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Memotech History


Memotech was formed by Geoff Boyd and Robert Branton to make extra memory units for the recently-launched Sinclair ZX81, and the first 'Memopak' was released in summer 1982. The range of add-ons was soon expanded and by September 1983 Memotech were selling:

  • Memory extensions of 16 KB (£24.95), 32 KB (£34.95) and 64 KB (£49.95).
  • An RS232 interface which also operated as a terminal emulator (£39.95).
  • Centronics parallel printer interface (£24.95).
  • High resolution graphics adaptor providing 256x192 pixels in monochrome (£29.95).
  • A spreadsheet stored in ROM (£29.90).
  • A word processor, also in ROM (£29.90).
  • A Z80 assembler in ROM (£29.90).

Memotech rangeAll the above products (illustrated right) were supplied in stylish and robust black anodised aluminium cases which fitted onto the back of the ZX81 and could be plugged into each other. There was also a replacement keyboard for the ZX81, in a matching black case. Whilst the Memotech range of ZX81 expansion was not the cheapest on the market it had a reputation for high quality.

With the popularity of the new Sinclair Spectrum from mid 1982 onwards demand for ZX81 peripherals inevitably began to decline, especially since the Spectrum had high resolution graphics and a large memory as standard. Thus Memotech decided to produce their own home computer to join what seemed a very lucrative market. This machine was the MTX 500,(below), launched in June 1983.

Memotech MTX 500 computer

The MTX 500 (with 32 kilobytes of RAM) and its companion the MTX 512 (with 64 kilobytes, which is 512 kilobits) were based around the same Z80A microprocessor used in the ZX81 and Spectrum but, unlike Sinclair, Memotech opted for a purpose-made display controller chip, the Texas Instruments TI-9929, and a proper sound generator. This meant the graphics and audio capabilities of the MTXs were a step above those of the Spectrum and on a par with the best of the then current home computers, such as the Commodore 64.

The MTX 500 and 512 were also probably the best-looking home computers of the time, with a black extruded aluminium case and a professional quality keyboard. The Memotech computers were supplied with an advanced BASIC which made it fairly easy to use the graphics and sound facilities and which also featured a built-in Z80 assembler. The only real downside of the Memotechs was that they were a little expensive at £275 and £315 for the MTX 500 and MTX 512, compared to £130 for the Spectrum in late 1983.

The MTX 512 was designed to be upgraded to run the CP/M operating system and was partly targeted at business users as well as home users. For £1245 you could have an MTX 512 plus the FDX twin floppy disk expansion box, though this was approaching the price of something like the Apricot PC which was a 16-bit machine with a much larger memory than the Memotech.

Apparently about 250,000 MTX computers were sold but surprisingly, given its hardware capabilities, it never attracted a great deal of third party software and sales began to dry up. Production of the MTXs ended in 1985 and Memotech went into receivership. Geoff Boyd started up Memotech Computers Ltd to market the RS128, the planned updated version of the MTX 512, but only small numbers were sold.



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