Memory lane (all 32K of it)
This article was a good memory jog. Wow, has it really been 40 years?
I remember visiting my uncle back in 1980, who showed me his new ZX80. I decided there and then to start saving £80 for a kit. Being just 14 it took over a year to reach the £50 mark by which time the ZX81 was out; am I right in saying that you had to pay extra for a mains adaptor that was included with the pre-built version? I ordered one as soon as I could and although it didn’t arrive on time, I don’t think the delay was that long.
Once assembled I remember the proud moment of the great switching-on and the grey screen that greeted me: nothing could persuade it into life. After much disappointment I carefully checked that all the components were correctly placed and oriented, which they were, and then went over the board touching each soldered joint with the iron to remake the connection. Success! For the first time, I was greeted with the cursor that was a black square with a “K” in it.
I went on to buy a third-party, bag-of-components that became a 32K expansion pack (yes, double the Sinclair version). It had no case, just an exposed circuit-board but I suspect that the lack of weight is what kept it wobble-free. This all eventually ended up inside a keyboard kit that I had to butcher to get most of the memory board in. That kit was so cheap that the keys came with clip on, clear plastic tops under with was placed a legend that was cut out from the printed sheet of paper provided. One thing was for sure: when I told people that I had built my own computer, nobody ever doubted it.
I eventually sold it to help finance a ZX Spectrum. Looking back, I’d love to have it now to show to my children. Throw in the long-gone Sanyo cassette-player and I could teach them Z80 on the assember I wrote.