We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Evolution of gaming since the ZX Spectrum

We chart graphical progress over the last 30 years

Computers have changed enormously since the ZX Spectrum first made its claim to stardom by simply being able to display eight colours and play a few blurps and beeps. These days, games have almost photo-realistic images that move with incredible speed and clarity accompanied by Hollywood-style orchestral scores. The path that led from such humble origins to the heights of the modern PC or games console has had many a hero along the way, so we thought we’d assemble a Hall of Fame to chart the evolution of games hardware.

What follows is an abridged timeline of the major console releases and a few PCs to show how hardware specifications and graphics have evolved over the last 30 years. We haven't included every single console as competing models had largely the equal graphical capabilities. So, for example, we have listed just the Nintendo NES and not the Sega Master System, and the Mega Drive but not the S-NES.

We also deliberately excluded handheld devices (that's a fairly long list in itself), but if there's a particular machine that you think we really should have featured, let us know in the comments below.

ZX Spectrum 48K

Year: 1982
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K
CPU speed: 3.5MHz
Memory: 48KB
Graphics: 8 Colours, 256x192 resolution
Game: Sabre Wulf

Sabre Wulf

Year: 1985
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
CPU speed:  1.76MHz
Memory: 2KB (game cartridges expanded this)
Graphics: 48 colours, 256x240 resolution
Game: Super Mario Bros

Super Mario Bros

Year: 1990
Sega Mega Drive
CPU speed: 7.61MHz
Memory: 64KB
Graphics: 64 colours, 320x240 resolution
Game: Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Year - 1992
IBM PS/1
CPU speed: 25MHz
Memory: 1MB
Graphics: 16 colours, 800x600 resolution (256 colours at 640x480)
Game: Alone in the Dark

Alone in the dark

Year: 1994
Sony Playstation
CPU speed: 33.6MHz  
Memory: 128KB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 640x480 resolution
Game: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

Year: 1996
Nintendo 64
CPU speed: 93.75MHz
Memory: 4MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 640x480 resolution
Game: Goldeneye

Goldeneye

Year: 1997
Gateway 2000 PC
CPU speed: 266MHz
Memory: 16MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 1024x768
Game: Duke Nukem 3D

Duke Nukem 3D

Year: 1998
Sega Dreamcast
CPU speed: 200MHz
Memory: 16MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 640x480 resolution
Game: Soul Calibur

Soul Calibur

Year: 2000
Sony PlayStation 2
CPU speed: 295MHz
Memory: 32MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 1280x1024 resolution
Game: WWF Smackdown

WWF Smackdown Just Bring It

Year: 2003
Alienware Area 51 PC
CPU speed: 3GHz
Memory: 512MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 1600x1200 resolution
Game: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

Max Payne 2

Year: 2005
Evesham Decimator SLI FX
CPU speed: 2.8GHz
Memory: 1GB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 2048x1536 resolution
Game: F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R

Year: 2005
Microsoft Xbox 360
CPU speed: 3.2GHz
Memory: 512MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 1920x1080 resolution
Game: Call of Duty 3

Call of Duty 3

Year: 2007
Sony PlayStation 3
CPU speed: 3.2GHz
Memory: 256MB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 1920x1080 resolution
Game: Uncharted : Drake’s Fortune

Uncharted : Drake’s Fortune

Year: 2008
CyberPower Gamer Infinity Crossfire GT PC
CPU speed: 3GHz
Memory: 4GB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 2560x1600 resolution
Game: Crysis

Crysis

Year: 2012
Chillblast Fusion Talisman
CPU speed: 4.9GHz
Memory: 8GB
Graphics: 16.7million colours, 4096x2160 resolution
Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 3

IDG UK Sites

6 cheapest 4K TVs in the UK 2014: Get a UHD telly without breaking the bank

IDG UK Sites

Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, 256GB, Early 2014) lab tests and benchmarks

IDG UK Sites

How to stop your parents opening and responding to phishing emails

IDG UK Sites

Google to ship first Project Ara developer boards in July