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Sinclair ZX81 Issue One

The ZX81 was launched on 5th March 1981 by Clive Sinclair as the successor to the ZX80, with a larger memory and improved mathematical functions. It was available ready-built (£69.95) or in kit form (£49.95). It was extremely popular due to its low cost and relative power, and as a result was well supported with software and peripherals by both Sinclair and other companies. The ZX81 was also extensively used in schools and colleges for educational purposes, many people working in the computer industry today had their first computer experiences with the ZX81. It was also the first mass-market home computer that was available to buy in high street shops like W.H. Smiths.

In the advertising of the ZX81, Sinclair boasted that the higher specification and lower price were a result of design. The ZX80 had reduced the chips in a working computer from around 40, to 21. The ZX81 then reduced that number to 4. The ZX81 was based around the Z-80A CPU which ran at 3.5MHz. It came with 1K of RAM, and 8K of ROM providing a simple BASIC interpreter. The other chip was an uncommitted logic array (ULA) chip from Ferranti which Sinclair advertised as their unique, custom-built, "master chip" which replaced 18 ZX80 chips. 

The RAM could be expanded externally to 16K with the 16K-byte RAM pack. The memory can be expanded externally to a maximum 64K, although this replaces rather than supplements the on-board memory. With only 1K of RAM and 8K of ROM, the ZX81 was not capable of colour graphics. However, it did not stop the sales of this machine, which sold over 1.5 million units.

The case was designed by Rick Dickinson, the in-house industrial designer at Sinclair Research Ltd. In 1981 the ZX81 won a British Design award. The computer was physically quite small measuring 167mm deep by 40mm high. The slim plastic case included a membrane keyboard and a single circuit board. The entire machine weighs just 350 grams.

The ZX81's successor, the ZX Spectrum, was released in April 1982. The ZX81 was discontinued in 1984.

Manufacturer: Sinclair
Date: 1981

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Sinclair ZX81 Issue One Articles:

Item Manufacturer Date
Memories - Learning with the ZX81 Unknown
Sinclair ZX81 - Review Jun 1981

Other Systems Related To Sinclair ZX81 Issue One:

Item Manufacturer Date
Prototype of MK14 Sinclair 1977
Science of Cambridge MK 14 + Original Keyboard Sinclair 1977
Science of Cambridge MK 14 - Original Kit Sinclair 1977
Science of Cambridge MK14 + Memory Expansion in wooden case Sinclair 1977
Science of Cambridge MK14 Sinclair 1977
Sinclair ZX80 8K Basic Sinclair 1980
Sinclair ZX81 with Basic EPROM Sinclair 1980
Sinclair ZX80 Prototype PDZ 4732 Basic ROM - Nine Tiles Sinclair 1980
Sinclair ZX80 Updated to ZX81 Sinclair 1980
Sinclair ZX80 Sinclair 1st June 1980
Sinclair ZX81 Kit Sinclair 1981
Sinclair ZX Spectrum Prototype Sinclair 1981
Sinclair ZX81 - Signed by Rick Dickinson Sinclair 5th March 1981
Sinclair ZX81 with Custom Case/Keyboard Sinclair 5th March 1981
Argentinian Sinclair Spectrum Sinclair 1982
Sinclair Spectrum with Homemade Keyboard Sinclair 1982
White Replica ZX Spectrum (Millionth Edition) Sinclair 1982
Early Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer Sinclair 1982
Timex Sinclair 1000 Sinclair 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum Console Sinclair 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum Console Sinclair 1982
ZX Spectrum Issue 2 With ULA Modification Sinclair 1982
Timex Sinclair 1500 Sinclair 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum Case (Signed) Sinclair 1st March 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k Sinclair 1st March 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 16K Sinclair 1st March 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum Computer - Early Issue Sinclair 23rd April 1982
Timex Sinclair 2068 Timex Sinclair November 1983 to 1989
Sinclair QL + Schön Keyboard Sinclair 1984
Investronica Sinclair Spectrum Sinclair 1984
Sinclair QL (German) Sinclair 1984
Sinclair QL (Signed) Sinclair 1984
Sinclair QL (US) Sinclair 1984
Sinclair QL (Property of Sinclair) Sinclair 1984
Sinclair QL Sinclair 1984
Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ Sinclair 1st June 1984
Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 Sinclair 1986
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128 Sinclair January 1986
Cambridge Z88 All In One Pack Sinclair 1987
Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3 (Currys Box) Sinclair 1st June 1987
Sinclair ZX Spectrum +3 Sinclair 1st June 1987
Sinclair PC200 Sinclair 1988
Cambridge Z88 With PC Link Kit Sinclair 1988

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH184. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.


Sinclair ZX81 Issue One

  Book Archive   [13]
  Games Archive   [100]
  Software Archive   [33]
  Type-in Listings   [18]
  Peripherals   [22]
  Promotional Items   [5]

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Sinclair ZX81 - Review
Memories - Learning with the ZX81

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