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Vintage Computers Any vintage computer systems, calculators, video games etc., but with an emphasis on 1980s and earlier equipment.

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Old 13th Aug 2019, 11:24 am   #1
Martin Bush
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Default Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Good morning

I was thinking about looking into picking up a spectrum purely for a bit of enjoyment. I don't plant to try to fix a broken one, nor do I want to overhaul one (except maybe change belts on a tape drive or something down the more trivial end of things).

So I was wondering if there were any tips for picking up a decent one, or a model to go for. Ideally I want to avoid having to get repairs done when the equivalent of 'that capacitor' goes if there is such a thing on these machines.

I used to have a 128k +2 but wondered whether a 48k (because of size) or 128k +3 (due to the disc drive) would be better options.

At this stage I am just casting around for ideas. I am open to looking into refurbished units if anyone can recommend a good outlet or someone on here who does good work.

I am not a 'gamer' and don't play games ordinarily so this would just be a bit of fun, albeit in a vintage package (i know there's emulators available).

Martin
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 1:37 pm   #2
IanBland
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Well, regarding the 48K thing I wouldn't want to use the original dead flesh keyboard for any length of time. That's just me though.
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 3:12 pm   #3
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

I found the +2 much nicer to use due to a proper keyboard, and also integrated tape drive - no mucking about with volume controls etc
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 3:32 pm   #4
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Despite all the nostalgia, Spectrums were actually pretty awful computers both for gaming and general use. Their main advantage was their price, particularly in the tight fisted British market. You would be better off with something like a BBC B or Commodore 64 unless you have a specific reason for wanting a Spectrum.
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 3:52 pm   #5
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Horace goes skiing !!!( I still have it) Spectrum 48k was my first real game on a colour computer although Orbit on the ZX81 was my first game I ever bought for a computer , in fact I actually got the game before I got the computer.
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 3:55 pm   #6
Martin Bush
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Thank you all.

The attraction of the Spectrum for me is that it's what I had growing up. For whatever reason when it became obsolete and my friends had other machines my parents wouldn't get me anything else (the Spectrum was bought for me by my Grandad) and there ended my gaming career!

At the time the Spectrum magazines seemed to suggest that the games on the Spectrum were more "playable" than on rival machines. I suppose they would though.

Despite me seeming to suggest not wanting an emulator, I was thinking more the type that you can get on your phone. I may also investigate Raspberry Pi models, although they would have to come ready to go as I don't have any computer building skills.

So yes, there's a bit of nostalgia, and also my interest in using vintage kit. I often use my radios, record deck and cassette player to varying degrees despite also having modern streaming options.
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 3:59 pm   #7
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

I have owned (and own) several. My choice would be the ZX spectrum plus 128k, the final 'real' sinclair spectrum made.

The plus two and plus two A, despite having the best keyboard, will need the internal cassette decks refurbishing by now. You say you aren't up for refurbing, so that kind of rules them out.
The plus two A also suffered from some software compatibility problems. For me, the biggest disadvantage is that on neither plus 2 version can you adjust the playback volume, so if you have a slightly under-level recorded cassette, you're stuffed. On the older ones like the 128k Plus, you can use any working cassette machine you may have.

The original 48k has a terrible rubber keyboard. The plus models had a slightly better keyboard (but still a bit unusual with those tapered keys). The 128k one will offer greater range of compatible software and better sound.

I would look a microdrive if you can find one, like a miniature 8 track cartridge tape. They load quickly and are really unique! A multiface is useful for dumping software to them.

Cannot comment on the plus 3 but it uses CF2 discs, which are scarce. Okay if you have a stash I suppose. And a lot quicker then tapes obviously.

Then there was the Sam coupé, the final gasp for the spectrum format but probably rare as hen's teeth by now.

Ah, the memories!

edit: I believe you can get plug in SD card interfaces, which would mean super quick loading of software. Never investigated this myself though. I suppose this would mean it would not matter if you found a Plus two with a broken cassette deck, if all your software was put onto SD.
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 4:08 pm   #8
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

You can of course go for a hybrid solution, plenty of fancy ways to load games onto spectrums and C64s - SD card device that emulate C64 disk drives, or using your PCs sound card and tape files to send data into the spectrum without requiring cassettes. Nice clean loading without having problems with crusty old tape drives
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Old 13th Aug 2019, 4:19 pm   #9
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

That was something else I had in mind - loading onto a vintage machine via SD.

Although I am not IT illiterate I don't own a computer any more. However I expect I will be able to come up with something if that's the route I take.

I will also look into the 128k machines detailed above.

My +2 used to say 1982 Amstrad when it crashed...
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 1:07 am   #10
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

If you're nostalgic about your original Spectrum +2, then go for another one of the same. But don't bother trying to load software from tape - get a DivMMC interface. I have one of these and highly recommend it:
https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/sho...mmcfuture.html

There are cheaper versions, they usually come as a bare circuit board without a joystick interface. This is less of a problem with the +2 which has a built-in joystick port, albeit a non-standard one. You either need a Sinclair / Amstrad compatible joystick or an adaptor to use with the +2 's built-in port. The above DivMMC interface has a standard Atari / Commodore joystick port, which gives you a wide range of sticks to choose from.

I recently got back into the vintage Sinclair Spectrum. My original machine was a rubber key 48k Issue 4S (made under licence by Samsung in Korea). Sadly this was lost in 2007 following a nasty car accident. It was in the back of my car at the time. I ended up in hospital with a broken nose. Meanwhile the police towed away my wrecked car and disposed of it, with the Spectrum inside.
Then a couple of years ago, I acquired the exact same issue 4S Spectrum from the legendary Mikey405 vintage telly swap meet. It didn't work - faulty RAM - but I got it fixed. I still had the ZX interface 1 and Microdrive from my original Spectrum but the microdrive no longer seemed to work. The new DivMMC interface seemed like a much better proposition than messing around with 35 years old tape drives. It totally transformed the Spectrum experience with instant loading.

You can of course run Spectrum software on an emulator. Emulators for various systems can be downloaded free, along with lots of old Spectrum games. It's worth trying this first before spending any money on vintage kit. If you don't have a PC (presumably you're using a smartphone or tablet to access this forum) then you can get an old desktop or laptop PC for practically nothing. Almost anything will do. Back in 1993 I had a Spectrum emulator running on the Commodore Amiga computer. It worked surprisingly well. I was even able to load cassettes using a Stereomaster sound sampler device, then save them to floppy disk. I subsequently burned the files to CD-R 20 years ago and now transferred them to SD card to play in a real Spectrum with DivMMC interface, so things have gone full circle!
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 9:52 am   #11
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Quote:
Originally Posted by paulsherwin View Post
Despite all the nostalgia, Spectrums were actually pretty awful computers both for gaming and general use. Their main advantage was their price, particularly in the tight fisted British market. You would be better off with something like a BBC B or Commodore 64 unless you have a specific reason for wanting a Spectrum.
Spot on. We had a spectrum, a 48k with one of those awful joysticks that appeared to have been made of recycled meat packaging. When my grandmother dropped dead I bought a BBC B double quick with my inheritance much to the dismay of my mother who suggested I should save it for a rainy day. I remember carrying the thing home on the bus from Beebug’s shop in St Albans. Due to some more timely inheritance this was replaced a few years afterwards with an Acorn A420. At this time my cousin bought the spectrum off me and wanted to give it back after a week

Only good memory was spy hunter.
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 11:15 am   #12
Martin Bush
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

I wonder if we had Spectrums at slightly different points? I remember a game called Target Renegade that was excellent, Operation Wolf, Bombjack, Commando and so on. But it could also be more a case of "good at the time" rather than good now.

If I can get a friend to help me I may attempt a Raspberry Pi version - apparently it's quite easy to do and risk-free as you can reuse the Pi for other things should you choose.

That said I am still keeping an eye out for an original machine.
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 3:00 pm   #13
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Those games bring back memories! I remember the names of all of them, not so much the actual games now though!

They certainly improved with time. There were the initial simple 'hits' like space invaders, manic miner, Horace, Atic Atack, Punchy, Chuckie egg, Daley Thomson decathlon (the famous keyboard wrecker!) etc. Then by the late 80s they had got more sophisticated, really showing the limitations of the system. I think some of the final ones I had were: R- type, Tiger Road, Out run, Robocop... many of which were so-called 'multi load' games where you went back to the tape loaded successive levels into the memory !
The 128k versions had better sound.
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 3:32 pm   #14
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Chuckie egg was definitely better on the BBC. Better keyboard.
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 4:43 pm   #15
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Its all nostalgia I suppose. I had a C64, but found the NES far more playable - instant loading through cartridges, and others might disagree, but perhaps the most significant evolution in gaming - The gamepad

I do still enjoy joystick systems, but I really think moving away from joysticks was a step forwards. Joysticks never felt very well defined in movement, and you either had to hold them in your hand, or stick them down with rubber suckers to a table, they never felt as precise as game pads.
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Old 14th Aug 2019, 4:48 pm   #16
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Hello

Seeing this reminded me of some web resources I've bookmarked at times.

There's Planet Sinclair that has a nice run down of the various Sinclair computers.

World of Spectrum has a huge archive of downloadable games, manuals etc and a forum that still seems to be active.

Hope there might be some pleasant timewasting in those

Will
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 3:26 pm   #17
Martin Bush
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Those are good sites Will. I've also found some more - one of which offers replica keyboards in which you can house a Raspberry at what I consider a reasonable price. They are made abroad on an individual basis I think so I will have to work out if that would work for me.

Since starting this thread I have had a couple offers locally of Raspberry Pis to borrow and have a go with and I think I will give that a go.

Ultimately I would like an original device simply because I like bits of vintage kit, but I can wait for the right one to present itself.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 6:02 pm   #18
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

+3s were pretty useless even in their day. A pal of mine got one, thinking it would be better than the +2, but the disks were expensive even then as they were non-standard and all the software was on cassette so he had to hook a tape-player to it with all the attendant problems associated with the 'classic' model.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 6:08 pm   #19
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

The same people offering to loan you Raspberry Pis may also have told you that there are one or more ready-made distros - versions of Linux which you flash onto the Pi's SD card - which make it a more or less ready to go emulation station, not just for the Sinclair Spectrum but for a whole host of other machines from around that era.

One such is 'Retropie'

https://retropie.org.uk/

Note that Retropie does not come with any copyrighted software for the Spectrum or any other machine, which is where 'World Of Spectrum' (mentioned in post # 16) - which hosts all of its available games with the permission of the rights holders - comes in.
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Old 16th Aug 2019, 6:13 pm   #20
Martin Bush
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Default Re: Sinclair Spectrum considerations

Thanks all for the feedback.

What's held me back until now is not having my own computer any more. The work one is locked down by IT so you can't download stuff and I use my phone for all my home web stuff.

I will get there though!

I was wondering about emulations of other computers actually so it will be fun I expect, even if I am rubbish at playing games
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