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One of the selling points used to position the Coupé in the marketplace (which is often debated as both a good or bad move on the part of MGT) was as the upgrade to the ZX Spectrum and thus you could play backwardly compatible speccy games whilst enjoying the new features of the machine.
What users were not told at this stage was that the emulation was for the 48K only and not the 128K machines, in fact emulation of the 128K’s memory map would prove impossible at workable speeds. Simon Cooke began work on an emulator that ran at best at about 1/16th of the required speed although many demos and games were converted manually to great effect by people like Simon Cooke, Stefan Drissen and Edwin Blink.
The original emulation was via a 'skeleton' ROM image (not containing any copyrighted code) that was not 100% compatible leading to many problems with software that made extensive ROM routine calls or utilised undocumented calls or features.
Another issue discovered was that getting the software to load at all was an often problematic due to subtle differences in machine timing.
Many games with anti-piracy software protection loaders that used tight timing like Speedlok and Hyperload would not work at all.
To address this MGT quickly engaged the services of Graham Mason a well known hacker on the Speccy scene and Your Sinclair’s resident ‘game cheats’ expert to provide workarounds for the loaders. This was written in January 1990 and distributed with the SAMDOS boot disk and with the ROM upgrade.
Users soon found that by aquiring a copy of the Spectrum 48K ROM with a few minor POKE adjustments gave much better emulation results and lists of ‘compatible’ titles started appearing in magazines such as Fred and even some games listed themselves as SAM Coupé Compatible like Thalamus’s Delta Charge.
Some ‘standard hacks’ to make the ROM operate originally from Format (Vol 3 Issue 5 January 1990) by Ken Elston appeared in many publications including Fred 1 as well as instructions for replacing the ‘skelt.bin’ ROM image from the MGT emulator.
A market then grew for 3rd party Spectrum emulators that offered enhanced features such as superior file handling, correct keyboard mapping and even fixes to the timing bugs introduced by running on the Coupé and thus allowing games to load without the need for the loader hacks.
In 1991 SamCo released a hardware solution for transferring data called The Messenger that could send snapshots from the Spectrum after they had loaded, the only disadvantage was that you had to have the Spectrum hardware.
In 1999 as part of B-DOS development work a hard disk patched ZX Spectrum 48K emulator was released by Martijn Groen with support for Sam 48K files, SNA, Z80, SP, TAP, SamTape and even the Triple Joystick Interface.
These programs can be used to load many Spectrum software titles directly into the SAM Coupé. Software which makes calls to the Spectrum ROM may not work because we could not include a copy of the ROM in our code for copyright reasons. Many of the most common ROM calls ARE supported, but the actual code is obviously different from the Spectrum's.
To load in Spectrum tape software, you should first select the EMULATOR option and set the volume control on your tape recorder to MAXIMUM.
If this fails to load the tape, you should select one of the PATCH options. There are six patch options available numbered from 1 - 6. These tend to be more sensitive to volume than the EMULATOR.
Use the keys Q and A and to highlight a patch number, then SPACE to select.
OPTION 1 Early Spectrum titles (pre '84)
OPTION 2 '84 - '86 Spectrum titles
OPTION 3 Mostly for OCEAN titles
OPTION 4 '86 - Current day Spectrum titles
OPTION 5 '86 - Current day Spectrum titles
OPTION 6 Mostly for US GOLD titles