Altair 8800 name Was: Re: Altair 680 Expansion Boards?

Peter Corlett abuse at
Sat Dec 24 09:10:45 CST 2016

On Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 04:14:28AM -0700, Eric Smith wrote:
> On Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 3:59 AM, Peter Corlett <abuse at> wrote:
>> People who know Uncle Clive's unwillingness to spend a penny more than he
>> has to on bulding computers may wonder why they selected the relatively
>> expensive Z80 over the 6502, but it was because they managed to trick the
>> Z80's address-fetcting and instruction decoding cycle into generating video
>> on the ZX80 and ZX81, and thus saved more money elsewhere.
> The same trick works perfectly well with a 6502, and in fact was invented by
> Don Lancaster using a 6502 years before the ZX80 was designed. That doesn't
> really explain the choice of the Z80.

Interesting. I was of the understanding that the Z80 video hack didn't work on
the 6502 due to the latter being slightly pipelined and so the instruction
fetch cycle couldn't be abused in the same way. Perhaps Sinclair couldn't get
it to work on some dodgy 6502s that fell off the back of a lorry.

> Also, by the time the ZX80 was introduced, both the Z80 and 6502 were
> basically dirt cheap. Any premium price the Z80 had once commanded had long
> since evaporated.

If there was nothing in it, then it's a mystery why the Z80 was selected.
However, Sinclair wasn't exactly one for making rational design decisions based
on technical merit or industry best practice...

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