Rick Dickinson, ZX Spectrum designer, RIP

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Thu Apr 26 13:55:43 CDT 2018

On Thu, 26 Apr 2018 at 19:17, js at cimmeri.com <js at cimmeri.com> wrote:

> Very interesting to see this perspective from the UK!

Oh good. :-)

> Located in the U.S. (Washington, D.C), I started with an Apple II+ in
1979 as a 12 year old.

This confirms the sort of thing I read. US users had specifications of kit
we couldn't _dream_ of... big (for the time) high-end machines like the
Apple II and Atari 8-bits, with full-size full-travel keyboards, internal
expansion slots, monitors, floppy disk drives -- even multiple ones!

It took me years, as a teenaged university student, to save up enough to
add a disk interface and a single 5.25" DS/DD 80-track drive to my
Spectrum. That cost me about £150, and it gave me a Centronics printer
port, so I could add a Panasonic KX-P 1080 9-pin dot matrix printer --
another £75 or so.

I still used a portable TV, though. Monitors remained out of reach and the
Spectrum didn't even have a monitor port anyway.

Before that I struggled along with ZX Microdrives. I just bought a used
one, to try to 3D print replicas of the case, one for an SD card drive, one
for a Raspberry Pi...

They were crappy things -- 100 kB of not-very-reliable storage on an
endless tape loop in a tiny (postage-stamp sized) miniaturised 8-track
cassette -- but one drives and the interface were £80.


Stuff like expansion slots, disk controllers as a standard offering,
monitor and printer ports -- they were luxuries for rich people with
high-end micros.

> Out of curiosity, I later bought the Sinclair ZX-80, but coming from the
Apple, I thought the
> ZX-80 was horrid and not useable.

Compared to an Apple II, it probably was, to be fair.

> I later also tried the Timex Sinclair 1000.. better.. but still seemed
like a waste of time toy.

Slightly uprated version of the same machine, basically.

I guess the thing to try to imagine is that the ZX81 -- the basis of the
TS1000 -- was around a tenth of the price of the Apple II, and entirely
usable with a cassette recorder and a portable B&W TV.

In a country where people had say a quarter of the buying power of the USA,
*that* was an affordable machine. The Apple II wasn't.

The differential hasn't entirely gone, but nobody notices it or mentions it
now. Most don't know.

US petrol gasoline today: $2.80 per gallon. (£2 per 3.78 litres, or £0.52
per litre)

UK petrol today: £1.23 per litre.

We pay 2.5 x more than you for petrol.

Much the same applies to many ordinary groceries -- bread, beer, clothing,

"Median household income in the U.S. rose to an estimated $59,055 in
January 2018"

"The Office for National Statistics Salary statistics show and average
earning of £26,500"

US: £42,415 versus UK £26,500

That's why Sinclair did so well.

> Mind you, I had a monitor, and (2) disk drives on the Apple and had had
exposure to
> HP, DEC, and IBM minicomputers by the age of 16.

> Always with my nose into my own business, I'd no idea how fortunate I was
until reading
> of others' experiences here.

For comparison, I now live in Czechia. Still in the EU and not one of the

The average cost of living here in the capital is about 1/3 of what it is
in London. In the 2nd city, Brno, where I used to live, it was about 1/4 of

"Wages in Czech Republic increased to 31646 CZK/Month in the fourth quarter
of 2017"

That's a little over £1,000 per month, £13,000 a year.

Or $1,500 per month, $18,000 a year.

The USA has it a *lot* better off than most Americans realise.

As my former flatmate put it, when I put an iPad in his hands: "this is the
first time I have ever touched an Apple product. Nobody I know has an Apple
computer, or ever had."

Here in Prague, iPhones are common and I see MacBooks everywhere -- but of
course the city is full of tourists. By local standard, Apple kit today is
nearly as unaffordably remote as an Apple II was to me in 1982 when I got
my ZX Spectrum, second hand for £80.

Liam Proven • Profile: https://about.me/liamproven
Email: lproven at cix.co.uk • Google Mail/Hangouts/Plus: lproven at gmail.com
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