Rick Dickinson, ZX Spectrum designer, RIP

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Thu Apr 26 15:37:43 CDT 2018

On Thu, 26 Apr 2018 at 21:33, Mark J. Blair via cctalk <
cctalk at classiccmp.org> wrote:

> Over here in the US, I remember seeing the Sinclair QL in a magazine
(probably Byte?) and thinking it looked exotic and interesting. I thought
the little tape drives looked neat, and didn’t know enough to appreciate
how much better a floppy drive would have made the system.

> I have no regrets at all about getting an Amiga 1000 to take to college,
and now I appreciate even better than then just how lucky I was. But to
this day, I’d still like to play with a QL and get an idea of what it would
have been like to head off to college with a shiny new one of those. There
are a few other UK computers which I’m also curious about, since they’re
not so common over here in the US.

Speaking of Byte, that reminds me -- I've put a bunch of Smalltalk-80
related material on Scribd, including Byte's August 1981 special on


The QL was a weird machine. It predated the Mac by a matter of weeks and in
crude spec terms was comparable -- 128 kB RAM, 68008 vs 68000, 2 x 100 kB
Microdrives versus 1 x 400 kB floppy. The QL did sound and colour, mind.

But Sinclair totally failed to spot that the next big thing was the GUI.
The QL didn't have one. It was an enhanced 1980s 8-bit -- with limited
colour and sound, limited storage and expansion, but a big flat memory
space (for the time), multitasking, a ROM BASIC and so on.

I tried to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the QL, the ST
and the Amiga here:

The Mac brought the GUI to the masses, albeit in far more limited form than
Xerox PARC had intended -- or even than the Lisa.

The Amiga added stunning multimedia to that, at a price, although still a
fraction of the Mac's.

The ST cut the Amiga's amazing abilities down to something more like the
Macs, but still offered better-than-any-8-bit graphics and sound, enough
for great games.

I looked at all of them and bought an Archimedes. :-D

FAR more CPU power than any of them, a pretty good GUI, an excellent BASIC
programming environment, and better sound and graphics than the ST, near
the Amiga's but not quite. It hit the sweet spot for me.

It was a _great_ machine, IMHO. But so was the Amiga, and so in its way was
the Mac and the ST.

The QL... not so much, I'm afraid.

But I remain intrigued by them. I am hoping to learn enough Object Pascal
that, via Ultibo, I can do a bare-metal QL emulator for the Raspberry Pi.
The QL had a very interesting, unique OS, and 2 forks of it are now FOSS.
I'd love to bring them to the Pi.

Liam Proven • Profile: https://about.me/liamproven
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