Timex Sinclair 1000

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Timex Sinclair 1000
Zx81-timex-manipulated.jpg
Type Home computer
Release date July 1982; 34 years ago (1982-07)
Discontinued 1983 (1983)
Operating system Sinclair BASIC
CPU Zilog Z80A @ 3.25 MHz
Memory 2 KB

The Timex Sinclair 1000 (TS1000) was the first computer produced by Timex Sinclair, a joint venture between Timex Corporation and Sinclair Research. It was launched in July 1982, with a US sales price of US$99.95, making it the cheapest home computer to date; it was advertised as "the first computer under $100". The computer was aimed at regular home users. Unlike earlier computers aimed at home users, the TS1000 was not a kit which had to be soldered and assembled. As purchased, the TS1000 was fully assembled and ready to be plugged into the users' home TV (which served as a video monitor). The TS1000 was a slightly-modified version of the Sinclair ZX81 with an NTSC RF modulator, designed for use with North American TVs, instead of the UK PAL RF modulator which was used for units sold in Portugal. The TS1000 doubled the onboard RAM from 1 KB to 2 KB. The TS1000's casing had slightly more internal shielding but remained the same as Sinclair's, including the membrane keyboard. It had black-and-white graphics and no sound. It was followed by an improved version, the Timex Sinclair 1500 which had substantially more RAM (16 KB) and a lower price (US$80). However, the TS1500 did not achieve market success, given that the marketplace was by this time dominated by Commodore, Atari and Apple.

History[edit]

Like the Sinclair ZX81, the TS1000 used a form of BASIC as its primary interface and programming language. To make the membrane keyboard less cumbersome for program entry, the TS1000 used a shortcut system of one-letter "keywords" for most commands (e.g. pressing "P" while the cursor was in "keyword mode" would generate the keyword "PRINT"). Some keywords required a short sequence of keystrokes (e.g. SHIFT-ENTER S would generate the keyword "LPRINT"). The TS1000 clued the user in on what to expect by changing the cursor to reflect the current input mode. Timex claimed to have sold 600,000 TS1000s in the US by early 1983, and other companies imported localized versions of British software.[1] It sold for US$99.95 in the US when it debuted, making it the cheapest home computer to date; it was advertised as "the first computer under $100". This pricing initiated a price war with Commodore International, who quickly reduced the price of its VIC-20 to match and later announced a trade-in program offering $100 for any competing computer toward the purchase of a Commodore 64. Since the TS1000 was selling for $49 by this time, many customers bought them for the sole purpose of trading them in for a Commodore 64.

The TS1000 was normally plugged into a regular TV, which served as a monitor. The computer only produced a black-and-white display, which had 32 columns and 24 lines, 22 of which were normally accessible for display, with 2 reserved for data entry and error messages. The limited graphics were based on geometric shapes contained within the operating system's non-ASCII character set. The only form of long-term storage was a home tape cassette recorder. The 16 KB memory expansion sold for $49.95. A shortage of the memory expansions coupled with a lack of software that would run within 2 KB meant that the system had little use for anything other than an introduction to programming. Home computer magazines of the era such as Compute! showed enthusiasts how to interface the computer with various kinds of equipment, providing the opportunity for learning about early speech synthesis technology through a Speak & Spell, robotics control through the memory port, and scrolling text displays for advertising.

Over time, the TS1000 spawned a cottage industry of third-party add-ons designed to help remedy its limitations and provide more functions. Full-size keyboards, speech synthesizers, sound generators, disk drives, and memory expansions (up to 64 KB) were a few of the options available. Languages such as Forth and Pascal, as well as BASIC compilers and assemblers augmented the TS1000's programming possibilities. Computer enthusiast magazines from the early 1980s included articles that contained the programming instructions for simple games and programs that could be used with the device. Microcomputing magazine published an article in April 1983, criticizing the membrane keyboard ("The designers of the Timex-Sinclair 1000 ... reduced this important programming tool to a fraction of the required size") and describing how to connect external full-size keyboards.

Timex Sinclair 1500 [edit]

Timex Sinclair 1500

The TS1500 was an upgraded TS1000 with a better keyboard and 16 KB RAM.[2] Timex Sinclair (TMX Portugal) designed the TS1500 and offered it to the Timex Corporation; they used the TS2000 (ZX Spectrum) silver cases that were never used because of the launch of the TS2068. The TS1500 replaced the earlier machine's ZX81-like case with a silver ZX Spectrum-like case, the same ZX Spectrum rubber keyboard, and a custom ULA. The TS1500 did not incorporate the Ferranti ULA. The TS1500 used a standard television for its display, "broadcasting" on either channel 2 or 3. It defaulted to TV channel 2, but if the "3" was pressed on the keyboard within a few seconds of turning the computer on, it changed to channel 3 instead. Although the TS1500 came with 16 KB internal RAM, an external 16 KB RAM pack could be added for a total of 32 KB RAM. A few keyboard commands (POKEs) were required for the system to recognize the additional memory space (the RAM pack is multiplexed to the start of the RAM). The TS1500 sold for $80[2] and was not a commercial success because it was launched too late. The ZX81/TS1000's successors, the ZX Spectrum/TS2068, were already available, and the home computer market in general was dominated by Commodore, Atari and Apple. It was sold in the United States and Portugal.

Bugs[edit]

There are two little-known software differences between the TS1000 and TS1500.[citation needed]

On the TS1000 and ZX81, the command:

LPRINT 0.00001

results in the Timex printer outputting 0.0XYZ1. This well-known fault was corrected on the TS1500.

The TS1000 runs the following loop correctly, but the TS1500 does not; it makes one fewer iteration than it should.

10 FOR I=0 TO 1 STEP 0.25
20 PRINT I
30 NEXT I

Peripherals[edit]

Timex Computer Corporation produced a cartridge interface for the TS1000, the Timex Sinclair 1510 Command Cartridge Player. Only four cartridge titles were ever released:

  • 07-9001 Supermath
  • 07-9002 States and Capitals
  • 07-9003 Chess
  • 07-9004 Flight Simulator (Required the 16K RAM pack) The program took 12 minutes to load.

The TS1510 can be used with a TS1000 and a 16 KB RAM pack (an additional RAM pack). Users could also load programs using a tape recorder and compact cassettes. The computer was designed to be plugged into a regular TV, which served as the monitor.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bradbeer, Robin (1983-03). "Timex upgrades Spectrum". Sinclair User. pp. 83–84. Retrieved 28 January 2015.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ a b Mitchell, Peter W. (1983-09-06). "A summer-CES report". Boston Phoenix. p. 4. Retrieved 10 January 2015. 

External links[edit]