ZX Spectrum: one of the cheapest computers

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It is the 30th birthday of ZX Spectrum which is one of the most famous home computers that are ever made and is probably the most important factor in the making of the IT industry in UK. The ZX Spectrum which is made by Sinclair Research in Cambridge is usually considered the UK equivalent of the Commodore 64 which is US made. Hardware wise it is remarkable. There is a Zilog Z80A CPU of 8 bits, a graphics chip which gives an output of 32 columns by 24 rows with 15 colours and 48 or 16 Kb of RAM. At just $200, the ZX Spectrum was cheap. Despite the cost being just a fraction of its contemporaries, it had comparable functionality.

Sinclair Research from the beginning knew that it wanted the ZX Spectrum to be very cheap and for this reason every component was engineered with penny pinching in mind. The circuit board was kept small and dense which resulted to a very supple chassis. Instead of using a keyboard of conventional type, a rubber chicklet island keyboard was used. It was wrapped in a plastic and was of 550 grams, compared to the 1.8 kg Commodore 64 and 3.7 kg BBC micro. In short, this was just engineered better than the contemporaries like the iPhone, except Apple uses the supply line advantage to squeeze out profits rather than the prices. The ZX Spectrum would sale five million pieces which is not at all bad when it is considered that there are only 30 million homes in UK. So even after 30 years being hammered by Moore’s law and accounting for inflation, there are few home computers which are sold at a lower price than the ZX Spectrum.

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