ZX Spectrum made by Samsung in Korea

In the recent decade Spectrums made by Samsung gained popularity amongst Spectrum users and collectors alike owing to their high quality keyboard membranes that have stood the test of time and are as well functioning today as they were brand new – unlike membranes commonly found in most Spectrums which are past their use-by date.

According to data collected in the serial number database, Samsung were manufacturing computers for the ZX Spectrum line between 1984 and 1985. They’ve produced a roughly estimated number of 165,000 Spectrum 48K and 48K+ models and afterwards were commissioned to manufacture 128K+ machines for the Spanish distributor Investronica followed by the first UK retail version of 128K+ motherboard – the Version 6K.

Samsung versions of Spectrum computers have their own distinctive vibe and somewhat vary to their Sinclair UK-made counterparts. I have selected a ZX Spectrum 48K model which would have been manufactured around the same time at a plant in Feltham (England, UK) by Thorn EMI Datatech – second largest ZX Spectrum computers supplier beside Timex – and will compare both units side by side.

Samsung vs Sinclair

Unlike machines manufactured in the UK/Portugal which display an abundance of distinguishing features, ZX Spectrum computers made by Samsung have undergone little evolution during the production and present few external variations.

Samsung Spectrums can be identified by a number of characteristics such as type of faceplate or peculiar moulding of the Sinclair/ZX Spectrum logos but the most noticeable element is the information inscribed on the base of the Spectrum:

Made in the REPUBLIC OF KOREA by
SAMSUNG Electronics Company Limited Under
Licence from SINCLAIR Research Limited

Samsung Base

 

 

Every component part of the Samsung casing varies from the Sinclair models one way or another and as similar as the rubber keys appear on both Spectrums, I’m yet to confirm whether both parts are identical.
A few examples of what makes the Samsung faceplates distinctive:

SAMSUNG

The colour of the ink/paint

 

SAMSUNG

Arrow size

 

SAMSUNG

Letter font

The way the legends appear the faceplate (printed or painted)

 

 

 
Samsung have developed their own mould of Spectrum cases closely based on the original. Main differences can be noted below:

Samsung

Sinclair Logo is less refined

 

Samsung

Spot the differences in the ZX Spectrum lettering (Expert Level)

SAMSUNG

Lack of room for NTSC TV socket

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

Samsung

 

SAMSUNG

Rectangular indent to produce more room above the ULA chip (the indent is only present in later Samsung cases)

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

Larger screw head

 
In addition to manufacturing ZX Spectrum cases Samsung have also produced their own revisions of the motherboards which vary both in design and appearance to the Sinclair versions:

Issue 3B (approx. 20,000 units)
Issue 4S (approx. 145,000 units)

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: All component parts are as found and believed to originally belong to the Spectrums, with exception of rubber feet which mostly fell off on the Sinclair model and in case of the Samsung Spectrum got badly damaged and were replaced with modern replica feet.

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When you fall in love with a Spectrum – My Story

Last year, just before Christmas, I made the greatest discovery of the Spectrum World in the past decade. A yellow board Spectrum I bought which I thought was an issue 4A (the only yellow board issue known at the time) turned out to be in fact previously unheard of Yellow Issue 3B
I was very fond of it but I already had a yellow board Spectrum which was my personal Issue 4A Speccy so I’ve decided to find it a new home instead. I wasn’t much into collecting and I knew I’d be able to get a good price for it so it’d be totally worth it, right?

WRONG.
Worst decision of my life EVER.
When I was parting with it I felt a piece of me was dying, and within a few weeks I’d come to realise the severity of my actions.
I was experiencing the worst case of seller’s remorse. The following months of my life were filled with woe, despair and lament and not a day has gone by that I wouldn’t have wished I could turn back time and keep it. This board was the very first thing coming to my mind when I was waking up and the very last thing on my mind before going to sleep. I have spent a lengthy amount of time trawling inter-webs for any trace of other yellow 3Bs I could find. Lack of success made me realise just how scarce and extraordinary it really was.
Most of my savings and most of my budget was allocated to acquisition of new Spectrums. I would buy a random rubber-keyboard Spectrum on an off-chance that it had a yellow 3B board inside. Having gone through a dozens of Spectrums and dozens of boards I was gradually losing faith my quest could ever be accomplished. The prospect of a yellow 3B never felt so distant…

Until one day when I spotted a picture of the expansion slot of a Spectrums advertised on an auction site. Yellow board, possibly a 4A. Probably 4A. Definitely a 4A. Except one capacitor that’s different than on any 4A. Wait… Capacitor that’s exactly like on my gone but not forgotten 3B. With the little means I had left over after months of irrational expenditure I have successfully obtained the mysterious Spectrum. After removing the packaging, one look at the bottom of the case has revealed the serial number pointing to an issue 3B.

The day I’ve been dreaming of for the past 7 months has come. Finally, reunited with a [different] yellow 3B at last.
Precious darling Speccy, love of my life. When I’m holding it in my arms I feel the happiest. I will never let you go again.

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3BYellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Yellow Issue 3B

Spectrum+ with V01 serial number

This one is for my own collection. I’ve been hunting for a V01 serial number Spectrum ever since I found out it existed while perusing a database of Spectrum serial numbers.

I’ve not seen many of them – this is the first one I’ve seen in real life, but I’ve heard mentions of several others before. It is fairly unusual however, given how few examples have been reported compared to other serial numbers.

I don’t know the story, I don’t know where it’s been made or what the V01 prefix stands for. Hopefully if I’m ever lucky enough to come across another I’ll have some useful info.

SAMSUNG CSC

It has issue 4S motherboard, which are known to have been made by Samsung not Sinclair. They usually come in a Samsung-made cases with Samsung own serial numbers (S01) and are fitted with a European made keyboard membranes, which this isn’t. In other words, it’s odd finding this board inside this Spectrum, but until I examine another V01 Spectrum I can’t be certain whether it belonged there originally or not.

SAMSUNG CSC

Otherwise it looks to be a standard Spectrum 48+, the keyboard plate is a bit different to most and the silver screws are rather unusual – the plate is normally held by black screws.

UPDATE: I have met a couple of other Spectrums with “V01” serial numbers. And they all seem to have one thing in common (apart from the number prefix) – they provide a home for motherboards which had previous life elsewhere. In this case, the 4S motherboard would originally belong to an “s01” serial case, made in Korea by Samsung. Something has happened in its life, whether to the motherboard or to the Samsung Spectrum+ case that has caused it to be rehoused. So expect some motherboards to show signs of repairs even if you owned it from new and never tinkered with it yourself.

Yellow SRBP motherboard

Yellow PCBs were usually used on some Issues 4A.
Issue 3B on a SRBP motherboard is very unusual.