Sinclair ZX81 Software


The ZX81 syntax-checking is excellent because, unlike the ZX80's, instead of operating on each character as it's entered, the system waits until NEWLINE is hit. Finding your way around the keyboard at first is a real hoot - some of the keys have five functions. As before, the single stroke keyboard entry is a joy to use and the automatic spacing inserted by the system makes program listings clearly legible. For example, if you tried to enter 10FORN=1T010, it would appear as 10 FOR N=1 TO 10. Pretty neat, huh?

Benchmark Timings
(in seconds)

* couldn't be done

Editing is very simple. You position the cursor on the line to be modified, hit the EDIT key and then make your corrections. Additional characters and functions are automatically inserted at the cursor position within the line while RUBOUT deletes the character or function to the cursor's left. A touch on the NEWLINE key confirms the changes.

The machine can be used as a calculator but shouldn't be bought for that purpose since the precision is less than one would expect of such a device. It is, however, far better than the integer-only ZX80, offering +/-10+/-38. If numbers get out of hand it presents results in standard scientific notation. For those who can't readily visualise this level of accuracy, it means numbers up to 4,294,967, 295 can be represented with complete accuracy. That's 232-1. The smallest positive number is about 4 x 10-39. Five bytes are needed to store a number, which goes a long way to explaining why the Benchmark timings are slower than with the ZX80, which only required two.

An enonnous number of functions have been crammed onto this rather small keyboard. This has been achieved by using two special keys: graphics, which allows the user to key all the graphic characters as well as the normal characters as white on black; and function, which allows the user access to (surprise, surprise!) special functions. A normal mode of operation also exists. In addition to all this, the keyboard has a bog-standard shift key, thus increasing the range of options for each key still further

The character set is a one-off - it's not ASCII or anything I recognise. I think we'd be safe if we called it Clive code. The TV display isn't exactly memory-mapped - it tends to move around and change its size depending on what's going on. It is, however, possible to find the start of the screen area and then to access the screen by PEEKing and POKEing the screen locations in the buffer.

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