If Sinclair computers had not been sold...

I was just having a random thought.

If Sinclair Computers (or the rights to them, not sure how it 'worked' back then) had not been sold to Amstrad, do you think there would of been any further Speccy models to materialise from Sinclair Research after the toasty rack 128 ?

Or would 'future computers' likely of focused on the QL or similar you think ?

I'm pretty sure there would not of been a +2 with tape deck as per Amstrad had done but I could be completely wrong here.

Comments

  • As a random twist to this (although in a way it may of deserved its own topic) I wonder if there were any plans or thoughts over at Amstrad for any more 'Speccy bits' after the +3 , aside from the external drive interface that never (I think) appeared, I was not really expecting a +4 though.
  • I think the company was slowly going under at the time, and I'm not sure what other UK company would have rescued them. Maybe someone would have made some more toastracks but I doubt much more.

    Amstrad were good at minimising costs, so they could make a profit out of a machine without having to radically redesign a new platform. They were not good at creating new platforms, look at the CPC 464 and the Amstrad GX4000 console.

    I imagine they added a tape deck to make a +2 because it was something they'd already done with the 464, and then did the +3 because they'd already done it with the 6128. Not exactly original ideas thought up for the Speccy.
    Thanked by 1spider
  • I guess if they were not having any issues or such really, then I wonder if there would of been further Speccy development from Sinclair or if their full attentions were then focused elsewhere and they would of considered the toasty-rack 128K the last of the line ?

    To be fair on Amstrad the CPC range did sell quite well although if memory serves you had to pay for a monitor either colour or mono you could not get the 464 I think (initially at least?) without the extra expense on the CRT. To be fair on this it did mean you had the complete package. I am aware they released a TV modulator thing later on perhaps.

    The built in tape deck and later disk drive of the +2 and +3 I think were sensible as Amstrad knew "it worked" as a product with the 464/664/6128 and saw it as a logical step with the newly acquired Speccy no doubt. :)

    It was however a great shame the +3 did not use the 3.5 floppies instead of the rather more pricey 3's at the time however it is my understanding (rightly or wrongly) there was an erm 'abundance' of said 3 inch drives available for them to use. I suppose also it would of meant that there was a shade of compatibility (CPM OS etc) between the PCW/CPC/ZX if they were all sharing the same drive format. It is interesting the +3 can happily read other formats though.

    Final thought on the +3's 3 inch drive: I think this was really 'set in stone' because the CPC and the PCW both had them. I am about 99% sure if the CPC6128 had for instance had a 3.5 floppy built in instead of the 3 , the Speccy +3 would of had the 3.5 floppy drive fitted.


    Off topic thought: Spectrum +4 = Loki = Sam Coupe = These are all the same thing, well as near as they were ever likely to be.
  • Sinclair was never really interested in perpetuating anything, his weakness was always wanting to be the first to do something but with no commitment to the long term. When I see what was done behind the (then) Iron Curtain and in other countries in Europe and S.America it seems they would have been our best hope for the Spectrum family to be developed further. However the 16 bit machines were the kiss of death to the Spectrum and other 8 bitters
  • Sinclair was never really interested in perpetuating anything, his weakness was always wanting to be the first to do something but with no commitment to the long term. When I see what was done behind the (then) Iron Curtain and in other countries in Europe and S.America it seems they would have been our best hope for the Spectrum family to be developed further. However the 16 bit machines were the kiss of death to the Spectrum and other 8 bitters
  • Given that the only reason that the 128k appeared was due to the Spanish, I dread to think what would have happened.

    Sinclair was not really interested in computers.

    In terms of Sinclair getting into trouble, they were not alone. Most of the U.K. computer manufacturers got into trouble one way or another. The market had been booming, so they ramped up production, just before the market crashed. Hence ended up with too much stock, that was selling really slowly, at the same time as big bills were turning up...

    To be blunt, the best way to ensure a new model is a success, is to regularly discontinue the existing models. Say every six to twelve months. So forcing new buyers to buy the current model. As long as the new system is more or less backwards compatible so existing (well behaved) software still runs, everything is good.

    Over time, new software will start to use common features plus some of the new features. As more software uses the new features, so programmers / producers will also use them, in order to compete in the market.

    So rather than a big wait between adding new hardware features in new models, I think new hardware features should have been added with each new board issue.

    Even easier if Sinclair had set out an outline specification of now and future features and documented the memory and I/O allocations.

    So rather than how it actually went, I would have liked to have seen these:
    • 16k ZX Spectrum (as released)
    • 48k ZX Spectrum (as released)
    • Interface 2 released
    • 80k ZX Spectrum (rubber key with extra RAM, upgraded ROM)
    • Interface 1 released
    • ZX Spectrum+ (better keyboard, 80k RAM, cartridge port, built in joystick port, reset button, power switch, composite video output, support for the interface 2 dropped for this and future models)
    • ZX Spectrum+1 (80k RAM, two built in joystick ports and AY sound chip plus parallel printer / user port, upgraded ROM)
    • ZX Spectrum+2 (all the features of the +1, flashing dropped in favour of more colours including for the border, RGB output, upgraded ROM, support for the ZX Printer dropped)
    • ZX Spectrum+3 (all the features of the +2, built in cassette deck with faster loading system, upgraded ROM)
    • ZX Spectrum+4 (all the features of the +3, RAM now 128k bytes, upgraded ROM includes ‘RAM’ drive)
    • ZX Spectrum+5 (all the features of the +4, much better keyboard than the earlier ZX Spectrum+ models, proper serial port and 3.5” floppy disk drive, support for the interface 1 dropped, no built in cassette deck, but connectors for a normal deck retained)
    • ZX Spectrum+6 (all the features of the +5, improved ULA giving more colours for the traditional screen, similar to the Timex computers)
    • ZX Spectrum+7 (all the features of the +6, with a mouse port and also with a I/F port for an external HDD)
    • ZX Spectrum+8 (all the features of the +7, internal RAM now 384k bytes)
    • ZX Spectrum+9 (all the features of the +8, but with a 6MHz Z80 CPU, with selectable operating speed: 3.5MHz or 6MHz)
    • ZX Spectrum+10 (all the features of the +9, but with an 80 column 16 colour screen that could be overlayed over the top of, or displayed instead of the traditional screen)
    By now, the sales would have been impacted by the 16/32 bit computers, so end of line i’m afraid. But by now, Sinclair would have been producing a 68000 line of computers itself...

    Mark
    Thanked by 1spider
  • edited May 31
    Just for your curiosity, I'm part way through a design modification of an existing ZX Spectrum to bring it up to the ZX Spectrum+1 that I describe above.

    Just to be clear, the features are:
    ZX Spectrum+ keyboard and case, 80k RAM, reset button, power switch, composite video output, two built in joystick ports, AY sound chip, parallel printer / user port and upgraded ROM (although in this case it will simply be switchable between the original ROM and a third party ROM). I'm not sure I will include a cartridge port.

    Mark
    Post edited by 1024MAK on
  • I keep my fingers crossed. You refer to the 80K mod. As far I know where were at least two types of this mod in the 80-ties. one of them was made in Italy and another in the Eastern Block. They were not compatible. Could you put more light on this feature?
  • It's using 64K DRAM in the "upper" RAM positions, but with a better bank switching arrangement than the East London Robotics SP80 upgrade kit. I'm still working on the design. I will post details once I'm happy with it.

    Mark
  • It was Czechoslovak ZX Clone Didaktik Gama that had 80Kb. There was some domestic Tape Copy programs that actually used this feature. I will try find details how switching was done.

    I had follow up model Didaktik M that lost this 80kb feature and was again 48Kb as original Spectrum.


    Per Czech wiki where is paging described. Probably use Google translate.

    https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didaktik_Gama

  • For me, sinclairs single biggest failure was keeping backwards compatability at all costs.

    The 128k was a case in point, should have used the opportunity to 'improve' on the 48k, a faster z80, dedicated graphic processor some more ram, nothing wrong with the YM soundchip for the time though.
  • Saboteur wrote: »
    For me, sinclairs single biggest failure was keeping backwards compatability at all costs.

    The 128k was a case in point, should have used the opportunity to 'improve' on the 48k, a faster z80, dedicated graphic processor some more ram, nothing wrong with the YM soundchip for the time though.

    Compatibility was the most important selling point in the 80s. In fact there was a Sinclair machine released before the 128k, that wasn't backwards compatible with the 48k, and it wasn't a success. Do you remember the name of that computer?

    Therefore they had to release a machine that was mostly compatible with the 48k. I was really glad they did. When I saw a 128k on the shelves I bought it because I believed it was compatible with the 48k. (I only knew afterwards that it was compatible, fortunately.)

    Looking back, I thought it was a good decision. I mean, who even remembered the C128 (other than just a C64 machine), on the other hand, the ZX128k had really great games.
  • Saboteur wrote: »
    For me, sinclairs single biggest failure was keeping backwards compatability at all costs.

    I present to you as a counter-argument... the Sinclair QL!
    Thanked by 1spider
  • Saboteur wrote: »
    For me, sinclairs single biggest failure was keeping backwards compatability at all costs.

    I dunno, from one angle that was probably a fairly sound marketing decision. Pity they couldn't have done something with the graphics though... a sound chip is one thing...

    By the time of the Sam Coupé doing this was definitely NOT a sound marketing decision :)
  • There are various home computers from various companies that did not sell well simply because there was not much commercial software (games) written for them. The vast majority of commercial software (games) were released for the most popular machines (ZX Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64). Some were released for other less popular machines (Acorn BBC, Election, Amstrad CPC etc.).

    But the later machines released by Sinclair (the QL) and Commodore (Commodore SX-64,
    Commodore 16, Commodore Plus/4) did not sell well. The Commodore 16, Commodore Plus/4 were not compatible with the VIC-20 or the Commodore 64.

    So you can see why it was seen as important to have later Sinclair ZX Spectrum models as compatible as possible with the 48K ZX Spectrum. A large library of software means lots of software that should work on your new computer. Hence partly solving the chicken and egg situation with a new computer model that is incompatible with anything else, which don’t sell well until there is a reasonable amount of software, but no one is interested in producing software for a computer that has not sold well...

    Heck, the main reason why Amstrad bought Sinclair Research Limited’s computer operation was to get their hands on the ZX Spectrum because of the vast software library. Amstrad certainly did not need the technology (they already had the successful CPC line of computers).

    After the 8 bit era, you can see this even more clearly, Commodore released the Amiga, Atari released the ST. But despite all the money thrown at marketing in their home market (the U.S.A.) the PC compatibles and the consoles won the battle.

    The main area of the world where Commodore Amigas and Atari STs were successful was Europe. Especially Germany and the U.K.

    Heck, after 1989, can anyone even name a home computer that was not based on an existing line/model and hence has no compatibility with anything else?

    Mark




  • The 128K machine vs compatibility is a good point, I said something vaguely similar when the + model was released, if nothing else there was a chance here to at least update the ROM code. Realise this would of meant DIY upgrades were a pain for those without a socket fitted ( ! ) or without soldering skills etc. Potential for more sales though as well as third party independent shops to do the upgrade work...
  • edited June 22
    It's interesting to consider Apple's evolution of the Apple II. After making largely inconsequential tweaks to the machine for eight years they replaced it with the IIGS, which was released in 1986. It was a 16-bit machine that was backwards-compatible with the II, and in terms of graphics and sound it was competitive with the Amiga. The sound chip in particular was very advanced.

    Was there a backwards-compatible, 16-bit successor of the Zilog Z80? I learn from Wikipedia that the Z800 fits the bill, but it was only released in Japan. A Hitachi clone appeared in the MSX Turbo-R, and depressingly the top comment on old-computers.com about the Turbo-R is Roger Jowett rabbiting on about the effing Sam Coupe:
    https://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=290

    In fact he seems to have commented on every single article on that site. Just inane ranting about Velesoft and the Snapper disk with the Sim Coupe etc. I've lost my train of thought now.

    But yes. My hunch is that by the time of the sale it was too late. Apple essentially used the II to fund the Apple III, Lisa, and latterly Macintosh, just as Sinclair used the ZX Spectrum to fund his other projects. The key difference is that Apple had more money and a more boring but more professional corporate structure and were not prepared to gamble it all on an electric car and flat-screen TVs.
    Post edited by Ashley Pomeroy on
  • A backwards compatible 16-bit Z80 wasn't really a necessity - Acorn showed this with the ARM (which was fast enough to run a BBC emulator faster than the BBC actually ran). Apple are showing that CPU arch changes can be done - the Mac is about to start on its fourth completely new-to-Mac (and binary incompatible) CPU arch (by the end of this year the Mac will have gone from 68k -> PPC -> x86/amd64 -> ARM64).
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