We all know that various ports of Pac-Man exist but my question is just for one specific computer. Could the Spectrum, with time and proper knowledge, run the Arcade version of Pac-Man despite it's Z80 processor running a 3.5 MHZ?

Let's assume that everything has been optimized perfectly and there are zero mistakes in the code.

How well, in a side by side comparison, will the Z80 compare to the arcade release? I won't even attempt to program it until some time (I.E I will be OLD when i do) has passed.

  • 3
    Hm... I used both extensively, and I'm not aware of any advantages of 6502 over Z80 from the software (i.e. assembly) point of view. There are some unique curiosities about 6502, but I wouldn't voluntarily use it after Z80. Your question conflates CPU (in the body) and a computer (in the title), but on the CPU side nothing prevents a Z80 implementation of anything that is possible on 6502. Computers are a different matter though as there are many more architectural considerations.
    – Zeus
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 7:51
  • The 6502 is much better than the Z80 for applications requiring data tables with less than 256 entries. Something like ldx index ; lda table,x really has no equal on the Z80. It's also really good for dealing with objects of 256 bytes or less, using (ind),y addressing mode. The z80 may have an edge for situations that require sequential through uniform data structures with more than 256 bytes.
    – supercat
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 15:04
  • I would expect it would be easier to port 6502 code onto a Z80 than the opposite but I only touched 6502 a couple of times back in the day so could be wrong. Porting retro arcade machine code onto retrocomputers with different architectures is the perfect use case and a much tougher job than the one we see here. Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 1:14
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    What is even the 6502 reference doing here? What I've seen, the original Pac-Man had a Z80 processor on board.
    – UncleBod
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 9:55
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    @UncleBod: Yep the OP was wrong. Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


Both the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Pac-Man arcade machine used the Zilog Z 80 CPU.

Pac-Man's display was slightly larger and vertical at 224×288 while the Speccy's was horizontal at 256×192.

The Speccy did not have hardware sprites or pixel-addressable colours.

The original 48K Speccy only had "1 bit" beeper sound though later models had an AY sound chip. The arcade machine had a Namco PSG sound chip.

But if you're willing to scale down the graphics just a tiny bit and put up with a bit of colour clash when different coloured things are too close to each other, you should actually be able to port the Pac-Man arcade ROM code to work on the Spectrum hardware.

No need though since Simon Owen already did exactly that nearly a decade ago:

Simon Owen's ZX Spectrum Pac-Man

It's not a port. You need to provide the Pac-Man arcade board's ROMs. It runs the ROM code and just emulates the hardware differences. As a nice coincidence he just released the first update in four years this March.

By the way:

I just discovered that somebody has actually done the opposite of this too. The early Spectrum classic game Manic Miner was converted to run on original Pac-Man arcade hardware! Also almost a decade ago.

  • interesting. Is there a TZX image?
    – Vpirate21
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:09
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    @Vpirate21: No because he doesn't have the right to redistribute the Pac-Man arcade ROMs. It has a makefile that builds a tape image once you have the right ROMs. I haven't actually tried to build it myself. Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:48
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    It's very easy to build, and delightful to see a timing-perfect Pac-Man running on a 128K Speccy, complete with colour clash. You just need to find the correct pacman.zip archive for the Midway ROM images for MAME, then the makefile just concatenates a header, the roms and a trailer to make a TAP image. And it works!
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 12:39
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    @hippietrail - I don't think anti-colour-clash techniques could apply to this, as the author has to work within the design constraints of the original Pac-Man ROM graphics. I think colour-clash adds to the ambience of the game. The SAM Coupé was quite neat: I was at the show where it was launched, and even had a brief chat with Mel Croucher. So I've seen one, but never used one.
    – scruss
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 0:21
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    @Hippietrail - multicolour on the Spectrum such as Nirvana works by updating the colour attributes as the raster moves over the screen, and then updating them again for the next pixel row, so 768 x 8. It requires a lot of unrolled code instead of loops and continuously updating attrs as the raster moves down the screen in tight synchronisation. That way you can have independent 2 colours in up to every pixel row of a character square, but cost 75% of of CPU time. Even then the horizontal colour limit is still the same, a ghost approaching Pacman from the side will still cause colour clash. Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 19:37

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