ZX81 denigrated! (was Re: Approaches to projects)

From: Glen Goodwin <acme_at_gbronline.com>
Date: Sun Nov 28 17:10:29 2004

Multiple replies below.

----- Original Message -----
From: Witchy <witchy_at_binarydinosaurs.co.uk>

> It's quite simple - if it wasn't for the ZX80/81 I wouldn't be here now
> doing this, nor would I have learned how to program, or have my museum. I
> don't care that it's not a good hardware design or that it uses 'funny
> BASIC' or that its maths might not be perfect.....it was only ukp70 and it
> changed my life.

Thanks, Adrian -- that's exactly the case for me as well. Every penny of my
income since 1986 is directly attributable to the fact that I learned to
on a TS/1000.

----- Original Message -----
From: Cameron Kaiser <spectre_at_floodgap.com>

> I find the T/S 1000 a unique machine (and tip of the hat to Glen who sent
> a version modded for composite output ... still working great!). I'm still
> Commodore freak for life, but you can't beat the form factor :) and it has
> fascinating and very hackable architecture.

My thanks to you, too, Cameron. It *is* hackable, it *is* facinating, and
-- how many years has it been since I sent you that thing? ;-)

----- Original Message -----
From: Dave Dunfield <dave04a_at_dunfield.com>

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

Well, yeah, but when you consider that there isn't any video circuitry . . .

> 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.

Can't deny that.

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

One transistor + one resistor + one monitor = rock solid display.

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

Scraps from the junk box and 30 minutes time will yield a cable which
provides enough distance from the ZX81 to eliminate the "wobble"

> Slightly odd dialect of BASIC.

Odd but highly functional.

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

Personal preference.

> I know guys who did a *LOT* with their ZX80 - they are a capable machine.
> their limitations make them look very poor when compared to other more
> designs. To appreciate the ZX, you need to keep in mind that it is
> a very minimal machine.

It is minimalism in the extreme.

> 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...

Whereas I got much more than my money's worth out of it, since the
learning experience which began with my ZX81 continues to this day.

----- Original Message -----
From: Tony Duell <ard_at_p850ug1.demon.co.uk>

> The video system. It's a total kludge, about the worst I've seen

An extremely clever design, wouldn't you say?

> The cassette storage (I am used to _reliable_ data storage systems)

Many inexpensive machines of the day used cassette storage. Several
software solutions were developed which increased both the reliability
and speed of ZX81 cassette i/o (from 300 to 4800 baud).

> The BASIC. BASIC is not my favourite language at the best of times, this
> versions is one of the worst, though

Lots of great Z80 assemblers out there.

> The expansion connector (the physical form of it, the fact that if the
> RAMpack wobbles, the machine crashes).

See reference to junk box above.

> The ULA. I dislike hardware I can't hack, modify or repair.

Granted. The ULA is truly a black box.

> For the time, it was cheap, and therefore sold well. Nowadays there are
> many, many, nicer machines available for less money than a second-hand
> ZX81...

Umm, considering that you can easily buy a ZX81 for US$10 (if you can't
find one for free) . . .

Lots of people today use them for robotics controllers and other
"down and dirty" applications where no frills are required. With the
BASIC and easy access to the Z80 bus, it makes sense.

Thanks to all for a pleasant discussion.

Received on Sun Nov 28 2004 - 17:10:29 GMT

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