Tuesday, April 24, 2012
St Georges Spectrum
Many of us were not. We just had a handy tool that looked to parents as if it would teach us stuff but instead we primarily used it to play conversions of popular arcade games and occasionally programmed a simple routine to type into the shop display in WHSmiths.
10 PRINT "WHSMITH SUCKS!!! ";
20 GOTO 10
More complex stuff included the command INKEY$, which could be programmed within seconds to make sure the next time a key is pressed on the public display a rude word flashed up. Anyway I digress...
Computers before the ZX-Spectrum were for nerdy types and involved either a lot of soldering and breadboarding or you needed to have the patience of a saint to program the thing using a membrane keyboard whilst trying to do the equivalent of typing War and Piece onto a A4 page with your massive 1k of memory.
For those that are not familiar with computers of this period let me try and describe one for you. Imagine a bit of black plastic with a keyboard, the keyboard though has the feel of dead flesh as it's made out of rubber. Each key not only displays a letter but can also be changed to do four other options all illustrated on the same key making it incredibly clumsy. Now attach it to a television, plug it into a wall socket and turn it on.
1) Type in a game from a listing, it will take you nearly all day to do and when you run it the program will not work, but hey, think of all that programming experience you will get.
2) Load a game from tape. Attach a tape recorder (if you have just said what's that? then I suggest you skip the rest of this blog annd listen to your iPod), adjust the volume and try to LOAD a pre-written game from tape. It may take 7-700 minutes to load depending on the quality of your tape recorder, how many times you have to keep retrying it and if your sister has recorded the top 40 over the top of it.
3) Try to program more than 10 PRINT "HELLO"
4) Type BEEP 1,3, go hum a little then experiment trying to write music like Baa-Baa Blacksheep. BEEP 1,3; BEEP 1,3; BEEP 1,3... and so on.
5) Really learn to program and make £££!
It was the last one that fired a lot of people up, suddenly the ZX-Spectrum opened up a world to everyone where home programmers could write that popular game making them millionaires. Well, not quite, but a lot of people did it and a lot of people made a lot of money.
You can see the difference the Spectrum bought with it, here's a screen shot from the ZX-81, Sinclair's earlier machine...
As you can see as soon as I start I could write all day about this so before I bore you to death let me show you some nerdy screens from back in the day. Do you know which machines they are from?