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Sinclair ZX80

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The ZX80 was a home computer brought to market in 1980 by Sinclair Research. It was notable for being the first computer available in the United Kingdom for under a hundred pounds. It was available in kit form; purchasers had to assemble and solder it together. A ready-built version was also available at a slightly higher cost for those without the skill or inclination to build their own.

The machine was based around the Zilog Z80 CPU, equipped with 1k RAM, and 4k of ROM containing the BASIC programming language. BASIC commands were not entered by spelling out the words. Instead, the commands were selected rather like they would be on a scientific calculator – each "key" had several different functions.

The video display generator of the ZX80 used very minimalistic hardware, plus a combination of software to generate a video signal. As a result of this approach the ZX80 could only generate a picture when it was waiting for a key to be pressed. When running a BASIC program the display would black out. This prevented moving graphics etc. The later ZX81 improved on this somewhat because it could run 'slow' while creating a video signal, or 'fast' without generating a video signal.

The machine was mounted in a tiny white plastic case, with a one-piece blue touch membrane keyboard on the front. The entire system was about the size of two paperback book placed beside each other. It kick-started the 80s home computer craze in the UK.

It was the precursor to the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum.



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