Sinclair ZX Spectrum: 25 today
The rubber keyboard that saved Britain
Clive Sinclair's ZX Spectrum is a quarter of a century old today. The machine that really launched the UK IT industry hit the streets of a depressed Britain on 23 April, 1982.
The Falklands War was properly kicking off, skirt-bothering Europhiles Bucks Fizz were number one with their unforgettable hit My Camera Never Lies [no, us either], and new romantic coal miners were using yellowed ration books as makeshift lavatory paper while they waited in million-strong lines for their Giro - if they weren't being beaten up by skinheads.
Dark days, then. But lo, along came bespectacled Messiah Sir Clive Sinclair with the successor to his 1981 release, the black-and-white ZX-81 [see what he did there?]. The ZX Spectrum boasted a visual cortex-melting eight colours at 256 x 192 resolution, blistering 3.5MHz CPU, and crucially, a crisp-repelling vulcanised rubber keyboard.
It gave a nation of spods a good reason not to go outside, paving the way for a generation UK IT triumphs, like the National Programme for IT.
Unfortunately for Sir Clive, his subsequent adventures in personal transport, wristwatch radios, and professional poker didn't redefine paradigms in quite the same way.
For a trip down memory lane - or for those under 30, to laugh with youthful conceit at the pathetic puniness of early home computers - you could do worse than visit worldofspectrum for archives, forums and emulators.
Share your memories of
wasted joyous youth below, in the comments section. ®
People just wont understand the magnitude of the spekky's release.
I came home from primary school for lunch, and my dad showed me what looked like a magical box of promise.
I believe the game that shipped with it was called, "Brickabrack" it was colour and it had sound (mono through the tv's mono speaker)
Games loaded on analogue cassette and made strange noises.
Games like "Jetpack" and "Sabre Wolf" were incredible to a child with nothing else but a knackered caser and a grifter to play with. (unless u found some matches or porn)
The people who fell in love with the promise this machine gave, went on to create the multi million colour, real time light sourcing, fully 3D co-op games you take for granted today.
The same people would look at a yellow and black line drawing of a helicoptor, that took 8 minutes to load (before crashing) and wish, "maybe one day it will look real and really move".
Addictive games on a 48k machine (smaller than an average jpg file)
To this day I remember how it smelled, fresh out the box, the sound of the polystyrene blocks, the keys (Daley Thompson's Decathlon helped too, start of my RSI right there)
And I remember feeling like a kempston came off a space craft.
Young uns have NO fooking idea just how special a time it was, and I had to go back to school to get shouted at and called stupid for another 7 or 8 years.
The ZX Spectrum to me, was like life beginning, wonder, education, promise, fun hahaha love!
The Cheeta Drum Machine!? that was the shiznit!!!
The reason I ended up in IT
The Speccy wasn't the computer which introduced me to programming (that honour goes to the Atari 800XL), but it was the first computer which we had in our home, and is where I *learned* to write code.
Couldn't get any of the games to load from my crufty old tape recorder at first, so I spent the first week going through the manual and playing around with the example programs instead.
A fortnight or so after we got it, my dad brought home issue 1 of a weekly magazine called "Input" and my life changed forever! (Outside? Pfft, what's that good for anyway? Must...write...code...)
My old Spectrum still works, though getting it to display anything viewable on the technology-repressed NTSC televisions here in the States is proving difficult.
Games...one word: "Elite"... erm, and "Chaos" (that's two words, you dimwit! Ed.)
Yes, Paul, I remember the Lenslock copy-protection very well! I got a copy of Elite on my C64, and well I remember the infuriating "head-hammering" on the old 1541 disk drive. This would always throw the heads out of alignment (yes, the old copy-protection schemes ACTUALLY DAMAGED YOUR SYSTEM), so of course I set about cracking it. It took me 3 days with a copy of the C-64 Programmers Guide (aka the "Bible"), Hesmon and Disk Disector to crack the copy-protection off, and that achievement (although I wasn't the first) gained me entry into a cracking crew (SCC/TAF).
Admittedly three days to crack a game in those days was SLOW... most crackers could bust the CP off a game in half an hour or less, and I myself did eventually get to that level. The trick was, the game houses used the same CP on many games, so it was just a matter of knowing the various CP schemes, which was made easier by the absolute addressing of the C64 - that is, code that resided at address $C000 always sat in that location every time you ran the game. So once you knew the CP scheme, you knew where to look to knock out the code.
After that, we swapped disks, demos and cracks with Euro and other Aussie crews galore. I still remember some of our contacts: ACS, TMT, WOT, WOD, Tera, Hotice. Ah, the copy-parties we used to have! We'd hire out the local school gym, invite all the cracking crews around Australia, and there'd be 40-50 harcore geeks copying each others' disk collections (no such thing as Ethernet back then, folks!), talking code and having races to see who could code the coolest demo the fastest!
Yes, I remember those days fondly. The rebellion against "the man", the ego-trips when you won a demo-comp, the thrill of "Gotcha ya bastard!" when a cracked game finally worked... oh it was fun. Yeah, I know it was wrong, but it was fun!
(God, I haven't used that handle in years! :o)
25 years of the C64 soon
The Commodore 64 was launched in April 1982.
While the Spectrum had the games and was a homegrown computer. The Commodore 64 was a much superior computer in terms of hardware.
The sound chip was designed by someone who was interested in synthesisers (so much so that he founded Ensoniq after leaving CBM). The graphics chip wasn't bad either.
Commenting on the Apple Mac comments, lets not forget the Apple Lisa was released in Jan 1983. It was a complete failure but it was one of the first GUI computers, something that is a milestone in itself.
Somebody already mentioned
the colour codes for Jet Set Willy. (that was a long weekend copying all those out into shorthand, I can tell you), but who remembers the dastardly Lenslock system that was employed on Elite? If anybody diddled Lenslock, I'd be interested to know.
Fave games? 3D Ant Attack and Skooldaze!