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|FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS|
This page last updated on 6 January 2000
Auctions of Sinclair equipment and software/books for Sinclair machines are allowed in this group. An auction must follow the following format: a single message listing the items for sale, with references to email or a web page for updates. While the auction is in progress, a weekly message may be posted stating that an auction is going on and referencing email or a web page. Following the end of the auction, the person running it may post a single message announcing that the auction is over, but not giving details of who got what. These details should be emailed to all concerned.
In practice, most discussion is Spectrum-related, but there's a fair bit of SAM Coupé, QL, ZX-81, etc. chat as well. Note that this FAQ covers only the Spectrum; if you're interested in other machines, see the (very) brief list at the start of the Resources section.
This FAQ covers technical information, emulator information and resources and does not attempt to cover Spectrum games and history. There is a game FAQ available - see Question 22.
Can I post binaries or HTML to this group?
NO! The word binaries does not appear in the newsgroup title, and this is a subtle indication that posting binaries is going to make you very unpopular very quickly. Most people have to pay for their net access, and some do not have the capability to download only the messages they want to read, so you're costing them money if you post binaries, which are substantially larger than most posts. You may also cause news providers to stop carrying the group if binaries are seen to be posted in it. If you want to distribute something Sinclair-related, upload it to an FTP site or put it on a web page and post the address of the site.
A slightly different alternative is to use the alt.binaries.comp.sinclair newsgroup, which was created for the distribution of Sinclair-related binaries; however, remember that the alt.binaries.* hierarchy doesn't have the complete distribution of comp.sys.sinclair, and as it isn't archived in many places, your posting will basically vanish inside a week. You should also read the alt.binaries.comp.sinclair FAQ before posting anything there.
Postings containing HTML are also severly discouraged. If at all possible, please configure your system so that you do not post HTML to comp.sys.sinclair. If you don't know how to configure your system, there is some advice for some common newsreaders here, or find someone who does know and ask them! Note that some products (notably Netscape and those by Microsoft) may be set up to post in HTML by default, so check your settings before posting for the first time.
Is there a Spectrum emulator for <whatever machine>? What's the best one?
See the emulators section of this FAQ. It is split up by machine type, and you should be able to find one you can use. Of course, if you can't get one for your machine (pretty unlikely now!), you could always write one... ;-) As for which is best, just read through the emulators listing and decide which one(s) have the features you think you need, then try them for yourself. Only your opinion matters in the end anyway!
Where can I find <whatever game>?
The game you're after is probably available somewhere on the net. The best way to search is to use Martijn van der Heide's search engines, which allow you to search World of Spectrum and NVG by program name. If that doesn't turn up any results, Hynek Med's snapsearch engine (which searches virtually every Speccy-related FTP site) might, but don't hold out any hopes. There are a few games that are not to be found on the net yet - check out the Missing In Action list.
Several CDs full of games can be had from companies, but you're better off going to one of the newsgroup's regulars for a better value CD put together by people genuinely interested, rather than by commercial companies only interested in making money from other people's work. The best of these are
Finally, an 'official' c.s.s. CD is in the making with Gerard Sweeney at the helm, but this project does appear to have ground to a halt.
If none of those turn up the game you're after, try asking on the newsgroup, or (shock) going to a second-hand shop and digging around in their boxes of old tapes.
Is it legal to use ZX-Spectrum ROM images/manuals?
Yes, it is. The official position, as stated by Cliff Lawson of Amstrad, who own the copyright on for the ROMs, is: "Amstrad are happy for emulator writers to include images of our copyrighted code as long as the copyright messages are not altered and we appreciate it if the program/manual includes a note to the effect that 'Amstrad have kindly given their permission for the redistribution of their copyrighted material but retain that copyright'". They have also granted permission to modify the ROMs and distribute those modified copies, so long as their copyright message is maintained. The full text of Cliff's statement is available on Deja.com.
They are also happy for people to freely distribute the manuals: "The more the merrier. People scanning, OCRing, HTMLing & PDFing any manuals that are genuinely copyright Amstrad are actually doing us a favour because if someone asks for a copy we can just point them at a URL". The manuals are available on NVG or (in HTML form) from Pete Robinson's Classic 8-bit Computers Page For more details on the ROMs, see Question 10.
Is it legal to use snapshots (i.e. games etc.)?
Despite what various people have claimed on comp.sys.sinclair, it is still the case that it is illegal to distribute the vast majority of Spectrum programs; therefore, if you use a snapshot/tape image/disk image without owning the original program, you could in theory end up in court. Until recently, copyright holders were doing little to enforce their rights, and games for various systems (including the Spectrum) were freely available on the Internet.
However, in November 1998, Dave's Classics, which had the biggest selection of arcade machine ROMs on the Internet, was forced to remove all its ROMs by the IDSA, an organisation of American software companies. The IDSA has a very restrictive policy on emulation, which they may well apply to Spectrum emulation in the future, despite the exact wording used in the above link. (Different wordings have been used in interviews given by members of the IDSA). Also, there is no guarantee that this policy will retain the same wording in the future, or that European bodies (for example, FAST or ELSPA) will use exactly the same policy. In December 1998, the IDSA got closer to Spectrums when they shut down Lazarus, an Amiga snapshot site.
More importantly, at least in the short term, for Spectrum emulation is that IDSA members have forbidden distribution of their old games, and the rights to old Spectrum games are now owned by IDSA members (for example, Infogrames recently purchased Ocean).
One campaign which has been set up is CLEAR (The Campaign to Leave Emulation Alone), but perhaps more important to the Spectrum scene is persuading companies to release distribution rights for their Spectrum games, which are commercially dead; Martijn van der Heide has started a project to do this, details of which are available at World of Spectrum.
I have the game I was after, but in a format my emulator can't load. How do I convert <format> to <different format>?
The first thing to realise is that you can't convert from tape files (.TAP, .TZX, etc) to snapshots (.Z80, .SNA and lots more). These are fundamentally different things: a tape file is a copy of what was originally stored on a bit of magnetic tape, whilst a snapshot is a copy of the Spectrum's memory, as well as the registers and the other things which are necessary to restore the state of the machine.
Conversion between the various snapshot formats is possible though: SPConv, written by Henk de Groot and Damien Burke, can convert between a large number of formats, but cannot handle 128Kb snaps. The most recent version, v1.10, is available from NVG. A version of SPConv was supplied with JPP, but this is very out of date, and cannot handle the .Z80 files producted by Z80 v2.01 or greater. Upgrade!
For 128Kb snaps, I suggest using SnapConv, written by Philip Kendall; this can also convert v3 .Z80 files to v2, as some older emulators cannot handle the latest .Z80 format.
For converting one tape format to another, the best program is Taper, written by Martijn van der Heide.
I've got a snapshot that won't load into Z80 - it just gives an error message saying 'plusdrom.bin not found' and exits to DOS. How can I get it to work?
The snapshot was saved by someone with a registered copy including +D emulation, in +D mode. The game doesn't actually need the +D ROM, so you can use DEMGT to modify the snapshot so it isn't in +D mode. Or get hold of Z80 v3.04+, which does not have this problem.
What are these .SLT and .TZX files?
SLTs are an improved type of snapshot that holds all the levels for multiload games, and are supported only by the newer emulators. See the File Formats section for more details. They are not compatible with .TAP files. You can read all about them on this page too. However, SLTs have less reason for being used now that TZX has arrived. This is a virtual tape format, and stores tapes in as close a manner to the real thing as possible, while not wasting space storing the entire sampled sound of the tape. See the emulators section to see which emulators support SLT or TZX.
Which ROM files are available?
There is a collection of most of the Spectrum ROMs available here.
How do I make screenshots of Spectrum games?
Many emulators have the ability to save the screen out in one form or another - read the documentation! If this isn't available, pressing Alt+PrtScr will copy the current window to the Clipboard under any version of Windows, as will Apple+Shift+3 on any Macintosh, from where you can paste it into your favourite paint program. Under X, various programs (eg xv) can grab an image of a window, and the Amiga also has facilities for screen grabbing. If none of the above are possible, SnapConv can extract the screen image from the most common snapshot formats.
A related point here is that some of the above methods will produce a copy of the Spectrum's screen memory, often called a .SCR file; utilities exist to convert this into more common graphics formats, for example Martijn van der Heide's scr2gif or CONVERT, which is supplied with the registered version of Z80.
Will the Year 2000 bug affect the Spectrum?
No! The Spectrum has no clock, therefore it can't possibly be confused, as it doesn't know it's Year 2000! On the other hand, some software (eg accounting software) may get confused if it uses only 2 digits to represent years.
Where can I get a real Spectrum and/or spare parts for my old ones?
If you want to buy one of the original British models, you'll be buying second-hand. However, the SAM Coupé, the Spectrum's spiritual big brother, is still being made in Eastern Europe and can be found at computer fairs sometimes, and at least one Russian clone, the Scorpion, is still being manufactured.
Real Sinclair Spectrums are often to be found at car boot sales, in the classified ads sections of local papers/dedicated FreeAds type papers and in second-hand shops. People sometimes offer Sinclair hardware for sale on comp.sys.sinclair, or on one of the on-line auctions. However, prices can climb to stupid levels. You're better off looking in those second-hand shops.
For some more specific sources, as well as places which will provide you with new keyboard membranes (always vital!) and +3 drive belts, see the Real Machines & Spare Parts section; there's more information on fixing your keyboard in the Keyboard Repair section.
What are the differences between the different Spectrum models?
What peripherals exist?
This would be a big list, so I'll keep it to what I consider are major ones; for more, see the Spectrum Hardware site.
Where is Sinclair Research now? Is Clive on email?
A recent interview in Wired revealed that not only does he not use the internet, he doesn't even have a computer. He keeps a collection of his old babies in his office (at Sinclair Research, which he is still chairman of), but even so he's not particularly interested in them; he could not remember what the machine that followed the Spectrum was called (it was the QL, Clive...). It's rather a shame for us lot I suppose, but Sir Clive was always more interested in inventing new bits and pieces than computers in particular.
If you have a pressing need to contact the man himself, the current
address of Sinclair Research is:
Sinclair Research Ltd.,
70 York Way,
Alternatively, you can now visit the Sinclair Research web site, which has a few Speccy links in the 'Sinclair Links' section.
What the hell is a Spectrum?
The best home computer of all time. Came out in 1982 from Sinclair Research Ltd., and proceeded to capture the hearts and minds of millions of people. Based around a Z80 processor and utilising lots of neat tricks to keep the cost down, Clive (now Sir Clive) Sinclair effectively created the UK computer industry with his ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum. If you've never used one, get hold of an emulator and try out some of the classic games around (e.g. Jetpac) and see what real gameplay is about without needing 50 Mb of hard disk space and the type of processing power that interferes with military radar.
Is the Spectrum better than <other machine>?
Choose the answer you prefer:
How do I make snapshots or TAP files from my Speccy tapes?
Well, there are a number of ways. The Z80, WSpecEm and Warajevo emulators (among others) all have means to load from real tapes. Check the Emulators section of this FAQ to find out what capabilities are available in the emulators you are able to run. And then read the documentation with those emulators!
There are also some external utilities which can accomplish this function, and are often actually better at it. Two of these are Martijn van der Heide's Taper and Ramsoft's MakeTZX.
How do I load snapshots or TAP files into my real Spectrum?
There are various utilities which can do this; for example, HypraLoader, Taper, PlayTZX (also for Unix) and ZxLink. Finally, the registered version of Z80 comes with appropriate utilities.
Alternatively, if you have a +3 with a 3.5" or 5.25" drive attached, Dominic Morris has created Slowdos which can read the .TAP files directly.
I have a Mac and can't get any snapshots to work - why?
The filetype isn't correctly set. You could use ResEdit to change the filetype but it's easier to get the MacSpeccy emulator - in the file open dialog there's a box titled 'Fix file types'. Click on that and it will correctly set the snapshot file's filetypes, and you can then use any of the Mac emulators to open the snapshot files.
I have a question not covered here!
If your question isn't Sinclair-related, ask somewhere appropriate :-)
If it's Sinclair, but not Speccy-related, there are some useful starting points at the start of the Resources section; note this FAQ covers only the Spectrum.
If it's about a particular game, your first stops should be Stephen Smith's Games FAQ and Sinclair Software Database.
If your question is anything to do with an emulator, make sure you've read the documentation which comes with it; this especially applies to Z80, as this does come with very full documentation.
If all that lot's no help, welcome to the group, ask away!
This FAQ is maintained by Philip Kendall;
distribution is permitted only under the conditions specified in the
Primary site for this FAQ: http://www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~pak/cssfaq/index.html.