ZX81 denigrated! (was Re: Approaches to projects)

From: Dave Dunfield <dave04a_at_dunfield.com>
Date: Sat Nov 27 17:54:45 2004

At 16:28 27/11/2004 -0500, you wrote:
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Tony Duell <ard_at_p850ug1.demon.co.uk>
>> What's this love of the ZX81, which I regard as a postively horrible
>> machine. I'd not rip one apart, though, mainly because there's little of
>> use to raid from it...
>You regard it as horrible because . . . ?

Aside from keyboard ;-)

CPU intensive video design - lose video when program running (or SSLLOOWW
mode for ZX81).

This also makes it highly dependant on the internal firmware, so that it's
tough to adapt other Z80 software systems to run on it.

"RF only", and poorly shielded computer make it tough to get decent TV display.

Limited internal RAM - and expansion very prone to connector problems/flakiness
(practically useless without an external keyboard so that you didn't have to
touch the machine while it was running).

Slightly odd dialect of BASIC.

Never did like the use of single-key "shift" keywords (although this is essential
given the keyboard) - also a matter of taste, so this cannot be considered a

But... I still consider the ZX80/81 a rather interesting and innovative design,
because it truly was designed to get "something from almost nothing". Most of
the items listed above are just the "nature of the beast" - given what it was
(the lowest price entry on the block) and to be *VERY* cheap to manufacture.

I know guys who did a *LOT* with their ZX80 - they are a capable machine. But,
their limitations make them look very poor when compared to other more traditional
designs. To appreciate the ZX, you need to keep in mind that it is SUPPOSED to be
a very minimal machine. It makes more sense as an alternative to a programmable
calculator than as an alternative to a word processing or serious software
development machine.

The only really bad thing about the ZX is that I think a lot of people bought it
expecting more than it had to offer...

dave04a (at)    Dave Dunfield
dunfield (dot)  Firmware development services & tools: www.dunfield.com
com             Vintage computing equipment collector.
Received on Sat Nov 27 2004 - 17:54:45 GMT

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