Retro Computers - ZX Spectrum +2 - Retro Computer

ZX Spectrum +2
ZX Spectrum +2
Oh Sugar, Alan's trading Spectrums!

The ZX Spectrum +2 was the first Spectrum machine manufactured by Amstrad.
The bearded entrepenuer had acquired the rights to all things Sinclair during 1986. I wonder if he told Uncle Clive he was 'fired'?

Anyway, it is not suprising that the Spectrum +2 is very similar in shape and functionality to the Amstrads own 8-Bit machine, the Amstrad CPC 464.

It was a kind of hybrid mix of the ZX Spectrum 128 and the CPC 464, which actually resulted in a pretty decent machine - and of course a classic games machine.

Even though it used several features of the CPC 464, such as the built-in tape recorder (snappily named and very eighties sounding the 'Datacorder') and a good full-stroke keyboard, it is above all an improved Spectrum 128.

The sound chip used in it was still the well-known Yamaha AY-3-8912 which was the sound chip of the MSX computers, Oric computers, and the Atari ST series. Many other computers of the 80’s used this well known and decent sound chip. Mr AY Yamaha was a popular piece of silicon.

As on the ZX Spectrum 128, two versions of BASIC were implemented:
  • 48k BASIC to remain compatible with the original Sinclair Spectrum (and many classic games)
  • 128k BASIC which was already introduced with the Spectrum 128

There was still a calculator mode in the start-menu but the 'Tape tester' option of the 128 had been removed since the tape-recorder was built-in.

As with the other 128K models, and due to the limitations of the Z80 CPU which can only address 65536 bytes, the 128KB RAM was not directly usable (unless used with bank-switching routines), but could be used as a RAM disk.

There were several versions of the Spectrum +2:
The Spectrum +2 (grey case) which had a motherboard nearly identical to that of the 128 Spectrum +2A and +2B (replete in a black case - really how it should be) which were simply Spectrum +3 computers with a tape-recorder built in instead of the disk drive. These models motherboards were quite similar to that of the +3, which is not surprising in the least.

The difference between the +2A and +2B was mainly due to a move in production from Hong Kong to Taiwan. The first ROMs developed by Amstrad for the + 2 model caused compatibility problems with the old Spectrum software, so they altered a few things in later ROMs to fix this slightly annoying issue.

The main advantage of this machine over a ZX Spectrum 128 was the built in 'Datacorder'. You had no need for that old tape deck anymore, and you no longer had to fiddle with volume controls and tone settings. Just stick the tape in, choose the load option (or type Load"" if you're in 48 mode) and press play. Even hyperloaders were more reliable with the +2 tape deck (sorry Datacorder). This made it (like all other Spectrums) a classic games machine.

Many folks trader their rubber-keyed models in for one of these, by this time your aged 48K model may have suffered from keyboard problems, as the membrane was known to perish after periods of intensive use. Especially if used it to play Daley Thompsons Decathlon without a joystick. It was good to have a 'proper' keyboard (it also helped with playing games), especially if you were a decent typist.

The only thing that put some people off was (unfairly) the fact that it was an Amstrad machine. The grey ones had lost the 'Spectrummy' feel, and even the +2A and B with the traditional black case failed to recapture that Spectrum charm. Still, you could use it with that large back catalog of software you had, which ensured the Spectrums longevity for another few years.

Gentlemen, trim your beards into a 'Sugar do', and hail the Spectrum +2! A fine retro computer.

To see further information about games, developers and software houses for this machine, go to ZX Spectrum Games

For more general Speccy info and vids go to Sinclair ZX Spectrum

We recommend trying to pick up one of these machines.
Look at computers for sale online or even locally.

If you don't want to get hold of the real hardware then try and download an emulator and download those classic games. Alternatively you could try and play them online.

MANUFACTURER: Amstrad (Under the Sinclair name)
MACHINE TYPE: Home 8-Bit micro (classic games machine)
BUILT IN LANGUAGE(S): Sinclair Basic (48K compatibility mode) and Sinclair Basic 128K
KEYBOARD: Full-stroke keyboard with 58 keys (same layout as the ZX Spectrum+)
CPU: Zilog Z80 A
SPEED: 3.5469 MHz
RAM: 128 kb (8 x 16k banks)
ROM: Spectrum +2: 32 KB Spectrum +2A/B: 64k
TEXT MODES: 32 x 24
GRAPHIC MODES: 256 x 192
COLORS: 8 with two tones each (normal and bright apart from Black which was only available in one tone)
SOUND: 3 channels, 8 octaves (Yamaha AY-3-8912)
SIZE / WEIGHT: 44 x 17,5 x 5,5 cm / 1,525 kg
I/O PORTS: Plenty. UHF PAL TV port, Serial interface (RS232) port, Parallel Printer port (8 bit), Auxiliary interface port, RGB Monitor (and PERITEL TV) port, MIDI output port, Two Joystick ports, Tape/Audio Out, Expansion I/O port (full Z80 bus)
BUILT IN MEDIA: Tape Recorder (Datacorder)
POWER SUPPLY: External PSU Spectrum +2 = 9v DC, 2.1A (centre polarity = -ve), Spectrum +2A/B = 5V @ 2A, +12V @ 200mA, -12V @ 50mA (Spectrum+3 PSU can be used)
PRICE: £200 (UK 1986)

Retro Computers and classic games


Scaramanga said...

I had three of these +2’s, the keyboard kept failing, the guy in the shop got fed up and gave me a new +3 instead. Both were great machines but with definite build quality issues, the +3 had API's or routines/keywords to use old school terminology to allow you access to the disk drive, RAM disk, I did a fair bit of basic programming on these system. Games were definitely a step up and sound was top notch, I had many a happy evening playing operation wolf with the speccy light gun.

I would note, when using the 48K compatibility mode some games would not load, I assume the 48K was an emulator built into the ROM, not sure, maybe the techie guys can clarify that one.

The built in datacorder was the way to go though, external datacorders such as the 600XL and 800XL Atari’s used could be temperamental. Keyboard was fragile in my experience but gave great feel and you’d be hacking into the WOPR for a nice game of chess before you knew it.

Overall they were good machines, I sold mine when I went to College to study software engineering, been a student I thought partying funds was more important but in hindsight I wish I’d kept it, it was no Atari ST but a great machine none the less when they keyboard wasn’t going wonky.

Ahhh, happy days :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for you comments Scara... my +2 keyboard never had any issues with the keyboard - you must've been too rough with it! ;-)