Spotters Guide to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Nov25

Spotters Guide to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum

ZX82? No, it’s called ZX Spectrum Released in 1982 by Sinclair Research Ltd. and following on from the huge success of his previous home micros the ZX80 and ZX81 was Sir Clive Sinclair’s first colour computer the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (code-named ZX82 during development). Gone was the black and white, the Spectrum now boasted an 8 colour palette and 2 brightness modes. Gone was the silence, some might say this was not a good thing, early Spectrums could quite literally BEEP and that was it. Gone was the touch sensitive keyboard, now replaced by the (in)famous ‘dead flesh’ rubber keys but still retaining the innovative Sinclair one touch-one word programming system implementing Sinclair BASIC. This system not only saved time (once you got used to the key combinations) but also reduced the amount of memory needed as each word only took up one byte in memory. The fact this was retained is a clue as to what Sir Clive originally intended his first colour computer to be, not the games machine as we all now remember it, but instead (and like the ZX81) a multi-use hobbyists machine which could also be used as a tool for programming. The design of the internal hardware was by Richard Altwasser and the external design of the unit was undertaken by Rick Dickinson, the genius industrial designer already responsible for draughting the ZX80, ZX81 and the following year, the Sinclair FTV1 Flat Screen Pocket TV. For the purposes of this article I will only be listing official Sinclair branded models and not any of the numerous clones that were produced worldwide. ZX Spectrum 16K and 48K (1982) Released in 1982, the 16K and 48K ZX Spectrum continued Sinclair’s trend for affordable computing and cost only £125 (later reduced to £99) and £175 (later reduced to £129) respectively. An extra 32K of RAM could be added to the 16K Spectrum in the form of a daughterboard on Issue 1 machines or by way of extra chips on subsequent machines. You had two choices of how this was accomplished, the first being a postal option whereby you mailed your Spectrum off to Sinclair Research and it was returned to you upgraded. The second option was in the true spirit of Sinclair and was in the form of a kit which you soldered in yourself. Issue 1 machines (top picture) could be distinguished by their lighter grey keys as opposed to later darker blue/grey keys of later issues (six altogether up to the release of the 128K). The famous keyboard itself was of membrane type with a rubber overlay and was designed this way to keep...

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Spotters Guide to the Atari 2600
Jul22

Spotters Guide to the Atari 2600

Have you played Atari Today? The Atari 2600, arguably the most iconic and enduring of all games consoles is also possibly the most confusing to collect. Not surprising really, when you realise it comes in eight official Atari branded versions (including the Japanese 2800) along with a whole host of clones spanning nearly a decade and a half of production. From the original 1977 CX2600 ‘Heavy Sixer’ through to the all-black 1986 2600 ‘Junior’ the differences were such that almost everything about the console changed (except the chips). This makes the 2600 almost unique as a console in that you can spend a long time searching out and collecting all the variants. The 2600 has stood the test of time well, better indeed than most consoles of the early 80s period and remains popular with collectors, gaming enthusiasts and casual gamers alike. This popularity is fed with a booming home-brew scene and the recent(ish) production of ‘TV games’ by companies such a Jakks Pacific. For the purposes of this article I will keep things simple and will only be listing the official Atari models, not the Sears versions, Japanese version nor the many clone models available. Oh, and ignore the dates on some of the YouTube videos, I’m pretty sure they have them wrong. CX2600 ‘Heavy Sixer’ (1977) Also known by collectors as the ‘Woody’, this was the original Atari VCS (Video Computer System), not yet known publicly by its 2600 designation. In fact the first 2600 to be officially called the 2600 wouldn’t be for another 5 years with the release of the black 4 switch ‘Vader’ model in 1982. Usually the most sought after by collectors, the first CX2600 differed from later models by having a thicker plastic lower casing and contrary to what you may read elsewhere the extra weight is solely down to this, there is no extra RF shielding inside and all Heavy and Light Sixers have the same RF shielding. The casing is also visibly different in that the plastic molding that runs around the back and sides is wider than on the 1978 ‘Light Sixer’ and has softer curves as opposed to the more angular second model. There are also other minor differences to the bezel etc. if you know what you are looking for. Manufacture of the ‘Heavy Sixer’ was done mainly in Sunnyvale, California – and, although I have never seen one myself – were also reportedly produced elsewhere. Sears released their own version of the ‘Heavy Sixer’ under licence called the Sears Video Arcade (Rev. A). CX2600 ‘Light Sixer’ (1978) This model also known by collectors as the ‘Woody’...

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