Sunday, February 19, 2023

ZXIO Interface for the ZX81: Part 2

Leave a Comment


Last post I mentioned that the ZXIO add-on is memory mapped to location 16507. So this time I go over why 16507 and dig into Memory Mapping at little.

Let's Talk about Memory Mapping

The main problem with mapping an IO device to a memory location is that it can remove that location from the ZX81's physical memory. Meaning that you can potentially poke black holes right into a location crucial for executing your applications. Not so good but avoidable.

To understand where to locate a memory mapped device let's first cover the basics: The first 8k is always devoted to ROM, the second 8k is by default is a shadow copy of ROM. This is then followed by a block of RAM either a 1k block followed subsequently by 16 shadow 1k copies of the first on a stock machine; or on a 16k expanded ZX81, an entire 16k block. In both a 1k and 16k machines, RAM addressing tops out at address 32767. Then we find 2 shadow copies of ROM taking up a 16k slot and finally shadow copies of RAM identical to those located between addresses 16384 and 32767.

ZX81 Memory Map in Standard 16k and an Example 32k Configuration


Add Dec

Add Hex

16K RAM Map

32K ZXpand (Low Map)

0 - 8k





8 - 16k



ROM (Copy 0000-08191)


16 - 24k





24- 32k





32 - 40k



ROM (Copy 0000-08191)


40 - 48k



ROM (Copy 0000-08191)

ROM (Copy 0000-08191)

48 - 56k



RAM (Copy 4000-4FFF)

RAM (During M1)

56 - 64k



RAM (Copy 6000-7FFF)

RAM (During M1)

That's the basic 1k to 16k out of the way. If we have more memory the map changes. Each of the shadow copies of ROM can be switched out to accommodate extra RAM in 8k blocks (I'll post-fix that statement with normally). For example a 32k machine might switch out the first and second copies of the ROM located at 2000 to 3FFF and 8000 and 9FFF. This would give the ZX81 32k of contiguous RAM to play with. However it's worth noting that BASIC programs can only be located within a 16k area between 16384 and 32767, exactly the same 16k area as in the original memory map. That's not to say that the extra RAM is inaccessible to BASIC, you can PEEK and POKE the entire memory configuration. This ability is fortunate as memory mapping additional hardware requires this same functionality.

Memory Mapping Hardware Devices (Somewhere)

Much like swapping in RAM, add-ons can assume the memory location designated for shadow ROM, additionally we can claim areas of RAM. All well a good but where would we want to locate our devices in the memory map. This of course is not a new discussion, Nick Lambert of Quicksilva proposed a Memory Map standard for Peripherals all the way back in 1982, where he lays out where exactly he feels certain types of peripherals should live.

The below table is taken from SQ Quarterly Issue Volume 1, Issue 1, where you'll find quite an extensive article on the ZX80 & 81's Memory Maps, well worth reading, and it covers quite some ground that I won't go into here.

Nick Lambert of Quicksilva's Proposed Memory Map for Peripherals (SQ Quarterly 1-1 1982) 

Of course Nick's standard probably saw very little traction, and by the time anybody cared enough to follow a 'standard' they'd most likely moved onto squabbling around similar issues with the ZX Spectrum. Regardless, he does highlight the 2 most common areas where manufacturers and purveyors of DIY kits would naturally choose to locate their add-ons, the shadow ROM areas.

Now as mentioned in Part 1, in order to save wads of cash, address mapping was normally keep to a minimum, with large areas mapped to reduce IC counts. Now of course if you're playing around with a ZX81 you're going to want to maximise your RAM (just because you can, plus there really are applications the use it all), and all that RAM is already likely to be occupying the shadow ROM areas. This of course pretty much rules out every location (exaggerating a bit for effect). In reality we can get very specific on addressing, right down to the byte, a good scheme might be to map to the upmost ROM/RAM area unused by BASIC, say 16383. But if we're going to get that specific there is another creative option open to us.

16507 and Friends

The bytes in memory, 16384 to 16508 hold the ZX81 System Variables. Of the 124 bytes set aside for System Variables, there are 3 listed as not used in the ZX81 BASIC Programming Manual. (Why is this? Steven Vickers might know, personally, I haven't a clue) These unused bytes are 16417, 16507 and 16508, they are perfect for our purposes.

The major catch with mapping a peripheral into the unused System Variables space is that any programmer looking to claw free space (particularly those building 1k apps) is going to hunt these down and use them. Doing so will prevent our prospective IO device and such memory scrounging programs from running correctly. As with pretty much all memory mapping issues, this is easily solved by removing the offending device. Still it's both worth both pointing out and remembering in those cases where something odd happens, say when running that special copy of "1k Monkey Clown Car Mega Racer Game TM".

In Theory

For the first iterations of the ZXIO board I've chosen address 16507 as it affords the opportunity in latter revisions in claiming 16508, giving 2 adjoining addresses and some really interesting possibilities. Of course this is well into the future, first priorities are / were getting the initial prototype up and running.

Next Up  

We'll get onto designing and building the ZXIO, plus issues and I encountered along the way. Pretty much what you'd expect from a write up. 

See all the other entries for this project:   Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 and Part 6.

If You Enjoyed This Share It And Buy Me A Coffee

  • Follow Me on Masterdon
  • Buy Me A Coffee


Post a Comment