a new ZX Spectrum system font: Clairsys

Clairsys is a pixel font developed for the ZX Spectrum. It is meant as a substitute for the original system font, which has some shortcomings in my opinion. The uppercase letters and numbers are too wide and too heavy in comparison with the lowercase letters. Not all the letters harmonise very well too, and certain symbols – like the at-sign for example – are not very clear.

the standard system font of the ZX Spectrum

original characterset overview

Clairsys is still fitted on an 8x8 pixels grid, but almost all characters have been redesigned with much more harmonised proportions. This has resulted in a relative wider spacing – most notable in the uppercase letters – which produces a more rhythmic pattern when letters are standing next to each other. Also note the dramatic changes of the lowercase y, the at-sign, quotes, braces, dollar and ampersand.

the same example but now in Clairsys

clairsys characterset overview

how to use Clairys

For a large number of operating systems there is software available that can emulate the ZX Spectrum computer, so called emulators. One of the most comprehensive archives on the net for ZX Spectrum emulators is World of Spectrum.

Most of these applications use separate files that contain the ZX Spectrum ROM. I have made modified versions of these ROM files that contain Clairsys instead of the regular system font. Just replace the original files (don’t delete them, you never know) with the Clairsys ROM files.

The code in the ROM files is © copyright by Amstrad plc, who have kindly given permission for distribution.

modified ROM files can be downloaded for different models, including the 128K version

startup screen with Clairsys

how to use Clairys without hacking your emulator

If your emulator does not make use of separate ROM files (and for the faint of heart) there is also a clairsys.tap file for use with ZX Spectrum emulators. This file acts as a virtual tape and contains a small basic program together with the binary code of Clairsys. This requires no modification of any ROM file, but it means you have to load the font in the emulator everytime you want to use Clairsys.

the Clairsys tap file contains code and instructions

Basic program showing Clairsys