back to article ZX Spectrum, the 8-bit home computer that turned Europe onto PCs, is 40

Prepare yourself for a weekend of wobbly power connectors and Daley Thompson digit-mashing: tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. The ZX Spectrum, released on April 23, 1982, was a follow-up to Sinclair's ZX81. Referred to as the ZX82 or ZX81 Colour during development, the final product arrived with …

  1. Plest Silver badge
    Happy

    Where it all began...for some

    My Dad had built Sinclair eletronic kits and he hated Sinclair, he called it "cheap plastic shit"! Ha ha!

    So when it came to our first home micro he bought us a Dragon 32 from the Welsh valleys. I had to wait until I was 22 years old and finally got my own real Spectrum in a boot sale, just so I could finally enjoy the privilege of that wonderful rubber keyboard and listen to that glorious screeching of a Speccy game loader.

    Nothing will ever beat that wonderful time of 8bit micros and the schoolyard memories. Pure magic.

    Happy birthday Speccy!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      That was indeed an absolutely magic time and I hit it at the perfect age. I don't think the planets have aligned like that since.

      I still look up at the windows above InnerSpace every time I go along Kings Parade.

      I also look at the gap in Gap on Market Hill, which was left open the other day allowing me in for a little look. I could have posed that press photo on the steps.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      My Dad did the numbers and bought me a Dragon 32 too. I loved it and it made the woman I am today. For games, however, there was much more available for other platforms and it was the Spectrum and the BBC Model B that had the best. Manic Miner is still the game I've played most down the years.

      1. ian 28

        Re: Where it all began...for some

        Manic Miner & Chuckie Egg.

        Nothing will ever come close although Jet-Pac was fun too

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      same

      Same:

      Dad bought Dragon, they did do a port of "Jet Set Willy" to the dragon though.

      got my own spectrum later on

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      The Dragon was certainly a better quality machine but the 6809 lacked the volume of software the z80 had accumulated. I was coding in C in my Speccy while a friend of mine was hacking around in Forth. The games were probably better on the Dragon but for learning stuff that rubber keyboard gave access to a lot more.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Where it all began...for some

        Dragon had a good keyboard but it was £175 and went alone at on the 6809, consequently the business was finished by 1984.

      2. ian 28

        Re: Where it all began...for some

        I had no idea there was a C compiler for the speccy?

        1. ThomH

          Re: Where it all began...for some

          There was definitely a Hisoft product, and if you had a +3 then there are a bunch of CP/M options — albeit that the options for navigating an 80-column display aren't fantastic.

        2. DaveN

          Re: Where it all began...for some

          The HiSoft C compiler. It didn't do floating point but it support files

    5. spold Silver badge

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      I went Science of Cambridge MK14, Commodore Pet, Apple II...

      The Spectrum was referred to as "the world's most intelligent doorstop" :-)

      I will give it a break on that one though, it was a good starting point for many people.

      1. elaar Silver badge

        Re: Where it all began...for some

        I think you're missing the context here.

        People mostly bought the ZX Spectrum for things like gaming. The 3 you listed would have been doorstops for that.

        The 6502 may have worked in the arcade for VERY early games, but couldn't compete with the Z80.

        The 6502 was on it's last legs by the time the ZX came out.

        "I will give it a break on that one though, it was a good starting point for many people."

        You've missed the point entirely.

        1. jeffdyer

          Re: Where it all began...for some

          The 6510 in the commodore 64 was pretty much a 6502 and that didn't seem to do it any harm.

          1. Binraider Silver badge

            Re: Where it all began...for some

            Both chips have had very long lives. The Z80 is still available in microcontroller form.

            Both were heavily used in arcade machines and consoles way beyond their use as CPUs.

            1. ITMA Bronze badge

              Re: Where it all began...for some

              And the 65C02 plus its many variants is STILL made and sold by WDC (Western Design Center)

              https://www.westerndesigncenter.com/wdc/w65c02s-chip.php

          2. illiad

            Re: Where it all began...for some

            ha ha ha... in computer clubs at the time, you could really embarrass a commodore owner by asking how to 'clear the screen'!! :D:D

            I had a TRS80 at the time, there was shock and horror when I simply said CLS !!!

        2. 45RPM Silver badge

          Re: Where it all began...for some

          And whilst the Apple II may not have been big in the UK (and it did have cheesy graphics, but that had nothing to do with the CPU), some huge and massively popular games, like Prince of Persia, started life there.

          Similarly, the BBC Micro was regarded as one of the quicker 8bit machines - and it was packing a 6502 family CPU as well.

          If you look at raw clock speed, then yes. The Z80 is quicker. But clock speed doesn’t tell the whole story - if it did then an over clocked Pentium 4 would toast a Ryzen (which clearly isn’t the case). The 6502 is more efficient, getting more work done per clock cycle. When you take everything into account, the Z80 and the 6502 are pretty comparable.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Where it all began...for some

          "The 6502 was on it's last legs by the time the ZX came out"

          You're making the same mistake many people do. The Z80 and 6502 were of the same generation, and both started out powering the very first home computers, eg Commodore, Apple and TRS-80. The Spectrum and C64 were the next generation and both used improved versions of those same CPUs.

          Likewise, people looking at Apple ][ and comparing the graphics with a Spectrum or C64. Again, a generational difference as well as cost difference. RAM and the chips to do graphics were hugely expensive at the very beginning of the home computer revolution. Things did move on quite quickly of course, but there are relatively clear generational lines.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Where it all began...for some

            RAM prices were utterly insane at that point in time in home computing, also systems tended to need lots of them to have even an appreciable, for the time, amount of RAM.

            Something that I didn't understand to start with, but definitely appreciated later, was the way that the C64 came with 16K of it's RAM masked by the BASIC and kernel ROMs. This did seem a waste of memory at first, but the ROMs could be disabled in code freeing up the memory. One of the tricks I had was to copy the ROM to the RAM (when not swapped out the ROM could be read and when written to just wrote to the RAM underlying it) and then the ROMs could be disabled. After this, the BASIC and kernel were freely hackable to do anything one wanted, to speed up things, to add extra commands and so on. It wasn't immediately obvious how to add lots of extra command until I found the call to the parser and extended that.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Where it all began...for some

              This did seem a waste of memory at first,

              But saved circuit board space as they could use 8 64kx1 DRAMs instead of 24 16kx1 ones. 6 of 16kx4 would have taken even a little less space, but the price per bit for those was appreciably higher.

        4. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Where it all began...for some

          The 6502 may have worked in the arcade

          And in the Apple][, Acorns (Atom, Beeb and Leccy), the VIC20 and essentially the C64 as well. Also the KIM-1 and SYM-1, fairly popular (for their time) development boards.

          for VERY early games, but couldn't compete with the Z80.

          Page0 registers and a neatly orthogonal instruction set with most instructions taking fewer clock cycles than the equivalent Z80 ones made up for raw clock speed. Even back then Intel apparently put more effort in reaching higher clock speeds than an efficient architecture, and while the Z80 did a bit better there (just like the NEC V20 and V30 against the 8088 and 8086) it was still held back simply by being 8085-compatible.

        5. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

          Z80 vs 6502/6510 for games

          The Z80 was a more-powerful CPU than the 6502, but remember that games depend on the facilities of the entire computer system. The C64 had dedicated sound and video-effects chips - the SID and the VIC-II, respectively, which offloaded those tasks from the CPU. Similarly, the Atari 400/800-series home computers had the ANTIC chip for its video effects.

          1. DexterWard

            Re: Z80 vs 6502/6510 for games

            I thought the Z80 was more powerful than the 6502 until I had written games for both. Then I realised the 6502 is much better than it looks; the zero page is effectively 256 (slow) registers. It’s actually easier to write fast efficient code on the 6502; in many ways it was the first RISC machine.

            In terms of speed a 1 MHz 6502 and 2 MHz Z80 were pretty much the same, but 6502 code tended to be more compact.

      2. SusiW

        Re: Where it all began...for some

        Ahh, the MK14... What a glorious piece of junk.

        I had so much fun learning assembler on that board. It still serves me well to this day.

        Good memories. Thank you. XX

    6. Khaptain

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      The spectrum was the reason I got into IT. It was my 1st step into the world or programming...

      Wonderful memories even 40 years later

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Where it all began...for some

        Me too, but I didn't want it. I wanted a record player but dad thought the Spectrum would be good for my future career prospects. I could be a rock star now.

        I thought, at least I'll be able to play games, but no. No games until I could recite verbatim every page of the huge manual which included various scientific and mathematical functions I hadn't learned and barely remember.

        I was writing my own games before I was allowed a joystick. He eventually bought me the 48K upgrade with the instruction to dismantle it and install it on the kitchen sink - static protection. Got me hooked but the world lost a rock star that Chistmas.

    7. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      The Dragon (especially Dragon 64) was far superior machine (IMHO) and it could run OS-9.

    8. JohnLH

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      Did you enjoy the Dragon's weird colour ghost on every vertical line in the display? Early Dragons in the name of saving a few pence used an NTSC frequency crystal in the video encoder, in the belief that it wouldn't matter if the line time was 63.5 usec rather than the correct for PAL 64 usec. They forgot that every PAL TV incorporated a 64 usec chrominance delay line...

    9. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      He had a point...I built the matchbox-size radio, the original blue one, not the fancy later one. It wasn't great, but I was pleased when, on the odd occasion, it did work. Simpler times.

    10. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Where it all began...for some

      My mate had a Dragon32, there were some ace games, 'Wiz War' and 'Phantom Slayer' kept us all amused.

  2. loops

    "Lots of people here at Pi Towers had their first exposure to programming on Sinclair hardware"

    Every single C64 owner became a suave, sophisticated, international spy. They are all currently married to Swedish underwear models half their age, and they all drive Ferrari's during the week, and Lamborghini's for the weekend.

    (this is an absolute 100% true, verifiable fact).

    1. Jaspa

      All but one sadly, me lol.

      I must have missed that memo during a marathon session on Paradroid.

      1. steviebuk Silver badge

        Paradroid. The very odd game that was on a demo disk of a magazine either I bought or our family friend did. He had a c64 so I go round and play it. I remember us trying Paradroid but never understanding what it was about or how to play it.

  3. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    I had one of the very early 16K ones. Not long after I bought it I got it upgraded to 48K. The problem there being that the memory chips were soldered in and doing your own soldering would have invalidated the warranty. As such it got sent back to the factory for the upgrade. The good news was that I got a brand new 48K unit back from the factory. Best of all I only sent back the computer and when the new unit came back it had all the accessories in the box.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      I had one of the very early 16K ones. Not long after I bought it I got it upgraded to 48K.

      My tutorial partner at university bought a 16K Spectrum one day before it was withdrawn and the 48K model dropped to the same price. He was a bit peeved, not least because the money he used (£169.99, iirc) came from his summer job ... at Sinclair, working on the Microdrives.

    2. Blane Bramble

      I upgraded ours by buying the chips and plugging them into the already-present sockets - not sure why you had to solder yours?

      1. gotes

        Possibly the "very early" model didn't have sockets.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge
          Boffin

          Issue 1 16K Spectrums had space for a plug-in 32K* daughterboard. Issue 2 and above didn't.

          Seem some 16Ks were returned 48Ks with memory problems in the top 32K so they had the top 32K disabled by Sinclair in the factory before being sent out for sale again as a 16K. Those are the ones which would have had to be returned to Sinclair for the upgrade if you were two scared to solder the memory yourself.

          Upgrading a 16K Spectrum to 48K

          * Actually 64K but with cheaper RAM chips that failed testing as 64K but were usable as 32K. Because Sinclair, gawd bless 'im.

          1. drgeoff

            The Texas Instruments chips had 64Kbit dies inside but the packaged chips were labelled as 32Kbit parts and sold as such. The part number indicated which half was good. All 8 of them in any one machine had to have the same good half. There was provision on the plug-in daughterboard in early versions or on the later single PCBs to select which type was fitted.

          2. Dave 126 Silver badge

            > Actually 64K but with cheaper RAM chips that failed testing as 64K but were usable as 32K. Because Sinclair, gawd bless 'im.

            That binning concept lives on - a chip designed with 9 cores might have a defect and so be shipped as an 8 core chip. Heck, Apple have based their M1x strategy around this - attempt to make big chip for premium model, but to be sure to have created lower models to put the 'flawed" chips in. I believe Nvidia and AMD have doing similar things for yonks, and likely other before such as IBM's Cell chip, thinking about it.

            Still, there's an elegance in intending a use for parts that happen to fall at the lower end of the yield curve.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              It's a core strategy for Intel and I suspect all chip manufacturers once the chips became complicated enough to be viable.

      2. awavey

        I cant remember, well it was 40 years ago :) if the chips were soldered or fitted in existing sockets on our one, but the result was we actually put the resultant upgraded Speccy in a bigger case, so benefitted from a decent keyboard years before Sinclair caught up.

      3. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

        @Blane Bramble

        As stated in my original post my Speccy did not have socketed memory chips, they were soldered direct to the board. I could have soldered them (I haven't been without an iron close at hand since I started high school) however to do so would have voided the warranty.

        @Ian Johnston

        My 16K version was £125 direct from Sinclair, the 48K one was £175 IIRC. 50 quid does seem like a lot of money for 32K of memory even in 1982 however so I could be wrong.

    3. GrantB

      Upgrading from 16kb version

      The author of the article has a wonky memory of the ZX Spectrum having a 32kB ram pack.

      I saved up my paper run pocket money and brought an early 16kb Spectrum with my own hard earned money.

      AFAIK there was no 32 kB for the Spectrum, at least none by Sinclair; you had to return the hardware to Sinclair for an upgrade which wasn't really an option for me in NZ.

      The ZX81 was the one with the infamously wobbly 16kB ram pack

      Still have a ZX Spectrum, ZX Microdrive and ZX Interface 1 pack, with the idea is that someday I might try and transplant a RPi into it.

      Nice thing is that 40 years later I am being paid good money to tinker with RPi, 3D printed cases and Python; the spiritual successor to the Sinclair ethos

      1. mrmond

        Re: Upgrading from 16kb version

        "The author of the article has a wonky memory of the ZX Spectrum having a 32kB ram pack."

        The author might have had or been thinking of the Cheetah 32k ram pack. A very real product that plugged in to expand the ram to the full 48k.

    4. Dave White
      Happy

      That upgrade was how my dad thought me to solder. I would have been about 10 at the time.

      I do remember burning my fingers on something, but I also remember that the upgrade worked so we could immediately load Lunar Jetman and play that.

      Good memories!

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I recently read the book "Sinclair and the Sinrise Technology".

    It seems Sinclair's computers* suceeded despite Clive Sinclair's best efforts.

    * Well, except the QL...

    1. Dave559 Silver badge

      Yeah, definitely absolutely nothing of any significance ever came from anyone who had ever owned a QL… ;-)

      1. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

        I remember our vicar had a QL, he also had a long string of Psions.

        The QL was great because it had Microdrives and decent business software (for the time), such a shame the Microdrives were utter shite and prone to chewing up.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          The QL was great because you could write 32 bit code on it. They said then no-one ever got fired for buying IBM but I still swear the IBM PC put computing in holding pattern that it didnt break out of until Windows NT because almost everyone bought IBM!

      2. GrooveCat
        Linux

        sorry youre wrong. Linux would have never been a thing without the QL

        http://www.sinclairql.net/Linus_Torvalds_and_the_QL.html

        1. 45RPM Silver badge

          Linus the man made Linux, not QL the machine. Had Linus been using a PC, an Amiga, an ST or a Mac I reckon he’d still have been dissatisfied with the OS (or just curious about how to write one) and then, hey presto, Linux.

          The QL is an interesting detail. It isn’t the story.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Happy

            Nah, I'm pretty sure he'd have been satisfied with the Amiga's OS.

        2. Dave559 Silver badge

          "sorry youre wrong. Linux would have never been a thing without the QL"

          Yes, exactly that, hence my smiley, and slightly over the top wording!

    2. Anonymous Cowerd

      Horses for courses

      The QL was Sinclair’s attempt to break into the business machines market. At the same time Acorn tried to compete in the games market.

      Both ventures ended badly.

  5. gw0udm

    No rampack

    There was no rampack or wobble for the 16k Speccy, that was the ZX81. There are stern warnings in the manual not to try using the ZX81 rampack too. The only way to upgrade was to add the ram chips to the motherboard

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: No rampack

      The wobble was there all right. Other accessories plugged into the slot, including Sinclair's Interface 1 and Interface 2 and various third-party add-ons. Only if screws were provided, to attach the dongle casing rigidly to the Speccy's, did you have any hope of eradicating the wobble.

      Well do I remember falling asleep at work because I had spent all night playing Lords of Midnight and mapping out the land.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No rampack

        Oh the nostalgia!

        I worked part time in a repair shop while still at school. Had several Interface 1's that were not economically repairable (to the shop). Didn't stop me spending my own time fixing up a couple. Gave one to my friend and we 'networked' 2 together and played a flight sim against each other for hours. Can't remember the name of the game unfortunately. Definitely had to screw in the Interface 1 because otherwise a slight jog could cause it to stop working.

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: No rampack

        There might have been wobble on some Spectrums, but it wasn't a feature common to all. I had an original 48K with an Interface 2 hanging off the back, and an AMX Mouse interface hanging off the back of that - despite the dire warnings in the IF2 manual that the pass-through was only to be used for the ZX Printer (what a rebel I was in my younger years :-) - and the only wobble as such was a *slight* bit of play between the IF2 and AMX interface, but nothing like as bad mechanically or electrically as the legendary wobble of a ZX81 ram pack.

    2. mrmond

      Re: No rampack

      There was a rampack for the 16 Spectrum, a 32k rampack made by Cheetah that expanded the memory to a full 48k.

      I bought chips thought which plugged directly into sockets inside, no soldering needed nor returning to have the upgrade done by Sinclair.

  6. GlenP Silver badge

    Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

    It can't really be 40 years, I'm not that old!

    I started on an RM 380Z at school then quickly spent the earnings from a holiday job on a ZX81. That got upgraded in 1982 to a Spectrum and in, I think early 1985, I added a BBC B to the stable - the joys of accessing Prestel on a 1200/75 modem once the rest of the house was asleep and I could hog the phone line.

    1. laughthisoff

      Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

      I also started at school on an RM 380Z - oh to have one of those tanks again!

      On the home front, I narrowly missed buying a second-hand ZX81 from a friend (probably a wise move) and managed to save for a Spectrum which I finally acquired in the Summer of '83. To use a familar phrase: "the rest, as they say, is history".

      Oh, and the Spectrum? I still have it, along with several others of its original and modern kin as well.

    2. MDonovan

      Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

      Ah the RM 380Z, with its dual 5.25 "floppy" drives and CP/M... Happy days. Sat my O level in Computer Science then couldn't sit the A level because no teaching staff were accredited.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

        CTRL-F then J 103

        And that impossible space invaders game where you got to one alien ship left and faced a continuous stream of bombs!

        :-)

      2. Caver_Dave
        Unhappy

        Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

        When I was doing the A level I was teaching the new O level teacher one lesson ahead of what she was teaching the kids.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

          There was a point I was teaching the A-Level class I was actually taking!

          Taught a few lessons about interrupts on the BBC. I had the second (much more technical) book that was published at the time and was already playing around with what the BBC could do.

      3. jeffdyer

        Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

        Yes we had to go to the local technical college to do our A level computer studies

    3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

      OK what was your modem?

      Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

      Prism Modem 1000 (Aka Telemod 2)

      Prism Modem 2000 (Thorn\EMI)*, better looking BBC "colour case".

      GEC Datachat, line powered.

      Voyager 7 (AKA Magic Modem or Kirks Enterprise), atodialling via RTS signal.

      * Only had 1 fault the 5V voltage regulators tended to fail, had one that was returned a second time as the 12V failed. I think I only scrapped one or two as BER.

    4. fowljr

      Re: Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be!

      Ahhh, that triggered a memory, the RM 380Z with 8 inch floppy discs... That was definitely my first exposure to something that looked PC like... ZX81, TI994a, BBC Model B... As others said, a career born out of that time!

  7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    On this side

    I remember the pre IBM PC days with an Apple IIe. Fond memories of that beast. I was one of the first to write a MS thesis on a computer (I was a STEM major at an engineering school). Spectrums were not easy to find over here but we had plenty that were roughly equivalent at the time.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: On this side

      i didnt know the STEM acronym was that old!

      I thought it was invented a few years ago by politcians and dragged out annually to promote girls careers in the area

  8. dazzzler

    10 Print "I am skill"

    20 GOTO 10

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      I am skill

      I am skill

      I am skill

      I am skill

      scroll?

      D BREAK - CONT repeats, 10:1

  9. Binraider Silver badge

    A few years later to the party, I distinctly remember copying listings out of the (excellent) user manual into my ZX Spectrum+ as a 5 year old. I am sure a thousand computer science lecturers would lambast BASIC for teaching people like me how to depend upon goto.

    The spectrum got lemonaded by an argument over the joystick; replaced by the much more capable C64 a Christmas or two later. Admittedly, programming the 64 was a bit less accessible; no basic keywords for graphics functions etc. however that did give more of a "proper" road into dealing with the underlying hardware and dabbling with assemblers. Try explaining to your mum why you want to buy an assembler cartridge... To this day, I do enjoy winding up goto-haters over one of the more commonly used constructs in assembler, the humble JMP for most purposes can be thought of in same way.

    I jumped to the Amiga 1500 not long after that; which as wonderful as it was, came with no programming tools (1.3 ditched AmigaBasic) so I got out of the loop for a little while. Did pick up AMOS Pro in the machines later years, which of course was incredibly easy to produce impressive stuff.

    Computers in schools at the time were of course pitched at the how-to-drive a word processor level; and all rather a wasted exercise. (Is it any better now? I doubt it). The more involved bits of the BBC's computer literacy programmes glossed over in favour of shiny new GUI applications. (Though the Archimedes was, and still is amazing to use).

    Very excited to see that Francois Lionet is working on a spiritual successor to AMOS. Big gap in the market for an accessible hobby language where you don't have to spend months figuring out what API's to use, or how to plug em together.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      I am sure a thousand computer science lecturers would lambast BASIC for teaching people like me how to depend upon goto.

      To be fair, it was hard to write in ZX-Basic without use of GO TO.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        I believe part of the reason is the limited size stack implemented due to the very limited memory that was available. Have too many jump-with-return (whatever your language of choice calls these) and the stack very quickly becomes very full and when the stack overflows the system is toast.

        Recursive calls was not a sensible thing until rather later.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          If we're talking about Basic, you could have recursive GO SUBs until you filled all the free memory no problem, but if you tried a recursive FN it got its knickers in a twist because there was no way to stop the recursion as logical operators didn't have short circuiting.

    2. agurney

      Computers in schools at the time were of course pitched at the how-to-drive a word processor level; and all rather a wasted exercise...

      I beg to differ - in the 1980s I was with a group teaching with a variety of kit; there were Amstrads and IBM PCs for business applications, BBC micros for programming, Apple Macintoshes for graphic design, and yet more BBCs for CNC machining.

      The resource was shared across all schools in the area and catered for all abilities.

      A lot of the educational software at the time was cr*p, so a part of our remit was to evaluate what was available, develop our own courses (and software if necessary), and share our experiences.

      So, hopefully not a wasted exercise.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        I don't think we had the staff to use / teach them. Beyond a bit of rudimentary LOGO and the turtle was a thing, and granny's garden. By early 90s the computer teaching where I was was little more than word processing.

        Compared to the concerted efforts of the early 80s that had far more varied teaching along lines you suggest!

    3. David 132 Silver badge

      > 1.3 ditched AmigaBasic

      Really? Perhaps on the A1500, but I definitely remember my A500 coming with AmigaBasic on the 1.3 Extras disk. There was a lovely sound/graphics demo that played Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring in polyphonic sound while drawing lines on the screen. After having grown accustomed to the limitations of my Spectrum for the preceding 5 years, that was a major future-shock moment for me!

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        I think AmigaBasic was ditched after 1.3 (i.e. in 2.0) but on the other hand they included ARexx in 2.0 which was pretty good, especially to programmatically control software.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Thanks A Lot!

          For all the nightmares of attending computer trade shows & hearing various renditions of things being played all at the same time at different points in the music, not quite far enough apart to be able to hear only one......

          Beaten only by a suite of the Coin-ops underneath our stand at Earls Court, all playing Space Harrier, listening to the music & death cries repeatedly.

        2. jeffdyer

          Agree, the 2.0.4 release on my Amiga 500plus had no amiga basic so bought hisoft assembler and acquired lattice c instead. Both good moves!

      2. David 132 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Following up... OK, I was puzzled about this, so did some checking using WinUAE on my PC here.

        Workbench 1.3 (build 34.20) came with Basic and the aforementioned demo on the Extras disk.

        Workbench 1.3.3 (b 34.34) didn't. Perhaps this latter is what shipped with the A1500.

      3. Binraider Silver badge

        The 1.3.3 (UK) release it was conspicuously missing, annoyingly!

  10. Dabooka

    Different route here

    Dragon 32 and then full on into Amstrads with the 464 followed by a 6128.

    Did get a 48k+ in a playground swap too but that was an idle curio really although I much preferred the design.

    Happy days and many a playground conversation did occur although mainly about who's was better. The Amstrad obvs

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Different route here

      Ah, the Amstrad CPCs... that was just an expensive way of playing slow Spectrum games, wasn't it?

      1. Dabooka

        Re: Different route here

        Oi! The cheek...

        Jesting aside the CPC was (and it was before the Speccy fans rock up) a far more accomplished machine with better upgrades and greater flexibility.

        Loved mine

      2. TheFifth

        Re: Different route here

        I had a CPC 464, which over the years had a ROM board, Multiface II and disk drive added. Was a brilliant machine.

        As you say though, unfortunately it did get lumbered with a few too many quick and dirty Speccy ports. Cheap games companies looking for a quick way to turn out a conversion.

        Games that were written properly to take advantage of the CPC's greater power could trounce the humble Speccy though. Some of the software that came out of France and Spain back in the day was great. Also, just take a look at the new games still being produced for the CPC. We would have been gob smacked if we'd seen some of these new games back in the 80s!

        Back on topic though, I recently picked up a 48K Spectrum as a lockdown project. The first I've ever owned. I've had great fun playing through some of the old classics. There were some truly great titles available for the Spectrum.

  11. ROC
    Headmaster

    Understated impact???

    "Over five million of the Z80A-based devices were sold, and its impact cannot be understated."

    Not familiar with UK computing scene from back then (C-64 and IBM PC focus for me in the US), but would not "overstated" be more appropriate?

    1. illiad

      Re: Understated impact???

      Z80 machine code was very simple to understand, and you could make a functional program(move a section of memory) using only 10 bytes - and if the registers were pre-loaded, the command took only two bytes!!!

  12. adam 40 Silver badge

    Go Forth and prosper

    I dug out some of my old speccy stuff recently, one interesting program being a Forth interpreter.

    I must have been a glutton for punishment!

    Next: test the stack of 4 QL's on the shelf and see if they are eBayable.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Go Forth and prosper

      I had the Forth interpreter and also an I/O interface to drive from it. I don't recall every doing much with it, it was more for the intellectual exercise.

      IIRC Forth came out of radio telescope control systems.

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Go Forth and prosper

        Yep, Forth was originally developed to control a radio telescope.

        Altwasser and Vickers brought out a ZX-80 style clone which spoke Forth instead of BASIC, the Jupiter ACE. Sadly it didn't seem to sell.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Go Forth and prosper

          Dr Dobbs is probably the main reason some things didnt sell. Not because it dissed them but because it was full of 8080/Z80 machine code for loads of routines and stuff. If you wanted to learn via plagiarisation and you had access to it (as a lot of kids who were at uni or had parents at one) you could just spend a couple of hours copying the code to A4 and then typing it in at home!! ISTR doing that with a pico-basic for my MK14 SC/MP base machine.

        2. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Go Forth and prosper

          I had one of those Aces. It was a bit of a toy but still a very useful toy because it taught me about life outside ROM BASIC. These early systems were seductive because they at least worked but the programming bad habits they inculcated due to limitations of the language were difficult to eradicate.

          I was fortunate in being able to branch off into CP/M by 1983 and then into the world of IBM-PCs by the mid-80s through my work (these systems were way beyond the means of mere mortals at the time).

  13. Wolfclaw

    Had the ZX81 + ram pack and a tube of superglue, no wobbling. Migrated to Spectrum 48K, Spectrum+, BBC B+, home brew 386sx, 486DX, P120, Celeron 333/400mod, Duron 800, Athlon 1200, ok yes I can go on, have had a few machines in the last 40 years.

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    Ah, the playground discussions that ensued over sprites, peeks, and pokes. Those were the days.

    Ah, the days when kids actually knew how to program.

  15. kat_bg

    Fondly remembering the sound of games loading from magnetic tape... Was my first computer

    1. Colin Bull 1
      Unhappy

      Progress

      Fondly remembering the sound of games loading from magnetic tape... Was my first computer.

      The Spectrum loading from tape had feedback with audio and visual clues.

      The tossers at Fitbit could not do either 35 years later.

  16. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I may be the only UK person with a software career who never had a Spectrum... I learned on a Microtan 65, bought a ZX80 to see what all the hype was, and was severely unimpressed.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Had a Beeb, never a Speccy of any sort but one of the guys in the dormitory had one, and he'd go on and on about having Manic Miner...until there was a port to the BBC Micro ;) with a rather different ending setup.

      As far as I'm concerned, it was mediocre hardware that was cheap, and as such had a lot of games...because a software house is going to target the machine where they can flog the most copies of something.

      But oh my god the way of programming it (in BASIC) was weird, you couldn't just type INPUT, you had to find the right magic keypress, and each key had four or five meanings depending on other keys pressed.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Weird, horrible to use, but efficient (at least on the ZX80 and 81) where each keyword took up only a single byte - thereby eking every last bit of their limited memories. Very clever.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Practically all Basics tokenised keywords into one byte. Single key entry might have reduced code size in the ZX80's 4K ROM where every byte mattered but by the time it got to the Spectrum's 16K ROM it was a bit silly... although if you wanted to learn to program having all the keywords in front of you and the computer syntax checking everything when you hit enter helped.

          1. DaemonProcess

            efficiencies

            The basic editor and interpreter was written in a short period of time by 1 hero, who had to code for small memory rather than performance. As such a few ideas were sub-optimal for performance, such as number arithmetic, goto/gosub searches, functions, stream i/o, etc. I found a compiler was a good idea and there were several available. It all started my 30 year IT career and I've been coding on and off as an amateur for 40 years.

    2. 45RPM Silver badge

      I wanted a Spectrum, but I had a TI99 and a Newbrain. Dad said, if you want games then write them yourself.

      So I did.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      The thing is the ZX80 was more or less plug in and go. Didn't the Microtan need a backplane/psu and keyboard so you were paying double before you got on your knees in front of the TV.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Oh yes, it was a single board computer; different target market. But on the other hand, one could build one's own peripherals if one chose: high resolution graphics, lots of ram (including paged), disk controllers...

        1. ITMA Bronze badge

          BITD I wrote the software for a prototype on-board vehicle weighing computer (for articulated HGVs and council "refuse" vehicles - aka. "shit carts").

          A colleagues Microtan 65 (with mini 2 slot backplane to mount the CPU card and the TANEX Iss2 expansion card) served as an initial development test bed.

          The assembler code was written on a BBC Master 128 and, because it needed to do floating point calculations, I even "acquired" (ripped off) the 2K BCD floating point maths package built into the Atari 800XL. Extracted it a nibble (4 bits) at a time through the Atari's joystick ports to the BBC's user port. Then relocated it to a different 2K page boundary before building it into the eventual 8K EPROM image.

          All done on 6502s

    4. DexterWard

      Not the only one. I had an Exidy Sorcerer, then a NewBrain. Taught myself assembly programming on the Sorcerer writing a Galaxian-like game. Happy days

  17. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "Rival machines, such as the Commodore 64, did not suffer from the same problem"

    I beg to differ, and there was still colour clash in low-res mode, although there were sprites on top of this so it was less noticeable.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: "Rival machines, such as the Commodore 64, did not suffer from the same problem"

      Most games didn't use the hi-res mode though - at least not for the animated parts of the game. Split screen and using it for score and such was common though. While it was similar to the spectrum mode, from memory it worked subtly differently and therefore most C64 games used the multi colour (double wide pixel) mode instead.

    2. Torben Mogensen

      Re: "Rival machines, such as the Commodore 64, did not suffer from the same problem"

      I came to the comments to correct this misunderstanding, but you beat me to it.

      The BBC micro was one of the few among the 8-bit crowd to have separate colour information for every pixel. It did use more memory for similar screen resolution (when using more than two colours), but was much easier to use.

      1. dinsdale54

        Re: "Rival machines, such as the Commodore 64, did not suffer from the same problem"

        For various definitions of "much" :)

        The 4 bits of colour information per pixel being every alternate bit in 16 colour mode (mode 2) was a PITA. I hate to think what some of the other machines must have been like to work on!

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: "Rival machines, such as the Commodore 64, did not suffer from the same problem"

          There is a reason why line drawing graphics was done in the more restricted modes! Drawing pixel lines (and other shapes) and having to set colour information at the same time was distinctly unpleasant and really slowed code down too.

      2. TheFifth

        Re: "Rival machines, such as the Commodore 64, did not suffer from the same problem"

        The Amstrad CPC range also had no character colour attributes and had pixel level colour information, so it too should not have had any colour clash issues (apart from all those lazy Speccy ports on the system).

  18. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Pint

    Late In The Day

    I didn't get my hands on a computer properly till I started working, repairing modems in the mid 80's, but I made up for that as I had access to the lot, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC's, PCW's & PC's, BBC's B's & Masters, Spectrum's, & Dragon.

    Icon - Happy Days!

  19. steelpillow Silver badge
    Joke

    Bah! Humbug!

    I cut my coding teeth on rocks back around 15,000 BC, while I was still a Neanderthal. I had just got the code to work when a spaceship-full of marketing droids dropped in and screwed it up. ISTR the answer was 42, but I couldn't swear to it.

    Kids these days, grumble grumble....

  20. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Windows

    Yeah

    Another speccie owner here... I would say ex-owner but mine is about 4 feet away on my left hand desk.

    No idea if it works.... the power supply got borrowed for a project( a mains powered catflap... I kid you not... worked brilliantly except when kitty lost the collar with the coded magnet and got locked out in the rain...) and no doubt the RF circuit is shot and a modern TV wont lock onto it.

    But many happy memories of playing Joust(remember that one?) and learning to program the Z80 while coping with the display. then reading up the full ROM disassembly and seeing what did what and how it was programmed (dont ask about the floating point math and sin/cos/atn functions.. something about using 10 polynominals as seed values is all I remember)

    But it was value for money... especially since I got the 16K version and found that the memory chips were socketed and you could buy them at maplin........then the 94 way edge connector.... vero board, ribbon cable... Z80 PIO , leds of various colours and convincing my younger brother that I'd built a lie detector.......

    Icon... old phart lost in memory lane

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Yeah

      I have a Spectrum Next coming to me, in theory, as I backed the Rev.2 kickstarter campaign. Delivery was supposed to be last August, but between Covid, chip shortages, lockdowns in Shanghai, supply chain chaos and now Putler's misadventures in Ukraine, it's looking like we'll be lucky to get them before the end of this year. Even the FPGAs are in short supply; the Next team have just had to redesign the motherboard for a different model of FPGA, commit to a no-refunds-no-cancellations contract for supply of them (estimated lead time 53 weeks!) and pay scalpers extortionate amounts of money just to get a handful of the parts to build validation units.

      Sir Clive had it easy by comparison!

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: Yeah

        If they made it as easy to buy as TheC64 then I’d buy one like a shot. Right now, I’m holding out for TheA500 Maxi. I never had an Amiga - and I’d like to rectify that deficiency.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Yeah

          I have the first ZX81 I ever used. Converted tuner works with monitors. It's a Rev.1 with a display distortion fault that was accepted back then because of CRT scan coil inconsistency masking it a bit. I always maintain this this was the breakthrough, that made the programmable micro available at a price that got people to pay attention.

          The teacher that allowed us to use it, donated it to me.

          I get my retro fix using RISCOS on a Pi 400 which is effectively an updated Acorn Archimedes that can run BBC basic. Nice escapism from the modern OSes and I've happily discovered that for writing, it offers a distraction free solution for me.

          1. Soruk

            Re: Yeah

            Perhaps a bit of a stretch calling RISC OS "retro" as it is still being developed.

            (Microsoft Windows can trace it's lineage back to the mid 80s too, and most wouldn't say that is retro.)

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Yeah

          The A500Mini is already out and available. Comes with a mouse and gamepad, primarily intended for gamers, but you can plug a USB k/b in and boot Workbench. Easy to add games/apps above and beyond the supplied stuff too. Plenty of chat about it on The English Amiga Board

        3. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: Yeah

          Amiga is an amazing journey. I'd love to hear what someone picking one up for the first time now makes of the system

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Yeah

            Absolutely. I adored my Amigas. Started with an A500 in around 89-90ish, upgraded it with extra RAM and later a set of 2.04 ROMs. Then went to A1200, briefly had a B2000 that I acquired in Switzerland of all places, then a 4000/030. I've still got most of them around somewhere, buried in a box in a garage. Absolutely brilliant machines.

            1. Binraider Silver badge

              Re: Yeah

              Please please tell me you have removed the motherboard destroying batteries?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah

        iIRC ,they were able to cut costs by buying 64k x1 but chips and then using the 32k working side. Later as the yield of good chips went up they were just getting 64kx1 bit chips that with a bit of electronics work gave you 80k that could be paged.

        I'm supprised the author didn't mention the Next as the case that was signed by Rick and made a spectacular job of it. It's really nice to use (I have a KS1 machine and backed KS2). It's really nice to have a reason to do z80 assembler again.

  21. matjaggard

    What does 16k get you today?

    Well quite I lot it seems... https://youtu.be/ZaVo-OffZD8

  22. Barry Rueger

    On the other hand

    My ZX80? 81? Whatever. Lasted exactly as long as it took me to realize it had pretty much no real use. Cool, yes, but I lost interest quickly.

    The subsequent C-64 though, with a modem and an interface to our Smith-Corona daisy wheel printer, did yeoman service for several years, including running a BBS.

  23. big col

    The Spectum changed my life

    On leaving school in 1971 I started work in the clothing industry, became a tailor and then watched the industry and future prospects collapse around me.

    I first bought a zx81 and progressed to a spectrum. I learned coding and decided the future was in IT. So embarked on an Open university degree in Computing. Spending the rest of my working life as IT support in Education.

    I had a few other home computers, but it is the Spectrum that was my one true computer love

  24. Ashto5

    Zx81

    Loved it still have a place in my heart.

    ZX Spectrum, friends had that for playing games.

    Glad I had the ZX81 as I invented games which lead me to a career that is still going strong.

    GOTO don’t knock it

    GOSUB awesome

    The combination key word keyboards

    Man I could type fast on those faster than todays keyboards actually.

    Funny that most modern IDE give you shortcuts to place a code snippet but you could do it naturally from the Sinclair keyboards

    Enjoy your memories

    Happy Birthday Speccy

  25. nautica Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    "What? You didn't have to load a high-level OS just to flash a LED??!!

    "Hey hey 16k, what does that get you today?"

    It gets you far more than most people today will ever realize, or appreciate: it gets you learning the true basics of programming---Assembly Language.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "What? You didn't have to load a high-level OS just to flash a LED??!!

      1K Chess???

  26. frankyunderwood123

    ... sinclair taught me how to touch type...

    With the ZX81, if I recall, there was a serious supply/demand problem on launch.

    My Dad had ordered one for us, as he was trying to get us into electronics - which was not difficult to do, because solder! Flashing lights! Beeping things! Radio!

    It must've taken 3 months from placing the order to receiving it.

    But the ZX Spectrum purchase was made at Radioshack, if I recall, after much begging and some heated discussion between my parents "All he ever does is sit in from of that computer!"

    And indeed, I did. It got far worse with the Spectrum and my subscription to "Your Computer" monthly.

    I learned to program basic, then started entering code from the "Your Computer" magazine, manually, painstakingly.

    "It doesn't work", damn, check every single line of code again - "It still doesn't work."

    Ok, I'll just start again from the beginning. "It still doesn't work."

    In the following months magazine - an ENTIRE month, they would print code corrections.

    To this day, due to the amount of time I spent typing - and the keyboard finger jujitsu that was required - I can touch type.

    My typing speed is ridiculously fast - with zero formal training.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: ... sinclair taught me how to touch type...

      And let's face it, when you're a child, a month is practically a lifetime.

      Then you get older, and the weeks and months sometimes seem to fly by. Until one day you look around and think "holy feck, I'm nearly 50, where the hell did the time go???"

      1. hayzoos

        Re: ... sinclair taught me how to touch type...

        "holy feck, I'm nearly 50, where the hell did the time go???"

        I remember that like it was yesterday.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: ... sinclair taught me how to touch type...

          I often reminisce by watching old home movies of my family. My court-case against the BBC is still ongoing, however. Terribly rude of them to steal the footage and air it under the title "Walking with Dinosaurs".

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: ... sinclair taught me how to touch type...

        When you are 10, one year is 10% of your entire life. When you are 50, one year is just 2% of your life.

  27. steviebuk Silver badge

    ZX81

    We had a ZX81 as it was my brothers. I wasn't into computers back then but while in middle school would get days where I'd have an urge go go and use the ZX81. Type in peograms, always get annoyed when they didn't work due to the piss poor printing in magazines. Wasn't clever enough to work out what the code did or even basics of coding to try and troubleshoot them myself. When they did run I was always disappointed with the results.

    At some point we got the RAM pack that wiped your code due to the wobble. Thought ours was faulty and was only till I saw Micro Men that I discovered it was a known issue back then. Sold ours at a car boot in 90s. Thought we'd ripped the guy off for £50 but now understand the RAM pack wobble was known.

    I used to like a horse racing game we had in one of the books so I'd type it in every time. Being an idiot I never knew you could save code to tape so typed it in manually every time.

  28. Steve 114

    Pre ZX81

    What was the Sinclair board I ordered from the newspaper that had an octal keypad and LED-only output? Then I bought the solder-on upgrade which allegedly linked to a TV, and it never worked again. Somewhere in the attic still.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Pre ZX81

      Science of Cambridge Mk14 I think. As I write, there’s one on EBay for £400.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Pre ZX81

        Still have one of those in the cellar, but the proms have bit-rot.

        Edit: ah, the ebay one is a replica.

  29. cutterman

    ".....such a shame the Microdrives were utter shite and prone to chewing up."

    Never had any trouble with the M-drives - I must have been lucky.

    Used 2 of them ganged together with that little attach-thingy

  30. ian 28

    Inflation calculator

    So £125 in 1982 is about £450 nowadays which is not far off the latest X-Box.

    You get a lot more for your money now though I suppose. The Speccy was just amazing, especially Chuckie Egg - the best game ever made

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Inflation calculator

      The BBC Model B was £399 after its introductory pricing expired, making it £1400 ish equivalent. Which was out of my league and the reason that the Sinclair stuff was so important.

  31. ecofeco Silver badge

    Ah, back in the day

    I had just graduated high school when the first home computers became profitable retail products and no longer hobby machines, but all I could do was covet them because I could never afford one.

    So I would hang out in the computer stores and play with them until the clerks ran me out. I usually got to stay for a while, though, because I looked like a very interested customer... to other potential customers. :)

    If I was only able to afford one, I wonder where I would be today. I was not able to afford my first PC until 1989 and had to learn everything on my own or with the few friends who also had PCs. No books at the library, could not afford the books at the shops, and certainly no Internet.

    So I miss those those pioneer consumer PCs, albeit for different reasons than most people. They might have been my early ticket out of decades of poverty.

  32. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

    Comparison

    >impact cannot be understated.

    IF IMPACT > 0 THEN GOSUB PROOFREAD

  33. Adam Trickett
    Go

    What fun we had!

    I had (and still have a C-64) but plenty of friends had Speccies. I remember typing programs out in both of them from magazines, always fun, to watch your afternoon end in tears...! Sometimes the programs even worked which was interesting...!

    The joys of playing games with the strange Spectrum keyboard, or via joystick and some strange contraption to connect it into the Spectrum... I remember Attic Attack and friends - though I was never any good at most games...

    Scary to think it's 40 years ago though...!

  34. JohnLH

    There was an upgrade kit for the ZX80 to ZX Spectrum, basically a new plastic box with proper keyboard. I had it on good authority that WH Smith had so many problems with 80s being returned that they just put 'em in a box and sent them to Sinclair to sort out and gave the customer a new one. Sinclair soon found they were getting returned 80s that were just the plastic box and rubber keyboard...

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I didn't know that WHSmith sold the ZX-80s, there were generally mail order. The ZX81 was retailed in WHSmith, it is where I got mine.

      The ZX80 had a flat hard membrane keyboard, not a rubber keyboard. The rubber appeared with the Spectrum.

  35. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    So the £125 price tag of the 16K version equates to £470 in today's money, and the 48K version equates to £658,... I just bought a Lenovo 8" droid tab for less than £100,... I won't live another 40 years, but it's mind blowing to try and think what the price / performance will be like then.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spectrum Route

    Got a ZX81 in 81, then a Spectrum+ in 85 and went to a computer show in Olympia to join Prestel and get my Prism VTX 5000 modem.

    Ran up huge phone and Prestel bills into the hundreds of £ over a few years.

    Used my Romantic Robot Multiface 1 for storing games, once passed the LensLock onto a Microdrive, then for more reliability, got a Opus Discovery, which had a 3.5" FDD and expansion port.

    Come 1989, onto Atari STfm, then STe, then finally the start of my PC road with a 386SX-25 in 91.

  37. C-Clef

    Commodore VIC 20

    My very first was the Commodore VIC 20 followed by an Atari ST-FM (good for MIDI).

    Coincidentally, the first mainframe I learnt to operate was the ICT1500, a rebadged RCA301, also with 20k of memory.

    That is, 20k of 6 bit characters (bytes hadn't been invented yet), plus parity, making up 5000 24 bit words.

    Punched card and tape, line printer and 1" magnetic tape that had to be "spliced" onto a leader.

    Ah! Them was the days. ;-)

    The operator's console took a while to get used to, as I recall.

  38. nautica Bronze badge
    Happy

    I'd STILL take the ZX-81, thank you very much...

    I paid USD 99.95 for my first ZX-81 in 1981. That equates to $330 today.

    For all you people who deal in Yen, Euros, Pounds, etc., the conversion factor is 3.31.

    Knowing what I now know after all these years as an electronics designer, and programmer, I would STILL pay that price for a similar machine today, rather than a $35 Raspberry Pi, which teaches one absolutely nothing.

    The RPi Foundation's self-righteous pandering about "...teaching children to program..." are nothing but pure horse-shit.

  39. jammy_piece

    I won a modem for my Spectrum, via a Blue Peter competition (answer: "modulator demodulator"). Came with a year's subscription to Prestel. This was around the time that Robert Schifreen accessed Prince Philip's Prestel mailbox, which ultimately led to the Computer Misuse Act. One of the highlights of Prestel access was being able to purchase and download software, down to the Speccy and out to tape. CCS Desert Rats was one of the titles I remember.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £125 for the 16KB version and £175 for the 48KB incarnation

    no micro-sd card slot, let alone, expandable RAM, SHOCKING! So this is where Apple got their idea of price-gauging from ;)

  41. Turn It Off And On...
    Thumb Up

    ZX81 with hard wired ram pack, ZX 48K sat inside a real keyboard was amazing, the QL with two external microdrives and the heat sink moved to the outside, cos I could (also kept the hands warm in winter - couldn't afford to have the heating on much in those days (whats changed?)) - I also had to add four inches of table extension (width wise) as the QL was very wide. Loved those 3 Sinclair products.

    This is where my love of computers started, where I learnt BASIC, spent hours typing in programs that I never used from magazines but learnt the art of recurring IF statements, poking and peeking ram and how to do basic animation.

    Favourite Speccy memories, completing Penetrator with the help of four hands - I did the up and down, my brother did the back and forth and firing. The Hobbit, got to level five before I found I was crap at such games but found there was a book in the local library that gave you the answers - had to wait several weeks to get my hands on it so I wasn't the only crap player!

    But F1 (Don't think it was called Formula 1) - those track circuits are still burnt into my brain - now that was a game and half... ...The list goes on and on...

  42. LOAD ZX Spectrum Museum

    World’s first ZX Spectrum museum

    Did you know that there is a museum focused around the spectrum and all other Sir Clive Sinclair inventions? It is based in Portugal and called LOAD ZX SPECTRUM Museum.

    We just had the 40th anniversary celebrations, a two-days event, with Crispin Sinclair, Oliver Twins, Grant Sinclair, Steve Vickers, Jim Bagley and Clive Townsend among many others.

    Stay tuned.

    www.loadzx.com/en/

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    8 bit workshop IDE

    Online site that emulates speccy and other 8 bit hardware

    https://8bitworkshop.com/v3.9.0/?platform=zx&file=hello.asm

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