A now rare computer from the 80s came out under the name of Sinclair ZX80. Even though it was not overly popular, some say this was the computer that started the personal computer revolution in the United Kingdom. It was created by Sinclair Research and was a futuristic design for its day. It looked like a squashed Commodore 128. The difference in this computer and some others is that it was sold in pieces. The buyer was required to assemble it. An assembled version was available for a slightly higher price. Get a closer look at the Sinclair ZX80 here in this enlightening article.
This computer was the first computer to be produced in a big way in the United Kingdom. It had a blue membrane keyboard, no keypad and looked flattened. The letter “X” in the name of the Sinclair ZX80 was meant to represent the “mystery ingredient”. Jim Westwood was the designer of the machine and created it around the Z80 central processing unit. It ran at a respectable 3.25 megahertz. It was succeeded by the Sinclair ZX81. Both of the computers could be assembled by someone with enough technological abilities with discrete logic chips. The futuristic exterior design is credited to Rick Dickinson. The tiny white case was just one and a half inches in depth. The other measurements were eight and a half inches long by six and a half inches wide. The power supply and the monitor were externally connected while in use. A television could be hooked up to the Sinclair ZX80 for visuals, but the signal was transmitted over a RF connection. The manual was 128 pages long and a catalog of 27 program cassettes were available as well. The machine had problems with venting heat and overheating was a problem. The unreliability of the machine was a cause for concern because the Sinclair ZX80 was not durable.
The hardware of the Sinclair ZX80 was the previously mentioned Z80 microprocessor. It was accompanied by one kilobyte of random access memory ( RAM ). The read-only memory ( ROM ) was four kilobytes in size. The TTL chips that the ZX80 used were easily available and contributed to its low price. This computer was not powerful enough to show a display on the screen while buttons were being depressed. The only time an output was seen on the TV screen was when the computer was idle. The video output was a 32 character, 24 line display. There was no color. Black and white text were what the user would see on the screen. If the user was good with the text, some text-based graphics could be created.
The Sinclair ZX80 ran BASIC for an operating system. The resulting programs could be output to a regular cassette player for storage. Commands were not entered by typing them on the keyboard. The input was similar to a calculator. Each key possessed different modes and and context. The shift key was used to add more modes.
The Sinclair ZX80 was the first computer to be advertised for under $200 dollars in 1980. It was marketed in the United States and became popular enough to spawn unauthorized clones. There were ZX80 units delivered but it was discontinued the next year.
The ZX80 is fairly difficult to find in good condition. The plastic case is prone to breakage and cracking and the keypad tends to develop issues over time. Power supplies are almost always missing as well. In decent condition they sell for over $200.00. In excellent working condition with a memory expansion pack and all accessories they can sell for over $300.00.