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A port of the EightyOne ZX81 Emulator to libretro
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Latest commit 10fcd60 Jun 28, 2019


81-libretro is an work in progress port of the EightyOne (a.k.a. THE Sinclair Emulator) to libretro. It's being developed on Windows with MinGW (64 bits) and Debian 8, and tested on RetroArch 1.2 frontend.


The classic ZX81 games are all over the Internet, but check the colorized folder for games with Chroma 81 support. There are also many original games for the Zeddy, check Bob's Stuff for some high quality games.

Emulated Machines

EightyOne emulates a number of ZX80, ZX81, clones, and other computers based on the same hardware:

  • Sinclair ZX80
  • Sinclair ZX81
  • Timex TS1000
  • Timex TS1500
  • Lambda 8300
  • Ringo R470
  • MicroDigital TK85
  • Jupiter ACE

However, 81-libretro only emulates the Sinclair ZX81 with 16Kb RAM for now. Other machines will be added as time permits. Push requests are welcome.

The port correctly loads and runs some many games I have around in the p format. tzx format is also supported.

EightyOne also emulates some ZX Spectrum machines, but those were left out of this core on purpose. For a ZX Spectrum core for libretro, see the Fuse core.

Core Options

The only core option available on the frontend is:

  • Tape Fast Load (enabled|disabled): Instantly loads files if enabled, or disabled it to see the moving horizontal lines while the game loads
  • 8K-16K Contents (ROM shadow|RAM|dK'tronics 4K Graphics ROM + 4K RAM): Selects the contents of memory addresses between 8192 and 16383, a shadow copy of the ROM, 8K of RAM, or dK'tronics 4K ROM plus 4K of RAM
  • High Resolution (auto|none|WRX): Enables WRX high resolution
  • Emulate Chroma 81 (auto|disabled|enabled): Enable the Chroma 81 interface
  • Video Presets (clean|tv|noisy): Change how the video is emulated (if Chroma 81 is enabled, the video is set to "clean" regardless of this option)
  • Sound emulation (auto|none|Zon X-81): Enables sound emulation
  • Joypad button (up, down, left, right, a, b, x, y, l, r, l2, r2) mappings (auto|default|new line|shift|space|.|0|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|a|b|c|d|e|f|g|h|i|j|k|l|m|n|o|p|q|r|s|t|u|v|w|x|y|z): Maps a joypad button to a keyboard key, defaults are the cursor keys for the directional pad and '0' to all the other buttons
  • Transparent Keyboard Overlay (enabled|disabled): If the keyboard overlay is transparent or opaque
  • Time to Release Key in ms (500|1000|100|300): How many milliseconds to wait before releasing the key pressed using the keyboard overlay

Keyboard and Controllers

A keyboard and a cursor joystick are configured and should work out-of-the-box.

Supported Formats

The p and the tzx formats are supported.

Save States

Save states are supported, but the format is likely to change when more machines are emulated.


  1. Compile 81-libretro with make -f Makefile.libretro
  2. Copy the resulting 81_libretro.dll or into the cores folder of your libretro frontend
  3. Profit!

Game Database

Since configuring the core for each game can be a tedious task, 81-libretro now features auto-configuration. Games support auto-configuration are listed in the src/gamedb/gamedb.json file, along with some information and the configuration required to play them.

Currently, there's no way to change the auto-configuration settings short of recompiling the core after making the changes. If you feel the provided auto-configuration could be better or has bugs, please open an issue and I'll take a look.

The core comes with auto-configuration for all homebrew games from Bob's Stuff, and some of the games available at Paul Farrow's collection of colorized games (namely the ones available for download here in the colorized subfolder). If you want to add auto-configuration for a missing game, please submit a push request with changes only to the gamedb.json file.


Erik Olofsen for help with:

  • The correct values to set the Z80 registers and some memory variables to successfully load p files
  • Chroma 81 emulation
  • tzx support
  • Zon X-81 sound emulation

See also the colorized subfolder.


Versions that are being used to build and test 81-libretro:

  • EightyOne version 1.0 (test a)


See the open issues.


Many, probably. Open issues or send push requests.



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