back to article Twitter on a ZX Spectrum

Britain's first Vintage Computing Festival took place over the weekend at Bletchley Park, which was the perfect excuse to visit the National Museum of Computing, a recent addition to the Park site. All three are a tribute to the passion of volunteers – the state has only very recently saw fit to give any money to the historic …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. charlie wallace

    real hard to guess

    what that pdp is, when its written underneath for the "next"

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: real hard to guess

      The sub-editor responsible has been taken out and shot.

      (Not really. But we have tied his shoelaces together)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Dragon 32

    I don't think it was as successful as the other models, but quite a few were sold.

    I remember seeing them at the computer fairs though.

    1. Ned Leprosy Silver badge

      Re: Dragon 32

      I remember being interested in it because it filled that spot between the Spectrum with its nasty "dead flesh" keyboard and the BBC Micro with its nasty price tag! Its main problems were that neither the BASIC nor the graphics were really up to scratch; the BASIC wasn't *terrible*, but it was looking a bit lacklustre by the time of its release and though the screen resolution was okay for the time, the lack of colour options was problematic from a games perspective.

      It wasn't all about games, though, and it was certainly an interesting machine, most of all for those who had deep enough pockets to invest in a disc-based system where more "serious" operating systems than the run of the mill such as Flex and OS/9 were available. Sadly, my pockets were only deep enough for a second-hand Bush cassette deck and the joy of wrinkly tapes!

  3. Jim 59

    Dragon Flame

    Cool, very cool.

    Your "relative of the TRS-80" is of course the well known Dragon 32. It was not an obscure box, but one of the front runners circa 1982. It came with a "proper" keyboard: a rarity at the time, and perhaps its main selling point, at least to aspiring programmers. Mine came from Boots (via Santa) for £199.95.

    It was a repackaged Tandy Color Computer. 6809 processor running at 0.9 mhz. By typing "poke 65495, 1" you could double that to 1.8 Mhz. Overclocking.

    1. Inachu


      I programmed the TRS-80 and the Model 3 and 4 computers and they were fun to program back then.

  4. Jim 59

    more droning on about my Dragon 32

    It wasn't ideal for action games because the colour maps were a bit restricted. But it did have one outstanding game - The Ring of Darkness, from Wintersoft. Whoerver wrote that is a genius. A large graphical adventure that used both sides of the program tape, and saved data to a second tape. A superb playing experience from 8 bits and something of a "killer app" for the box. Remarkable.

    1. David Edwards

      Never worked

      I never got past the forrest, theives everywhere and no way out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah the Dragon

      Wasn't that the machine where every game had green on green graphics?

  5. Anonymous Coward


    That Sinclair ZX PBS+ Executive IV keyboard looks the same as the one on the Sinclair QL. And it was anything but good - the keys were very difficult to actually press.

    I had an NC100 whilst at school - excellent machine with something missing from stuff these days - a decent battery life. It'd go weeks on 4xAA's. Was also pretty hardy too - it got dropped often enough... Had the NC200 too - that even came with a floppy drive.

    Damn, now I'm all nostalgic. I'll have to go and dig them out and see if they still work...

    1. Neill Mitchell

      Spectrum+ keyboard

      It's a bog standard Spectrum+ bolted into a big case. I remember being wowed at having a "proper" keyboard when I bought my speccy+

  6. Oatman
    Thumb Up

    The fair was awesome!

    I was there yesterday too, I came away with fond memories and a ZX Spectrum! A steal for £20.

    Even without the fair, the place makes a great visit any day, the Museum of Computing is pretty amazing!

  7. Sonny Jim

    The American MIL were still using PDP-11's up until at least 4 years ago

    I worked at a place where we produced a form-fit and function compatible USB drive to replace their aging RK-05's. They were using them as part of a PDP-11 based system that was used to calibrate their 'Firefinder' system:

    The problem was that even though they calibrated fine whilst in the US of A, by the time they had travelled half the world they had a tendency to hit the wrong targets. So glad I don't work there any more, my concious feels a lot cleaner.

    Mines the Archimedes with the 486 co-pro

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: The American MIL were still using PDP-11's up until at least 4 years ago

      Archimedes are always under-represented at fairs. I don't know why. Maybe the hardcore Acorn enthusiasts find hacking the 8bits more of a challenge.

      I learned GUI programming on an A310. After that, everything (eg, Motif, Windows, OS/2) seemed needlessly difficult. So I stopped.

      1. helpful

        Archimedes / RISC OS were at VCF

        Maybe the Archimedes and later RISC OS machines are not considered retro enough yet.

        But there were Archimedes at the VCF, mainly in the Acorn World section of course. There were some running retro games, plus the RISC OS User Group Of London were showing more up to date stuff including RISC OS running on a BeagleBoard. As the whole computer is then only 3 inches square you could be forgiven for missing it!

        Not like one unfortunate Acorn fan who missed the whole Acorn World exhibition because he turned up just as Sophie Wilson's talk was on, and the section had closed down because everyone wanted to hear the presentation :-)

        1. Adam 10
          Thumb Up

          School computers

          Perhaps it is because the Archimedes isn't retro enough, but I suspect it's more down to it being a school computer than a home computer.

          The few people I knew with BBCs and Archimedes were bought them "because it's an educational tool". Whereas people got a Spectrum, C64, Atari, Amiga etc "because it's awesome".

          I never quite understood why Acorn used CBM's Amiga model numbering though...

          I recently found all my old CDTV peripherals and CDPD discs.. can't find the actual unit though...

      2. Stanislav

        Archimedes are always under-represented at fairs

        I have no hard evidence to back this up, but could it be because quite a few RISC OS-based machines might still be in use?

        After an initial flirtation with a ZX80 we became an Acorn-obsessed family, finally owning between us an Atom, a BBC model B, two BBC Master 128s, two Archimedes A3000s, an Archimedes A410/1, a RISC PC600 and a RISC PC700.

        Of that little collection, the A410/1 and one of the RISC PCs are still in regular use, which when you consider the RPC is about thirteen years old and the A410/1 is damn nearly twenty years old, is pretty remarkable.

        RISC OS is still a going concern too, of course.

      3. William Towle

        Re: ...still using PDP-11's...

        ...and some UK bowling alleys, although maybe not quite that recently (Shipley's lasted past Y2K at least) - the early Windows-based scoring systems didn't connect to the really old lane-end hardware without (initially flaky) network adapter boards and obsoletion took a *long* time. I was particularly amused when our local league manager noted that "the millennium bug doesn't worry us. We've been having date rollover problems on our systems for years already".

        I got to hulk what turned out to be the remains of Leeds AMF's machine up to the Uni for the department's IT staff to peer at, only to find there wasn't that much computer still in there. But the rarity of seeing one went down well.

      4. heyrick Silver badge

        I feel your pain...

        It seemed to me (but then, I'm pretty weird <g>) that moving from RISC OS GUI programming in C/assembler to VisualBasic on a PC was about an equal level of effort. There was something just so *nice* about the ARM. When you delve into the intricacies of the Windows API, it gets really icky really quickly.

        I use my eeePC most of the time, but my RiscPC is over in the corner. I may write some basic mailserver software for it and run the whole contraption off an IDE/CF combo instead of a traditional harddisc. I have moved away from Acorn kit primarily because the stuff I have doesn't do streaming video and the stuff I can't afford rarely has codec support. I would like to think that would change with newer ARM-based netbook/tablet devices, but I'd imagine those would be ARM+DSP so little to filter down to the older style RISC OS machines...

        ...speaking of which, I am looking into the datasheets of the heart of my Neuros OSD (ARM based digital video recorder) to see about the viability of putting together enough of a HAL to get the RISC OS kernel running... no real reason, just because...

        Referring to other parts of the article - I'm surprised no mention of the ORIC-1? It is a good example of how not to design a computer. Naff BASIC (if it qualifies as an actual language and not just a script interpreter) and naffer keyboard, it coupled with the BBC Micro, is a good example of the variety of machines that could be built upon the 6502. I pity people who only know of Orics and Speccys and never knew the fun that early home computing could bring, from fiddling with homebrew kit on expansion ports to writing drivers on a sane (with vectors) operating system, to programming entire applications without a single solitary GOTO.

        But Chuckie Egg... Oh how my life would have been different if I did my prep (homework) instead of being chased around by a giant badly animated chicken thing while making a mad dash for a raising platform while dodging killer ostriches! (phew!) I dunno, I'm not a hardcore gamer, but I've played some more recent stuff and I'm afraid *nothing* held my interest as much as Chuckie Egg.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      The Royal Mail are still using PDP/11 machines... Explains a thing or two really...

      I'll get me coat, mines the one with the BRUSYS tape in the pocket

    3. melt

      I've got a few -11s

      I've got a few -11s lying around. Where can I get one of these drives? :)

    4. N2

      Thats good

      Probably fine for what they had to do & why change if it works?

  8. MrT
    Thumb Up


    Got several of these still knocking around in the attic....

    BTW, that Sinclair ZX Suitcase looks like it uses the same keyboard overlay and keytop design as the Sinclair QL, which itself span of the ICL One-per-Desk.

  9. Stuart Halliday
    Thumb Up

    Oh happy memories.

    This was when we called a byte the width of the address bus. So it used to vary.

    I've still got my working Sharp PC1500 hand computer from the 1980s which used an enhanced 6502C CPU that has a 16bit stack.

    Display was 155x8 pixels by 1bit. Battery life is 40+ hours. :-)

  10. Jon Double Nice
    Thumb Up

    Dragon 32 WOOT!

    Oh the nostalgia. If anyone else remembers the fantastic game 'Juxtaposition', man that was awesome.

  11. chuBb.

    Dragon 32 not popular???? think the company folded as demand outsripped supply....

  12. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Fear the wrath of the Welsh Dragon!

    Fancy not recognising the Dragon 32 - one of Wales' biggest high-tech exports in c.1984! How old is the reporter? They were only EVER "over here"!

    BTW it's based on the Tandy Color Computer (CoCo) featuring the rather nice 6809 CPU.

    1. Parsifal

      Ex Dragon Owner.

      I still have a Dragon 64 Boxed Up with it's OS9 Drive and Discs (I upgraded from a 32 to 64), eventually however I moved to a spectrum then to an Atari 520 ST/FM before finally entering the wonderful world of PC's on a DX2/66 processor. My prize computing possession is a boxed up ZX81 1k :)

      I feel old after going through that list.

    2. Lottie


      Well, I didn't know it was from there.

      Anyway, I remember a pretty neat diving game for the Dragon 32. Good times.

      We stopped using it when we got the Commodore 64.

      Good times indeed.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      ...the comment about never seeing a decent keyboard on a spectrum was pretty lame too - given that the picture is basically a standard Spectrum+ in a suitcase, and the Spectrum+ always had that keyboard.

      It seems the reporter is trying to share some nostalgia for an era he was never actually part of!

      1. Wize

        All they did was put the spectrum+ in a suitcase

        Still had the full spectrum+ case inside.

        Doubt they would do it to the 128 as the heatsync would melt the box

    4. Ned Leprosy Silver badge

      Based on the Color Computer?

      Was the Dragon actually based on the Tandy Color Computer or just similar to it? I remember this was a bone of contention at the time, with some people claiming it was just a repackaged CoCo and others asserting that any similarities to computers living or dead was purely coincidental.

      I suspect both are products of the off-the-shelf BASIC they employed to run on the 6809 which presumably rather limited the supporting chips that were in use; I remember bemoaning the consequent use of the 6847 graphics contraption rather than the BBC Micro's much more capable 6845, for example, but that's rather getting off the point.

  13. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!
    Thumb Up

    SD card expansion

    Having a little friendly bet with myself here, the machine with the SD card expansion I think it's an Acorn Atom.

    Mr Orlowski sir, how correct am I?

    I did go to Bletchley Park a few years ago when they had a similar exhibition and I felt like a kid in a sweet shop, I need to go again.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: SD card expansion

      I'm pretty sure it was an Atom, it was certainly an Acorn. Sorry I can't be more certain. Maybe the owner will step forward...

      1. SirMorris

        Bet Win!

        It is indeed an Atom - please feel free to award yourself an appropriate amount of internets!

        You can read more about it if you're interested here:


      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. jason 7
    Thumb Up

    One thing that amazed me was......

    .....the fact that a lot of the 'modders' there were'nt even born when this kit was in the shops.

    I'm gald I was 12 years old in 1983 and could enjoy that wonderful 8bit period of UK microcomputing. It burnt so brightly but fizzled out just as quick.

    The memories will last forever.

  15. Stevie


    2966??? Yer toutin a 2900 series as a real ICL machine? Y'soft southern jessies! Yerl be tellin me next yer runnin' VME on t' bugger!

    The only real ICL computer were 1900 series fitted wi' GEORGE. A real man wouldn't use owt above GEORGE II+ neither. And if y'could fit all the operatin' system inter memory AND a program too, you 'ad too much memory.

    Y' c'n 'ave a big fat GO 29 fer that 2900!

    Kids t'day!

    1. Jacqui

      2900 - southern wussies

      My first program was written in fortran on hollerith cards (hand punched) and batch run on a 1900. You then had to wait a day or so and if you were good you got your output as 132 col fanfold - or a list of compilation errors. This forced you to think through any possible

      compile and run time errors. It led to think before type programming.

      Bring back punched cards! Make the bloody students punch them by hand. Make them *think* about whether there are errors before submitting thier software for execution.

      Yesterday I saw the following code on full-disclosure - it was written by what passes for a security expert. The mind really boggles.

      for $countargs (0..scalar(@inputafterquestion)) {

      $numofargs = $countargs;



      system("echo \"wget -q -O gettmp \'@urltotest[$argnumber]\'\" >");

      system("chmod u+x");


      @gotstuff = `cat gettmp`;

      I dont have to explina wht the loop is redundant and what LWP::SImple does

      - and this CPAN module was written so that even script kiddies could grok it.

      Words fail me.

      1. Stevie


        'Undred an' thirty two columns??? Luxury! We 'ad ter mek do wi' 'undred an' twenty eight!

        I 'ad mate oo worked onna 1900 wi' shuffle printer. Y' 'ad ter 'ave two operators 'old t'bugger down else ittud walk across t'room until plug were pulled out o' t'socket.

        And if yer tell this ter the kids terday, they wun't believe yer!

        1. No, I will not fix your computer


          The lot of you!

          SFL was the only language to use on ICL kit, still got my SFL manual somewhere, photocopied from an internal ICL copy, so much better than modamending my compiled COBOL, sigh.... nostalga, all these are/were mine;


          Everything from 16mhz 386 to 3Ghz dual quad 54xx (Linux/MacOS/Win3.1-Se7en)

          RS6000/Netra/V880 (AIX/Solaris)

          All this is gravy, what we need is a computer that is yet to come.... 42

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Good old GEORGE

      ..well maybe. I don't remember it myself. My Dad does though back from when he was working at ICL Kidsgrove. He did a lot of work with the tape drives apparently. My computing memories start with the 16k 'rubber thump' Spectrum.

      But as for nostalgia - nah. For me computing is about the advancement of technology and although I'm glad /someone/ is tracking the history I have no interest in it. I prefer to look forward :)

  16. edward wright


    Started with a 16KB ZX81 - yes I had a wobbly RAM-pack which we secured with a bit of wood and glue! Followed by 6 great years with a 48KB rubber-keyboard ZX Spectrum and Microdrive (90KB tape thing, not those IBM tiny hard disks, don't be silly).

    Happy times indeed.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    The Right Tool For The Job

    If I recall correctly, I read that Clive S. was asked why he chose a [mere] 8-bit processor for the Z88.

    "Because I couldn't find a 4-bit processor I liked."

  18. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    The more I see of this article...

    ...and the more I see of the fotos, and the more I read these comments, the harder I'm kicking myself over having donated my old Mac Plus to Goodwill about fifteen years ago, for all of a $100 tax writeoff. I didn't think anything of it at the time; while it worked fine, it was past its seriously productive life, and I needed the tax writeoff, so I donated the thing.

    I fired everything up one last time to make sure it all still worked (and it did, like a champ) before I donated the whole kaboodle -- Mac Plus, keyboard, mouse, full set of OS and app software, ThunderScan snap-in head, ImageWriter II, in one of those really cool padded nylon cases.

    It pisses me off now, to think of it -- a 25 year-old Mac Plus with OS7.0.1 with a massive 4mb of memory, PageMaker 4, MacDraw 7, MSWord, ThunderScan, ImageStudio, some early Internet client apps, two 800k floppies and a 20mb SCSI drive, all in perfect working condition -- and how much it might be worth now. Goddammit (kick!).

    But, aaa-aaanyway, enough pining over my old Plus; this exhibit is largely about old British iron, though. An old programmer buddy of mine had the ultra-small Sinclair ZX, which was fairly popular in the States in the early '80s -- sold under the "Timex/Sinclair" brand, as I recall -- and being an übergeek, he managed to get that puppy to do some pretty cool shit. And, oh, that keyboard, with an action and response not unlike an early fast-food cash register.

  19. Gulfie
    Thumb Up

    More happy memories...

    ZX81, RML 380Z, BBC Micro... all gems, taught me all I needed to decide to go for a career in IT - that plus the fact that it was indoor work with no heavy lifting...

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Ah, the 380Z....

      I must rescue mine from the garage, and move it to the loft with the rest of the Campbell Museum of Obsolete Old Crap.

      I was a Dragon-32 fan, back in the day. The 6809 was head and shoulders above all other 8 bit processors, and I wanted to program in assembler.

      I must get around to cataloging the CMoOOC soon. There are so many good memories up there.


  20. Fred Bauer 1
    Thumb Up

    PDP-8s and TTYs

    The PDP-8 was easy to ID... but then I've got a PDP-12 front panel in my basement.

    As for the Teletype, "The "HERE IS" key was used to alert another Teletype that it was awake" is somewhat correct, but there's more.... It caused the sending if the teletype's "answerback", a (I recall 20) character sequence that was "programmed" by breaking off tabs on a plastic drum.

    Of course, I've seen many Teletypes connected to PDP-8s.

  21. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    1980 ZX80, still looking sweet

    Damn, man. I really dig that ZX80 with the space-helmet monitor.

    Of course, it comes at least eight years after one of my favorite portable TVs of all time, the famous Panasonic "Space Helmet" TV. Had one in high school; was bummed that they didn't make a color version. Still, that thing frickin' _ruled_.

    1. Mr Mark V Thomas

      Re "Space Helmet Monitor"

      The "Space Helmet" Monitor is in fact a JVC Videosphere Colour Television, dating from the early to mid 1970's, and the unit connected to the ZX80 is itself fairly rare, as the most common colour for said t..v's casework, was Bright Orange...

      (Grey/white Versions of this T.V are considered quite collectable due to their rarity, & can fetch up from 2 to 3 times the value of the Orange version...)


  22. RichyS
    Thumb Up

    Good old kit.

    Z88. Nice. I've got one of those kicking around somewhere. Just need to find myself a UV lamp to erase the 32K EPROM (Flash ROM? Never heard of it), and I'm ready to go. Sod the iPad!

    And I have my father's old BBC Model B (middle class household, thanks for asking). Your photo somehow doesn't look right without the big metal cube of a Microvitec Cub monitor...

    Now I just need to fire up the Archimedes A420 (with astonishingly expensive 20MB hard disc) to remind myself that OS X /is/ just like RISC OS 3.

    Will anyone ever feel this nostalgic over a mid 90's Dell box?

    1. Mike Flugennock

      ...this nostalgic over a mid '90s Dell box?

      Oh, hell, yeah, I'm _sure_. After all, in 1992, I never thought I'd be nostalgic over my old Mac IIsi, but listen to me _now_. (sigghhh)

      Hell, I'm already nostalgic for the PowerBook Duo and the Mac Cube. I'm kinda' bummed that the Cube didn't take off; it seemed like the perfect form factor at last -- at the time.

  23. Thomas 4

    8-bit computing

    God I miss those days. The Amstrad CPC was what started my whole interest in computers and gaming, may it never be forgotten. By the way, as we're getting all nostalgic, does anyone else remember Amstrad's challenge to the mega drive and nes - the GX4000? Does anyone (aside from me) still possess one of these rare devices?

    1. lpopman

      Titular Information

      I have :)

      Two to be precise. Also a CPC464+, a CPC464 and a CPC6128 :)

      I won't list the rest of my collection, just in case anyone gets jealous ;)

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The first computer..

    The first computer I ever came into contact with was an Elliott 803.. I was about 10 or 11 and was hooked. It even had magnetic film drives like you seen in the movies! I remember it being a very BIG machine, but then last year I saw the one at Bletchley again.. and it appeared to have shrunk. Or perhaps I got bigger?

  25. witchy

    I work with the bloke who 'created' the Dragon32

    it's a UK-ified Tandy Color Computer with fixed bits for UK TV amongst other things. I never wanted one back in the day as I was a Spectrum/Amiga kid :)

    Feed your nostalgia with old photos I need to update as some of them are 10 years old, but the stuff still surrounds me -

    I should've been at VCF UK, I know.

    Ale, because I'm drinking it.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Dragon 32

      The thing that put people off was the part screen display where it didn't fill the entire screen and left an unused black border all the way around the black-on-green bit in the middle of your telly.

      There was a software product (Oasis software rings a bell?? - could well be wrong, it was a looong time ago) which gave you a full screen display, sprite graphics and a selection of fonts. Didn't take up much RAM either, leaving you enough to program in even with it installed. Dragon should have bought this out and included it in ROM, the machine would have been a world-beater then.

      I still have my Dragon 32. I also have a boxed 1k ZX81 - I bought the kit version and soldered it together myself. Still works too, a bloody miracle considering that 1) that was the first time I got to play with the soldering iron in anger and 2) the iron concerned was a whopping thing more suited to plumbing than electronics!

      1. Sean Timarco Baggaley
        Thumb Up

        I remember a game development toolkit called...

        "White Lightning". For some reason, the name "Oasis" triggered that memory, so the two may be related. I distinctly recall sprites being involved too.

        But that was on the ZX Spectrum.

        My development tool of choice back then was the ZX Spectrum+ and a copy of HiSoft's assembler / debugger software. (And a cassette recorder. You learned to stop writing buggy code *fast* with that kind of development kit.) I moved on to the Picturesque Assembler software later, because it somehow managed to squeeze 40-ish column text onto the screen—the Speccy was only supposed to be able to manage 32! Nice and legible too; unlike Tasword, which used a much narrower font to get even more columns.

        Someone also mentioned the RM 380Z. Lovely, huge box of a machine with a ginormous keyboard embedded in what looked like a lump of steel nicked off a passing Sherman tank. Also the only machine I can think of which had a "Cassette Operating System"—none of yer namby-pamby "disks" here!—yet still managed to boot up more quickly than my brother's current laptop.

        Dammit, I'm not even 40 yet and this article made me want to go out and buy a pipe and a pair of slippers.

    2. Numpty

      I was taught by the guy who co-designed the Dragon 32...

      One of my university lecturers (Duncan Smeed at Strathclyde) also worked on it...

  26. Namey Name
    Thumb Up


    I was there at the weekend too - a lot of good computer kit to see. A ZX81 thermal printer bought back a lot of memories (mainly of it being really rubbish). I found they were selling off old BBC Micros to raise cash for the museum - time to dig mine out of the attic and donate it to a good cause, and I might even part with my Acornsoft Elite poster.

    Oh, and Tony Sale is yer man on Colossus - great guy.

    (I got 220,000 on Chuckie Egg and was still 100,000 short of beating the high score, I need more practise)

    1. Samwise
      Thumb Up

      Elite & Chuckie Egg

      Ahh, Namey Name, so it was you who clocked up that impressive score on Chuckie Egg? I'll raise my hand as the guy who set the high score on that beeb before you on the Sunday morning, and I was intrigued to discover later in the day that there was someone around who also knew his way around the ladders. :)

      Plus if you do have an original Acornsoft Elite poster you want to part with at any point, I'd be well up for bidding on that. Feel free to drop me a line through the email address contact link off the Chuckie Egg site that Andrew linked to on the first page of this article ... ;)

      Maybe if you make it to R3PLAY in November, we could go head to head on CE!


  27. Jeremy 2


    Articles like this on El Reg always make me want to break out the old computers from back in the days when the instruction manual was 500 pages long and was to be read under the covers at night with a torch.

    The photo of the old magazine ad made me feel old - it doesn't seem so long ago that we called them 'discettes'. Nowadays, my spell-check insists giving it a red squiggly underline.

    Where's the "nostalgia alert" icon?

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Thumb Up

      or, "diskettes", as we called them in the Colonies...

      "Nostalgia Alert" icon? Sounds like a helluvan idea.

      Perhaps just a foto of an old BBC Micro?

  28. ADJB

    Random other piccies

    Some random piccies





    BTW - the PBS speccy is a bog standard Spectrum Plus in a case - not uncommon - but any information on the company would be appreciated. You can get the same thing with a rubber keyboard if your feeling particularly masochistic.

  29. gimbal

    My imagination has been fired, time and again.

    At least it knows how to get sodding drunk, between jobs.

    Nice tour of some computing history. Here's to recognizing that there *is* such a thing as history. After all. Or before all. Or somewhere in there. Cheers, anyway.

  30. My Opinion

    What about Nascom?

    I have seen no comments here about the Nascom. Surely that was represented there?

    The Nascom was a British self-build 2MHz Z80 based kit on a 12" x 8" board with 1K ROM and 1K RAM as standard and a "full" keyboard. Output was normally via a domestic TV (it had a modulator on-board) and loading/saving via a domestic cassette recorder.

    It was launched in 1977 at £199 (plus VAT). A lot of kit for the price at the time! (Mind you, that didn't include a power supply which you had to buy (and build) separately.

  31. Danny 4

    Happy memories

    I still have my ZX81, a couple of Speccys (and microdrives), a Tatung Einstein (designed and made in the UK) and last but not least the A500, A3000 and A4kT Amigas.

    Them were the days of hacking Z80 machine code into the memory of a Speccy...

    I feel I should have gone to the show now.

  32. ShaggyDoggy


    The co-pro would be the 487, surely

    1. Jess


      The co-pro in question was to allow the machine to run DOS and Windows. The one I have seen may have been one of those 386 pin compatible, 486 instruction set devices. The ones for the Risc PC were certainly normal 486 devices. it is usally referred to as a second processor, the term co-processor normally means an FPU, as with x86 devices.

      You may be thinking of the numeric co-processors (287, 387) but the 487 was a replacement processor for the 486sx. (The original processor was disabled)

      (This reply posted from a RISC OS system.)

      1. Ben Holmes
        Thumb Up

        +1 For Second Processor Awesomeness

        I had one of those second processors in my RPC 700. Had a 486/DX4 100 S, if I recall. I remember being completely bowled over by how awesome it was to be able to play the original Command and Conquer in a DOS Window, whilst pretending to do my homework in !Pendown under Risc OS 3.6. No Alt-Tab though - had to be pretty nifty with Ctrl-F12 to avoid getting busted :-)

        Awesome bits of kit.

  33. Charles Calthrop

    what a lovely article


  34. Anonymous Coward

    Come on you lot!

    Come on! If you lot really were serious IT geeks, you'd know all about the small Retro fairs that happen all over the country ( quite often in social clubs with beer on tap! ) and you'd also wait rabidly every month for Retro Gamer magazine to flop onto your doormat!

  35. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I passed through the museum a couple of months ago

    But they still didn't have the Sinclair MK14 on display!

    More worrying was having a look at the Colossus, and a couple of the circuit diagrams pinned to the wall, and realising that I could build/mend that... suddenly I felt very very old!

  36. Jimmy Floyd

    The Osborne 1!

    I've still got one of those (as with Andrew's, in the attic).

    Have been considering turning it on but am concerned that suddenly powering it up after such a long period inactive could cause the capacitors to blow (or something). Any advice, knowledgeable readers?

  37. Duckorange

    Sam Fox Strip Poker, BBC Model B

    Excuse: I was sixteen.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      @Sam Fox

      Ah those were the days - when she was not considered "child porn"....

      1. MrT

        ZX Emulators...

        ... a CD of 3000 old Speccy games (including Sam Fox) and the POKE command to skip straight to the pixelled finale. ;-)

        And then move on to more grown up stuff. Like wondering why PEEKing and POKEing are considered funny when any network engineer will tell you that FINGERing and SNIFFing are more common these days.


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No to Sam Fox!

        Linda Lusardi (pre boob job) was the bomb, proper proportions, inteligent and pretty with her clothes on.

  38. rory alsop 1

    Ahh - the Dragon 32

    I had one which travelled with me to and from the Falkland Islands a number of times in the early eighties, and I only got rid of it this year!

    Still have my Osborne 1 - working perfectly after all these years (not that it is staggeringly useful any more, but pretty cool nonetheless)

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Not useful, but cool...

      Talk about not useful, but still cool... I'm wishing to hell I could get hold of an old NeXT Cube with the glorious 8-bit grayscale monitor and MachOS (the original OSX). I remember getting to fool with one of those at Macworld '89. Talk about "made of awesome"... I was practically creaming in my jeans and hoping to find $10k laying on the sidewalk so I could score one. I'm sure a Cube in working condition with software would probably go for ten times that much on eBay now.

      Not that I could do anything useful on it, but it'd look cool as hell fired up next to my G4.

  39. Blue eyed boy

    And they also had...

    ...*my* first instance of getting my hands on a "computer" - the sort of hand-cranked mechanical calculator they let me loose on in school when I was seven or eight years old (early 1960's). (They had one on show at the WITCH stand, to the sort of the thing that the WITCH - a base-10 computer using dekatrons and relay logic - was intended to replace. On the one at this stand, the "add" operation had jammed and the thing could only subtract, so I was unable to demonstrate the procedure I had worked out, at that young and tender age, for doing square roots on it.

    (Grew up then through TRS-80 Model 1 and the Amstrad CPC series, now on my 4th PC.)

    Mine's the one with the book of log tables in the pocket.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Two words:

      Nixie tubes.

      My only desktop calculator now is the one that pops up on the screen on my Mac, and it's certainly handy as hell, but I still get all misty-eyed when I think of the first desktop calculator I saw: an HP about the size of your average high-school algebra book (circa 1971) with nixie tubes, not LEDs.

      I suppose LEDs and quartz LCDs are more efficient and all, but they couldn't touch nixies for sheer coolness.

  40. Gabor Laszlo


    and my cousins ZX-Spectrum. I still have the ORIC in a drawer somewhere. Best keyboard I've seen on any comp its class. Ahh, fond memories of hacking

    1. Jess


      A very loud internal sound system too.

      And a poke command to disable the keyboard.

      It was amusing watching the staff at Smith's pressing break trying to shut it up.

      1. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

        Oric and store staff

        You reminded me of one I did years ago.

        The local "Typewriter centre" by me had an Oric connected up to a printer and I set the thing up so about 5 minutes after I walked out the shop a stream of rude words would be coming out the printer.

        The machine was in a corner of the shop well away from where the staff at the counter could see what was happening The hope was that the whole roll of paper would get wasted before anyone checked.

        I didn't go back to check, never return to the scene of the crime, that's something you learn as a naughty 12 year old.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      ORIC-1 Keyboard?

      I think you might be thinking of the Atmos keyboard - the -1 had horrible little keys not much better than the Speccy's.

      1. MrT

        Calculator keys...

        Yeah, the ORIC-1 had really basic hard clicky keys, like a calculator, but in white/grey.

        The Atmos was waaaay cooler, in black/red and with a very good keyboard. Shame it was on a losing curve by the time it was produced - possibly too similar to the Speccy in most folks eyes.

        1. Jess


          Didn't the oric have a stupid limitation of some sort? Was it no lower case? If so I think that would have been a major sales killer.

  41. Ken 16 Silver badge

    No ICL OPD?

    To complete the Sinclair theme? I've got one on the same shelf as my ZX 80.

  42. Code Monkey

    Top nostalgia - thanks Reg

    Ah happy days indeed. Hours of typing line after line of BASIC from C&VG (hoping not to forget to save before my Spectrum overheated) then still hours more debugging their shoddy code*. By the time I'd done this 3 or 4 times I could more or less write simple games for myself.

    OK iPlayer, YouTube and whathaveyou are all good but IT (sorry, computing) was never as exciting as back in the 80s!

    * I never did work out whether this was the Meccano way - put a few mistakes in so people learn; or just cos the fellas who wrote these games weren't very good.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Awwww, bless!

    Andy wrote: "I learned GUI programming on an A310. After that, everything ... seemed needlessly difficult. So I stopped."

  44. hugo tyson

    @ShaggyDoggy: Original ARM FP co-processor

    IIRC, the original ARM floating point coprocessor was a Western Electric device, google suggests the WE32106 or WE32206, I guess it must have been the 32206 because it certainly did have sin,cos,tan but they only worked on 0<= x <= pi/2, so the OS had to trap those instructions anyway and range-reduce. There was a "floating point protocol converter" chip developed which drove the FPU as if the CPU running the bus were its intended partner CPU. Nasty huh? Yes it was.

    I think that's the one that was sold initially at least, then later a proper FPU was made that understood the ARM's co-proc signals directly.

    The acronym FPU was often pronounced "floating poo".

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Amusing looking at the Amstrad crap. I still find it astonishing that Amstrad managed to survive when you look at the crap they made - and bought.

  46. Sarev
    Thumb Up

    RISC OS alive and kicking

    It was a good show all round and our guys certainly enjoyed exhibiting there. If you're remotely interested in keeping RISC OS alive or finding out what's going on in that scene, you could do worse than popping over to

  47. Lottie

    Feeling nostalgic now...

    The time when playing videogames could actually mean getting out a magazine or book and entering code for ages just to play for half the time it'd taken to program.

    Damn, I miss those days.

    And does anyone else ever want to hear the phrase "if you peek me, I'll poke you"?

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go forth Jupiter.

    You Ace!

  49. HFoster
    Thumb Up

    Not as old school as you lot

    Amiga OS on an Atom netbook? Not only would I like to see this, I'd like to do it myself!

    1. madcowman
      Thumb Up

      you can :)

      1. HFoster
        Thumb Up

        Herzlichen Dank

        That is all :)

  50. Blue eyed boy

    Why was it called ORIC?

    I reckon the typist got ger fubgers ib tge wribg jets, started to type "processor", got as far as "proc" which came out as "oric", and the rest was history.

    Anybody got an alternative suggestion?

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      From Blake's 7...

      The "portable" computer Orac from Blake's 7 is the origin of the name, as far as I know.

      1. Ned Leprosy Silver badge

        Not Orac. Probably.

        I seem to recall that this was the popular assumption in the computing press at the time, but I also seem to recall that this was disputed by Oric themselves (or at least a spokesentity of theirs).

        Unfortunately, though, I don't *accurately* recall what anybody may have definitely said on the subject! :P I blame old age, since I was already in my teens back then. Though I'd like a Blakes (no apostrophe, talking of typos) 7 association, I suspect it was the invention of a contemporary journalist, sadly.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Possible explanation

          Just found the following in the "Oric FAQ":

          "The truth (according to Paul Kaufman, who worked for Tangerine, Oric and Tansoft in the early years) was that the company tried to come up with a name by juggling the letters of the word 'micro'. The best they could do was 'oric' (must have lost the 'm' under the table somewhere) and the name stuck."

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  51. This post has been deleted by its author

  52. John Savard

    I Remember It Well

    But perhaps not well enough. I could tell right away that elements of a PDP-8 front panel were pictured, but I had not zeroed in on the PDP-8/L (as opposed, say, to an 8/e or an 8/I).

  53. Matthew Smith

    What is the mystery game?

    I've been around a while, but I don't recognise the game above the Chuckie Egg screenshot. What is it?

  54. LesC


    Quite a few Dragons made it into industry there's an engineering shop up the road from here that's (still) got a Dragon 32/64 with an S50 bus hanging off it all controlled from the onboard Basic + there was an overclocking poke you could do to make it go twice as fast!

    The 6809 is easy to program, ideal for 8 bit industrial control (pre-PIC) and quite a few made it into the pinball machines of the time (Haunted House, anyone?)

    Mines is the one with the Motorola instruction sheet in the pocket.

  55. Sim~
    Thumb Up

    Dragon 32 stuff

    In my loft is a boxed dragon 32 + 5" 1/4 floppy drive and the Trojan Light Pen! I remember an awful game called Klingons(?). Ahhh the memories :)

    So many Dragon owners on el reg, good to see.

  56. Numpty

    Sinclair keyboards/Dragon 32

    "It also has something you'd never expect to see on a Sinclair: a decent keyboard".

    Eh? All Sinclairs from the 48K Spectrum+ onwards had that keyboard (or better).

    Oh, and one of my lecturers at university co-designed the Dragon 32 :)

  57. Steve Pettifer
    Thumb Up

    Z88 FTW!

    From 1994-2000 I worked as an engineer installing and maintaining weather stations and road ice sensors on roads and runways all over the UK, Ireland, bits of Europe and the US. When I started, the processors in the weather stations were Z80s and we used Z88 terminals to communicate with them whilst on site. They were handy, robust (to a degree - the screen was prone to breaking if you weren't careful but the rubber keyboard helped against dist and moisture) and worked well for the simple terminal interface we used. We used to build our own comms cables for them and they rarely went wrong although they ate batteries. We later moved onto Psion terminals which were smaller, more robust and had a better screen (more lines - width was never an issue) and was easy to program. The electronics in the weather stations moved on a bit but we still had some Z88s lying about the lab which were using for test bench kit up until I left and, from what I understand, well beyond.

    Gawd bless 'em!

  58. Andus McCoatover

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane...


    I bought my PDP-11 from a company for a tenner. Sold the lead weights in the stand for the same (Of course, in vintage BOFH-style, one could get the machine to fall over by synchronising the pair of RL01 removable, 20" hard - certainly weren't floppy - disks to seek..)

    They were 10 MEGABYTES each - ffs! I was seriously criticised by "her indoors" for dimming the lights in the house when I powered the bugger up.)

    Bill Gates is alleged to have said "640KB is enough for anyone". Well, mine had a frame, maybe 18" square holding 128KB of core (== tiny little ferrite beads, threaded by young Chinese(?) girls. - 3 wires through each. Write, read, rewrite, IIRC). I think that was more than Apollo 11 had. Corrections welcome.

    Got Zork and Colossal Cave running on it, though...

    Didn't see a mention of the Osborne*, though. A suitcase computer made in hell. Still, the name's Finnish now.**



  59. JohnG

    Old stuff

    I still have a ZX81 boxed up somewhere - and it still worked the last time I powered it up.

    My computing started on an IBM system using an early version of Fortran via Hollerith cards. The system also had BASIC which could be used interactively via teletypes - I remember playing Lunar Lander and Star Trek using a teletype :-)

    I also used the Commodore PET and the Apple II - both excellent machines of their time.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Dragon and Nascom

    Yes, got lots of dragons, thanks. A few 32's, 3 x 64's - 2 with the add on memory card and one with a 40Mb hard drive with software by Malcolm Twisk? - not sure of his name. Must remember to park the heads before switching off !! Flex and os9, external twin 5 1/4 disc drives - never did get around to putting on 3 1/2 floppies. For transferring games off cassette I recommend the Acorn cassette machine - well built. As for games chuckie egg was good, but the dragon also had caterpillar attack - very addictive, and a later game, after dragon went bust , called Beanstalker written by someone called Pam ____ ? Really good game. The Dragon user's group was run by Paul Grade from Worthing - sadly no longer with us- up there now, drinking vodka. AFAIK his brother Ken is still going strong. There's a Nascom 2 somewhere, but never really got going much with that, and a duff imp printer to go with it. The Dragon was/is great, carry on "searching for the inkey $".

    Paris, who's working for the yankee dollar.

  61. Børge Nøst

    NiB NTSC Dragon 32

    There is actually a US company selling a new in box NTSC version (yes, I know how weird that sounds) of the Dragon 32.

    Can't remember their name - check out Retro Gamer or the RG forums.

    (I wanted one, but the postage was a killer.)

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like