Category Archives: 8-Brick Computers

All about my exploits into building models of computers in Lego.

More Lego “8-Brick” computers!

I had a lot of interest in the Lego ZX81, you may be interested to know that I’ve also been working on others as well in Lego’s Digital Designer software. Some are closer to completion than others. Here’s what I currently have on file. Will they make it to real Lego models? Hopefully, yes. Sadly Lego closed down the service that gave me a proper kit in January, so I’d have to order future models brick by brick. No exciting box or instructions!

Lddscreenshot1
Sinclair’s follow up to the ZX81 – the ZX Spectrum. This is almost done – I’m in the process of seeing if I can reduce the brick count on this model a bit. The red 1×4 plates sticking out of the base of the model is there to help the software “lock” the lid on (so I’ll know if it all fits together). Eventually, there will be flat plates there, which will allow the lid of the machine to rest on the top without being fixed. Much like the ZX81 model, the Spectrum has a PCB inside. I may include a Lego Rock Dickinson minifig with this one if I can find a picture of him from the time!

Lddscreenshot2
Cambridge Computers Z88. This was Sinclair’s computer post Amstrad sale (Sinclair sold the name as well as properties to Amstrad). This is a little less developed as a model. I’ve got the screen, keyboard and base plotted out. I have to fix the screen to the base, put in some PCB stuff and check they all fit together. And, yes – those are batteries! The Z88 ran on 4 AAs.

Lddscreenshot3

Acorn Electron. This is moving on, but I have a small problem with the keyboard. Unlike the Sinclair machines, which had their own more unique keyboards (which lend themselves more to being modelled in Lego), the Electron had a full size keyboard. The problem I am having at the moment is that there is no Lego brick that looks like a key. So what I have done is made an impression of them out of existing parts. I am not sure if these will make the grade or not. If you have any thoughts on the keys – do they work for you or not? – then let me know in the comments below. Remember, this is Lego, which is a fairly low resolution thing (something I like because 8 bit computers had pretty low resolution graphics). I am looking for an approximation – something which will work within the confines of the medium.

If I can get the keys right for this model, then this opens the door for other machines with more traditional keyboards – most notably the BBC Model B which will be a major undertaking, and will (for me anyway) be the flagship model. I plan on that one being a representation of my own BBC Micro, complete with internal expansions on the motherboard. It’s a big thing, and costly, and I want to get it right. Minifigs of Chris Curry and Hermann “Your Prussian Friend” Hauser may well join the BBC Micro model.

There is an Atari console in the loft. That will get the treatment eventually too. It has those iconic joysticks, which should be fun to model.

Lego ZX81 Bloggage

Clive Sinclair - in Lego!

The Lego ZX81 has certainly triggered some interest. With over 40,000 hits on my Flicker Stream this weekend alone, I’m now finding that it’s being blogged about too. This is excellent news, and I’d like to say thanks to those whow have passed the links around. Anyway, as I find them, so I’ll mention them here.

Rick Dickinson, ZX81 designer, commented on one of my photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hairydalek/6754604865/in/set-72157629011228815

Thanks to all who are mentioning this!

8Bit Aficionado: http://8bitaficionado.com/2012/01/31/the-lego-zx-81/

B3TA: mentioned in their newsletter http://www.b3ta.com/newsletter/issue513/

Baseline: http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Innovation/Classic-Computing-Meets-LEGOs-282803/

Bob Miller: http://www.bobmillermagic.com/Prestidigination/2012/01/27/a-zx81-computer-mod…

Caballe Cat: http://caballe.cat/wp/un-zx81-fet-amb-lego/

Conor O’Neill: http://conoroneill.net/i-may-have-to-lie-down-a-lego-zx81/

Console News: http://console-news.dcemu.co.uk/sinclair-zx81-made-out-of-lego-407515.html

Cuplablogs: http://www.cupulablogs.com/retrocomputaria/?p=252

EIS Librarian at Middlesex University: http://eislibrarian.blogspot.com/2012/01/man-recreates-zx81-in-lego.html

Ewan Spence: http://www.ewanspence.com/blog/2012/01/30/the-lego-zx81/

Flippies: http://flippies.com/adflipoff/sinclair-zx81-computer-made-from-lego-bricks/

Gadget Fans: http://gadgetfans.net/apple-news/lego-sinclair-zx81-makeover.html

HP ProLiant Parts: http://www.proliant-parts.co.uk/man-recreates-zx81-in-lego/

IT Lounge: http://itlounge.eu/lego-sinclair-zx81-makeover/

IT’s CyberNews: http://www.itcybernews.com/lego-sinclair-zx81-makeover/

Jogorama (Portuguese): http://jogorama.com.br/noticias/5201/replica-do-sinclair-zx81-feito-com-lego/

JohnTheLutheran: mentioned in his blog http://johnthelutheran.tumblr.com/post/16586571711/lego-zx81-excellent-nice-r…

Kyk.it (in italian): http://kyk.it/sinclair-zx81-in-lego-29472

L’Home Dibuixat (in Spanish): http://caballe.cat/wp/un-zx81-fet-amb-lego/

LEGO Punk: http://legopunk.com/?q=taxonomy/term/127

Mick Yates: http://mickyates.tumblr.com/post/16582206738/from-hairy-dalek-paul-dunning-ye…

NewLaunches: http://www.newlaunches.com/archives/sinclair_zx81_computer_made_from_lego_bri…

Paul M Watson: http://blog.paulmwatson.com/post/16778783394/via-the-lego-zx81-finished-hairy… (nice page, BTW)

The Register: http://www.reghardware.com/2012/01/31/man_builds_sinclair_zx81_historic_micro…

Retro Fusion: http://www.retrofusion.org.uk/news/564/lego-zx81-computer/

Rob Thompson: http://sirchutney.com/the-lego-zx81-finished

Siamo Geek (in italian): http://siamogeek.com/2012/01/sinclair-zx81-lego/

SlashDot: http://idle.slashdot.org/story/12/01/30/176249/sinclair-zx81-made-out-of-lego

Surf the Edge: http://www.surf-the-edge.com/2012/01/30/zx-spectrum-in-lego/

TechGeer: http://techgeer.com/2012/01/lego-sinclair-zx81-makeover/

Übergizmo: http://www.ubergizmo.com/2012/01/lego-sinclair-zx81/

ZX81.org.uk: http://www.zx81.org.uk/links/my-delicious-com-bookmarks-for-january-10th-thro…

The Lego ZX81 – Finished!

My Lego ZX81!

Yesterday, my Lego ZX81 kit arrived. Until very recently, Lego have run a programme where you can design a model in their Lego Digital Designer software, upload it and have a proper set sent to you, complete with instructions and a custom box.

So, I designed a model of a Sinclair ZX81 using the software, uploaded the model and bought a set. 

Here are some photos of the model, as well as some comparison shots with a real ZX81.

For non-Flash people, the Flickr set can be viewed here.

I got the dimensions slightly off – the Lego model is slightly bigger than the real thing. However, the proportions of things like the keyboard etc. is about right, so I’m happy with it. I even manged to get a Lego Minifig of Clive Sinclair from the parts available to me!

EDIT:

I have now proposed this as a model for Lego to commercialise. It needs 10,000 votes to be considered. Please vote! http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/8479

Links and Information

Blogs – people have been blogging the Lego ZX81 – see links here

The kit arrived – some initial photos

Screen shot of the Lego ZX81 in Lego Digital Designer

Another Screen Shot from Lego Digital Designer