Sinclair ZX81

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20120305-205148.jpgHaving blogged about the Raspberry Pi the other day it set me thinking about the old Sinclair ZX81 in the attic at my Mums. The ZX81 ‘the first home computer’ was produced by Sinclair Research and manufactured in Scotland by Timex Corporation. It was launched in the United Kingdom in March 1981 as the successor to Sinclair’s ZX80 and was designed to be a low-cost introduction to home computing for the general public. It was hugely successful and more than 1.5 million units were sold before it was eventually discontinued in 1984. It even found success in the United States, where Timex manufactured and distributed it under licence.

Little did I know that this week is actually the 31st anniversary of its launch! When you consider what modern technology can do it is interesting to look at the spec (and price) that was a cutting edge machine in 1981!

Introductory price – £49.95 for the kit, £69.95 for the assembled machine (equivalent to £143 – £200 in 2012).
Operating system Sinclair BASIC
CPU Z80 at 3.25
Memory 1 kB (64 kB max. 56 kB usable)
Display Monochrome display on UHF television
Graphics 24 lines x 32 characters or 64 x 48 pixels graphics mode
Dimensions 167 millimetres (6.6 in) deep by 40 millimetres (1.6 in) high
Weight 350 grams (12 oz)

Even the most basic mobile phone is way more powerful than this today – who says we haven’t made progress over the last 30 years!


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