Z80 emulation?

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Haemogoblin
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Z80 emulation?

Postby Haemogoblin » Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:44 pm

Hey guys

A random question
Back when the QL was launched my impression is that Sinclair tried to separate it as much as he could from the spectrum, so as to avoid people perceiving it as another home games machine. Would that be an accurate assessment? Also at what point did emulation of the spectrum spring up on the QL and was it any good?

If you read the wiki page and other sources, it sounds like one of the problems with the QL was businesses seeing it as another 'toy' games machines and Speccy owners being put off because it wasn't compatible with spectrum software. A sort of catch 22 situation which left me wondering how successful the system might have been had Sinclair promoted compatibility from the get go, thus giving an avenue of upgrade to existing spectrum users.


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Haemogoblin
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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby Haemogoblin » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:24 am

FYI The reason I ask is because I'm writing an article and I'd like to confirm whether my perception of the QL is anything near accurate. I started out on the Spectrum and C64 a few years after the QL had been and gone and dont have the luxury of first hand experience.

So input from any QL users from back in the day would be invaluable :D


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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby swensont » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:16 pm

Check out this forum post where the topic is the failure of the QL:

viewtopic.php?t=1228

This might have some useful information for you.

As for my view of "back in the day", I am in the US and Sinclair never really tried marketing the QL much over here. I think most of the QL owners were those that had other Sinclair computers. In the US, business mostly bought the IBM PC and the like. A few small businesses may have went with something else, but not in serious numbers.

Tim Swenson


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Haemogoblin
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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby Haemogoblin » Fri Feb 17, 2017 8:30 pm

Hi Tim

Thanks for the link and replying. I was surprised to see I've had a number of views but little response. Perhaps because it's treading over a well covered topic? Who knows lol

I read that Sinclair intended the QL to compete and also out perform the IBM PC of the day. Sadly I think the stunted release of the machine and the misleasing assurance of a 28 delivery time, cemented the Qls fate.


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Haemogoblin
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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby Haemogoblin » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:12 am

I ha chance to read the article, it highlights points I hadn't been aware of. But reassuring I found I wasn't too far from the mark :-D

Thank you for the link, it was most helpful!


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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby gregtaylor » Sun Feb 19, 2017 2:57 pm

Your is a very good question and there is probably no absolute answer, just a number of theories. To understand the QL, I think you need to start with the Spectrum. The Spectrum had a lot wrong with it (especially the dead-flesh keyboard) but its forte was a cheap price and a good spec, Z80 processor and 48K of RAM. Interestingly, I believe there were two completely different sets of users. An awful lot did buy it just to play games. Its primary rival in this was probably the C64 which also had a huge gaming community. Oddly though, the other main community were actual programmers - people grabbed by the programming habit and wanting to learn more. It was not long before new languages arrived: pascal, c, lisp, forth and a basic compiler. Even the fairly rudimentary basic could be switched out for BetaBasic or Megabasic. At the same time, the cheap initial computer began to expand, my own had a Saga keyboard, floppy drive and 80 character wide printer, it was no longer a cheap system but at least you could buy it over time. The last thing to note about Sinclair users was a certain loyalty (es existed with Acorn and Commodore users).

That sets the scene for what happened with the QL. Firstly, although initially exciting, the main advantages were that it was relatively cheap, powerful and, for the time, it seemed powerful with loads of memory (a whole 128KB). The trouble was these perceptions were not quite accurate. The supposed 32 bit CPU did not really stand up to scrutiny, yes it had 32 bit registers but internally, data was only 16 bits wide (2 calls per data fetch) and externally, memory was only 8 bit wide (4 calls per data fetch). That also meant the memory was not as huge as first appeared, with 4 calls to fill a register then a program in memory was larger than on a Spectrum where registers and memory were both 8 bit. Add to that a compromise keyboard and those mixed reliability microdrives and it suddenly lacked appeal for business use. Of course though, it was a new Sinclair and a great update for Spectrum owners - I was desperate from the start. In the case of the QL, it did not really take off as a games machine (initial high price?) but for programming it was a wow. New languages appeared from a number of sources, two great basic compilers and, of course, Superbasic itself which was easily a match for BBC Basic, then the comparator. And that, in my opinion, explains the smaller take-up. The QL was the wonder machine for Sinclair fans who wanted to program but that percentage was obviously not enough to generate sufficient sales. Not forgetting as well that the competition was becoming even larger, Memotech, Lynx, Dragon, you name it.

I am sure there are other opinions than mine but I personally beleive that the QL sold very well to its likely audience, Sinclair simply over-estimated the numbers. Just like the Spectrum, mine soon had twin floppy drives, extra memory, proper keyboard and lots of serious software. The QL remains a very interesting computer, it just could not convince business it was better than the IBM PC.


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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby janbredenbeek » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:54 pm

gregtaylor wrote:(...) I am sure there are other opinions than mine but I personally beleive that the QL sold very well to its likely audience, Sinclair simply over-estimated the numbers. Just like the Spectrum, mine soon had twin floppy drives, extra memory, proper keyboard and lots of serious software. The QL remains a very interesting computer, it just could not convince business it was better than the IBM PC.

Having had both machines in the '80s I can mostly agree with you. Sinclair's machines were aimed mainly at people who wanted to learn about computers and programming, and were very appealing to students with little money (like me at that time ;) ). But this was a niche market and most of the huge sales of the Spectrum came from games, despite the fact that the C64 was much better equipped in terms of sound and video hardware. The QL on the other hand was meant to be a business machine, but Sinclair made a number of bad decisions in the design and release process, like the 68008 chip, the Microdrives as storage medium, and the press announcement that came too early resulting in the release of unfinished and unreliable machines (which is killing in a business environment).
In QL Today's 2009/2010 volume, Tony Tebby has written a series of articles about this which are really worth reading - and fun to read too!

Jan.


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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby swensont » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:47 am

By the time the QL hit the US market, all of the hardware issues had been ironed out. When I got mine in April of 1986, I liked that I two storage devices. Granted they were kind of slow, but floppy drives were still expensive on those days. The QL Vision monitor was the best that I had seen on the market. The Commodore monitor was no where as good. The Sinclair printer with near letter quality was decent enough for my college papers. It was better than some of the printers at the college. I did a number of college papers on the QL and some programming projects. To demo one program I hauled my QL and monitor to college to demo the program with a professor.

With the 4 programs, the QL reminded me of Osborne's first CP/M computer. Due to his haggling, you could buy the Osborne 1 with software, for about the same price as the software. I don't buy what is popular, I buy what I like and can afford. My QL lasted far longer than something like a Commodore 128 that a friend had.

Tim


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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby vanpeebles » Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:14 am

What did the Professor make of the QL? :)


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Re: Z80 emulation?

Postby swensont » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:41 pm

Well, that was 30 years ago. IIFRC, I had the ICE rom installed and used that to fire up my program. I recall him liking the QL, but no details. This was the professor that taught my Graphics course and had Sun-2 workstations in his office.

Tim



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