QL-Quality (Was: ZX-81 Question)

From: Adrian Vickers <avickers_at_solutionengineers.com>
Date: Tue Mar 26 20:36:11 2002

At 12:31 26/03/2002, you wrote:

> > > Well, Sinclair sold it and called it QL.
> > > A 68008, running at 8 (?) MHz, (almost) Real Keyboard (at least as
> > > good as most PC keyboards in the $10 range), Reak Memory (128K, as
> > That does not make it a 'real keyboard'. In fact the QL keyboard I used
> > was pretty unpleasant. My QL was obtained surplus as the bottom half only
> > (no keyboard), so I kludged on a matrix of switches from my junk box.
> > It's one of the few QLs with useable keys IMHO...
>maybe, still you could work quite well.

I learned to type on one.... Myabe thsi is wyh I cnat' tpye :)

They were fatally flawed, however: The underlying membrane was made of
biodegradable materials (duh!), and usually cracked where it was folded
(duh!) out of the keyboard enclosure down onto the mainboard. Not that it
wouldn't last for years, mind you. It was certainly leagues ahead of all
previous Sinclair keyboards.

The other problem involves the I/O hardware, which was unbuffered. This is
why switching peripherals on & off while the QL is switched on can fry the

> > > much as the first Mac, but expandable to 640 or 900) and two tape
> > > drives with ~100K each.
> > > Furthermore: Serial Interface, Joystick Ports and a full figured
> > > Network. As cream ontop of the cake a complete application suite
> > You forgot to mention that the tape drives were very unreliable if used
> > continuousely (those endless loop tapes would stretch and/or jam).
>Right, but you could manufacture your own - using regular music
>cassette tape of acceptrable quality did work quite well.

Never tried that... OTOH, in 18 years of QL ownership, I've only ever had
one single cartridge jam.

> > that the network was similar to the kludge used on the Spectrum.
>Jep, but it worked. it is always easy to say XYZ is crap, not
>as good as something else at 100 times the price. Remember, in
>1983 Networkcable, for a 'real' networ allone cost you more than
>a QL

I never did get a working QL network. Mind you, I didn't get a second QL
for 10 years, so I never really tried very hard. I've got 5 now, maybe I
should look into it again.

> > The QL was, alas, as typical Sinclair design. Built to a price, and it
> > shows. It may have been reasonable to do that for a home computer where
> > people couldn't/wouldn't afford anything better, but not for something
> > that claimed to be a business computer.
>At this scale, a Mac of the same time would also not qualify as
>a business system ... not even cursor keys nor a numpad nor any
>kind of interfase ... etc. pp.

Don't forget, the QL didn't have a numpad either. It also had a
non-standard key layour (semi-American).

> > > with Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Database and Business Graphics.
> > > And all together at about 900 Mark (back than ~250 GBP). Lower
> > It sold for \pounds 399 in the UK.
>At the beginning ? I'm just asking, because I don't remember the
>price on the island.

Yes, it went on sale in January 1984 for GBP399. First units shipped in
about March or April (FB rom version, rumoured to stand for "Full of Bugs"
- these were the kludged machines which effectively killed the QL before it
ever got going), reliable units shipped sometime after April (PM, AH, JM,
JS roms respectively, IIRC). After about 18 months/2 years, the price
dropped to GBP199.

> > My view is that had it sold for \pounds 600 or so and had a real disk
> > drive, real serial ports, and a useable keyboard then it might have sold
> > rather better in the UK.
>Maybe they should have had a 'professional' version with an
>external keyboard and disk drives, to satisfy both markets.

Sinclair never aimed it at the high-end "pro" market; it was always aimed
at the SOHO market (which barely existed at the time). Unfortunately, in
doing so, he managed to alienate the games market (they stuck to Spectrums,
Commodore 64s & Amstrads), and miss the high-end market (who were going
with IBM & clones). By the time the QL's market came about, PC clones were
cheap enough to make them the better option.

>Anyway, history.

Yep. So much could have been different, but it wasn't to be.

Cheers, Ade.
Be where it's at, B-Racing!
Received on Tue Mar 26 2002 - 20:36:11 GMT

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