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Sinclair ZX81 Made Out of Lego 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the blast-from-the-past dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I used Lego's Digital Designer software to build a model of a Sinclair ZX81 — the computer that kicked me off on my interest in such matters way back in 1981. Until very recently, the software allowed you to upload your model, buy it and get a boxed set with all the pieces to build it (as well as instructions). The ZX81 model is as close to the shape of the original as I could make it, considering that Lego is quite a lo-resolution modelling tool. I even made it so that you can lift off the lid and see a representation of the PCB in side. I have also posted the model to Lego's Cuusoo site — a place where you can post ideas, and if they gain enough support they will be considered for production."

*

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Sinclair ZX81 Made Out of Lego

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:52PM (#38870645)
    I don't understand how this would be important to anyone. I want the last 30 seconds of my life back.
  • Next? (Score:3, Funny)

    by garf (12900) on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:53PM (#38870661) Homepage

    RAM Pack?

  • Wow.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZigZagJoe (1724868) on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:55PM (#38870681)
    ...and this is slashdot worthy, why?
    • Re:Wow.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:59PM (#38870745)
      Absolutely agree... when I first saw this I had assumed he was using mechanical logic or something to simulate the instruction set, but... a black box?!? Why in the world would anyone over the age of 6 care about this?
      • by MoFoQ (584566)

        I second that also...now if it was emulating the inner workings as well (either via arduino or some other microcontroller or if it was truly 1337 and did working circuits with legos)...then it would be another story.

        • by dubbreak (623656)
          Exactly. The title is entirely misleading, it says, "Sinclair ZX81 Made Out of Lego." When it should say "Mediocre model representing ZX81 made out of lego."

          This does nothing other than vaguely resemble a ZX81. If you are going to do a non-working model of a computer at least choose something interesting and challenging. Maybe a Cray-2 with the cooling waterfall in a 1-1 scale.
          • by gl4ss (559668)

            I made a cardboard computer once as a kid.

            sure. it just looked sort of like a computer and didn't function. now, it wasn't the sort of thing you'd mention at school and certainly not something you'd post an article on slashdot about..

      • Re:Wow.... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:12PM (#38870915) Homepage

        Absolutely agree... when I first saw this I had assumed he was using mechanical logic or something to simulate the instruction set, but... a black box?!?

        It still has twice as much processing power as an actual ZX81, though.

        • by kenh (9056)

          I'm sure the keyboard is an improvement over the original Sinclair keyboard!

        • by keeboo (724305)
          That's what you get when you cheap enough to use the CPU as a video generator (thus getting 10% or less free for general programming, unless you suspend the video).
          I appreciate Sinclair being concerned with costs... Still, good thing Sinclair did not consider a morse-code keyboard.
          • by Dogtanian (588974)

            That's what you get when you cheap enough to use the CPU as a video generator (thus getting 10% or less free for general programming, unless you suspend the video).

            You're right- though actually it was more like 25%. However, that "being concerned with costs" is what made the ZX81 (and the ZX80) far more affordable than its competitors while still remaining a (just) usable mainstream hobbyist machine that brought computing to people in the UK who hadn't previously been able to afford it.

            As you imply, one *did* have the option of "suspending the video" by entering "FAST" (full-speed) mode instead of the default "SLOW" (continuous display). This wasn't quite as bad as

        • Well, now we just have to up the ante and actually simulate the entire ZX81 using legos, then get the 1K chess program to run on it.
      • by mcavic (2007672)

        Why in the world would anyone over the age of 6 care about this?

        Nostalgia. I live primarily in the past. The Sinclair is a little old even for me, but I'd go for a Lego C64.

      • It is bricked.

    • by Threni (635302)

      Is this a joke. I actually checked to see if this was functional, and that just the case was lego, but no. Someone's made a pretend computer out of lego, and it's on the Slashdot front page. Unbelievable. I hope all you Slashdot subscription payers are happy with this; if I had one, I'd cancel it!

    • I was expecting an actual working device, not an actual Lego model of a device. What a pile of kuso.
    • As evidenced by the previous article [slashdot.org].

      Not that I'm minding! The rest of you just step back and let us roll down memory lane. The month's almost over anyway.

    • by Tr3vin (1220548)
      It isn't even worthy of the typical LEGO fan-site. Saying that LEGO is "lo-resolution" is just an excuse to cover a lack of building skills.
    • Ok, if enough of us go to options and remove the offending editor we might be able to send a message.

    • The article itself not so much, but I was interested to hear the that Lego Designer software let you upload a design and buy those specific bits... that's fantastic! And they no longer provide that?

      All of this is news to me and I'd love to know more!!
    • ...and this is slashdot worthy, why?

      Remember that stories are picked largely by how they are voted in "recent stories" (or "Firehose", if you will). So there has been demand for this item to be published, thereby making it worthy.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Next week I plan to built a Commodore 64 mock-up from bat guano. I expect front page coverage.

  • by vlm (69642)

    the lego keyboard doesn't suck anymore than the original.

    Lets be honest here, I got to use one when it was new, and it... wasn't that good.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      True. But even with a good keyboard it sort of sucked. Everything had to go through BASIC, if you wanted to do any sort of assembler you had to jump through hurdles to get past BASIC, and if you wanted to do any I/O you had to get BASIC to do it for you.

      if you expanded it you had troubles with connections and needed to make sure everything was tight. Ie, you plugged stuff into the back as a daisy chain, bus-to-bus-to-bus.

      Add just a little bit to it and replace the ROMs and it would have been a pretty goo

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        But even with a good keyboard it sort of sucked. Everything had to go through BASIC, if you wanted to do any sort of assembler you had to jump through hurdles to get past BASIC, and if you wanted to do any I/O you had to get BASIC to do it for you.

        Not true; or actually almost not true. I wrote a two player battle tanks game for it in assembly because BASIC was way too slow. The only BASIC lines in were REM, which held the actual code, and the line that called that code. Additionaly, you didn't even have to

    • the lego keyboard doesn't suck anymore than the original.

      Lets be honest here, I got to use one when it was new, and it... wasn't that good.

      Suck any more? Are you kidding? It's an improvement. ;-)

  • Now (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CSMoran (1577071) on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:56PM (#38870701) Journal
    Next step -- make it compute.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    but..does it run Linux?

  • But why do this? It's not interesting to look at or anything...

    It'd be like me building a lego replica of my first computer, a Hewlett Packard 386 beige monstrosity. Who the hell would look at it and say anything other than "why did you build a big beige box out of lego?"

    • To be fair, the ZX81 was more important than some random beige box, as it was many people in the UK's first computer back in the early 80s, and has significance because of that. (But we already had that discussion four days ago [slashdot.org]- the thread is still live(!)- so probably not worth repeating it here!)

      That said, I agree that there's really nothing to this. Someone constructed a passable scale model of a ZX81 out of Lego about as well as could be expected. (Given that the ZX81 is fairly small and flat to start
      • by Dark$ide (732508)

        To be fair, the ZX81 was more important than some random beige box, as it was many people in the UK's first computer back in the early 80s, and has significance because of that. (But we already had that discussion four days ago [slashdot.org]- the thread is still live(!)- so probably not worth repeating it here!)

        You're forgetting the Sinclair ZX80 (Z80 processor, 1K RAM expandable to 4K). If you made a lego model of that you'd need to include a model milk carton. That puppy would overheat if you didn't add extra cooling to the rubbish heatsink (in the form of a frozen milk carton).

        • by Dogtanian (588974)
          I know that the ZX80 (the first computer under £100) came first, and was very successful by the standards of the time- according to Wikipedia, 100,000 of them were sold. However, it was the ZX81 that took things into another league altogether- apparently 1.5 million were sold!
  • by Snaller (147050)

    Can it run my programs I have on this cassette tape right here!?

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      Can it run my programs I have on this cassette tape right here!?

      If it is a cassette tape made out of Lego and the cassette player is also Lego. And the wire connecting the cassette to the computer is Lego.

  • A somewhat saccharin homage. Never-the-less eliciting fond memories and affirming that computing, like nostalgia, just ain't what it used to be. I'm glad there's room on /. for such occasional nonsense... HGH
  • Even better (Score:5, Funny)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:20PM (#38871027)

    I just snapped together 3 black legos to create a nearly exact replica of an I.C... at least as close to the original as I could make with legos.

    If I can find a few more black legos, I think I can make a replica of the 40 pin DIP package of the Z-80 CPU that drives the original poster's ZX81 computer.

  • And there we go. Worst. Slashdot. Article. Ever. </comicbookguy>

    Close it up. Go home. Drop your account. This verifies Kristopeit and negates the need for Netcraft confirmation.

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:56PM (#38871521)
    The singularity hub might make a good replacement for slashdot. They have all the great nerdy articles but nothing of psychics on the moon or lego calculators that can't actually calculate. They have a commenting system but no users to comment. We have the commenting users, they have great content. Sucks to say this as I have been here since 97

    singularityhub.com

    by by karma, something had to be said.
    • by wjcofkc (964165)
      I mean bye bye - doh!
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Mod parent up, since we know he's not really quitting /. any time soon. He'll be back... they always come back.

    • by eyenot (102141)

      Yeah, but, their articles follow a very narrow subject matter (the "Singularity") and it often has too much of a geeky, sci-fi tone. I read that and /. daily but I wouldn't go without one or the other.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The front page of that website is a fucking cluttered disaster of a mess. No wonder they have no users; they may have content, but nobody can fucking see it in that steaming jumble of shit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm done with slashdot. So long and thanks for all the tacos.

  • This is kinda neat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash&omnifarious,org> on Monday January 30, 2012 @08:38PM (#38871925) Homepage Journal

    I used to own one of these. I soldered it together out of a kit when I was 11, with some help from my dad. I accidentally left the soldering iron against part of the case though, so there was a neatly melted hole there. :-)

    When we added the 16k RAM pack, we discovered that the power supply was stretched to its limit providing the current for all that. So he designed a new case out of wood and aluminum and also reverse-engineered the keyboard hookup and got a keyboard with actual moving keys from a local electronics parts shop. Unfortunately, there is now something wrong with how the tape jack is grounded, and it can't record on tape anymore. :-(

    I still have it though, 30 years later. The first computer I ever owned. I even have the sheets I made up collecting machine instructions by addressing mode (since they were listed by number in the manual) to make it easier to write machine language programs for it. I wrote my own binary multiplier since the ZX-80 chip doesn't have a multiply instruction.

    This lego thing is vaguely interesting. It's neat to see the familiar shape again. :-)

  • Its probably less of a cheap toy than the actual computer

  • by eyenot (102141)

    I thought it was going to be functional for some reason. Guess because it was posted on /.

  • by wideBlueSkies (618979) * on Monday January 30, 2012 @11:57PM (#38873601) Journal

    End of post.

  • No more RAM pack wobble crashes!

  • Wish I had it, or even a picture of it. That is all.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yes, thats what all you whiney posters are coming on here and complaining because they thought it was a FUNCTIONAL zx81 made in lego!!! Bwahahahahaaaa!!!! I would like to sell you a lego reproduction of a Baby Zuckerburg.. nurture it for a few years and it will invent a facebook and become very rich to look after you in your old age....

  • White and blue, with some orange. A lot more interesting than the drab ZX81.

  • is that apparently you can't upload your designs to have them produced anymore.

  • Clearly the thing won't work - its been bricked.

  • My interest sparked for 30 seconds while i though this was an actual working Lego computer. Oh well. This [acrisdesign.com] should generate enough /. stories for a week.

  • What? I've been digitally modeling LEGO for a couple years now... it's called Minecraft. Oddly enough, there is now an actual Minecraft LEGO set in the works [slashgear.com]. At least the mapping should be fairly straightforward, but I wonder if it comes with Endermen that tear your lawn apart when you're not watching.

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