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Sinclair ZX Spectrum Story - Birth of a Classic | Nostalgia Nerd

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The ZX Spectrum is 35 years old on 23rd April 2017, and it also holds a very special place in my heart, so it's time to wish it a happy birthday... It's the machine I grew up with and which led me to creating this very channel. I've covered the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the past, but frankly I didn't do it justice, so we're revisiting Sir Clive's iconic 8 bit home micro in detail, starting with The Sinclair Years in this two part documentary. This first part explores Clive Sinclair's early years, from his childhood to the formation of Sinclair Radionics in 1961, through the mini amplifier period, pocket calculator, black watch and finally his range of computers, starting with the MK14 and culminating in the ZX Spectrum 128k. We'll look at the people involved behind the Spectrum such as Jim Westwood and Chris Curry and explore other avenues such as the famous punch up between Clive and Chris in a Cambridge pub. So hold on tight, and let's get cracking with Jet Set F**king Willy. Many thanks to Ashens https://www.youtube.com/user/ashens and Slopes Game Room https://www.youtube.com/user/djslopesroom for their voices. ☟Sharing☟ If you wish to share this video in forums, social media, on your website, *please do so*! It helps tremendously with the channel! ☟Subcribe☟ https://www.youtube.com/user/nostalgianerdvideos?sub_confirmation=1 ✊Support Me! ✊ *Please consider supporting the channel on Patreon*: https://www.patreon.com/nostalgianerd?ty=h Visit my eBay Shop: http://ebay.to/1QQpYyy Buy From Amazon (Amazon give a small commission to my affiliate account): http://amzn.to/2iGA3Yq ★Join me on Social Media★ Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nostalnerd Face: http://www.facebook.com/nostalnerd Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/nostalgianerd Web: http://www.nostalgianerd.com ★Equipment★ Lumix G6 with Vario 14-42mm Lens Nikon D3200 with 40mm Macro Corel Video Studio Ultimate X9 Corel Paint Shop Pro X6 Blue Snowball Microphone ♜Resources♜ Music; The Place Inside 00:10 Chess Pieces 00:40 Switch It Up 03:30 Take That Back 08:00 Which Way is Up? 10:30 Long Way Home 14:40 Come On In 17:50 Coast 22:30 Scarlet Fire 27:00 Omission 29:40 Hall of Mirrors 32:10 Hollywood High 34:10 Funk Down 37:30 Moth 41:30 Cybernoid (ZX Spectrum 128k) 42:50 Pacific Hike 45:20 I Love You 47:10 All music other than ZX Spectrum chiptunes are royalty free, sourced from Youtube audio library. Other than the resources listed throughout this video, the following references were used; http://www.torrens.org/Sinclair/imgs/03_36.jpeg Adverts - https://nosher.net/archives/computers/yourcomputer_1987-11_001_sinclair Timex Dundee - http://craigsretrocomputingpage.eu5.org/zx81production/zx81production.html Rick Dickinson - http://www.polymathperspective.com/?p=813 Prototype ZX82 - Rick Dickinson If you believe I have forgotten to attribute anything in this video, please let me know, so I can add the source in. It takes time to make these videos and therefore it can be easy to forget things or make a mistake.
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Text Comments (428)
NewsRedial (6 days ago)
Seems like Britain was in a position to dominate the world in computing in the early 80's.
Paul Cordingley (7 days ago)
I just love your documentaries and style. Wanted to watch something retro, the ZX Spectrum popped into my head, and here I am. You do not disappoint. Thank you.
Graeme (11 days ago)
I had a Spectrum 48K, then a Spectrum +3 and my dad had a QL... this brought back so many memories of my childhood in the 80s.. Thanks
The Downliner (14 days ago)
No part 2?
Curtis Newton (14 days ago)
£5.19.26 wtf is this for a (pounds) price ???
Timsalt3100 (16 days ago)
What happened next... My memory does not stretch back 30 odd years but the recent vega+ plus was a disgrace on the sinclair name
Leepshin (20 days ago)
6 "D" each? What the hell does that mean? Sixpence? I'm British and even "I've" no idea what the "D" means. Someone please enlighten me?
Finn Driver (25 days ago)
I'm too young to have enjoyed the spectrum, but I love it's games and history. I really hope to see similar videos about the Raspberry Pi in many years to come.
TheNintendofangirl ! (25 days ago)
ha i allways wondered what the old WHsmith looked like !
David of Yorkshire (26 days ago)
Sinclair was a visionary with bad business skills, Bill Gates, Alan Sugar and the others where business men who had little skill but lots of experience in marketing. If someone had held Sinclair back he would have created a lot over the years, but he kept overreaching. He was well ahead of his time and the creative curve, but should never have been making the daily business decisions, only direction and policy. Unfortunately these days the creators are confined to little boxes so they can't cost the business money. But also they fail to give those leaps in technology, innovation and creativity.
Jim up The bob (1 month ago)
Yessssssss Dundee! (Is anyone watching also from Dundee?)
Applecompuser (1 month ago)
Outstanding. Reminds me of my first computer which I still remember fondly.
Madpegasusmax (1 month ago)
I started with a ZX 81 with one external extra memory module and later to the ZX Spectrum 128K +2 , both still work perfect :D
Hyreia (1 month ago)
Ashens! <3
TheZXKUQYB (1 month ago)
That was freaking awesome, a view of computing from the UK vs USA.
Mário Brito (1 month ago)
Great video, cheers! Was kinda hoping for a mention of the Sam Coupe at the end tho ;)
Eddie Dunckley (1 month ago)
The ZX Spectrum changed my life: It shaped my whole future career. Thank you SIR Clive!!!
Psycandy (2 months ago)
astonishing in detail, an incredible insight into the birth of the microcomputer. amazing, very well done.
Gonzo Gaming (2 months ago)
I still have my original Speccy 48+, still works, small mod for composite video otherwise original.
lionnotube (2 months ago)
Bravo!!! an impressive work of incredible documentation! Congratulations for this fabulous job !!! Sorry for my bad English... Signed: a little French boy lost in the south of France!
Khola (2 months ago)
jet set... WILLY!
Andi Sadler (2 months ago)
zx 81 i got after atari 2600
So, this guy was the next Alan Turing. Great video! Makes Gates and Jobs look like even bigger hacks.
Chris Pham (2 months ago)
So what will I take away from this? Sinclair is one opportunistic, lucky and creative motherfucker
John Stewart (3 months ago)
The C64 blew the Spectrum out of the water, but I liked Renegade for it.
Impromptu (3 months ago)
The BBC was produced in two models, the 16K Model A (£299) and the 32K Model B (£399). The As didn't sell as well as the Bs, but I had one of the first As off the production line (to replace my ZX81). It was possible to cheaply upgrade the memory to make a pseudo B. There were also substantial waiting lists for the BBCs and the earlier models had stability issues due to temperature problems.The general perception at the time was that the BBC was much the better machine (more capable for "serious" computing), the Spectrum and VIC 20 were regarded as more for hobbyists. Early IT professionals were certainly more interested in the Beeb. Not that the distinction much matters in terms of commercial success. Oh, and although there weren't nearly so many of them, the BBC games were far superior.
latengocomoburro (3 months ago)
But in the end the American brands dominated like they always do.
jdgonzo1982 (3 months ago)
Nice to hear Cambridge Consultants were involved - I applied for a job there once. The interview was pretty intense! They're very clever people over there. I think one of the other famous products they were creators of was the triangular tea bag...
Simon Hopkins (3 months ago)
Aww I miss my old 128k....waiting for daley thompson super test 128k taking forever to load only to keep failing at giant slalom or the never ending story with its theme tune playing all the way though the game (but sounded great as was another 128k title so used more than one channel). .
Gianluca Badejo (3 months ago)
The only video longer than 6 minutes i've ever watched. Great job. Going to look for part 2 now (if it exists yet ?)
Adro Harv (4 months ago)
back when different machines had their own flavour of feel from their games. Glorious times and a great proof that less is more. I had a C64 but my memories of the Spectrum are just as great. Phenomenal time and I feel very privileged to have been from this era
DanceySteve (4 months ago)
Load""
spicky !!! (4 months ago)
Remember : Horace Goes Skiing : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0bctXFnw-Y
AmstradExin (4 months ago)
Wow, I didn't know that the Atari 800XL was so much cheaper than a spectrum.....
Ensign 64 (4 months ago)
Are the condensed unspoken and too-fast-to-read subtitles at around 5:38 intended additional information, or leftovers of a previous version that was shortened in editing?
MGTOW Forever (4 months ago)
I got the Timex Sinclair zx81 in 1984 but with so little memory and $99 for a 16k memory upgrade and a terrible keyboard I traded it for a Atari 400 then Commodore vic20 and c64 it wasn't till 1986 when I went to a university and got to do programing on a xt 8086 pc with Microsoft basic I got to write custom educational software for friends in class that needed help with a particular subject I would write something just for them and what they were studying but it all started with the Sinclair zx81.
MGTOW Forever (4 months ago)
I just put a Commodore c64 with usb interface in my watch on ebay I didn't know they had the usb, plus got a few Atari's with usb in my watch the usb chages everything I got thousands of Atari and Commodore programs saved on my big computer but dam there going for as much as they were new LOL
blackcountryme (4 months ago)
louiewashere3 my first computer (my brother let me use his) was a Mattel Aquarius, it was awful, and I couldn't type programs in cos I had to spell colour as color... Wanted to smash it, but a few years later I got a 48k spectrum. I have two 128k ones a +2 and a toastrack, and a commodore 64C. All with SD card interfaces.
Ben Foster (4 months ago)
As a young child in the 80's alot of my friends had a spectrum in one guise or another but for some reason I felt very superior having a C64, better sound better graphics, better all round really 🕹
chris mcgilvray (5 months ago)
Just watching and when you reach the speccy plus you mention all the computers it can sit beside now except the amstrad that was outselling everything but the speccy and c64....the usual casual disregard for the cpc
mercster (5 months ago)
zed
The Boss (5 months ago)
My first computer was a Sinclair Cambridge programmable calculator. I connected a jack socket to the run button connected it to a 555 timer circuit pulsing a relay at 1hz to play lunar lander in real time.
TheTjoconnor (5 months ago)
where's the Trey Parker clip at 2:10 from?
Jeremy Cline (5 months ago)
In America, the Commodore 64 was the low-end computer to have, so we never got to play the Spectrum.
Jeremy Cline (5 months ago)
It was for the USA in the mid-eighties....at least in our neck of the woods, stuff like the Spectrum was not popular.
The Boss (5 months ago)
How was it low end ? Here the Spectrum was £99 and the C64 £399. And that £399 is like £1600 in today's money !
Ophibell (5 months ago)
40:45 I thought I heard Ashens! So glad I checked the about video for confirmation.
Gadget Reviews (6 months ago)
We finally have an app for downloading games from World of Spectrum website and configure games for Spectaculator emulator: ZX Gamer. Here is how to use ZX Gamer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWRJPdqQaTo And here is how to download it to your android device: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gadgetrviews.zxgamer
Jan Gelbrich (6 months ago)
What an incredibly comprensive video of computer history! You are setting new standards!
Chris Bloom (6 months ago)
Brilliant! My first computer was a ZZ81 in 1982. Growing up in Cambridge Clive Sinclair was a bit of a local hero. Brought back many memories.
Michael Burke (6 months ago)
Fantastic documentary. Thanks for this was really good to watch.
P Craig (6 months ago)
Super video! I wrote 2 business programmes on the Spectrum in the 80's, one to generate job cards and the other to record and report scientific data, that my work colleagues said were far more usable than the ICL mainframe programmes they were supposed to use! Great days !
Edward and Menno (6 months ago)
Again a video i keep coming back to. Video Game Crash of 1983? Not in the UK, and other European countries near the UK.
psammiad (6 months ago)
It's not "6d" - it's sixpence!
Bawa (6 months ago)
It's so strange to me to hear "Richmond, Surrey", as those are also both separate places in the Greater Vancouver Area that I've lived xD
mac salvor (6 months ago)
R.I.P Rick Dickinson
Phobe Romys (6 months ago)
My first computer! It was very popular in Italy as well - we even had dedicated magazines with a split cassette tape (Spectrum games on one side, C64 games on the other: all pirated, because of course)
solarbuduk (6 months ago)
Ah ... brings back memories I thought were buried for good!
Bastardo Borracho (6 months ago)
My brother brought me a Spectrum +3. Disk drive baby! OMG games that loaded FAST and didn't fail during load either. OMG. Of course I ended up with more games on tape than disk lol. Cant think why. (Looking at you Tape to tape dubbing).
HardWarUK (6 months ago)
BBC Documentary worthy. High praise Sir!
A - Metsan (6 months ago)
Interestingly according to this calculator: http://www.in2013dollars.com/1980-GBP-in-2017?amount=100 100 pounds in 1980 are roughly equivalent to 400 pounds in 2017. This in my mind really puts in to perspective how expensive computers used to be. Most of the computers commonly used today are around or below that price point.
Tequila MokkingByrd (6 months ago)
I always wanted this computer. A cassette tape driven computer
Tony J. Tigro (7 months ago)
SIXPENCE!!!!!
Fintan Moloney (7 months ago)
Very well put together documentary - really enjoyed it
Vaio San (7 months ago)
Captain Kirk is everywhere ! ;-)
Professor Dick-Butt (7 months ago)
I love this channel.
Eddie G (8 months ago)
I've stayed within 5 minutes walk of the Dundee factory for the past 30 years. My friends and I used to go up there looking for Sinclair goodies, we would often find demo tapes, computer cases, micrdrive stuff and things in their skips, but at one point my friend found a prototype 128k, only missing the heat sink. One piece of metal chair leg screwed to the side, and it came to life!
blackcountryme (4 months ago)
Eddie G I heard tales of how little they could cost if you knew someone at the factory, as a kid of 10 I wanted to go to Dundee and ask someone if I could get one cheap... I had to wait until I was 14 to get a second hand one.
Drone Mikey (8 months ago)
The best Sinclair documentary ever. 😀
MacJohnMcC (8 months ago)
Loved it. The only correction I'd say is that machines that used Microsoft BASIC also only used a byte or two for BASIC keywords the commands were tokenized when you pressed enter/return. This made it faster to run the code as well as the interpreter didn't have to try and parse the keywords at run-time. I miss the days of 8-bit!
Eric Min (8 months ago)
11:23 made exploding electronics before it was cool (cough SAMSUNG cough)
stamasd (8 months ago)
Ahh the ZX Spectrum... How many days I lost to that machine, I'll never know. It wasn't a "real" Spectrum but a clone - in the mid-80s the ULA had been reverse-engineered in the Eastern bloc (where I was born) and many local clones emerged. Often sporting improved hardware features. The one I had ( a Romanian clone called HC-91) had an optional Interface1 clone that allowed use of a 3.5" floppy drive, had 64K of RAM (including shadow RAM overlapping the ROM area) and because of these features it was able to run CP/M also. I didn't have an actual Sinclair machine until about 6 years ago when I acquired a +2A which I still use... And more recently I got 2 hardware emulators, both FPGA-based meaning that they actually reproduce the hardware at logic gate level; as well as various modern peripherals including an "interface 1bis" that allows for SD card storage, networking, serial and parallel ports, PS/2 mice and keyboards and even wifi. As you can tell, I never really got over the Spectrum. :)
Owen Raybould (9 months ago)
Really enjoyed this, thanks from an original Spectrum+ owner.
Tasos Kont. (9 months ago)
Hello guys? What's the name of the game in the thumbnail? With the lady and the guy? Thank you!
Paul Graham (28 days ago)
Jet set willy.
davidbrennan5 (9 months ago)
I did not know about this computer, I Live in Canada and I don't remember seeing this one here. It looks like it had a lot of great games and decent specs for its time.
Keung Kau (9 months ago)
I had a 128k Spectrum 007 pack; back to school , football manager , target renegade , paperboy , trap door and ninja scooter? were among many favourites my brother upgraded when he bought an Amiga 500 1989/1990 Batman pack.
I David (9 months ago)
@22:20 Why does the sinclair user club have stars of david floating around?
dave -weldore- newton (9 months ago)
20:14 "Clvie"
Karen McCulloch (9 months ago)
Simply a superb video, thank you.
mastrtonberry2 (10 months ago)
It's spelled "ZX" not "Zed X"... Holy shit...
SigmaDraconis87 (10 months ago)
In Britain english z is spelled zed not zee like in US english
dolst (11 months ago)
Over here in the US, we got a modified version with a cartridge loader known as the Timex Sinclair 2068. I owe most of my early computer education to that glorious machine. I always wondered about that two-color-per-cell limitation! Thanks for making this video. Glad to learn all this tech history! Surf Wisely.
Kasey Anderson (1 year ago)
I have the Timex SInclair 1000. Got it for $12. It apparently sells for about $150-$200 (21:55)
amojak (1 year ago)
you should do the trs80 model 1 , i still have one and my first job was servicing and programming these :) , it was a pretty fundamental computer and came out in 1978
amojak (1 year ago)
i remeber buidlign a sinclair class D audio amplifier way before class D was commercially practical. when built you powered it up, tweaked it a bit got some sound out of it then lots of heat followed by magic smoke and silence.. Those were the days...
The Channel Fadge (1 year ago)
my first gaming experience. Cant remember how old I was, but I remember pestering my parents for 'a computer' for my birthday and them eventually getting me a speccy. It must have been second hand because it came in a big brown box with duct tape round it, and there were a bunch of random games with it. I remember not being able to play it till after I got home from school but looking at the casette art for 'oh mummy' and imagining some egyptian themed platformer game (by then I think 16 bit consoles systems were probably hitting the market so thats what I expected the games to look like). What a shock I got when I actually ran the game! Still, I loved my spectrum, I knew one other kid my age who had one (his parents were probably too poor for a modern console too), so it felt like we were in some sort of special club, whiling away hours on bugaboo the flea whilst everyone else was playing sonic the hedgehog. good times, cant wait for the spectrum next.
blackcountryme (4 months ago)
The Channel Fadge mine was second hand too, Wednesday 8th January (can't remember the year) possibly 1986. After Christmas as the guy at my brother's work who was selling it was away.. no original games, I couldn't remember how to load games, from playing my firends some years earlier.. Then at 10:52 I pressed "j" and symbol shift twice, pressed play and play TLL.. (Tornado low level)
cjmillsnun (1 year ago)
fucking willy
caster troy (1 year ago)
jet set fucking willy. love the specy
js012a (1 year ago)
Excellently produced video, well done.
Klaus Morgenholz (1 year ago)
I had a Spectrum +2 here in Spain. I had to run the price in Pesetas a few times, just because I found the pronunciation funny :) 44.000 pesetas is about 264 euros if you use the 2002 conversion, and not adjusting for inflation.
nagius79 (1 year ago)
This is like the whole Clive Sinclair story, title is misleading. Great anyways.
Sundaydish1 (1 year ago)
Inslington? The video clip sound is out of synch too
johnny rotten (1 year ago)
Christ how much did this cost to produce? Even that semi famous actor in it from the office
Paul Gray (1 year ago)
wow loved watching this...my mum worked for sinclairs in the old st ives mill for many years, she used to solder up the wires etc. i used to have to walk to there for a lift home from school ...when it closed she ended up working for thandar which is still in huntingdon..altho they are now thurlby thandar. she said he was a nice genuine guy but got frustrated easily and when that happened you stayed clear of him. i eventually got a zx speccy 128 2plus with the cassette built in... its graphics werent as good as a commodore 64 but it had loads more games available for it at a cheap price....loved it to bits till one day as said on the vid i lost my rag with it when it couldnt load up a favorite tape and brought my fist down on it,teenage rage i guess...i regretted that day for a long time and missed having it.
wildmutationblu (1 year ago)
Sorry but I had to stop watching this to watch Micro Men :-)
Ian Taylor (1 year ago)
Alan Sugar is no ones friend.
jimdraw.com (18 days ago)
The Del Boy of silicon.
Ian Taylor ほほほほほぼぽと
richard mattocks (1 year ago)
Wonderful, well researched documentary worthy of the mighty Spectrum. I had a first generation 48K speccy and loved it. Never gave me any trouble and awakened a love of computing which lead to a 26 year long career in IT.
JETJOOBOY (1 year ago)
The QL style Keyboard sucked compared to rubber Keys Damnable thing
JETJOOBOY (1 year ago)
18:51 What is that Game? It looks like Atari Pacmania?! Is it relevant?
Muranaman (1 year ago)
Markforged has a carbon re-enforced plastic samples they give away, and the samples are simply amazing!Much stronger than steel, a small keychain can't be broken by the hand.. basically a filament with a carbon fiber string in the center, that will melt in the design, increasing the rigidity, strength, resistance etc.. of plastic.Quite expensive, but certainly good for replacing plastic parts that are meant to last!
June Langley (1 year ago)
Hang on! You didn't mention the ZX Spectrum 128k 2, which I have because my dad got it from his brother and then gave it to me. It has a built, in tape deck, the keyboard of the original ZX Spectrum and says "ZX Spectrum 128 2" on the front with rainbow colours in some of the numbers and letters. (I think it's the 128 and the 2)
Theo Buunermond (11 months ago)
It was a Spectrum in a kind of CPC jacket :)
amojak (1 year ago)
i think alan sugar bought out sinclair's computers by then and it was basically a cpc ..
WarpRulez (1 year ago)
I grew up with a ZX Spectrum 128+A. It's an important part of my youth. It was my first video game system. It was the first system for which I wrote my own programs, first using Basic, and eventually using asm. (Incidentally Zilog asm is quite similar to that of Intel, which helped me quite a lot later.) I'm a professional programmer today, and I started with the ZX Spectrum. In retrospect, it's a huge pity that they didn't make some simple additions to the ZX Spectrum, which would have made it a ten times better gaming system than it was, without compromising efficiency in any way. These simple changes would have been: 1) Use 16 colors for the foreground and 16 for the background of each 8x8 tile, rather than 8+8+brightness+blinking. This would have allowed for more colors to be used at the same time. 2) Make the colors paletted, rather than fixed. The colors in the palette itself could have been, for instance, 3/3/2-bit RGB (ie. one byte per palette entry). Also, make the foreground colors independent from the background colors (meaning that there would be one 16-byte palette for the foreground colors and another 16-byte palette for the background colors.) This would have allowed up to 32 different simultaneous colors from 256 possible colors. 3) Allow the color layer to be shifted by up to 7 pixels horizontally and vertically (this could have been achieved by, for instance, outputting a byte containing a pair of 3-bit offsets to an out port). The last one of course would have raised the question of what should happen with the edge colors, but even a completely lazy kludge (eg. they just wrap around) would have allowed for much better games than the fixed system that the Spectrum had. None of these additions would have compromised the efficiency of the system in any way, but would have allowed making games that look 10 times better.
yereverluvinuncleber (1 year ago)
Otherwise very goo video. Add a D.
yereverluvinuncleber (1 year ago)
Six 'D' each? FFS man, know what you are talking about before you spout. 6D is six 'pence'. No-one ever pronouced it 'D' in the history of mankind.
Wikus Van De Merwe (1 year ago)
Very well done. It took me back to a very happy and interesting time in my life!
Michael Guenther (1 year ago)
The first computer we almost had. My father bought one in the 80s with the wrong external PSU... and blew it up on first start. Elders and advanced technologies sometimes don't work well together.

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