The Spectrum Dictionary

It's inevitable that every field of interest generates it's own jargon, and the Spectrum is no exception. Indeed, it's probably more difficult than most. I mean, what users of other computers would know what words like "playability" mean?

This web page is designed to be accessed quickly and easily, so if any complicated word pops up on comp.sys.sinclair you will be able to find out quickly and easily it's meaning. Please note that this page is also littered with opinions, which you may not agree with. Bad luck!

It is also under construction, so if anybody would like to send me new definitions, improved definitions, or definitions I haven't filled yet, then I would be very grateful. Thanks.


A type of joystick. See also Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair.

By type of joystick I do not mean a distinction as between a joystick and a joypad, but rather - since the Spectrum didn't have joystick ports itself several third party interface were offered for sale. Unfortunately Compatibility wasn't that much a concern at those times, therefore the way a program had to check the joystick state was different for each interface. Another sidenote on the topic of joysticks is that games couldn't check for all joysticks at the same time, which is why you have to specify what kind of joystick to use in the game menus. This problem is due to the fact, that AGF, Cursor and Sinclair joysticks emulate keyboard responses (i.e. the Cursor joysticks emulates pressing the cursor keys). The joystick states could not be asked by a program at the same time, since for instance Sinclair 1 & Cursor joysticks share 4 of the five keys, and except for the fire button, 3 of those shared keys are used differently on both joysticks (i.e. pushing the joystick to the left caused the cursor joystick to return '5', while it returned '6'(I think) on the sinclair joystick - while the cursor joystick used '6' for cursor down.

Ashby Computers & Graphics

Ultimate Play the Game's proper business name. They now run under the name Rare, and have a page at Probably.

C-90 Session

A C-90 session is when you have a C-90 (or similar) tape that you know is full of pirated games, so you type in LOAD "", start the tape, and see what appears. It is often a no-win situation since even when one does load, it was frequently not worth the wait.


The slang/derogatory word for Commodore, the arch enemy of Spectrum users.


An old Spectrum magazine, noted for it's different shape and thin-ness compared to the other magazines. The meaning does not mean Crash as in "my computers crashed", since the Spectrum never did this. Almost.

Cursor Joystick

Another of the myriad of joysticks available for the Spectrum. You could also control it with the cursor keys, if you were some kind of masochist.

End-of-Game Message

Inevitably, 99% of Spectrum games didn't have a major end sequence. What they did have was the standard "Congratulations. You have complete xxx!" (No doubt then followed by level one again, but slightly more difficult.) One of the excuses of this was that the Spectrum didn't have enough memory. They were probably right.

In an Interview for (I think) German Computer Games magazine 'ASM' Pete Cooke said something fairly sensible about the missing End-Of-Game trailers, he said that if he got some spare space, he'd rather use it on more gameplay elements rather than wasting additional memory for a trailer that not even everyone is going to see...


Just for the record, this is the key that you press when you finish a line, whether programming, word processing or what. It is not called "return"!


This can be one of two things. Either the software house Gremlin Graphics (which is still around, although it has changed it's name to Gremlin Interactive), or the most consistently humourous section of any computer magazine, in this case Sinclair User.


A type of joystick that was very difficult to program in Basic, unlike the Sinclair kind.

Key-finding Session

This is when you have loaded a game, but do not have a clue what the keys are. So you start the game and press all the keys on the keyboard until something happens.

Sam Coupe

This was the computer that was supposed to bring the Spectrum into the 90's, and it did - the 1890's (old joke, I know). It was called the Coupe since it supposedly looks like a Coupe of the car variety. Looked just like a doorstop to me, and was far better at it.

SSD - Sinclair Software Database

The Sinclair Software Database. It's like the Internet Movie Database, but with Sinclair software (obviously). The SSD aims to be a complete tome of knowledge on every piece of Sinclair software ever written, and contains almost everything you could want to know about the game. However, due to the sheer number of Spectrum games, it has a long way to go.


Another type of joystick. See also AGF, Kemptson and Cursor.

Sinclair User

Another old, and longest running, Spectrum magazine, unfortunately slagged off quite a bit on the pages of comp.sys.sinclair. It's a good job that I am there to defend it. Okay, the bear thing was a bit crap, but what could beat Gremlin?

Space Key

Space bar? No, you've lost me completely. I only have a space key. Far more keyboard-undominating.


The greatest computer of all time. There are 3 version of the ZX, and a Spectrum +, 128, +2, +3 and +2A.

Your Sinclair

An old Sinclair magazine. The least said the better. Nah, it was quite good - if there wasn't an issue of "House and Garden" handy.

Stephen Smith -

Spectrum Users do not clean out there computers and use them as plant pots!