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In the early 80’s the Portuguese market was
flooded with ZX Spectrums: that was the most
popular computer in the market and almost
everyone who owned a computer had a ZX
Spectrum. However, many of the ZX Spectrum
owners weren’t real Sinclair Spectrum owners
but Timex Computer 2048 owners. This machine
was a better Spectrum than the original: to the
less enlightened people it was a Spectrum with a
built-in kempston joystick interface, a much
better keyboard, that was not just superior
ergonomically (mostly because of the real space
bar) but the quality in the mechanics was better.
Even these days most broken Timex keyboards
can be cleaned with alcohol.
This article will explore the machine beyond the
physical differences and exploit some hardware
secrets that made the computer a little
incompatible with the original ZX Spectrum. In
the top Picture can be the screen from the demo
tape that came along with the TC2048.
Timex Computer 2048
Timex Computer 2048 Board
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The Timex Computer 2048 was launched in Portugal and Poland - do not mistake this
computer with the prototype Timex Sinclair 2048 wich was intended to be a 16KB
version of the Timex Sinclar 2068. The Timex Computer 2048 was a ZX Spectrum
clone and featured:
- Z80A CPU clocked at 3.58 MHz
- 48KB of RAM
- 16 KB ROM (Almost the same as the ZX Spectrum)
- Edge connector compatible with the ZX Spectrum, but missing RGB signals,
and the /BE signal.
- RF out connector.
- Ear / Mic Connectors
- Kempston Joystick Connector.
- Extended screen modes when compared with the ZX Spectrum;
- On/Off switch.
On the business scene the TC 2048
was a fairly well-used computer in
Portugal, especially connected to a FDD
3000 system. This system gave 64KB
more to the TC2048 along with 2 disk
drives. It was in fact another machine as
it featured a Z80 of its own. The FDD
gave the TC the ability to run CP/M
which was the most used business-
oriented OS of its time. There was even
a separate, almost professional
keyboard that you could use with it. It
was the game market, though, which
was the real target for the TC2048,
where it was designed to battle hand to
hand with the Spectrum. Many shops
sold it as a natural alternative to the ZX,
‘This is a machine that is not only a toy
but a serious computer’ i can almost
hear the salesman voice saying...
The Machine
As soon as you open the Timex’s box,
you notice the big resemblance with the
ZX Spectrum (it couldn’t be other way,
it’s a clone!). The keys are very similar,
but in the Timex are made of plastic
instead of rubber. You also notice a
joystick connector of the de-facto
standard kempston type. An ON led is
also welcome as is the on/off switch.
Under the hood the differences are even
greater, you get a better quality
computer when compared with the
Sinclair - the most evident is the plastic
Rom differences between the ZX Spectrum and
the Timex Computer 2048.
TC2048 ROM
ZX Spectrum ROM
Call 386E
Call 0C0A,PO-MSG
Call 0C0A,PO-MSG
The TC2048 Boot Screen,
exactly the same as the
ZX Spectrum’s one!
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keyboard, which was better not only on
the exterior but on the interior where a
good PCB replaced the fragile
membrane of the Spectrum. The
keyboard PCB uses a mechanism
similar to many calculators where a
special rubber that acted also as spring
made contact between the tracks of the
PCB, thus allowing the keystroke to be
sent to the computer. The composite
output also gave the Timex a more
professional touch, and in this machine
there was no need for a separate
joystick interface, as the kempston
interface was already built in. Plus, the
typical unplug/replug reset procedure
was replaced with a good quality
ON/OFF switch and you could see if
your timex was turned on by the red led
on top instead of the high frequency
whistle you could hear from the ZX
Spectrum’s speaker (many friends of
mine said they couldnt hear a thing from
the speccy, but I swear, I could!). One
thing that you could still complain about
in the machine is the poor quality ink
used on its keyboard- it rubs off with
use! Many of todays 2048’s have the
keywords of some keys worn off,
especially Q,A,O,P keys, who knows
How to use the TC 2048 Modes:
To use the special 2048 modes you
will need to output to port 255, bits
D0, D1 and D2. You can output all 8
values but only 4 will give you some
kind of good result:
- 000 - 8X8 Attributes, just like the
normal ZX Spectrum .
- 001 - Puts video data at 24576
and STTR data on 30720, it still
keeps 8X8 attributes.
- 010 - Multicolour mode, keeps
video data at 16384 and 8X1 color
attributes at address 24576.
- 110 - No colour attributes,
Extended resolution: this mode takes
the video data from 2 different areas:
even columns are taken from
address 16384 and odd columns are
taken from address 24576.
One less known feature of the TC2048
is the Enhanced graphics capabilities.
The TC 2048 used the very same ULA
as the Timex Computer 2068 (Note the
‘Computer’, it’s Timex Computer NOT
Timex Sinclair). This ULA had - besides
all ZX Spectrum modes - some graphics
modes of its own. They were used
widely in conjunction with the FDD 3000
so it could display the 80 character text
that was used by CP/M applications (the
main use of the FDD3000).
Timex Computer 2048 and 2068 ULA.
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Expanding the Timex 2048
What were the Timex Computer 2048’s expansion options ? Well, the TC had the
same edge connector that was present on the ZX Spectrum, although some signals
are unconfirmed on it. It could use most simple ZX Spectrum interfaces and some of
the more complex too, but some, for example the Rotronics Wafadrive, didn’t work
well on it - maybe because of the NEC processor (Z80 Clone) or by some missing
sign or ROM incompatability. The wafadrive can write to wafers but can’t read them
on the TC, so probably some other cpomplex peripherals have the same problem.
Not to worry, though, because as soon as you take a peek at Timex’s own options
there is hardly any need to search in another brand! There are Sound Amplifiers, Disk
interfaces, the famous and rare FDD3000 (which was indeed a true computer of its
own), serial interfaces, and so on. One that I like especially is the 3 part disk
interface, the Timex FDD, wich is compatible with DD 3 1/2 disk drives. Just remove
the incompatible 3 incher that comes along with the unit and plug in the floppy of your
choice (See the pic below).
All in all the Timex Computer 2048 was a very decent and cheap machine that had a
great impact on videogaming in Portugal. It was superior to the ZX Spectrum and it’s
a pity that there were almost no games that took advantage of its superior video
architecture. Timex Portugal was one of the best computer developers of its time and
delivered us some stupendous machines. This model was only exported to Poland,
making it dificult for anyone with no access to the Portuguese or Polish market to get
one. This is definitely a computer that has a place in every serious collector’s
Special Thanks to
Johny Reed from
Jorge Canelhas
Promo Picture of the TC 2048 with the Timex
FDD System.
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