I believe this is what kept them firmly in the "toy" or "game" computer category. Certainly not seen as a "real" computer by much of the public.
I know they would have been expensive, but I would have gladly paid top dollar to have a floppy drive for my Timex Sinclair 1000.
Does anyone know ? Or was it just simply the cost ? I've seen a couple third-party floppy drives, but they were not supported very well. No random access file just program LOAD and SAVE.
Even the QL didn't have floppies. It seems to me that Clive had something against floppy drives.
E.g. with Commodore users in US had floppy; users in EU had tape. Therefore software in US was primarily on disk, and software in EU was primarily on tape.
And because Sinclair was a European country, it had the European thinking that tape was the cheap norm for everyone.
ZX81, Lambda 8300, Commodore 64, Mac G4 Cube
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It was intended that out of the box, ZX Spectrum computers would have built in support for his Microdrive system. All the user/owner would have to do, would be to buy a Microdrive.
Unfortunately, the Microdrive development was not as far along as he hoped, and the writers of the ZX Spectrum ROM code were having difficulty getting all the features in it that Sinclair wanted. In the end, the ROM code was unfinished. As Sinclair did not want to delay the launch of the computer. Hence why there is leftover bits of ZX81 code and unused ‘blank’ 0xFF bytes at the end of the ROM. But it is missing the Microdrive code.
At the time of development of the ZX Spectrum, floppy disk drives were very expensive. If you look at the home computers launched between 1980 and 1983, very few supported floppy drives out of the box. Hence why Sinclair was obsessed with the far cheaper tape loop / Microdrive technology. Commodore obviously went a different route and used a type of serial interface to allow an external ‘intelligent’ disk drive to be used.
In the U.K. a floppy disk drive with the required electronic interface circuitry would have cost more than a 48K ZX Spectrum. [The ZX Spectrum was originally released on 23 April 1982 with 16 KB of RAM for £125 or with 48 KB for £175; these prices were later reduced to £99 and £129 respectively. See this link for prices of some disk drive systems.]
As duplication of commercial software on Microdrive cartridges was expensive, audio cassette tape remained king...
And as long as Sinclair was selling Microdrives, he was not interested in disk drives.
Having just read Marks post I checked an 80's advert for a floppy system FDC-100 series single drive...$499!!!
YES. VERY. Remember home computers themselves were expensive back then. Computers that came with floppy drives as standard where mostly XT/early '286 PC's that were even more expensive. Like "business-only" kind of expensive.
I just checked.. for example the Discovery for the ZX Spectrum (3,5" drive + interface + various ports) was sold at £199. That was a lot of money back then. And in 1984..1985 or so, that is: several years after ZX81 came out. Something similar for the ZX81, to be introduced around 1982..1983 would have been much more than £199.
Due to the above, most ZX81 users @ the time would NOT have. Not to mention that such a thing simply wasn't available afaik. And what's the point of a floppy drive with a 1 or 2KB RAM machine? So you'd need 16 or 32K RAM expansion to go with it (integrated into floppy interface or not). Even 16KB RAM wasn't cheap back then. So this would have made a floppy add-on for a ZX81 even more expensive than drive + interface alone.but I would have gladly paid top dollar to have a floppy drive for my Timex Sinclair 1000.
And a little later, when the ZX Spectrum was 'everywhere', then the Microdrive (as semi-reliable and semi-slow as it was), was a cheaper and 'good enough' alternative for those users for whom tape wasn't 'good enough'. Wouldn't surprise me if quite a few potential floppy drive buyers picked a Microdrive for their ZX Spectrum instead. And afaik even the Microdrive itself wasn't that popular anyway. Again: tape was 'good enough' for most users. And/or they didn't know any better, with this "computer" stuff being new & all.
What was advertised & how often, doesn't say how many of such systems where actually sold. I don't think there where that many floppy users in the early days, in the US NOR in Europe. A few years later (like around 1985 or so), sure. Floppy drives for C64 users, floppy interfaces for MSX machines, MSX2 (1986) with many having built-in floppy drive, PC's moving to the 386 etc. But not in the years between ZX81 and Spectrum introduction.
Couple of years later again, and floppy drives became more or less standard on any computer (PC, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX2/2+ etc). So another way to look at it: ZX81 came on the market too early to be able to have a 'cheap enough' floppy drive with it. And when floppy drives did become cheap enough, ZX81 days were over (commercially speaking).