Author Topic: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown  (Read 19259 times)

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Online EEVblog

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EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« on: December 18, 2013, 04:18:11 am »
Inside the classic retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer from the 1980's
Was supposed to be part of the previous Mailbag video, but Dave is an SEO keyword whore, so it gets it's own video.

 

Offline lilshawn

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2013, 05:26:28 am »
I had the "TIMEX" branded Sinclair ZX81 with the horrible to type on membrane keyboard...none of that fancy silicone you got there... had the 16k expansion pack too. (i believe it was only $99 with the pack where the straight sinclair was 130...something like that.)  cut my teeth with basic on that puppy! saved 'em on audio tape too!... good times, good times!

EDIT: oops! 16k not 64k - could you imagine!?!? 64k? BWAH!
« Last Edit: December 18, 2013, 05:39:18 am by lilshawn »
 

Offline ttp

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2013, 05:48:52 am »
Had one of them and remember RAM chips going bad quite often, at some stage installed sockets for RAM to streamline the repairs.
 

Offline kayvee

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2013, 06:45:10 am »
I skipped the Spectrum and splashed out the extra cash on a BBC Micro Model B, at least it had a proper keyboard, and a 6502 processor!

Exciting times it was, even though we laugh at them today :)
 

Offline davec

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2013, 07:52:03 am »
I love these old computers, so when I get one like that which is not going to work again, I convert them to USB keyboards. I've done many of these, details on my blog. I initially used ATMega328P microcontrollers (ala Arduino UNO), then moved onto Arduino Lenoardos
http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/2013/05/zx-spectrum-usb-keyboard.html


Lately, I've designed a PCB for this for some of the larger keyboards (such as the Commodore 64), which is basically an ATmegs32U4 breakout board.
http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/2013/12/usb-keyboard-pcbs.html


There is also just about enough space to stick a Raspberry Pi in there as well, if you're that way inclined.

http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/2013/11/zx-spectrum-raspberry-pi-case-mode-usb.html

I can stick a PCB in the post to the EEVBlog lab if you're interested in converting that spectrum.

I also have some for sale on Etsy, if you don't want to do it yourself.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TynemouthSoftware

Thanks,
Dave
 

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2013, 08:01:55 am »
Had one of them and remember RAM chips going bad quite often, at some stage installed sockets for RAM to streamline the repairs.

I remember hearing somewhere DC/DC converter in ZX Spectrum was a freak of nature and that it killed ram chips with fluctuating -5V rail (or something, it was so long ago)
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Offline davec

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2013, 08:09:20 am »
The DRAM was always an issue, the 8x2K 4116's in the lower 16K needed 12V and -5V, and those rails going tended to go and take the chips with them. The inductors also buzz quite loudly these days.

The upper 32K was actually 64K, 8x8K 4164 chips which were only half bad. They would be binned so the faults were all in one half or the other and jumpers on the board select which half to use.

Usually though, the Ferranti ULA's burn out long before the RAM goes bad.

The heatsink was missing on the board in Dave's video, it is normally a lump of aluminium bolted to the 7805, but they too get rather hot as they dissipate 5-10W sometimes.

Thanks,

Dave
 

Offline RetroSwim

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2013, 09:44:46 am »
Imagine my face when I clicked video #557 and saw my parcel in the limelight!  ^-^

The system that got revived thanks to this poor fellow's demise is a Spectrum+. Same motherboard, but kitted out with a Sinclair QL style keyboard.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2013, 09:52:10 am by RetroSwim »
 

Offline Stonent

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2013, 11:41:49 am »
I started on the old TRS-89 MC-10 which design wise was a lot like the Spectrum.  It had keys with the commands over them which you could make appear by pressing a Control key. It even had the graphics characters on they keyboard as well.
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Offline firehopper

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2013, 01:04:03 pm »
my first computer was a ti-99-4a. :)
had a lot of different computers over the years.. I actually found a old trs-80 model 100. and it still works. I can post pictures if anyone wants. :)
 

Offline Terabyte2007

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2013, 01:46:43 pm »
Dave should try and get his hands on an early Commodore 64 computer. If I can find one, I may try and send it to him. The Commodore 64 was my first computer, I remember writing code in BASIC and at first I did not even have a tape drive (Cassette Tape Storage), Yes!. I would have to retype my program each time I wanted to use it. I soon after acquired a cassette tape storage unit. Sitting on the floor in front of my TV with a RF adapter connected to the composite output, those were the days!  O0
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Offline synapsis

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2013, 02:13:32 pm »
I started on a VIC-20. 3853 bytes of ram free!

I have a small shrine to Commodore in my living room.
 

Offline Kjelt

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2013, 03:09:18 pm »
I started on a VIC-20. 3853 bytes of ram free! 
That's still more then the embedded device with 2k I have to work with  :-DD
 

Offline Terabyte2007

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2013, 03:28:52 pm »
Quote from: synapsis
I started on a VIC-20. 3853 bytes of ram free!

I have a small shrine to Commodore in my living room.

Very Nice! Love your Commodore Shrine!
Eric Haney, MCSE, EE, DMC-D
Electronics Designer, Prototype Builder
 

Offline carpelux

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2013, 04:00:50 pm »
It sure brings up lot of memories watching this episode.
ZX Spectrum was my first home computer. Had been using a HP9845 at work (using it to cad electrical schemes) and got the computing bug. The ZX was all I personally could afford at the time and I had many fun moments with it.
 Eventually I started working in the computin business and has been doing so since  then.
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Offline krivx

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2013, 04:33:59 pm »
I would guess that only the bottom side had a soldermask was because that was the only side that was soldered!
 

Offline AG6QR

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2013, 05:43:58 pm »
I would guess that only the bottom side had a soldermask was because that was the only side that was soldered!

Exactly!

That video brings back memories.  The first computer I owned was a Sinclair ZX81, which I assembled from a kit in summer 1982, for a price just under 100 USD.  It was all through-hole components, and in classic through-hole style, there was a component side and a solder side.  I no longer have the computer, and don't remember details of solder mask, but I suspect it was the same, with a solder mask on the solder side only.

I do remember being pleasantly surprised when it powered up perfectly on the first try after I soldered it together.

That computer only had four chips: Z80, RAM, ROM, and a Ferranti chip to glue it all together.  The RAM was either 1k (Timex later marketed a variation with 2k).  I got an aftermarket memory pack with a whopping 64k of RAM, the full address space of the Z80.
 

Offline just_fib_it

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2013, 10:11:32 pm »
I had one of those too. It kick started my career as a software developer, but sadly also set back my EE career by almost 25 years...

One sad day in 1989 it stopped working, the screen only showing random garbage in all its 16 color glory (or shades of gray in my case). I had recently heard about viruses and worms infecting and damaging computers. Fearlessly I embarked on my first electronics repair attempt. I didn't have a screw driver so couldn't actually open the case but fortunately it was possible to see inside through the opening for the expansion port. Immediately I recognized the problem: my ZX Spectrum had been infected by a worm! I took out my pocket knife and swiftly cut the worm in half, killing it instantly. Unfortunately the worm had already done too much damage and my beloved ZX Spectrum never recovered.

I later found out that I hadn't actually slain a worm but had in fact cut one of the flat flex cables of the keyboard membrane... It took me almost 25 years to recover from this disappointment and rekindle my interest in electronics.
 

Offline Salas

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2013, 10:12:56 pm »
I later found out that I hadn't actually slain a worm but had in fact cut one of the flat flex cables of the keyboard membrane... It took me almost 25 years to recover from this disappointment and rekindle my interest in electronics.
  :-// What can you do, we all started servicing clueless on something somewhere.

I wonder if the solder mask wrinkles shown in the video formed when they soldered  the components than when they tinned the copper though.
ZX Spectrum, ah my first micro. Cassettes and azimuth and nail polish fixing it. Those were the wonder days. :-+ C-64 A500 A1200 A3000 later on. O0
« Last Edit: December 18, 2013, 10:21:30 pm by Salas »
 

Offline Chipguy

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2013, 10:33:54 pm »
The 7805 must have had heatsink, that's where the gap comes from. You can still see the marks from the washer on the regulator's tab.
Where is that smoke coming from?
 

Offline Orpheus

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2013, 10:45:00 pm »
My first computer was an Apple II but when the Sinclair came out I removed its board and put in in my car (It was almost a perfect fit for my never-used slide-out dashboard ashtray) and stowed a pop-up Panasonic TV under the dash (fit nicely behind the stick-shift and looked like a speaker when it wasn't popped up)

It had no practical use whatsoever, aside from immense James Bond-flavored freak-out value
 

Offline sullyRD

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #21 on: December 19, 2013, 12:13:25 am »
Nice to see Dave do a Video on the old sinclair spectrum, i love the old spectrums and have a large collection of vintage computers. Dave mentioned that Richard Altwasser designed the layout of the board then went on to work for another company.
He started another company up after he left Sinclair and went into business with Steven Vickers and produced the Jupiter ace.
The Company was only running for two years before it went bust in 1984 and only produced 8000 Jupiter ace computers and 800 Jupiter ace 4000 computers in total It used FORTH as its programming language.
This is my collection of Jupiter Ace computers.


uploaded pictures

« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 06:44:00 pm by sullyRD »
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Offline HeyTom

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2013, 01:13:40 am »
I had the ti-99-4a. Even had the speech synthesizer. It was very good for its day.
 

Offline adeptcs

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2013, 02:23:18 am »
I had the misfortune to have repaired hundreds of spectrums in the 1980. As Chipguy says, the ZX spectrum had a heatsink. It went over the top of the edge connector almost to the modulator. It relied on the ventilation of the edge connector which was fine until something was plugged into it.
The most common problem was the ZTX650 transistor giving up, often caused by someone plugged something into the edge connector while it was powered up. The ZTX650 was used in the charged pump circuit to create -5 and +12 in addition to the +5, required for the 4116 DRAM ICs

 

Online VK3DRB

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2013, 03:27:38 am »
Notice the clear data codes labelled on the IC's. They don't do that much anymore, especially on SMD components even if there is the space. The data code was a great way to roughly date the manufacture off a printed circuit assembly.

Notice too there is not much attention given to EMC and EMI. It may not have needed any regulatory approvals in those days. I never had a Sinclair microcomputer. I did own a Dick Smith System 80 in 1983, and upgraded it to a Hong Kong made "rotten Apple II" in 1984. None of these machines had any attention to RFI, and as a result they interfered with nearby TV sets. I dare say the Sinclair would have too.

cheers,
Dave
 

Offline Stonent

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2013, 04:09:05 am »
Sinclair has always had a history of cost-cutting including their half-rom calculator.

http://files.righto.com/calculator/sinclair_scientific_simulator.html
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 04:27:12 am by Stonent »
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Offline Zad

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2013, 07:00:34 am »
This is Richard Altwasser's LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/richardaltwasser

Current occupation is "Reader at Portishead Parish" which sounds to me like he is retired and has taken up religion. It seems a waste of his talents, but if that is his vocation now, then so be it. Might be worth approaching!

Here is a photo of the Issue One PCB, note the hand laid out traces, and the memory daughterboard:

[img[]http://k1.dyndns.org/Vintage/Sinclair/82/Sinclair%20ZX%20Spectrum/PCB%20Images%20%28angled%20views%29/ZX%20Spectrum%20PCB%20issue%201%20%2B%2032K%20RAM%20dK.jpg[/img]

RFI-wise, they weren't clean, but they weren't that noisy either. I used to listen to AM radio at the same time as playing on my Spectrum without any great problem. I year or two back, someone did some research into restarting production with the original design. As you can imagine, when they tried it in an anechoic chamber the the EMC test gear practically laughed at it.

The simplicity of the "Speccy" is what has given the UK such a big base of skilled software and hardware professionals (and true hackers) today. People forget how relatively poor the UK was at the time, most people just couldn't afford a £400 BBC Micro or a £300 C64. The Spectrum was perfectly pitched. Yes is was compromised, with crap sound, keyboard and poor graphics - but it was enough to do the job!

For anyone interested in the early UK computer industry, TheRegister regularly publishes well researched articles, including interviews with the people involved: http://www.theregister.co.uk/hardware/vintage/


Offline AndyC_772

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #27 on: December 19, 2013, 07:42:06 am »
RFI-wise, they weren't clean, but they weren't that noisy either. I used to listen to AM radio at the same time as playing on my Spectrum without any great problem.

My Spectrum was the single noisiest piece of kit I've ever owned! It may have been OK on the MW band, but it made a heck of a mess of local FM stations.

For all its added complexity, the BBC model B I traded it for was much better.

Offline Kjelt

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #28 on: December 19, 2013, 10:47:34 am »
i love the old spectrums and have a large collection of vintage computers.
Sorry for the small sidetopic post but I always wondered what was more important to the price of a vintage computer: if it still works OR it has the original parts.
I means electrolytic capacitors are often dead after 30+ years, so are the chances on the ROM's. So to make it still work you can replace the elco's and replace the ROM's with Eproms.
But maybe if you leave it non working original it is worth more? Would like to hear your opinion as a collector.  :)
 

Offline Shred

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #29 on: December 19, 2013, 11:15:30 am »
I recall that "The Australia Tax" was heavily applied to Sinclair products.  The cheap computer in the UK was quite an expensive computer by the time it arrived here - from memory it was at least twice the price it should have cost.  My father attempted to buy a ZX81 by mail order, but the UK vendors refused to sell one to an overseas buyer.
 

Offline SLJ

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #30 on: December 19, 2013, 12:35:49 pm »
I still have a bunch of Sinclairs sitting around.  Mostly ZX-81s and 1000s.



The board of the 1000:

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #31 on: December 19, 2013, 12:53:43 pm »
When the Spectrum was current, someone where I worked got hold of the schematic and a source of supply of the ULA chip. Our company used dram by the bucket load, so that wasn't a problem. So we made up several 'Spectrum' units from scratch and they worked a treat.  We didn't have a source of keyboards so made our own using proper keyboard switches. I still remember playing "Attic Attack" amongst others.
 

Offline Kaptein QK

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #32 on: December 19, 2013, 12:59:51 pm »
... I did own a Dick Smith System 80 in 1983, and upgraded it to a Hong Kong made "rotten Apple II" in 1984. ...

Would that be a Multitech MPF-II?
It was my first computer, I learned 6502 assembly by just reading the datasheet :)
 

Offline Balaur

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #33 on: December 19, 2013, 02:06:55 pm »
Heh, story time.

Sinclair clones were quite a nice thing to have back in my home country (Romania). I had one myself and I must say that it was definitely a huge deal to me at the time.

The computers were reasonably available (YMMV), not very expensive, had a mechanical keyboard, tons of software available on pirated C45/60/90 cassettes and so on. I didn't even had to buy a cassette reader as my boombox happily connected to the Spectrum.

There was even a technical/computer learning program on national TV that broadcasted a few games and applications on TV (i.e. the audio played the software and the screen was the typical save screen from one fairly known copy program.

When in the electronics engineering school, there was still some Spectrum traffic: home grown stuff, hand-assembled units (you could buy the PCB and the keyboard) even if the whole thing was declining as the PCs and Prince of Persia was on the rise.

I've broken my Speccy twice:
The first time, I've made an EPROM programmer that required 24V or something like that. Everything was cobbled together on some PCB and the programming voltage wire touched the extension interface. It was very tough to repair it, as I was missing funds, equipment and knowledge (was 13-12 at the time?). It was a great triumph when I had finally managed to get it back working again. Only had to change the CPU, EPROM, and a handful of discrete ICs

The second and final time was when I wanted to use the computer as a personal assistant and run an agenda program made by me. I wanted to let the computer working all the time, but it interfered with the TV and radio reception. I've just tried to adjust the RF frequency a bit and broke everything; never worked again. No idea what was wrong, even to this day.
 

Offline elgonzo

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #34 on: December 19, 2013, 02:34:52 pm »
Dave should try and get his hands on an early Commodore 64 computer.

Actually, i would suggest somebody sending Dave a SX-64, so he has some fun taking it apart. But that bugger is bulky and heavy.
Anyway, back to Sinclair Spectrum...
« Last Edit: December 19, 2013, 02:37:10 pm by elgonzo »
 

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #35 on: December 19, 2013, 07:41:40 pm »
Dave, thanks for the teardown; it brought good memories to me!

My first program was written on a Brazilian clone of the Spectrum ZX80 (called TK82C) from a company called Microdigital (external and internal pictures) - it had the crappy membrane keyboard and the build was botched as ever!

Years later I was given a TK85 (a ZX81 clone) from the same manufacturer (external and internal pictures). This one had the chiclet rubber keyboard (much better than the membrane).

The ZX Spectrum was called TK90X and it was manufactured only years later - the local manufacturer did not have Sinclair's license to use the Ferranti ULA and they developed one of their own.
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Offline grumpydoc

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #36 on: December 19, 2013, 08:19:51 pm »
Quote from: adeptcs
I had the misfortune to have repaired hundreds of spectrums in the 1980. As Chipguy says, the ZX spectrum had a heatsink. It went over the top of the edge connector almost to the modulator. It relied on the ventilation of the edge connector which was fine until something was plugged into it.
The most common problem was the ZTX650 transistor giving up, often caused by someone plugged something into the edge connector while it was powered up. The ZTX650 was used in the charged pump circuit to create -5 and +12 in addition to the +5, required for the 4116 DRAM ICs
I spent a summer doing repairs and had a fair few broken Zx80's, 81's and spectrums through my hands - the most common problem I had was dead CPUs and DRAMs - there was no buffering of the Z80 signals going out to the expansion connector so plugging anything in with the power on was almost sure to kill something. With the power off I suspect they were pretty susceptable to ESD damage as well.

The ULA seemed a bit more robust as it usually survived but we had a few that basically needed a 100% rebuild.

 

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #37 on: December 20, 2013, 07:23:04 am »
Hi all,

Repaired lots of ZX Spectrums back in the day, my own of which was my pride and joy, as follows:-

- ROM replaced with 27128 Eprom so I could play with the code including changing the startup copyrigt message at boot on my friends Spectrums.
- DKtronics 'real' keyboard.
- Couple of Microdrives via Interface 1.
- Home built Eprom programmer (to burn 2716 & 27128), designed around a 6402 UART and operated via RS232 from Interface 1.
- Home built serial-parallel interface (another 6402) so could drive a Centronics printer without any TSR/driver. Print# rings a bell.

Note: I stupidly sold the Eprom programmer in the 90's.......tried hard to get it back a couple years ago but the guy couldn't find it..... :(......so if anyone in UK happens upon it let me know (easily recognizeable in a two tone enclosure with 2off ZIF sockets on top). Would love to see it again!

Dundee (of Sinclair fame) is just 50miles from me so back in the day I knew quite a few guys that worked there. I managed to get a hold of lots of Spectrum parts/ICs including documentation such as schematics, repair guides etc etc.

Ahh memories!

Ian.
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Offline komet

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #38 on: December 20, 2013, 02:31:19 pm »
This machine taught me everything I know about everything.

When I was 13 I built an ADC and DAC interface that I could use as a sampler. I am still stupidly proud of it. Here it is. Sadly I've lost the edge connector that used to connect to the dreadful Spectrum interface port.


 

Offline TheBay

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #39 on: December 21, 2013, 11:32:11 pm »
I was having a clear out of my garage the other day, I binned 2x ZX 128+2's (One grey one black, I think Amstrad made one), a Acorn electron, I brought an Amiga in but it committed suicide after about 2 minutes of loading a disc, then got the dreaded lights. Found an Oric 1 in a box unused, C64 with keys missing.

But for some reason I have a ZX 48k keyboard rubber just on my garage floor, I couldn't throw the thing out as I must have had that since I was young, might hang it on a wall LOL  :-DD

God knows where my ZX81, ZX48 are, I had the microdrive? like a continuous tape and a thermal printer for it too, think I set fire to the rolls of silver paper a few years back...

I really enjoyed the ZX48k, it used to crash a lot and we figured the CPU was popping out of the DIL socket when warm, we cured it with a cork jammed in the case.

One reason I like TTi instruments as their heritage is from Sinclair...

« Last Edit: December 21, 2013, 11:34:25 pm by TheBay »
 

Offline kxenos

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #40 on: December 22, 2013, 12:14:44 am »
I was 10yo, 1986. One day, the teacher came into the classroom and said: Kids, I have something to show you! And he presented a shining new ZX spectrum. He said: This is the future. Whoever masters this, shall master the future, or something similar. Later that day, I return home and say to my father: Father, there is this new thing called a computer and whoever masters computers will master the future and I better start now because I don't want to end up a carpenter like you. My father didn't say anything but two months later he brought me a Philips MSX with a 3,5MHz Z80 and a 3,5" floppy disk. I just had an English user manual where in the last pages there where some example programs in GWbasic. That's where it all started for me:
10 CLS
20 PRINT "Hello world"
30 GOTO 30
run

Boy, those where the days...  O0
 

Offline RupertGo

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #41 on: December 22, 2013, 02:48:49 am »
Just a note on RFI and the Spectrum.. it failed FCC regs at first, because of the RAM bus architecture. One of the clever design features was the contended RAM below 32k, which was shared between the CPU and the video circuitry - basically, the CPU had its clock stopped when it was trying to access RAM that the video needed. The video buffer was in the CPU address space, saving the cost of two lots of chips, but at the price of performance - obviously, the video had to take priority, because when a scan line's starting on your television it needs its data there and then.

But the video buffer was fixed and small and lived below the 32k boundary. A 48k machine had 32k of memory above that , logically and physically separate, that the video circuitry would never need to see. So, by splitting the bus, it was possible for the CPU to run at full speed in the upper 32k while the video stuff could do what it liked in the lower. And - bonus feature! - you could do it with a bunch of resistors of just the right value to let both sides of the data bus be driven differently when appropriate, but track each other when one side relinquished driver duties. Cheap, fast, lovely.

Which is great, but it means when both sides are being driven independently you have two sets of PCB traces flailing around being two buses instead of one. When you have one length of conductor going one way and the other going the other, well - you have a lovely dipole And as you can see from the teardown, RFI shielding was as alien to Sinclair as juggling sand-fleas.

The FCC was unimpressed, which is why the Timex-Sinclair 2000 (and the other Spectrum derivatives) were late and had a lot more tin foil and that gritty grey conductive spray-applied coating on the inside of their cases.
 

Offline hikariuk

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Re: EEVblog #557 - Retro Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Teardown
« Reply #42 on: December 22, 2013, 02:59:53 pm »
Current occupation is "Reader at Portishead Parish" which sounds to me like he is retired and has taken up religion. It seems a waste of his talents, but if that is his vocation now, then so be it. Might be worth approaching!

Reader is a lay position; I suspect he's just retired and also an active member of his local church.
I write software.  I'd far rather be doing something else.
 


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