Sinclair QL + Schön Keyboard
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The Sinclair QL (QL standing for Quantum Leap), was a personal computer launched in 1984, Sinclair himself did not like the fact his Spectrum computer was largely seen as a games machine. He wanted to compete in the lucrative business computer market. Although being considerably cheaper than it's competitors, a rushed development led to poor reliability, and initially a whole run of machines that did not work as advertised all but doomed the machine before it had been on the market for any length of time.
The computer was designed to be staunchly incompatible with the Spectrum, with software companies encouraged to write business type software, such as spreadsheet and accounting.
The main problem with the QL was it's choice of media, the Microdrive. This was a tiny cartridge that had a continuous reel of tape inside.
Although the drives and media were cheaper than the disk drives of the day, and kept the size of the machine to a small size for the desk, unfortunately the drives themselves were less than reliable.
The tapes if used with the same QL would work well enough, but if inserted into another machine would often not read or become damaged, as each drive was differently calibrated.
Though a 3.5" floppy drive was later brought to market, the machine was in steep decline, and it was also expensive.
The Microdrive had not been a successful media on the Spectrum, so it's inclusion on the QL was not exactly a welcome one.
The QL was originally conceived in 1981 under the code-name ZX83, as a portable computer for business users, with a built-in flat-screen CRT display and internal modem. As development progressed, and ZX83 became ZX84, it eventually became clear that the portability features were over-ambitious and the specification was reduced to a conventional desktop configuration.
Based on a Motorola 68008 processor clocked at 7.5 MHz, the QL included 128 KB of RAM (officially expandable to 640 KB) and could be connected to a monitor or TV for display. Two built-in Microdrive tape-loop cartridge drives (first seen as a peripheral for the ZX Spectrum) provided mass storage, in place of the more expensive floppy disk drives found on similar systems of the era.
Interfaces included an expansion slot, ROM cartridge socket, dual RS-232 ports, proprietary QLAN local area network ports, dual joystick ports and an external Microdrive bus. Two video modes were available, 256×256 pixels with 8 RGB colours and per-pixel flashing, or 512×256 pixels with four colours (black, red, green and white). Both screen modes used a 32 KB framebuffer in main memory.
The case was another classic design by Rick Dickinson, and the machine is still sought after with plenty of aftermarket products to lessen it's shortcomings, such as an internal SD interface.
The QL was removed from the market as soon as the takeover deal with Amstrad was completed.
This unit is fitted with a sturdier Schön keyboard with the same key configuration as the original QL. This together with various accessories was kindly donated by Bob Haslam.
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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH13833. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.
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