Sneaking up on the “Sinclair” stand at this year’s PCW show/madhouse, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. True enough, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 was there. Just like everyone’s been saying since Amstrad bought out Sinclair all those moons ago.
I prised a +2 from where it had been nailed to the table. It wasn’t underneath it. It wasn’t bolted to the end or sticking out the back. It wasn’t even inside.
It might well be an Amstrad. But it hasn’t got a stigma attached to it.
The big A’s done a pretty good job of tarting up the late and great Speccy 128. £150 gets you a 128 in a nice grey case and somewhat less change than you’ll need for the bus home.
It’s got an Amstrad-style built-in cassette deck to reduce the chances of accidentally strangling the cat with all those leads. In theory, it’s more reliable too and you don’t even have to faff with a volume control. But be warned – there’s no tape counter, which is less of a good idea.
The keyboard’s much improved. Amstrad’s made the big decision to wipe off all the old Basic keywords so not only does it feel better, it looks better. Bit of a problem when you come to program in 48K Basic mode though. You can’t see what you’re doing.
There are two built-in joystick ports too though Amstrad has done the dirty and made sure you can’t use them with anybody else’s joysticks.
The only other new thingy is a sound socket on the back to let you get the sound out when there’s a monitor plugged in.
Software wise not a lot’s changed either. The copyright messages now mention this funny new company and the 128’s Tape Tester has been suppressed. Otherwise – all the same.
The +2 runs everything the 128 does. So it will work with many 48K tapes (in 48K mode) and the slowly growing pile of 128K mode taps. Amstrad is plonking a ‘Sinclair Quality Control’ sticker on all the games it has tested and warns you to beware of anything that hasn’t got one. However, if it says it will go on a 128, it’ll go on the +2.
But it works the other way round. All those tapes and hardware bits – like ZX Printers, disk drives, RGB adapters and so on – that don’t go on the 128, won’t go on the +2 either.
All-in-all, it’s got to be a goer. The +2 should give thousands of new people the ideal opportunity to get into Speccy computing – be prepared for an invasion. Best of all, it’s gonna give the software houses the final excuse they need to get on with producing decent 128 software.
Now we’re talking real manuals here! This one’s got all the techie stuff as well as great quantities of the original Spectrum’s Vickers/Bradbeer masterpiece. All the new stuff is pretty well written too and there’s a decent index.
A Sticky Problem
At long last, a Speccy with a built-in joystick port – two in fact! They’re compatible with the Sinclair/Interface II protocol which most games can handle (although Kempston is still the more popular).
What they’re not compatible with is any joystick except the thing pictured here – the new Sinclair/Amstrad SJS1.
Fortunately, this little bit of sabotage won’t stop all the Speccy’s add-on makers. Already, new joysticks are arriving with twin plugs for both old Speccys and the +2. Cheetah also has an adapter to let you use your normal joystick.