Monday, April 23, 2012

Sinclair Spectrum - 30 Years Old!

In 1982 after a lot of thought and constant mind changing I bought myself a Sinclair Spectrum 48k Computer. At the time I had looked at lots of other machines including the 'Oric', 'Dragon' and 'Lynx' computers, but was finally persuaded (rightly) by a friend to go for the Spectrum. The best thing I ever did! When I bought it Sinclair dropped the price of the 48k machine by £50 to £ off I went to W.H.Smiths to buy one. I even took some time off work expecting a huge queue, but no, only me. I asked the girl expecting that they had already sold out, but she smiled and went to get one. YES!!! I couldn't believe I went to take it to work to try it out!

Now instead of writing more, this guy says it all, so I am quoting this from his blog... Thank you Michael have said it all!

The Sinclair Spectrum - 30 today

"If there is something guaranteed to make a 47-year-old chap feel old, it is to be told that the first computer he ever got his hands on is 30 today. THIRTY! That’s how long ago Clive Sinclair released his groundbreaking ZX Spectrum home computer, a machine that was the future, once. And like millions I bought one, at the rather grand price of £125.

This was the bizarre false dawn of home computing, when a slew of standalone machines flooded the market, all mutually incompatible, incapable of being networked without some serious soldering and bought by people for the most part unaware of what to do with them. And nevertheless, we loved these strange gizmos which you plugged into the telly and required software to be downloaded via a cassette deck.
The Spectrum was far cleverer than most, and came in a natty black case that shrieked ‘Year 2000” and had a clever (and, crucially, cheap) rubberised one-piece keypad. It was the iPad of its day, well-made, hugely desirable and very stylish; I remember queues in the shops and fawning news items about this British marvel. This was a rare industrial success story at a time when unemployment was at a postwar high.
But what was it for? Playing games, that’s what. Yes you could buy a printer but I remember the results came on shiny four-inch-wide paper and no one pretended this was any kind of serious business machine. But at its heart lurked a fairly powerful processor (by the standards of the day) and a stripped-out operating system that allowed young and clever programmers too work wonders, creating innovative games with colour 3D graphics and wrestling every last pixel of resolution out of its primitive graphics hardware.

It is probably down to machines like the Spectrum, its predecessor the ZX81 and the Tangerine, an even more basic computer, that Britain led the world in the lucrative computer games industry (it is not widely appreciated that mega-successes such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are, despite their American ambience, as British as Wallace and Gromit. If you could program a machine like a Spectrum then you could program just about anything, and a whole generation of young programmers took full advantage.
Sadly I was not among their number. I had some friends who mastered the intricacies of machine code but my brain was just not up to it. I played other people’s games on my Spectrum for a year or so then the thing was packed away neatly in its box and forgotten. I have no idea what happened to it.
The early 1980s was an odd time in the computing age. The technology had advanced to the stage where machines that could fit on a table top were cheap enough to be sold to the public, yet there was no real computing architecture to support a true IT revolution. It was as though someone invented a car in a world where there there were no roads. You turn on an iPad and it’s all there – the all-powerful, all-singing Interweb, so intuitive now that five year olds have no problem. But turn on a Spectrum and you got a white screen – and a cursor. The fact that anyone managed to get the thing to play Space Invaders and the like was something of a miracle. I believe someone even managed to connect a Spectrum to the Internet once; the poor old thing must have had the shock of its life."

I can go one further than this...I did use my Spectrum on the primitive Internet and I also used machine code to programme it!

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