RWAP Software (Supporters of the Sinclair QL, ZX Spectrum and Compatibles)

Home | News | Wanted Ads | Guestbook | Environmental | About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | Blog | Forums

Sinclair QL Expansion Options

 Sinclair QL 

Overview

 Hardware 

New QLs

Emulators

Spares/Repairs

Expansion Options

Keyboard Membranes

2nd Hand Items

Printers

 Software 

Adventures

Business Software

Games

Genealogy Software

Leisure Software

Programming Accessories

Printing Utilities

Public Domain

Route Finder  

Wargames/
Simulations

Preservation


Sinclair ZX Microdrive Cartridge - based on tape technologyDue to the perceived shortcomings with the Sinclair QL's built-in microdrives which could be slow, unreliable and lose the data, there have been a wide range of expansion boards released for the Sinclair QL over the years, plus replacements for some of the chips (to provide extra facilities and more reliability).

More details of the range of add-ons which we currently have in stock appear on our second hand items page.  However, you may find the following guide to essential expansion options useful.

Floppy Disk Drives

3.5" Floppy Disks - more reliable than microdrive cartridges - you need a special interface to use these with the Sinclair QLAlthough there are still a few QL traders (such as ourselves) in existence and supplying new software for the Sinclair QL, software has not been released on microdrive cartridge for many years.  You will therefore need a 3.5" disk drive and a disk interface for the QL. 

There were many disk interfaces released, some of which were a bare interface with only a few additional commands (such as the Micro Peripherals disk interface) and others offered more memory, increased speed and even access to better operating systems (such as the Gold Card and Super Gold Card from Miracle Systems).

Most of the disk interfaces will only support Double Density disks (720K) although the Gold Card and Super Gold Card could handle both High Density disks (1440K) and even Extra Density disks (3.2MB).  You can connect higher density disk drives to the various interfaces, but beware that there may be problems with other people reading your disks if you try formatting High Density disks to 720K for example.

There is also plenty of free software available on the internet for download using a PC.  In order to transfer these files to the QL, it is essential that you do not unzip the files on the PC, but instead copy the zip file to a disk. 

A PC's file system is not compatible with that used by the Sinclair QL, and therefore (unless you run the SMSQ/e operating system on your QL), you will need some file transfer software - either a program running on the PC which will allow the PC to read a QL format floppy disk, or a program running on a QL allowing it to read files from a PC formatted floppy disk. An example would be the Discover software from Dave Walker running on a QL. On a PC, programs like Jonathan Hudson's WXQT2, WXQLTools and QXLtool can be useful.

Once on the disk, you will need to run unzip on the QL - ah but here we have the problem of how to get unzip on the QL !!  Luckily Jonathan Hudson maintains the QL version of Unzip and provides a self-extracting version on  his website.  You can always ask us, for £1 we will send you a disk with the QL version of Unzip on it ready to run on the Sinclair QL.

Running Software

Modern software (since about 1990) tends to make assumptions about memory and other facilities on the QL.  It is therefore essential that you have at least 256K added memory and Toolkit II.  Some disk interfaces (notably the Trump Card, Gold Card and Super Gold Card) and most QL emulators offer these built in. 

However, if you do not have these and have a standard QL, you need to look for a Toolkit II ROM (which plugs into the QL's ROM port) and an expanderam which plugs into the side expansion slot, but includes a through port connector, to allow you to still connect other cards, such as a disk interface.

Hard Disk Drives

Although Miracle Systems provided a hard disk system for the Sinclair QL (which plugged into the ROM port), these are now very rare to find in full working order.  Much easier is the QubIDE interface which plugs into the QL's expansion port and can be used to connect a standard ATA (IDE) disk drive or even a CD-ROM to the Sinclair QL.  Unfortunately, the QubIDE does not provide a through connector and therefore you really need a backplane in order to connect both a QubIDE and a floppy disk interface. Backplanes are available second hand from £8.

The other option is to use a RomDisq which plugs into the QL's ROM port and consists of a flash EPROM card up to 8MB. RomDisqs are no longer made, but can sometimes be found second hand..

Higher Resolution Displays

If you want the QL to display a screen beyond the standard 512 x 256 pixels (in 4 colours) or 256 x 256 pixels (in 8 colours), then you will need an Aurora replacement motherboard or one of the better QL emulators.  The Aurora replacement motherboard also supports 256 colours and a 16 colour mode, although at present no drivers exist for the 16 colour mode.  However, if you want to use the extended colour modes available on Aurora, you will need to use a Super Gold Card as the Gold Card uses some of the memory addresses required to enable this, and the SMSQ/e is also preferable. Our program QWord gives an indication of just what is now possible on the humble QL using an Aurora motherboard and Super Gold Card.

Other Expansion Options  

There were lots of other add-ons and replacement parts designed for the Sinclair QL, including digitisers, modems and keyboard interfaces.

However, probably the most essential is a serial to parallel converter if it is to connect to a centronics printer.  These come in several versions and are readily available second hand.  The standard version connects to the QL's built-in serial ports (BT style plug), although there are versions for a standard 9 pin serial socket too (as used on the US version of the QL and later derivatives).  The Gold Card and Super Gold Card expansion cards have a parallel port in-built.

We normally have a wide range of second hand hardware and software available for the Sinclair QL - a sample appears below:

Consumables
Transform Plastic Hinged ZX Microdrive Storage Box
Holds 25 Cartridges
£2
10 x 3.5" DSDD (720K) Diskettes £7.50

We can also provide the following add-ons (produced by Tony Firshman) to order:

  • SuperHermes upgrade chip (which provides much improved (and faster) serial ports plus a keyboard and mouse interface);
  • Minerva replacement operating system (which is faster and much improved than the original, allowing multi-tasking SuperBASIC, split output baud rates and even I2C interfaces);
  • QL RomDisq (a flash memory card which plugs into the ROM connector on the rear of the QL and provides up to 8Mb of flash memory which can be used like a hard disk).