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Questions about Sinclair QL


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#1 Gunstar OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 7, 2011 6:42 PM

Hey everyone, this is actually the very first time I've ever posted or even looked in the classic computing forum. It's just that I usually go to forums pertaining to a particular computer or brand. But I thought I might get started here, since I'm not familiar with any Sinclair sites at the moment.

Anyway, I was actually a Sinclair owner and fan before Atari (in the computing arena). My first computer was the Timex/Sinclair 1000, the ZX81, with 16K expansion. I would have actually upgraded to the Spectrum and/or QL lines if it had not been for the fact that Timex stopped selling thier Sinclair line in the U.S. (and the fact the internet didn't exist yet, or I would have gotten Sinclair's from Canada or something). Of course I am glad it happened or I never would have discovered Atari computers.

I'm still curious about Sinclair QL though, I've always had a soft-spot for the company for allowing me to afford my first computer from paper-route monies. I always drueled over the QL and always wanted and still want to own one, even if it was not a success like the Spectrum. I will get one no matter what, so I'm not asking if I should get one, but I am curious as to if it has a substantial software library, good games and opinions of the QL in general.

Oh, and are there NTSC versions of the QL? Like from Canada? Or would I have to go with PAL?

Edited by Gunstar, Wed Dec 7, 2011 6:43 PM.


#2 ApolloBoy OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 7, 2011 8:19 PM

AFAIK, the QL was only released in the UK so there are no NTSC systems. There are very little games available for it and none worth owning from what I see. The vast majority of software for the QL are utilities and business programs, which makes sense since it was intended to be nothing more than a business computer. Personally I don't see the point of getting one at all except as a historical curiosity or for collecting purposes.

Edited by ApolloBoy, Wed Dec 7, 2011 8:23 PM.


#3 JamesD ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 7, 2011 8:35 PM

Should you get one? That's only something you can decide.

The OS was a little weird but fairly powerful from what I've looked at.
My biggest concern with the QL would be reliability.
Sinclair was great at making cheap machines... durable they weren't.
Bad keyboard membranes, dead power supplies, crappy stringy floppy drives (just my opinion)...
They are also pretty rare with collectors snapping up anything even slightly uncommon.

The machine does have a cult like following and I *think* someone released a faster system based on the QL OS.

Frankly, the Amiga, ST, and Mac all had more CPU horsepower given the 8 bit memory buss on the QL.
The QL is more programmer friendly than the 68K Macs.
A graphics & sound powerhouse it's not.

#4 Gunstar OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 7, 2011 9:15 PM

Thanks for the insight, as far as "powerhouse" for sound and graphics, show me a Sinclair that is one. I was hoping there might be a few good games though, but I do plan on collecting it for it's uniqueness and I think it looks totally cool too, and good or not, the QL's microdrive or whatever it's called fascinates me too. Of course I will eventually get a spectrum, most likely the last and/or most powerful one. But I just have to get a QL first.

Does the QL use a monitor, TV, or both? Did it have it's own monitor? Obviously I'll have to get a transformer for it to work on the 120v 60Hz US power, but I'm kind of hoping my 50/60Hz Commodore 1084 will do the trick for a monitor.

#5 ApolloBoy OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 8, 2011 1:27 AM

Does the QL use a monitor, TV, or both? Did it have it's own monitor? Obviously I'll have to get a transformer for it to work on the 120v 60Hz US power, but I'm kind of hoping my 50/60Hz Commodore 1084 will do the trick for a monitor.

The QL has RGB output like the Speccy 128 does through an 8-pin DIN jack, but I have no idea if it's the same pinout as the 128. It does have RF output but that'd be pointless if you're going to use RGB on it. And seeing as how you have a 1084 you're set for RGB. The PSU jack is proprietary so you're stuck using a stepdown converter.

#6 Gunstar OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 9, 2011 8:38 AM

What types of upgrades/mods are available, commercial/fan-developed/homebrew instructions?

#7 JamesD ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Dec 9, 2011 1:59 PM

Try asking here:
http://www.qlforum.co.uk
<edit>
And check the Wiki:
http://www.rwapadventures.com/ql_wiki/

Edited by JamesD, Fri Dec 9, 2011 2:05 PM.


#8 RWAP OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:37 AM

OK - time to put the record straight...

There are indeed American versions of the QL which were designed for NTSC output (some have a switch next to the UHF to toggle between PAL and NTSC) and a lot more shielding. They were made by Samsung and are much more reliable than earlier models. The QL has RGB-TTL output as with the Spectrum 128

I have sent you a PM with a link to a guy on the TS2068 mailing list who has some QLs to give away for price of postage (they may have unreliable microdrive units, so you may need to get a hold of several and swap the microdrive units).

Apart from the early production models, the QL has proved to be very reliable - the microdrive units sometimes need some maintenance, but most of the time, it is just the small rubber roller inside them which is (a) worn and needs replacing, (b) has ridden up the metal shaft and needs moving back down, or © is worn on the top half and needs turning upside down.

As with any of the 1980s computers, the keyboard membranes need replacing about once every 10-15 years.

I have a stack of second hand UK QLs, power supplies (220V) and keyboard membranes here. Power supplies rarely go wrong - some people had problems with QLs overheating in the past, but that was mainly due to the extra current needed by some early disk and memory card expansions.

As for software - there were quite a lot of games produced for the QL - have a look on the QL Wiki for details of some (this is very much a work in progress). There are also quite a few Sinclair QL Games still available commercially and a wealth of public domain software available from the Sinclair QL Homepage.

As for expansion options - the most commonly required ones are disk and memory interfaces - there were quite a lot of these produced, but ideally you want a Miracle Systems Trump Card which added 768K memory, and a disk interface. Later interfaces such as the Gold Card and Super Gold Card offered memory expansion up to 4MB and a much faster processor, and even allowed the QLs to use ED disk drives (3.2MB) as a mini-hard disk.

There were all sorts of other peripherals, some home made, others more commercial, including hard disk interfaces, a new motherboard (the Aurora) which offered 256 colours and high resolution displays, I/O interfaces, EPROM programmers, video digitisers and speech modules for example.

There are also a number of QL emulators for various platforms, with the Windows based QPC2 probably the most common emulator, followed by Q-emuLator (Windows and MAC).

There is still a QL magazine (QL Today) and even a QL user group (QUANTA) which was first set up in 1983.

Plenty of information for you to absorb and read up on - but if you want to know anything else, just holler.

#9 JamesD ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:32 PM

I have sent you a PM with a link to a guy on the TS2068 mailing list who has some QLs to give away for price of postage (they may have unreliable microdrive units, so you may need to get a hold of several and swap the microdrive units).

I thought all the QLs were spoken for months ago.

#10 RWAP OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:37 PM

No - basically Rod was left with various bits and pieces that had either been overlooked previously, or users had said they wanted, but never paid him for!

#11 JamesD ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:51 PM

No - basically Rod was left with various bits and pieces that had either been overlooked previously, or users had said they wanted, but never paid him for!

I just looked at the list he posted and there are no QLs on the list, just QL related stuff.
I tried emailing him during the previous give away and it told me his email address was invalid.
<edit>
never mind, the QLs were in the text at the top.

Edited by JamesD, Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:53 PM.


#12 RWAP OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:02 AM

Hee hee - yes, I realised you must have overlooked them as they were not in the bullet list.

His email address works fine for me - so suggest you try again

#13 carmel_andrews OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:19 AM

Didn't the QL use a cut down version of the 68000 (like the 68008), which in modern times is likened to an AMD duron/athlon thing

I do remember the microdrives....didn't sinclair (or 3rd party software houses) use to sell them as 'game carts' for the spectrum, since i do remember some of the more popular speccy games were put out on microdrives as 'game carts'


Didn't the coleco ADAM and the coleco super game module (which eventually evolved into the ADAM) use the same Microdrive system (or tech) as sinclair

I also remember that sinclair also bought the rights to one of the unreleased Imagine 'megagames' exclusively for the QL...Dunno if it got released but i do know the ST/Miggy version or adaption of that game was released under 'brattacus'

Edited by carmel_andrews, Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:21 AM.


#14 RWAP OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 15, 2011 7:09 AM

Yes, the QL used the Motorola 68008 - which was a 32 bit processor with an 8 bit data bus, which limited it somewhat. Later developments, such as the Gold Card (68000) and Super Gold Card (68020) bypassed the onboard processor, or there were more QL compatibles such as the Thor XVI (68020), the Q40 (68040) and the Q60 (68060) computers which used the higher end chips.

The phrase 'game carts' was never used for Sinclair QL software so far as I know - possibly for the Spectrum.

The Coleco ADAM appears to use a different sort of tape drive completely - as it looks closer to cassette technology - microdrives were endless loop technology, compared to a cassette, where there are two sides.

The Imagine Megagame for the QL was Bandersnatch - it was never released though unfortunately.

#15 JamesD ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:25 AM

Hee hee - yes, I realised you must have overlooked them as they were not in the bullet list.

His email address works fine for me - so suggest you try again

rocketmail is refusing the email from my gmail account. Most likely they have completely blocked gmail.

#16 JamesD ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:32 AM

microdrives were pretty much a smaller version of the Exatron Stringy Floppy that was popular on the TRS-80 Model I when disk drives were really expensive.


#17 RWAP OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:53 PM

I know this is an old thread, but in response to some of the queries on here and other forums about games for the Sinclair QL, we have released the Sinclair QL Games Collection - 10 commercial arcade games packaged together with a special version of Q-emuLator, a Windows based QL emulator.

You can find out more about the QL Games Collection here

#18 ICEE1023 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:28 AM

Greetings I know this is an old thread but I have a lead for the search for the NTSC version of the Sinclair QL. For some reason my family did own one all I can say is that I have the official user's manual for it in my possession and the machine itself was lost in my grandfather's house. Unfortunately my grandfather is a hoarder so there are only two ways to retrieve my NTSC Sinclair QL and that's either wait until it is stumbled acrossed by my grandfather or to go dumpster diving for a few days with a breath mask and gloves and hope for the best. Hopefully it can be found soon and I can post an update on either this discussion thread or someplace else on the internet.






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