[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Where’s the Bits?

June 30th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Timex-Sinclair 1000 Ad - 1982Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic computer….

The tiny computer you see above originated in the UK as the Sinclair ZX81, a wildly successful build-it-yourself kit computer. Due to strong sales, Timex struck a deal with Sinclair to market a fully assembled version of the ZX81 in the United States. They rechristened the unit “Timex-Sinclair 1000,” and the minuscule wedge became the first PC to sell for under $100 (US) fully assembled.

The diminutive, Z80-based 1000 was severely limited in function by its tiny membrane keyboard, its black & white display, no sound capabilities, and only 2K RAM. Despite that, it sold well in the US thanks to an incredibly low price. These days, Timex-Sinclair 1000s are relatively easy to find, and thanks to their nice shape, they make great doorstops.

[ From Personal Computing, 1982 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the cheapest computer you’ve ever bought?

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8 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Where’s the Bits?”

  1. SirPaul Says:

    A few years ago, I picked up a C64 at a thrift store for $.25, but it didn’t include the power supply. It was in a huge box with a bunch of keyboards. I think the people thought it was just another keyboard. I took another power supply I had from another C64, booted it up, and it worked perfectly.

  2. Layne Says:

    Does free count? I’ve given homes to a couple of laptops that were still servicable (well, technically, I traded two satellite receivers for one of them). As for cheapest brand-new, I spent about $280 (sans-monitor) for a cheap Fry’s desktop for one of my girls (512MB, 1.8MHz, 40GB) and she still uses it (although it now has 2GB of RAM).


  3. Anachostic Says:

    That was my first computer. I still remember that first day. I typed in my name. That was difficult and required a lot of backspaces, because the Sinclair 1000 had keys mapped to commands and you’d press one key and it would spit out “PRINT” or “GOTO”.

    So I got my name typed in and hit enter. It returned “SYNTAX ERROR”. I turned to my dad and said, “What? It doesn’t know my name?” In response he handed me the manual and said, “No, you have to read this first.”

    The next exasperating moment happened later when I couldn’t figure out how to fit 2 pages of code from the manual onto the screen. I thought when it scrolled up off the top, it was gone.

    I’ve gotten better at coding since then.

  4. Kitsunexus Says:

    Forget this terrible computer. SPECTRUM RULES!

  5. Brian Deuel Says:

    I wrote a routine on this gadget in assembly that let you control a guy walking up the side of a building, a la Crazy Climber. Since I already knew Z80 assembly from programming the TRaSh-80, it was fairly straightforward. Even at 3 MHz (I think; it’s been a long time), it was dog slow. I didn’t have enough memory to write a page-flipping routine, or maybe it was that I was just too lazy to try. In hindsight, I probably could have compressed the data for a page-flipping routine. But in the end it really wasn’t worth the effort. That ended my attempt to write b&w Crazy Climber for the ZX81, but it was fun anyway.

  6. Daniel Says:

    Nice. I still own a ZX81 (not a T-S 1000). I should boot it up to see if it still works… but I doubt it’ll look very good on my 52″ HDTV. 😉 (My Jakks Pacific Atari joysticks look terrible on it.) 🙁

    I have the 16K RAM expansion pack for my ZX81, and some homebrew cassette wires. What a neat little machine that was.

  7. Cary Groneveldt Says:

    I have a TIMEX Sinclair computer. lol

    I wanted one as soon as I read about it in OMNI.

    8^ ]

  8. Adam bratcher Says:

    My first one was one I bought at a yard sale in 1991 for $50.00. I do not recall the maker but it looked like a small suitcase. The keyboard popped off the front and there was a small screen in the main case that housed the rest of the system. As i recall, it ran on floppies and cassette tape. There was a helicoptor game I played a lot after it took 30 minutes to load up.

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