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When Z80 first became available on the market in 1976 it was made using NMOS technology. It is the version that is likely to be most familiar to people interested in retro-computers. For example, to the best of my knowledge, all classical models of ZX Spectrum used NMOS version of the chip, sourced from several manufacturers.

At some point in time, CMOS version of Z80 became available. The Wikipedia article on Z80 claims that CMOS version of Z80 was used in several portable computers, starting from Sharp PC-1500 in 1981. However, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that Sharp PC-1500 is based upon a very different CPU, namely LH5801 (see more details here). Two portable computers that I verified to be definitely using CMOS variant of Z80 are Epson PX-8 Geneva released in 1984 (it uses a Toshiba clone TMPZ84C00P-3) and Cambridge Z88 released in 1988 (it uses Zilog's Z84C0004PSC).

I have two related questions, one factual and another partly opinion-based.

  1. When did the CMOS version of Z80 actually become available? I am interested to know both when Zilog released its own version of CMOS Z80 (clearly, prior to 1988) and also when other manufacturers made their CMOS versions of the chip (clearly, prior to 1984).

  2. I was unable to find any mention of any non-portable home computer using a CMOS version of Z80. Of course, CMOS versions were mainly marketed as lower power versions of Z80, i.e. mostly relevant for portable devices. However, CMOS versions also have higher operating frequencies, so one could have used them to make faster Z80-based computers. Are you aware of CMOS Z80 being used in this capacity, especially in the 1980s? If not, do you have any explanation/hypothesis why this was the case?

  • There are a lot of 48k and clones using the Z80 NEC... – Rui F Ribeiro Feb 18 at 16:03
  • @RuiFRibeiro, I am not very interested in clones, as most of them happened later. Do you have any specific information regarding Sinclair- or Amstrad-produced ZX Spectrums build with CMOS chips? – introspec Feb 18 at 19:51
  • Yep, my own issue 3 came with a NEC originally...I asked to change it to a Zilog one. They were cheaper or easier to procure as @Raffzahn says. Even back in the day, models with NEC Z80 had problems with the Interface 1. – Rui F Ribeiro Feb 18 at 22:20
  • @RuiFRibeiro, what is the specific part number of that NEC chip? I have seen NEC chips in some ZX Spectrums too, for example, see Issue 2 at spectrumforeveryone.com/technical/zx-spectrum-models. However, in this case the part number is D780C-1 and it is NMOS (see cpu-world.com/CPUs/Z80/NEC-D780C-1.html). – introspec Feb 19 at 11:04
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(Only partial answer)

Using a CMOS does not just happen because of the need of low power, but availability as well. Already in the late 80s, CMOS were sold at the same or even lower price as NMOS variants or being the the only offer some manufacturers had at all. Since the CMOS was in most parts compatible with the NMOS version, decision to use one was made in procurement, not in engineering.

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  • CMOS Z80 has exacly one difference in undoc instructions. It executes 'out (c),#00' as 'out (c),#FF'. There might be also differences in undocumented flags, but i'm not aware of it. – lvd Feb 19 at 16:30

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