrum emulators can be found on almost any modern computer and several palmtop devices, and many thousands of Spectrum programs have been converted to emulator formats.

Obtaining a real Spectrum is easy. There are still large numbers in circulation - the standard second-hand prices are between around 20-40. On the Internet, the best place to find second-hand Spectrums is the auction website eBay. The rarest versions are the 16K Spectrum and the Spectrum 128.

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Chris Owen 1994-2003