Introduction to the Z88

The Cambridge Z88 was launched at the PCW Show in London in August 1987 by Sir Clive Sinclair under his new company, Cambridge Computers (he was unable to sell it under the Sinclair name, having sold his rights to Alan Sugar's Amstrad in 1986).

The Z88 was one of the first useful computers to be truly portable, and not simply "luggable". Weighing in at just 900g, the A4-sized computer boasts a full-sized rubber-key keyboard, a large adjustable LCD display and is expandable by the addition of up to three RAM, ROM or EPROM cards.

The most impressive feature of the Z88 is probably the elegant design of its operating system. It's task-switching capability allows any application in use to be "suspended" whilst another task is carried out. The number of suspended applications is in general only limited by the memory of the machine (expandable from 32K to 3.5Mb). The applications provided with the machine include a diary, VT52 terminal emulator, full version of BBC BASIC and an ingenious combined word-processor/spreadsheet package. In addition are a variety of mini-applications for various tasks, known as "popdowns". The design of the Z88 is such that further applications can be provided by third-party suppliers and totally integrated into the system.

Whilst containing no conventional storage media other than RAM, the Z88 has a comprehensive filing system. For backup, EPROM and Flash EPROM cards can be inserted in one of the slots, and files copied onto them. Alternatively, the Z88 can be connected to a variety of desktop computers, or to any printer for hard copy.

Other peripherals produced for the machine include cassette and floppy disk interfaces, usually connected through the serial port, which also allows connection to any standard modem.

The Z88 is still available from some suppliers and remains one of the most cost-effective portable computers around.


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