August 12, 2022, 04:34:36 am

Sinclair Spectrum questions

Started by moetzmoet, June 10, 2022, 03:01:02 pm

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I have a few questions on an original Sinclair Spectrum computer along with it's AC adapter. I'm hoping the older members on this forum might be able to answer.

1. I was told I should only need a normal cassette deck with an "out" plug to load up games. Will any cassette deck do? Or do I need one with some specific qualities?

2. When I find a suitable cassette deck do I just plug it into the computer with a normal audio cable into the "ear" slot?

I've googled for some of the info I needed already but can't seem to find really specific answers for these ones.

So which one of you dinosaurs had a Sinclair Spectrum growing up?  :bub:


I think Let had a ZX Spectrum growing up.

Although I don't have a Spectrum (I might get one some day as they are quite cheap) I think I know how they work. The ZX Spectrum uses the simplest form of tape drive connectors with just two 3.5 mm mono phone jacks EAR and MIC (exactly like Family BASIC), so you can use any cable with two male 3.5 mm mono plugs. Stereo plugs should also work but people say that they can cause loading problems so it's better to stick to a mono cable.
You plug the cassette deck audio output jack to the EAR on the Spectrum and the cassette deck record/IN/microphone jack to the MIC on the Spectrum. The EAR is the input on the Spectrum and the MIC is the output, they are labeled from the cassette deck's perspective.
When loading data from a tape the EAR jack is used and when saving to a tape the MIC jack is used, so you don't need both plugged in at the same time.

As for the cassette deck, it can be about any deck without any specific qualities other than that it must be able to play and record (if you want to save) to cassette tapes, it should have mono output and I guess it shouldn't be too cheaply made. You can also theoretically replace it with about any mono audio device that can play and record audio as it doesn't use a proprietary tape drive like the Commodore 64 for example. I had mixed results with that though so I stick to tapes.

If you just wish to load games it doesn't need to be able to record, but since the Spectrum lacks both cartridge port and an FDD, and it doesn't have any other way to save data so I imagine it would be pretty pointless not to being able to save, especially if you are going to do any programming on it. I don't know if any Spectrum games actually saves any data to an empty tape though, MSX games sometimes do.

There are some tape drive replacement devices like the ArduiTape, TAPuino and CASDuino that can play certain tape dump formats like TAP, CAS, CASS, TZX, SNA, T64 and sometimes pure WAV files, but they tend to be specific for certain computers (TZX is a Spectrum format) and they often lack functions like the ability to record which makes them a bit less interesting since they can't save in that case.
ArduiTape uses WAV files (so it works with ZX Spectrum, MSX, Family BASIC and about almost anything), but I'm not sure if it can record.