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. Sinclair... er... Amstrad ZX Spectrum The Falklands War was properly kicking off, skirt-bothering Europhiles Bucks Fizz were number one with their …
Starquake - best game ever on the Spectrum.
That's what I think, anyway.
The specrum names weren't anything to do with the year
They were Zilog processor revisions...
Ah... Upgrading from a ZX81 to the real POWER of a 16K speccy :-) Those are the sort of upgrades that you remember,
Three more words
>Starquake - best game ever on the Spectrum.
Jet Set Willy.
Absolutely no contest - if what passes for games nowadays were half as addictive as this was, I'd .... probably spend more time in front of a computer than I already do :-)
I remember playing a splendid sheepdog simulator game on a friend's specky. Sadly that particular game genre never really took off.
25 years on and..
..mine still runs fine when I get it off the shelf and blow the dust off it.
"Spectrum names?" you means Sinclair home computer names?
The ZX80 came out in 1980 and the ZX81 came out in 1981. They both used a Z80 cpu. As did the speccy. AFAIC the ZX80/81 were named after the year and the speccy coz it was in colour.
And the '84 Mac Was ONLY B&W and Slower
It should be noted for all the Apple Kool Aid Drinkers, that the NOT YET RELEASED Mac (1984) WASN'T EVEN COLOR (or Colour for the Brits), while the Sinclair ZX was Color AND the Mac 128k sold for (US)$2,495 - 3 times the price of the Sinclair!
Once AGAIN, Apple is shown only to be nothing more than an iNOvator posser.
Now this is just scary...
When I got my ZX, software developers were still considered similar to witch doctors, and Conservatives ruled the earth (see: 80s Blighty). I should point out that I wasn't born until a year after it's launch. Feeling old lads? ;)
It's a world away from the job I do today as a self-employed web developer, but it's with the ZX +2A that my fondest memories of computers remain. I remember sitting coding in line after line of Basic just to see some ridiculously simple game run. I knew how it would end, but I had to see it and play it anyway. I remember playing games like Dizzy and other Codemasters hits (I miss budget software houses!). I remember visiting computer shops in Glasgow where Acorn RISC machines hummed away and I thought "crikey that's clever looking!".
It seems so basic now, and I was definitely behind the curve because we couldn't afford to catch up with the PC movement until I was well into High School; But it grounded me in the basics in a way that even 286 DOS machines couldn't.
To this day, I can still see that prompt waiting on me to do magic with some code, a little determination and an interpreter that made grown men cry.
Word on games...
Starquake was truly exceptional...and Jet Set Willy had his moment in the spotlight too... but what *really* revolutionised game playing on the Spectrum was...
The machine that really launched the UK IT industry?
I'm not sure that you can claim that it launched the UK IT industry.
Even if we only talk about the home computer market, the ZX81 sold over a million units!
The ZX Spectrum was a great machine for the mass market, but not the first to be successful by any stretch of the imagination.
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.)
I used to enjoy pressing the T key, which naturally enough caused the word RANDOMIZE to fill up the screen, slower and slower, with a haunting clicking noise. How it bewitched me.
I admire the way that Sir Clive Sinclair took a bunch of components, threw them into a box with a special magic ULA chip, and caught the wave of the future. He was like Adam Ant - his oddness briefly filled a deep public need. I wonder how he feels about Alan Sugar still being on the telly?
In a just and true world, Sinclair would nowadays be making those Shuttle mini PCs, but with rubber keyboards. He would waste all his profits on trying to design a superthin 21" monochrome 1200dpi LCD screen, and a type of personal hot air balloon.
Should I point out that the Spectrum could actually display 15 different colours?
The BBC website seemed to make the same mistake too.
>Starquake was truly exceptional...and Jet Set Willy had his
>moment in the spotlight too... but what *really* revolutionised
>game playing on the Spectrum was...
It could be argued that Elite revolutionised gaming on a number of home computers. I have fond memories of myself and the other lads in my class being banned from using computers at school out of hours because of a hooky copy of Elite for the Beeb - we spent so much time playing it none of the girls could do their Computer Studies projects :-) I lost the race to become the first in my class to achieve 'Elite' status, but not by much ... great days.
Credit where it's due, the Speccy version was pretty good, certainly a lot better than the car-crash of a version that was produced for the C64 but the canonical version of 'Elite' had to be the Beeb version ;-)
I'm amazed that nobody has mentioned 'Chuckie Egg' yet ... a game so addictive it should have carried a government health warning.
Sure, 15 colors...
...but only if none of them were anywhere near the other ones! Boo, proximity conflict! And a hearty WTF to Webster Phreaky, who... well, who, at the very least, needs to be smacked for using "once again" to refer to something that happened 25 years ago. :P
A personal aside to Mr. Phreaky - when you're done with that chip on your shoulder, could you send it to me? I'd like to melt it down and start my own fab.
2 words actually
...'Lunar Jetman'. Ace. And less than ~41k (48k minus 7k screen memory) - can you write a Word document that small?
The screen colours were defined by attributes, which divided the 256x192 monochrome pixels (= bits) into blocks of 8x8 called attributes, matching the size of the standard font. Within each block, the colours were defined by the 1 byte attribute value- 3 bits foreground colour, 3 bits background colour, 1 bit for flashing and 1 bit for extra brightness. So 8 'real' colours plus a couple of effects, one of which changed the 'colour' slightly.
Get your history right!
Chuckie egg and elite were BBC micro games. Far superior than the ported Spectrum versions. I had both machines (sold my spec for a BBC micro B).
Four words for Spectrums.... ultimate play the game.. they pushed the boundaries with Knight Lore, Attic Attack, Jet-Pac, Alien-8. BBC micro users eventually got a port but by then it almost felt far too late.
And who remembers Psion flight simulator? With wonderful landscapes such as Lake round, etc.. loved that game.
AND the hobbit....! Oh no I'm thinking about middle earth.... what is going on? I'm begining to feel slightly smelly and unwashed.
Oh and the time I met Sir Clive... I was soooo excited...
My genitalia is definitely getting very small indeed thinking of all this, I'll leave the forum now before I geek myself to death and develop spots.
I could be wrong but I think the first colour Z80 computer was the, imaginatively named, TRS80 colour computer or the Video Genie clone. They appeared long (in IT terms) before Sir Clive produced the ZX80.
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!!!
Mmmmmm, plastic fumes....
Ahhhh, Elite, Chuckie Egg... And truly, the smell of fresh plastic keys IS the smell of Christmas.
P.S. @Ashley Pomeroy: I know how *I* feel about Alan Sugar still being on the telly...
Man I feel old...
10 FOR A=1 TO 25
20 PRINT "Happy Birthday Speccy! ";
30 NEXT A
I can't believe I remember how to do that, 25 years ago, really? And to think I had a ZX81 before that!
What started as a humble 48K Spectrum ended with a full real qwerty keyboard, Interface 1 and 2 plus some Romantic Robot thingy that let you image games and slow down the machine, a ZX Printer and two microdrives. Still have most of it two, the speccy doesn't go anymore, neither does the ZX81 <cry>.
Funny thing like many here it started me down the dark path of professional IT...
Oh what wonderful days
I'm a little scared to post really as mainly I was a Commodore Vic-20 then 64 man. Well boy at the time obviously.
Second hand too.
But I do remember learning to program direct machine code that would load via a basic loader. I could speak 6502 and then 6510. Later I tried to learn Z80, oh my god the registers, so many. No wonder Elite ran so fast, no need to shovel stuff on the stack in the vague hope that you'd get it back one day.
Absolutely bloody ruined me for object orientation or relational databases. Last time I programmed anything vaguely decent was in Pascal and Lisp.
Anyway, main reason for posting, Paul further up mentioned 'Input' - the computer magazine to teach programming on (IIRC) the Vic-20, Commodore-64, ZX81, ZX Spectrum, Dragon 32, and Tandy Colour Computer. with lots of general code (it would be portable now) and then individual bits where they differed (the libraries!). It was in 52 weekly issues, and 8 houses later I still have every single issue. Along with a couple of 64's, a ZX81, 3 Amigas, and enough assorted gubbins to get the whole lot up and running - if I had the space. Or indeed could stay married if I did.
And you IT professionals think you're geeky....
Ive never had another computer that I stuck with as long as the Speccy. I remember when someone wrote a program that let you sample sound from the tape deck into the 128k ram (cant remember if it worked on the 48k too), I got such a thrill from playing stuff back at the wrong speed. Got a mouse and a 3.5" disk drive and even a video digitiser for the speccy too, printing out greyscale screengrabs from red dwarf with the bogroll printer (the alphacom32 not the sinclair one).
Had a lightpen for it that only worked once Id cut some of the plastic away.
Managed to hold the attention of nongeeks in an English class 'public speaking' exercise at school by turning my talk onthe spectrum into something slightly more interesting by ripping the top off the 48k and waving the rubber keys around.
My dad took our first two speccy's back to the shop because he thought they were faulty. When the speccy said Scroll? and he pressed the n key, it said 'break'. This was logical because Scroll? was a question, and he was replying no, but he didnt understand that, thought it was a fault.
I remember some early examples of copy protection stupidity from those days. Jet Set Willy had a colour-coded set of printed keys, to try to stop people simply photocopying them, but this was easy to manually woraround if you were prepared to spend the time. More annoying was 'what is the word on page 54, start of paragraph 2 of the manual'? Then there were methods of somehow protecting the tape contents from being copied, which had the side effect of legitimate versions failing to load on certain tapedecks. Then there was some game where they had a plastic lens you had to put on the TV to descramble a code, but it was a nightmare and they made the optics wrong. Maybe some of the current DRM stupidity wouldnt have happened if theyd studied the wisdom learnt in the spectrum years!
There's something about the black macbook that reminds me of the speccy,mostly the keyboard I guess.
only 3 months
The spectrum was release just three months after my birth. I grew up with those rubbery keys and intermittent tape loading. for me the spectrum started my career at the tender age of 6. My first computer program just 2 simple lines of basic.
10 PRINT 'JAMES'
20 GOTO 10
Thank you Clive, where would we all have been if it wasn't for the ZX Spectrum?
Ah- anything by Ultimate and Design Design. And nothing by Imagine
The Spectrum was truly an amazing machine for its time. Sure, it had its limitations; and that display (256x192, one bit per pixel with colour information on a character-cell-by-cell basis) gave the impression that colour was added mostly as an afterthought. (Colour or high resolution - pick one.)
But so what? You've got to remember the price tag, under £200. Nobody else could make a computer with all those features at that price. The only thing that could touch it was the BBC model B -- and that cost several times the price. As a demonstration of what was possible, the Spectrum was a truly great piece of kit.
Computers are cheap *nowadays* because they're making so many of them and they're all the same. In 1982, there were many different and incompatible designs vying for attention. There were other machines with colour displays, but they often had only character-mapped graphics, and were let down by poor implementations of BASIC (most were slow, some were integer-only and it was often difficult to make full use of the hardware. There's a reason why people don't get misty-eyed about the Video Technology VZ-200, the Sord M5 or the Mattel Aquarius).
The Spectrum had a comprehensive, fairly fast BASIC interpreter, a manual written by a native English speaker, a bitmapped display (of sorts) and a primitive beeper that still managed to produce musical-ish notes. You could dive straight in and begin writing simple games and applications in BASIC or machine code -- in the early days, magazines even had program listings for you to type in, and these would invariably be modified and extended. Because that's what people do when they have the Source Code! And also, Sinclair had the foresight to make sure there would be some software available at the initial launch. Not everyone was going to write their own straight away.
There was something about the Spectrum that's noticeably absent from modern machines -- a feeling that we were doing something that was new and different and special. Cramming a program into as few bytes as possible, plugging a home-made board into the I/O port, discovering a fancy display hack -- you just don't get that feeling today; not with Windows, not even with Linux and all its programming tools that come for free as standard, and the Mac is a bit of a walled garden.
Please, check these guys out
I am sure that Uncle Sir Clive would be proud to know that his work continues (but then again, he never was that fond of 'puters per se, was he?)
Ah- anything by Ultimate and Design Design. And nothing by Imagine
There would have been no PSION or Symbian without the ZX81 or Spectrum.
When I joined Psion there was less than a dozen guys ALL working on two Spectrum games (using TRS80's as development machines!) - Flight Simulator and the truly revolutionary VU3D.
Memories are made of this...
Horrace Goes Skiing was great through my childish eyes. So was writing little BASIC programs to make it draw a forest of green 'trees' of upward pointing arrows, sat on the sofa, aged four... Memories indeed...
I always preferred my Amstrad CPC though <ducks>. I'll never forget the immortal description of the Speccy as coined by Amstrad Action magazine: "The yucky rubber key experience." Classic.
I am 32 years of age. I think I got my rubber-keyed 48k ZX-Spectrum as a Christmas present in 1983 and I loved it very much. I am getting all nostalgic now. I loved Jet Set Willy, although I recall I enjoyed discovering exciting new POKEs more than playing the game itself (did anyone ever actually complete it?)
However, I am shocked that nobody has mentioned Head Over Heels, clearly the greatest game ever. I consider World of Warcraft to be a step backwards, rather than forwards.
Chuckie Egg ?
Someone mentioned Chuckie Egg ? Jeez I thought it was only me got addicted to that little gem (on a Dragon 32 of course, PROPER keyboard)
In later years I never did figure why such a simple platform game was so good, it just was !
Re: And the '84 Mac Was ONLY B&W and Slower
I'm not knocking the Speccy, it was a real bargain in it's day, but comparing it with the Mac is ridiculous.
The Speccy definitely wasn't faster than the 16bit 68K Mac, with it's GUI it was a revolutionary computer, and aimed at a different market from the Speccy.
In the business market at the time, having a high resolution black and white screen was far preferable to low resolution colour. Especially when displaying a graphical user interface, with WYSIWYG display of documents.
The Speccy was a nice and cheap home computer for gamers and hobbyists, but the Mac showed the world the future of business/home computing.
Plus you seem to have forgotten that Apple made most of their fortune from the success of the Apple II; the colour 8-bit computer they released about 5 years before the Spectrum.
The little black box that launched a million careers.....
It's got to be hard for anyone outside the UK to appreciate the significance of the Speccy. As someone "up there" rightly said - it was the price that really made it special.
It was technically capable (just) to keep up with the competition - but it's price meant that most families could afford one... and this price meant that an unprecedented and vast range of software was available.
Of course the tape based software was easy to copy (mostly) - and this meant almost everyone had lots and lots of games.
I am honestly shocked that nobody mentioned the iconic "Manic Miner" easily the most addictive game in the spectrum catalogue (even more than Chucky Egg). Of course, even after 20-odd years I can remember the cheat instructions...
Stop Tape when screen goes black
25 Poke 35136,0
Start Tape again.
This gave you infinite lives, and, i believe, the only real way to complete the game!
I had a 48k rubber key and a +2 (not the nasty A version!)
I had a light pen and a RAM Music Machine - MIDI sequencng and sampling !!! (a whole 1.5 seconds of sample time! ... "n-n-n-n-n-nineteen" <-- you had to be there in the 80s)
PSION VU-3D was incredible, I have happy memories of making a video "splash screen" for some home movies with a full 3D video tape animted...
Then there were the Text adventures.... Hobbit (of course), Ten little indians, Wizard of Akyrz, Circus...
...ahhh happy days... HAPPY BIRTHDAY SPECCY!!!!
I started with a 16K speccy, after previously having a ZX-81.
Remember the dreaded "RAMpack wobble" ?
How about the Romantic Robot Multiface One?
Or the horribly unreliable ZX MicroDrive (Remember the rumour about putting them under a cardboard pyramid to get them working again?)
CRASH magazine, the ZipStick (Mecury switch joystick, similar idea to the Wii), oh the memories.
My favorite POKE with the speccy was one that made it look like it was loading. I used to go down Tottenham Court Road, find a speccy on display and enter something like:
10 Print "<Name of latest game that isn't out yet> Is Loading..."
20 POKE xxxxxx,255
Then go away and come back an hour or so later and watch all the people waiting with hushed breath for the latest Uber game to load. Hahahahaha
Mine's still hooked in!
Aaaah, the Speccy. My first foray into programming. It got me started on gaming, too. Lots of Trans Am, AD Astra (To the Stars!!), Jetpac, Valhalla, etc. It still works, and it's still hooked to the telly. Brilliant little machines.
Place your bets
I had a horse racing prediction program on my speccy, you typed in the details of the horse and jockey previous performance and it gave you a rating for each horse, it worked now and again. The best it did was picking the first 5 horses in the Grand National (in the late 80's), and in the correct order, unfortunately i'd only bet on the first 3 so i still made some cash but totally gutted that i didn't bet on all 5. I can't remember the name of the software and the tape disappeared years ago during a house move. I've tried other software since that are supposed to do the same thing but they never worked as well as my speccy did.
Thanks Sir Clive
Whilst I didn't pop my programming cherry on a Speccy, I don't think anyone can truly put into words how significant it has been. I wrote my first program on an IBM PC XT - Dad worked for a software house and got a good deal! In those days (1984 - I think) there were not many games for PC's apart from text based adventures like Zork or Atari ports like Defender. I ended up using GW-BASIC to write ports of games for the Speccy to pass the time. Hours were spent porting and debugging code. But hey when the geek in you is in-bred, inside is good outside is bad. Got to mention a quote I saw on a posting the other day, "In the room where the evil day star shines and pizza comes from....." or something like that.
Home computers like the ZX and the C64 started the revolution that led to playing computer games in our homes and having multimedia computers at all. The alto and the mac led to the use of productivity applications like word processors and to the office computer.
I've learned to program on a C64, but much later seeing how the ZX81 worked led me to design and eventually create my own 8 bit computer from scratch. Seeing that it can be done with so few parts and still make it work was enlightening.
Ooh the memories, late sunday night playing Manic Miner with lights off incase my Mum and Dad sussed that I was still up. Like they didn't know with the telly glow eminating from under the bedroom door.
I know computers have moved on and we all have x-boxes etc but you can't help feeling a little nostalgic when you pick up your childhood toy on ebay in original packaging for £16.
FYI, all the technology in the world and last night I downloaded Jetpac from Xbox live, stuff yer decent graphics, cop a load of the speccy emulator.
Oh Halcyon days.
I can't believe nobody else mentioned this: Virus.
Actual 3D gaming. I mean to say. Come on.
Also: How to Be a Complete B*stard - the game of the book. Open the umbrella indoors and get turned into a cooker? Well, of course!
All my nostalgia is second-hand, sad to say. I had a TRS-80, and was dreadfully jealous of my friends' speccies and beebs..
Happy Birthday Speccy
Magic days indeed. I got my Spectrum for Christmas in 1983. It had a Cheetah sweet talk box, my new Spectrum talked to me on Christmas day! "Hello my name is sweet talker"
Manic Miner, Jet Pac, Attic Attack, Underworlde. So many great games.. remember Skool Daze, fantastic. Those were the days when £1.99 would/could buy you some great games
I used to spend hours playing games like Lords of Midnight!
Waiting for 5-10 minutes, staring at blue,red,white horizontal lines, listening to the screaming sound, waiting for it to end... it all added to the excitement... or dissapointment if it just reset at the end.
Did anyone else go into shops which had Spectrums on display and type in things like
10 PRINT "Ste is great"
20 GOTO 10
RANDOMIZE USR 1000
Never did finish Manic Miner, always died at a level called "We must perform a Quirkafleeg".
I think the Speccy was originally called the Sinclair ZX82, but renamed Spectrum, presumably before launch. It was also called Spaccy by me when it cheated at games.
After the Spectrum I moved on to the Atari ST, which will be 25 in 3 years.. now i'm feelin old.
In 1984, I was a budding video artist and had got myself a ZX Spectrum. There was a hardware hack which allowed you to get the composite video signal out so you could plug it in directly into a monitor. I wrote fancy graphic programs and had the ZX plugged into a bank of a 25 monitor instalation at The Fridge club, in London (UK). Well groovy it was, a kind of post-modern Nam Jun Paik. Thanks Mr Sinclair.
Someone else remembers Input Magazine !!!!!!
I still have a couple of issues put aside for posterity. Look out antiques roadshow :)
Lighting a candle
Happy days indeed!
Another 32 year old übergeek here.
All those endless sessions before the tube and occasional tape loading (t)error masochisms still fill me with pure joy.
Another vote for Knight Lore, Head over Heels, Manic Miner, Jet Set Willie, Chuckie Egg, Attic Attac, Jet Pac, Elite... Hm, how about Renegade, Penetrator, Ant Atack, Skool Daze, Green Beret, Match Day, Nebulus? :-)
I'm lighting a candle for my ZX Spectrum today ;-) and all those geniuses capable of fitting aforementioned games in 48k.
In those days kilobytes were at value, whereas today it is all about eye balls, attention spans, clicks per second etc. The whole game just got diverse and mature. I'm glad to be around maturing together with the computer and software market.
Thanks to my older brother for bringing in his vote for the gadget to arrive from Munich to Belgrade, which was a pioneer moment for the family (and my district) that got me infected with computers. Loving the experience ever since. :-)
Cheers to all Speccy-tekkies!
Started with a ZX80 - skipped the 81, and got me a 16K Speccy on release. Worked hard to buy it, and sods law - it was buggy - ended up with a 48K some time later after prices matched and my replacement box arrived.
Sigh - my experiences were monumental. My dad was a quantity surveyor and I coded up a program to do most of his calculations, then had to fight him for access as it saved him hours ... he had only just moved from Slide Rule to calculator.
Attic Attack ... superb, Elite - 'The' Game, so many, and so many jobs like cleaning the car and doing dishes to furnish my pocket money drain for games. Ant Attack - that wowed many for sure.
Then off to uni for a Comp Sci degree and havent looked back - and shock and awe, Clive Sinclairs son, Crispin, was at my uni ... looks the same!
Oh no - I became a geek due to that box.
God those were good times.
I got a Speccy 48k not too long after it had come out and I'd saved enough birthday money. Sat in awe playing a Frogger clone that I'd typed in from a magazine. Learnt all I ever needed to know about debugging code from doing that.
About a year later I got an infinite lives POKE published in 'Your Spectrum' - can't even remember the game now but my god was I chuffed. University graduation many years later pales into insignificance.
Best games ever had to be Jet Set Willy and Chuckie Egg - I haven't played anything as addictive since.
Only downside from this walk down memory lane - I'm now really annoyed I threw it out.
Ah, but what happened next?
Wow, 25 years! Like most of the poeple here, my trust old rubber and plastic keyed speccy gave me the job I'm doing today - though now self employed - just like I was when making games for the speccy ;)
Before I made the jump to 16/32 bit with the Atari STFM and Amiga 500/1200, I was desperately holding out the Sam Coupe, oh yeah baby:
Now, wasn't quite a spectrum but seemed to be next evolitionary step up from it. Did anyone ever get one? Beleive they went out of business...