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The ZX Spectrum Ula: How to Design a Microcomputer (ZX Design Retro Computer) Paperback – 30 Jul 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: ZXDesign Technology and Media (30 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956507107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956507105
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

If you have ever wanted to design your own computer or wondered what was behind the most successful microcomputer of the 1980s, then this is the book for you.

For the first time, the inner working of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum's custom chip and heart of the computer, the Ferranti ULA, is exposed in minute detail.

Packed with over 140 illustrations and circuit diagrams, this book takes the reader through the cutting edge technology that was the Ferranti ULA and the design of the ZX Spectrum home computer, illustrating the principles and techniques involved in creating a cost effective computer that required nothing more than a television set and a cassette recorder.

The ZX Spectrum ULA is an essential read for the electronics hobbyist, student or electronic engineer wishing to design their own retro-style microcomputer or anyone with an interest in historical micro-electronic and digital design.

All topics are explained in simple yet precise terms, building on their careful introduction towards the full functionality presented by the Sinclair computer.

Some of the topics covered are:

The architecture of the standard microcomputer,
Ferranti and their ULA, manufacturing process and structure,
The functional layout of the ZX Spectrum ULA,
Video display generation,
Memory contention and timing,
ZX Spectrum design bugs such as "The Snow Effect",
Hidden features,
ULA version differences.


Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By richardtoohey on 17 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting blend of history/people and technology.

I was looking for an overview of the Spectrum hardware (I did not have one back in the day) and where the ULA fitted in to that (Ferranti also did the ULA for the Acorn Electron) and this book hit the nail on the head for me. I particularly wanted to know how the graphics on the machine worked.

Some of it way over my head, but the information I was looking for was definitely there and explained well. Short chapters, so easy to skim the technical detail I wasn't interested in and get back into my comfort zone, and didn't feel there was unnecessary padding.

Criticisms - minor one - I think the second chapter - very low-level detail on integrated circuits - might have been better placed at the end of the book or as an appendix. For me it was really heavy going for such an early chapter and it didn't get the book off to a good start ... but I persevered and it swiftly picked up in chapter 3 onwards.

Not sure I would be able to "design a microcomputer" after reading this book, but definitely a good read from a programmer's perspective.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Trafferth on 14 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this excellent book over the course of a week's camping trip on the Isle of Wight this summer.

In short; it has been a long time since I have read a technical book with as much enjoyment. Concise, consistently interesting and intelligently organized - I have recommended it to several of my retro-computing inclined colleagues. My fiancée was giving me odd looks throughout the camping trip as I was reading it since I kept saying things like "aha! So *that's* why that's there!" at regular intervals.

Highly recommended to anyone with a technical interest in the ZX Spectrum! :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carsten on 26 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
As a hobbyist/beginner HDL programmer, this book is an absolute must read. It's truly inspiring to see and learn the tricks employed by past masters. It certainly gave me lots of insight and ideas to try out in my experiments.

I'm also a sucker for computing history, facts and anecdotes, so the chapters on Ferranti and its ULA architecture development efforts were extremely interesting.

I was kind of expecting the full logic gate schematic of the ULA to be included, sadly it's not. Although there is enough information to recreate it fairly accurately, I believe.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By mat anger on 29 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm about as far as you could get from being a hardware guy, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the read.
I love the exceptional detail in background story and anecdotes on the speccy design process.
This book explains things that I always assumed were just random design decisions, like blue being colour 1.
This book is the definitive reference for the 'soul' of the speccy, I've never seen anything like it, and we probably never will again.
Absolutely Brilliant.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By I. Zorzin on 7 July 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is simply amazing, from begin to end you can see that great care been put in creating it.

The amount of information you'll find in about the ZX ULA, its history, how it works, how it's been made, I really don't think you'll ever find more than what is present here, the author certainly done all is best to find all the best information and present it as clearly as possible.

This is definitely *THE* book if you wish to understand the ZX ULA, I like the way every chapter explains in very high detail every single aspect of it, this book really has so much information it could be called "Everything you wanted to know about the ZX ULA and even more".

This book literally kept me hooked to it for weeks ( I am not a super fast reader ) with a lot of "Aha !" "Ooh !" "Ah that's why !" moments.

What also will make you love this book even more is the fact that when you'll know so well in detail what the ZX ULA really is really "not very much", compared to today's FPGAs/CPLDs/etc. , you will feel the genius of the people that worked on it and that managed to really do "so much with so few".

It's almost incredible how they managed from such a chip to make it perform all the functions they needed for the ZX Spectrum and this book lets you know how.

Finally it's really very well done in all the aspects, the typesetting and composition is really good, this is definitely "a very readeable book".

I would finish to add that even if you really are not into the ZX ULA it should not matter, anyone into electronics that wished to know how things work should have a copy of this book for "reference" and study it because it will give you lot of ideas.

Said that this book is also very much tempting me to get a bunch of transistors and see if the ULA could be really rebuilt form scratch piece by piece.

I highly reccomend this book, it really is a kind of book you won't find many like this one.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. P. Brown on 5 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
I first found the zxdesign.info website while looking up information about creating my own computer system from TL logic gates. When I saw Chris was writing a book to detail the inner workings of the Spectrum ULA I signed up for a copy straight away. Im glad to say I wasnt disappointed with the book. It is very well written and contains alot of information, including the history of chip design and ULA's. It goes into great depth about how the designers of the spectrum overcame various issues as well as managed to fit the entire design onto the ULA.

This is a great read for people interested in a wide range of aspects of ula design, spectrum inner workings and computers in general.
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