Book review: The ZX Spectrum ULA: How to Design a Microcomputer

Posted by Martin Vilcans on 5 September 2014

Chris Smith: The ZX Spectrum ULA: How to design a Microcomputer

This book was my summer reading.

Maybe it's the good timing with my relatively new interest in electronics but this is one of the best technical books I have read. The author Chris Smith has reverse-engineered the ULA, the chip that handles the display, audio and i/o of the ZX Spectrum computer from the early 80's.

As an old assembly language programmer for the ZX Spectrum, I have had a basic understanding of what goes on in the circuits of a computer, but it was only through this book I understood how it actually works. It describes the inner workings of the ULA with timing diagrams and circuit drawings at a level that was just right. The only exception to this is that chapter 2 assumes familiarity with how semiconductors are constructed, which made me worry if I'd get through the book. Later chapters deal mostly with digital electronics and are approachable for an old-school programmer like me.

I learned a lot from this book and it inspired me to try to create my own very simple Z80 based computer:

Have a look at the book at Amazon but buy it from the author's web site.

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