Z80 based CPUs

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Wanting to start sizecoding on a Z80 platform in this day and age can be tough.

So here is a bit of help to get you started:


The Z80 can be seen as the little 8-bit brother of X86 chipsets, with many similarities. If you are coming from a X86 background, this might help you get a bit more grip on the Z80. These are the register pairs of the Z80, as seen from a X86 programmers perspective.

  • AF = AL + Flags
  • HL = Can be seen as BX (H=BH,L=BL) or SI in a (HL) setting, like BX also used for adressing.
  • BC = Can be seen as CX (B=CH,C=CL), often used for loops
  • DE = Can be seen as DX (D=DH,E=DL) or DI in a (DE) setting
  • IX = 16 bit Index Register X, can also be accessed with IXH,IXL
  • IY = 16 bit Index Register Y, can also be accessed with IYH,IYL

For each register, there also exists a shadow register that can be swapped out by using the EX instruction.

Note: For a lot of operations, you can only use the A(8bit) and HL(16bit) registers. The Sjasmplus assembler doesn't really do proper syntax checking for this so beware.


Here is a rough translation for some of the Z80 instructions:

  • BIT = TEST
  • CP = CMP (although the Z80 has many other handy compare functionality)
  • DJNZ = LOOP (decreases B and checks not zero)
  • EXE = Exchange all registers with Shadow registers, can be used a bit like PUSHA/POPA
  • EX = XCHG
  • HALT = HLT
  • JP = JMP
  • JR = JMP NEAR (Jump Relative)
  • LD = MOV
  • LDI = MOVSB (tmp=(HL),(DE)=tmp, DE++, HL++)
  • LDIR = REP MOVSB (tmp=(HL),(DE)=tmp, DE++, HL++, BC--)

Learning Z80 Assembler

There are many Z80 tutorials available online, but one i found very simple and clear is at this 1996 styled webpage ;-)

There is no proper index-page for this, which is why i linked all the lessons above, but you can continue to the next lesson by clicking at the next lesson at the bottom of the page.

Also, here is a compact 'cheat sheet' with some basics for various Z80 systems: https://www.chibiakumas.com/z80/CheatSheet.pdf

ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum consists of a Z80A @ 3.5 MHz CPU with either 16k, 48k or 128K of RAM.

Setting up

Setting up your development platform for the ZX Spectrum is quite easy, first get the following tools:

Start values

Upon startup (when called from basic), the following values can assumed:

  • The alternate HL register is set to 0x2758
  • BC = start address
  • A = C

Video display

Video display on the ZX Spectrum is mostly CPU based with little hardware features. No hardware sprites, no specific text or video modes, only a 256x192 byte screenbuffer with 1bit pixeldata located at $4000 in memory. It is ordened a bit strange in 3 sections of 256x64 pixels, then character rows, then subrows.


  • where RRRRR is the row number (0..23)
  • CCCCC is the column number (0..31)
  • LLL is the line number within the cell (0..7)

Adding Color

The ZX Spectrum has a 32x24 colormap located at $5800 where you can write color information for each 8x8 tile. It has has 8 colors (INK and PAPER) with 2 brightness settings that can be set like this.

color = brightness(64) | (PAPER<<3) | INK

Because updating pixel memory can be slow, especially when you are grasping for bytes, some of the tiny intros on the zx spectrum prefer to use the colorram for the effect, sometimes in combination with an overlaying pattern.

Border Color

You can set the border color to any of the 8 colors with:

out (254),color

Getting something on screen

To be added soon.


The original Spectrum has only a 1 bit sound capability (BEEP) through its internal speaker. Later models included the AY-3-8910 Soundchip which provides 3 channels of PSG sound.

Make some noise - Beeper

Setting/toggling bit 4 of port 254 will enable the beeper speaker.

		ld a,$10	;Bit 4 set
beeploop:	xor $10		;toggle Bit 4
		out (254),a
		ld b,90		;wait
		djnz $
		jp beeploop

Make some noise - AY

You can access the AY soundchip be outputting to the following ports:

ld bc,0xfffd
ld a, ay register number
out (c),a
ld b,0xbf	
ld a, data byte
out (c),a

For more information about the soundchip, check out: https://www.atarimagazines.com/v4n7/stsound.html

Additional Resources

I found resources on ZX Spectrum sizecoding to be sparse.

Amstrad CPC

The Amstrad consists of a Z80A @ 3.5 MHz CPU

Setting up

Setting up..

  • Assembler: -
  • Emulator(s): -

Video Display

No information yet


No information yet

Additional Resources

No information yet