back to article Ready for a nostalgia kick? Usborne has put its old computer books on the web for free

UK publishing house Usborne is giving out its iconic 1980s programming books as free downloads. The books, which are available for free as PDF files, include Usborne's introductions to programming series, adventure games, computer games listings and first computer series. The series was particularly popular in the UK, where …

  1. frank ly

    Ah, Memories (and registers)

    I just had a look at Machine Code For Beginners :) I remember the Z80 and the 6502 very well. I used to be able to do mental arithmetic in hexadecimal.

    These are wonderful - a big THANK YOU to the publishers.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: Ah, Memories (and registers)

      Yes, I just had a peek at that one too - splendid book and still true - kinda!

  2. Mint Sauce

    Write your own...

    I still have my copy of "Write Your Own Adventure Programs For Your Microcomputer" somewhere. The dragon on the front was very exciting as I recall. The reality back then is that much more imagination was required during gameplay of course ;-)

    It's only been around 30 years, I should probably find time to finish the book ;-) Although, need to download all the others I don't have first!

    1. joeW

      Re: Write your own...

      I have a copy of that one too! Pride of place on my home office bookshelf, alongside .Net framework manuals and random networking door-stops and other books that would be much improved with a dragon on the front.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Write your own...

      I remember typing in the program for that when I was 8 or 9 years old on a TRS-80 Model III.

      Wow, that was a long time ago...

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. NightFox

    Wow, I'd totally forgotten these - though there must be 3 or 4 of them still on my old bedroom bookshelf back at my Dad's house. I think my most used (by a long shot) was the Adventure Game one. I got it just before our annual 2-week holiday to Wales, and spent most of that fortnight laying out the map and items on paper, desperate to get back home and be able to start coding it on my C64.

    I still remember that the very first thing you had to do to get anywhere in my game (The Adventurer) was "CALL GUARD" - luckily my game got its guards from the same place all Hollywood movies get theirs from so the guard was stupid and easy to overcome.

  5. AegisPrime
    Thumb Up

    Wonderful! These books were fantastic - really approachable and well illustrated. And with some great emulators out there for the Spectrum and C64 now anyone can experience the thrill of typing in a long listing, running it and finding out it doesn't work ;) Just downloaded all of them!

    Here's another blast from the past:

  6. graeme leggett Silver badge

    The code, the code!

    Read the programme code at the back of the Adventure one.

    Flashback to lying/squatting on the lounge carpet pressing the keys to the ZX81.

    I see it advises to save your work as you go. Sage advice never changes.

  7. andyUK

    Is the Spy one blank inside?

    Or is it written in invisible ink?!

    (or is is just my computer?)

    1. Andy Mc

      Re: Is the Spy one blank inside?

      working here.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who owns Resi and Transi?

    If anything needs to go online it's them.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Who owns Resi and Transi?

      I know what needs to go online - all those old The 555 Timer Cookbook and The 741 Op Amp Cookbook things. Tiny little printed on bog-paper books that you could get from Tandy - was it Roger Penfold who authored them? Anyway, brilliant little books on just about any electronic standard IC. IIRC they had a punched hole in one corner for some reason.

  9. Pig Dog Bay
    Thumb Up

    Machine Code For Beginners

    I remember finding this little gem in my school library and it completely demystified Z80 programming for me. It explained in its jokey fun way, binary, two's compliment, registers and the stack which as a young kid seemed quite difficult concepts.

    Does any remember a book, ZX Machine Code by Toni Baker, it had a great draughts program but I never understood the floating point chapter?

    1. Peter X

      Re: Machine Code For Beginners

      The name Toni Baker rings a bell. Was the cover of that book mostly dark green / black and I think the text was gold/yellow? If so, then that was the book where I *finally* after a very long time, managed to grasp Z80 assembler.

      UPDATE - I used "Google" (whatever that is) to find it:

      That was totally my bible when I were a kid - so thanks Toni Baker!

  10. Ian 55

    Very nice, but I wonder if the authors are getting paid or if they had crap contracts.

    My copy of ZX Machine Code dates back to when the author was Tony, complete with a 'nothing stays the same' teaser comment.

    1. Pig Dog Bay

      >My copy of ZX Machine Code dates back to when the author was Tony, complete with a 'nothing stays the same' teaser comment.

      The intrigue deepens, so Toni B did a Sophie W?

      30 years of is it he or she and now this!

      1. Ian 55

        Yes, the first edition was prior to a transition.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should be read by today's programmers

    From Programming Tips & Tricks: "The first part of this book shows you how to plan and write clear, well-organized programs which are easy to debug."

  12. ukgnome

    syntax error

    pass me my emulator and a large glass of milk, for tonight I receive a syntax error from my childhood!

  13. Roadcrew

    Shome mishtake, Shirley?

    Links not working as expected downunder in VIC...

    The varii tempting .PDF links tried all take us to:

    ....and downloading merely downloads that page.

    So at least it's consistent.

    Is this, perchance, a conspiracy against Vulture South?

    Prejudice against hard-working convict descendants?

    Revenge for the cricket results....?

    Ahh..... that'll be it.

    1. Justin Clift

      Re: Shome mishtake, Shirley?

      Yeah, it seems likely the pages were changed after TheReg grabbed the links.

      The free downloads are still there though (on the right side), so all is not lost. ;)

  14. Brfff

    The curse of having an Amstrad

    I ended up with about a half-dozen of those books - the Adventure one was the first book we got when we got our CPC464 back in 1985. Typed it in with my dad. Never quite worked properly. But I never remember seeing any of the customisations for Amstrad :(

    1. Roadcrew
      Thumb Up

      Re: The curse of having an Amstrad


      I was a Dad who typed that in for our 464.

      Happy days....

      It took some BASIC-fu to get it running, iirc.

      Then we hacked it about with local/family/school references inserted and the like.

      Had done something similar on the ZX81 previously, as well as a couple of

      self-published 'action' games. So it was not hard to fix, just tedious.

      Happy days indeed.

    2. joeW

      Re: The curse of having an Amstrad

      Same here now that you mention it. If very dusty memory serves me correctly, there was some difference in how Locomotive Basic for the CPC handled DIMming arrays?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: The curse of having an Amstrad

        Ah yes. I vaguely remember having to Dimension arrays at some point in the past. How lazy we've become.

  15. Wilseus

    I remember these books well

    I had one of these books which appears to be a compendium of three of these others:

    and it probably has heavily influenced the career I am in today.

    I've just had a quick skim through the Machine Code one and it's very good, but it does make me realise how lucky us BBC/Electron owners were with their built-in assemblers, it's a bit of a shame that the book doesn't appear to even mention this though.

    If I have one criticism, in one of the books here (which I don't own) it states the oft-repeated myth that a BASIC interpreter converts each line into machine code, which it then executes before moving onto the next one. I do wonder whether this book was responsible for people believing this, I certainly remember having a heated argument with my Computer Science lecturer at college about it!

    1. PaulFrederick

      Re: I remember these books well

      Why don't you think BASIC interpreters translate BASIC into machine code to execute? What precisely do you believe is going on?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: I remember these books well

        I have a couple of the BBC micro books somewhere. Is it the BASIC manual and was there an Advanced book? Red and green for the first and yellow and blue for the second? Anyway, wire bound doorstops, they were, and so intricate. Really tied together the code and what was actually happening inside the chips themselves.

  16. GrumpyOldMan

    I had some of these...

    And just last night found a Lotus123 manual and took my wife on a nostalgia trip. I still have a mint Tandy 1982 catalogue as well.

    Remembering the days and nights spent typing pages of code from books and mags, then the days and nights spent trying to debug it to find out where you'd gone wrong!.

  17. F0ul

    Kids today

    Best books on programming ever written - assuming you measured from know nothing to getting paid to code - bet a very large proportion of the current 40 something in UK IT learnt something from these pages!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Games Code Club

    Check out ZX Spectrum Games Code Club which is a NEW release and has 20 games to code from Arcade to Strategy!

    You can get it now on Amazon :)

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