ZX81 killers (was: Microsoft open sources GWBASIC)

Jecel Assumpcao Jr jecel at merlintec.com
Thu May 28 20:57:31 CDT 2020

Jim Brain wrote on Thu, 28 May 2020 18:15:19 -0500
> On 5/28/2020 1:24 PM, Liam Proven via cctalk wrote:
> >
> >> .  Evidently, there exists a lower bound of functionality
> >> of computing capability in the US, and the little wedge just didn't make
> >> it.
> > No no. It wasn't that. It was _money_.
> I think we're saying the same thing, but...
> I agree all things revolve around money, and US folks appreciate a good 
> value.  But, given all of the options in the US, the ZX81's lower cost 
> did not appear to provide enough value, so it was passed over in lieu of 
> slightly more expensive options that offered many more features.

There were ZX81 ads in Byte magazine before the Timex thing. I bought
one (Brazil is 60Hz so it had to be an American version) as a major
upgrade to my MEK6800D2, but then replaced it with a TI99/4A.

The threat of the ZX81 (and a bit more distantly the Spectrum) in the US
lead to machines such as the TRS-80 MC10, TI99/2 and Commmodore C116 to
try to compete with it.

Then the video game crash happened which killed this market. In the UK
this nearly happened a little later as well, but Sinclair was saved by
Alan Sugar and Acorn by Olivetti while all other companies were less

Acording to Gordon Bell's theory of computer classes this shouldn't have
happened. Once introduced, the $100 computer should have remained a
viable class from the ZX80 to eventually the OLPC and then the Raspberry
Pi. My own theory is that the lack of a suitable storage device for this
class made it a passing fad in the 1980s. That would only change when
3.5" floppy drives dropped from over $100 to about $10 in the very late
1990s (though nobody took advantage of that), but specially when we got
pen drives and SD cards.


I think that the ZX81 class computers arrived later in the US and were
gone sooner. In the UK and other places they were around much longer.
Like a TV series that gets cancelled before the first episode airs, they
never even got a chance to be rejected by the American public.

-- Jecel

More information about the cctech mailing list