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Comparing the Speed of BASIC on the Amiga 500, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64

Dating back to 1988, some notes on the speed of three 1980s home computers running BASIC. Can you guess the winner and the loser?


I recently came across the remains of a pad of A4 paper, dating back my college days in the mid-80s. It seems that I later used one of the blank pages to write some notes, showing how long the three computers I owned at the time took to do certain operations in BASIC.

It’s not a true or scientific comparison of the relative power of the machines, but it does give a feel for how they compared when programmed in BASIC, and I thought I’d share it.

Amiga vs C64 vs ZX Spectrum BASIC Speed Comparison
Alan’s 1988 comparison of the the Amiga, ZX Spectrum and C64 running BASIC

As you might expect, the Amiga was the winner, with an average time of 7.3 seconds.

I thought the Commodore 64 and Spectrum would have been closer to each other, but the Spectrum’s BASIC seemed to be less efficient — its average time was 58.4 seconds vs 35.7 seconds for the C64.

In conclusion, in my simple tests the Commodore 64 BASIC was on average 1.6 times faster than the ZX Spectrum, and the Amiga 500 BASIC was 8 times faster than the ZX Spectrum, and 4.9 times faster than the Commodore 64.


The ZX Spectrum was a 48K model, and the Amiga 500 had 1 MB of RAM, and was running the AmigaBASIC supplied with Workbench 1.3 on the Extras disk. All three were PAL machines.

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