Not saved as an autorun program?
Shoddy work. Go back and type it in again.
Rock deities Radiohead have snuck a program for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum into a re-release of their seminal 1997 album “OK Computer”. Dubbed “OKNOTOK”, the re-release can be had as £100/US$130/€120 boxed edition that includes three vinyl records, books galore and “a C90 cassette mix tape compiled by us, taken from OK COMPUTER …
Having read that comment I had to go back and watch the video.
Jeez! "sub-school-playground nonsense" indeed!
That is terrible. You cant even tell if its doing what its supposed to (without analysing the code ) as the output does , well , i dunno i'm lost for words . Is it a "Crashed spectrum program" simulator?
or an "audio visual experience designed to offend both senses to the max" (not a wise move for a "band")?
It's akin to Joe Pasquale's song "I know a song that will get on your nerves" except more efficient.
The surviving spectrum community will be heaving into Miner Willy's toilet!
The ZX Spectrum (just as the ZX81, the previous Sinclair Research computer did) had an unusual feature. I would call it a clever trick. These computers run very short of memory, ranging from a few kilobytes on the ZX81 up to 48 kilobytes in the Spectrum computers manufactured before the +2 model. To save valuable bytes the character set on these computers included not only individual characters (as we would expect on any recent computer) but also complete BASIC keywords (e.g. "RANDOMIZE", "INKEY$", "INK", "PAPER", "VAL$", "FLASH", "PEEK", "POKE", ...) coded as a single byte each. Just think on the memory saving from coding "PRINT" as a single byte (or "token", in the ZX Spectrum slang) when compared to "PRINT " (six bytes, including space) as individual characters as we are accustomed to see today.
It is what we can see on the video, a random display of standard ASCII characters, plus the additional keywords coded in the control codes area (the upper part of the table), using random colors for border (BORDER), first plane (INK) and background (PAPER).
Enjoyable, in my humble opinion.
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Dear Messers Vic and Jeltz,
I have come to the conclusion there is a random downvote generator on El Reg.
Maybe it is controlled by a beaded man called Clive and his 8-bit bot army.
Roll with it, and have a corresponding up tick from yours truly.
MyffyW (16-bit on a good day)
I'm an Australia and I used the ZX81 and Spectrum. My keyboard suffered from the conductive membrane being above the heat sink, I had to do repairs. So sad that the Spectrum got lost. My favourite program was a talking clock: my voice was sampled by the Spectrum to build the vocab, it was recognisable. The C64 was much more sophisticated but the Spectrum was arguable more educational because producing sound and doing something else required understanding multitasking, either using interrupts or co-operatively. The C64 had a real sound chip.
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Some New Wave band had a 12" out with a BBC B program on the flipside that, when run, provided a simple wireframe animation to go with the music on the A side.
 Fiction Factory, IIRC, but The Web has no knowledge of them releasing such an item.
Yes, C90 was only dominant for LPs, as usually though not always, you could put a whole Album on each side. A C60 only allowed one LP with awkward winding and C120 was always more prone to jamming or chewing, the C120 also was only good for higher quality machines and compilations.
I think the C60 and smaller were for dictation, as the format was originally for dictation or audio notes in 1962 approx. The size and cost made it more successful than earlier RCA cassette (which is why it was a "Compact Cassette) or later Sony Elcaset (about 12 years too late). The 8 track was only starting to appear in UK in 1970s when Compact Cassette wiped it out. More common in USA with home players too, I have seen home 8-track players twice in UK. The 8 track would have been useless for home computers.
I remember the pressed records for home computers on magazine covers, like the inside of a 5.25" floppy with a groove. It was easier to make a tape from them than use them directly.
The 8 track would have been useless for home computers.
Too right. I worked in radio when "carts" were the predominant playback media for things like jingles, stings, intros and adverts. Carts were physically the same format as 8-track, but had a three tracks; one pair for stereo and a control track to cause the player to cue (i.e. fast-forward back to the beginning*), stop, or trigger another player.
The trouble we had keeping those things running to speed and without too much wow or flutter made my tribulations with Compact Cassettes for my Spectrum and later my BBC Micro look trivial, and we used Sonifex units which were probably the best in the business (anyone want a Sonifex cart machine? I have a couple in the garage).
The Spectrum's notoriously fickle circuitry would never have coped. The BBC Micro would likely have done better, especially if you just left the cart to run in a loop. The Spectrum (and most other home computers of the era) needed to load the whole program in one go, and an error near the end of 20k of code would mean starting from scratch. The BBC Micro loaded programs in (IIRC) 256 byte blocks. An error in one block would simply pause the loading so that you could re-wind and try just that block again. This saved an awful lot of time. You could have just left a cart running unattended, and the Micro would have picked up a bad block the next time it came around. Actually, didn't Sir Clive appropriate that idea with the "Microdrive"? :-)
*For those who don't know, an 8-track cartridge was a tape loop. There was no "rewind", you had to fast-forward back to the beginning. The 7½ips cartridges we used at the radio station came in lengths up to about 10 minutes, IIRC, but since fast-forward was done by the same capstan and pinch roller that was used when playing the tape, and since the tape loop relied on decent lubrication for smooth running, you couldn't fast-forward all that fast in reality. In other words, you used the shortest cart suitable for the job, and for things like 5-second or 10-second jingles you might actually use a 30-second cart and record two or three copies.
Where's my 'nostalgia' icon?
"The 8 track would have been useless for home computers."
Although that is exactly what Sinclair went on to do with their Sinclair QL computer - using same, but smaller tape looped cartridge as its data storage - Plagued with problem !
ICL even sold that computer as the 'One Per Desk' colloquially known as the 'One Per Bin' after a short while
Apparently the Microdrive format got much better once they'd ironed the bugs out of it, but by that time the reputation had stuck. (From what I've heard, it was a similar story with the QL as a whole, due to it having launched prematurely).
Weren't there problems with mass-production of the Microdrives anyway?
Anyone interested in obscure audio media and playback devices could do far worse than check out Techmoan.
He has many YouTube videos where he discusses the history things like Elcassette, RCA Victor tape cartridges and many others. He usually buys the playback kit off eBay and then dismantles on video to make it work again.
(From what I've heard, it was a similar story with the QL as a whole, due to it having launched prematurely).
"We've got to stop taking orders, Clive! Half the memory's still hanging out the back!"
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIcAyFVK0gE , of course)
* waves at @Ace and the rest of the #general crew...
I usually used C-46 or C-60 cassettes for albums, depending on the albums length, many fit on the former (the original LP capacity was 23m per side). C-90 only for dual LP albums, cassettes I could play on a smaller hi-fi system in my room which had not an LP player.
Saw very little reason to have two different albums on the same cassette but for car or walkman use, where it saved space. Otherwise, smaller cassettes meant less wear.
'C90 was only dominant for LPs'
It was also the dominant format for people who copied games from their mates, and enjoyed / endured the 'will it wont it' tightrope of loading games. The hours I spent waiting for Daley Thompson's Supertest 128 to load, just to get to the very end then crash.....
Who on earth was using expensive chrome TDKs for computer programs?!
C60, C90 etc. was the commonly-accepted generic term for cassette length, though it was more commonly abandoned by manufacturers in favour of their own designation (e.g. SA90) from the 1980s on.
I used to find that AD90s actually worked better for programs than SA90s on my Atom (which had a similar tape filing system to the BBC). But the tape player I used with the computer back then wasn't optimised for chrome.
what do you mean if you remember?
How are you working that out?
The first Inflation Calculator website i tried says 4.66%
It also tells me I havent had a pay rise in real terms since leaving college in 1995 :(
Not for "OK Computer"! Maybe for the other albums listed, though.
The Spectrum was launched in 1982, and by the time 1997 came around, it had had it's last gasp, having been sold off to Amstrad, and milked to death way before then,
Reading the Wikipedia article, it would appear that the last model launched was in 1987, and the line finally killed off in 1990.
Thinking back, that did seem like a short life, but the late 80s and 90s belonged to the games console, and the home PC market was left to the C64 and derivatives (this probably had the longest product life of all home PCs), the Amiga and Atari ST, and the more affordable IBM PC clones.
No, the article states that production of the Spectrum +3 (a post-Amstrad variant with a built-in disk drive) ceased in 1990 (#). The Spectrum +2B (the version with built-in tape) continued until 1992, which sounds about right.
But it would have been very dated by then. By 1997 it was already something from a previous era (this being around the time the fully 3D PlayStation 1 was achieving mass success).
(#) I don't recall the +3 ever being that big a hit. The Spectrum continued to sell despite having dated badly by the late 80s because it had a massive userbase of cheap games (and playground pirate potential). £199 for the +3 version was too expensive for the kids and edging into comparisons with the 16/32-bit 512KB Atari ST (£299 by this time).
In fact, it apparently launched at £249- I can only assume that Amstrad was caught out by Atari reducing the ST to £299 around the same time.
Amstrad seemed convinced there was a new untapped market of people willing to use a Spectrum for business if only the right computer was launched, in addition to those that already used it for that with Microdrives and the Disciple/Plus D, so the +3 (odd 3" discs Sugar bought from the back of a lorry, CP/M support, and incompatibilities with previous models) came out.
Then he put the Sinclair badge on generic PCs, ensuring that absolutely nobody would buy them either.
I seem to recall those 3" discs were nice and reliable. Though I admit he did probably find a few skiploads of them somewhere, unwanted by anyone else. I had an Amstrad PCW 8512 - which was great for my first go at word processing. Ah the joyous noise of a dot matrix printer... I could even play Graham Gooch's Test Match Cricket on it.
"Amstrad seemed convinced there was a new untapped market of people willing to use a Spectrum for business"
Are you sure that was their intention? Amstrad's own Z80-based PCW line- aimed at the same "affordable word processor / office system at a fraction of the cost of an x86 PC" niche- was already established and successful by the time the +3 came out.
It would also have been far more suited to serious use, with 80 (actually 90) column display and 720x256 graphics; the Spectrum +3 still had the original's limited 32-column display(!) and 256x192 resolution.
Apparently, yes, the +3 *could* run CP/M (as you suggest), but I don't see any real indication that it was marketed as a productivity system, or anything other than a games machine. It wouldn't have made sense to do so anyway- why compete against themselves with a system less suited for the purpose?
The Spectrum was pretty much done at the +2. If almost then everyone used the Spectrum for games then there was no need to make it more expensive than necessary.
Amstrad took a computer which was perfectly good at what it did, added hardware which wasn't needed, introduced incompatibilities, and upped the price so it was little cheaper than the 16-bit computers.
The disc drive should really have been separate but widely available, i.e. like the C64.
UK spelling. For The Great British Computer...
Oooh... now, there's a thought... The Great British Code Off... Right, BBC, that's £1.4m in rights fees please... although it IS a bit more 11pm Wednesday evening on BBC2 than 7pm Saturday evening BBC1 Primetime... so I'll settle for £20 and one of Nadiya's fruit flans.
IIRC "apps" used to be simply short for "applications" or "application software", i.e. mainly referring to what might also be called "productivity software".
The Spectrum *did* have some of this, especially in the early days when it still had more of a serious hobbyist/non-gamer following (and people probably hadn't realised how limited word processing and spreadsheets would end up being on the rubber-keyed, tape-based Speccy!)
Program was the original English spelling, but Programme was used on Victorian entertainment posters to bring a little faux French glamour. Personally, I use program in a computer context, and programme in an arts and entertainment context - but that's just me.
The Americans use program, and indeed a lot of American spellings were a deliberate attempt to remove the French influence (eg Colour color, vapour vapor) from their English.
Vintage Computer Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Random Reg Commentard: Yes he is.
ZX Spectrum: I'm not.
Vintage Computer Collector:: He isn't.
Random Reg Commentard Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
ZX Spectrum: I'm getting better.
Random Reg Commentard No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
Was I the only one who discovered that if you held your tape recorder's "play" down just enough whilst fast fwd'ing or rewinding, you could fairly easily pick out the start and end of both the program header and the main data block? So if you knew the program you were after was third on the tape, just a case of counting 6 of the short sine-wave calibration tones, three short bursts of noise and three long ones, and bob's your uncle.
With a bit more practice you could pick out bitmap data (the "loading screen" still graphic to display for the five or ten minutes the main game, er, program took to load), followed by the shorter low-res colour data. ISTR uncompressed text also had a characteristic aural quality. Sometimes you would hear a big blob of bitmap in the middle of a game and knew there was some sort of congratulations / "You Have Penetrated!" reward screen if you completed the game. These could even be extracted and displayed, with a lot of PEEKing and POKEing.
Wonder what I'd be doing now if Dad hadn't saved that unprecedented £125 for our 16K rubber key original. Probably something more like what normal kids ended up doing, the ones who went out and got socialised whilst I spent all day hunched over hot ABS plastic...
Many slightly better tape recorders had a Cue and Review feature, where if you had play pressed, you could use rewind and forward fast to move the tape. My slimline Panasonic had this, and you could hear, as you said, the tape rushing past. For the BBC Micro, with it's checksum system, it allowed you to recover from mis-read blocks, by re-winding a short distance and tweaking the volume.
I had to add a motor control to it for my BBC micro, but that involved putting a mono 2.5mm jack socket in line on the motor wire, but that was easy enough.
Penetrator, with hindsight, a rather disturbing name, but the first Spectrum game I was given, and quite fun (and it had a built-in landscape editor so you could make your own mission!).
Well, not including the epic Horizons demo tape included with every Spectrum, of course…
Radiohead is pretty awesome. I love how they don't cave into cowards like that old senile guy that used to sing for Pink Floyd whatever his name was.. All I can figure is there are a lot of bad programmers feeling threatened from a Rock Group.. Trust me,. Radiohead makes lot more money than any of you do so they won't be taking your bad programming jobs..
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