back to article Relics from the early days of the Sinclair software scene rediscovered at museum during lockdown sort-out

We like a bit of digital archaeology at Vulture Central so we were delighted to learn that retro-computing enthusiasts at Swindon's Museum of Computing have found games by Dymond Software that were once thought lost. The games, for ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, were published in the early 1980s by Dumfriesshire-based Dymond Software, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I donated some stuff to them.

    I don't know if they still have it on display, but I gave them one of the few remaining Psion Organiser 1s (yes, I, not II). It wasn't a really useful device, certainly not compared to the Organiser II, but it deserves a place in history nevertheless. If I recall correctly I've also donated one or more Organiser IIs (it's been a while :) ).

    What I like about Swindon is that they don't just display games, they have been set up so you can actually play them which requires quite a bit of hardware maintenance.

    Worth a visit.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: I donated some stuff to them.

      I have one of those Organisers. Not 'Organiser I' or 'Organiser One' as they're listed on some sites. The original.

      No it wasn't all that useful... Unless you got the Math Pak for it. That contained an early version of OPL.

      (Organiser Programming Language)

      I want that Pak.

      I have a few IIs, too. A CM, an LZ64, a POS250 and a POS350(same as a II XP, but with 96KB RAM and none of the regular programs installed)

      I even have the printer. And incredibly, the 'Plug'n Play' works! Plug it in, switch the II on(or off, then on if it was on when plugging it in), and drivers were loaded from the Printer. The same with the serial cable.

      I actually used the LZ64 actvely until about 10 years ago. I kept lists of my comics and book collection on it, and used it when browsing in used book stores.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I donated some stuff to them.

        I think that I still have a comms link and a barcode reader in a box somewhere (but not the DOS software that came with it, sadly). And one of the 128k flash packs. Astonishingly, the Org II I have left still happily instantly boots - no problem at all.

        Personally, I'd welcome the equivalent of OPL on a phone. Nothing more complicate, the OPL as found in the Organiser did all I needed it to do. OK, I had to put some machine code in some cases to fudge a few things but in general it was kept simple and did the job. The simplicity got shot when PSION started to work on the Series 3 and beyond because you now had to manipulate a display and windows. Understandable, of course, and on the S3 it wasn't that bad, but I have coded frankly stupid amounts on a machine that had 4 lines of 20 characters, and that was an upfgrade from 2 x 16.

        In short, it was fun.

        I kinda miss that portability. It would be cool if that sort of simplicity came to an iPhone or an Android phone - I'm not really sold on the whole "shortcuts" thing or SwiftUI.

        1. minifig

          Re: I donated some stuff to them.

          OPL was a cracking programming language!

        2. Trygve Henriksen

          Re: I donated some stuff to them.

          You may want to check this page for the required SW... and a lot of other stuff...

    2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: I donated some stuff to them.

      I donated my old Acorn Electron to the Retro Computer Musuem in Leciester recently, and it too has various old computers and consoles available to play. If I ever swerve by Swindon I'll check your musuem out.

    3. minifig

      Re: I donated some stuff to them.

      Yes, we have your Organiser 1 on display!

  2. GlenP Silver badge

    Remember when a games developer could be one guy with a ZX Spectrum?

    Indeed I do, one of them was a Uni friend who had a game published by MicroMega.

    1. hopkinse

      My Dad wrote Hunter Killer and Airliner for the Spectrum around 1982 I think, published by Protek

    2. William Towle

      > Remember when a games developer could be one guy with a ZX Spectrum?

      Yes! While I didn't get as far as having something published, I learnt to program by typing in from listings (in the very early days when we only had one TV, my Dad read them out for something to do) and modifying the results. I did also write to the publishers of Skool Daze with enthusiastic congratulations and game ideas, and was particularly delighted to get a response.

      Some of my games got reimplemented on the Amiga I owned next, including a port of CDS's Othello, a BASIC game written in some very spaghetti manner to make computer-player and human-help logic fit 16K. Once ported, I found it very easy to beat a) because I didn't have to wait ages for it to move, and could think undistractedly, and b) having untangled said spaghetti I understood exactly why the moves that came out of the help weren't necessarily the optimum ones :)

    3. Mike 137 Silver badge

      one guy with a ZX Spectrum

      Around the same time a colleague and I created a macro assembler for 6502 and an Acorn compatible disc operating system on an Acorn Atom. I wrote the drivers using the macro assembler and my colleague built them into a DOS using the same tool, starting by saving his work on tape and progressively migrating to disc as development of the DOS proceeded - ultimately developing it on itself.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Remember when a games developer could be one guy with a ZX Spectrum?

      This twitter thread is worth reading. Bedroom coding was a way out for many people.

  3. fizz

    I was a schoolmate of the guys that wrote this game:

    They were three 16 year old boys, and they did it for the town's computer shop, the actual publisher, that paid them for their work by giving them some "free" hardware, according to what they told me at the time (they were very excited about it).

    A small detail is that the SF background had been realized by the graphic guy originally for an attempt to make a side-scrolling shooter inspired by Alien2.

  4. Jim Willsher

    And I didn't even know this place existed :)

    I've been to a similar museum in Seattle, which is fantastic. But now that I know about this, I feel a visit to Swindon is due.....

    1. Korev Silver badge

      If you do go, then don't forget to visit the other <a href=">famous attraction in Swindon</a>.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't tell him that or he may never get there :).

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          The Magic Roundabout is a breeze, if you know how to drive it properly, fortunately I do.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Or indeed, STEAM, the museum of the GWR.

        Must be time to re-visit Swindon. Last couple of times I've only been to to the National Self Build Centre which is interesting in its own way, but... but... computers, steam engines...


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I managed to drag my wife to the build centre a few months ago (we're building a house). I think she might draw the line at a computer museum.

    2. minifig

      Look forward to seeing you!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RMC is another great early gaming museum

  6. Anonymous South African Coward

    And there are various reasons why preservation of old computers and software is so important - to remind us where it all started, and what it was like back in those days.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Which is why my staff, during induction, get treated to a visit to TNMOC at Bletchley Park.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about the original ZX80?

    I was into electronics and working as a programmer on B800 computers using the long forgotten and little known language MPLII. I'd been taking an interest in the possibility of getting a home computer, most were far too expensive so I'd decided to buy the Sinclair MK14 (hex keyboard, machine code, one line LED display, 256K RAM). I went to WH Smith for my monthly electronics mag (Practical Electronics, March 1980) to find the regular Sinclair MK14 ad and order it for a budget-stretching £40 (about a weeks pay at the time). Instead of the MK14 there was an ad for the ZX80 at an even more eye-watering £100 but only £80 in kit form. The specification (1K RAM, BASIC, QWERTY, used a TV as display) was so much higher than the MK14 that, despite the price I had to have one and could stretch to £80 if I cut down on a few luxuries like food.

    The kit wasn't the easiest project with hundreds of densely packed solder joints but I'd got the experience from building a Sinclair scientific calculator and before that the Micromatic radio.The next problem was what use was it! The Sinclair hype read: "You could use it to do quite literally anything from playing chess to running a power station." That proved to be something of an exaggeration!

    More than half of the massive 1k of memory was used to map the screen if you wanted a full screen display (24 lines of 32 column one byte mono characters) so we were left with around 384 bytes for the program. I claim to be the first to create a playable game in Sinclair BASIC using all but one byte of the available memory. It was a kind of fox and geese against the computer, winnable but not without working out a counter intuitive strategy.

    As finances wouldn't stretch to the £20 to buy a cassette player I had to retype the code every time. Nevertheless I typed it up and included a detailed explanation of some of the more obscure logic operations I'd used to do some bit-twiddling in the screen memory.

    I sold copies of the listing through a small-ad in an electronics magazine attracting orders from around the world. That more than recovered my costs and encouraged me to pre-order the Newbrain computer (initially intended as the BBC computer) but as that project hit problems BBC eventually cancelled and switched to Acorn, so did I. My Acorn/BBC was later replaced by the Acorn Archimedes as soon as it was announced. I was so blown away by the ARM chip that I bought some Acorn shares which were later converted to ARM shares. Around 25 years ago an HSBC investment specialist told me they weren't worth holding on to but luckily I disagreed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about the original ZX80?

      oops MK14 256Bytes not K!

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