I couldn’t let the 25th Anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum pass without paying my dues to the machine that pretty much changed my life. This little slab of black plastic and rubber with its Z80 Zilog processor throbbing along at 3.5Mhz, it’s 48k of RAM, 8 colours and 256×192 screen resolution was my first introduction to the world of computers. It introduced me to the world of modding, programming, 3D and was my biggest time waster for 10 years of my life (until PC’s took over).
For people of a certain age, the word “Speccy” brings on warm, misty eyed feelings of nostalga and a mispent youth fighting with your parents for use of the family TV, Load “” and waiting 15 minutes for a screeching tape to play only to die in the last 5 seconds with a tape loading error. Who can forget Maziacs, Jet Set Willy, Chuckie Egg… the list goes on.
The Spectrum really was the start for me and a lot of current industry professionals who started their careers hacking away in their bedrooms during the 80’s. People like Dave Perry, Tim and Chris Stamper and even Alan Cox. OK, maybe I didn’t achieve the success they did but I left my mark – I got a letter published in C+VG and had a demo I made included on a Your Sinclair cover tape!
In terms of what I do these days, it was also my first venture into the world of 3D graphics and 3D programming. It all started with the program VU-3D by Psionic. Sure it’s pretty crap by todays standards but it let you create meshes, rotate, shade them and was a great introduction to 3D.
A few years later I moved onto Domark’s 3D Construction Kit which was a proper 3D game eninge based around Freescape. Not only could you build 3D worlds but you could script gameplay, event driven logic and ultimately build a stand alone game with it. I still have it in a box at home along with the tape and VHS tutorial tape – I wonder what it’d be worth on eBay…
The Spectrum also introduced me to modding, originally through POKES and then eventually editing huge quantities of hex code to change levels in games like Manic Miner. It actually got easier when I bought something called a Multiface which let me stop the games as they were running, debug the assembler and change stuff on-the-fly.
Of course I wrote my own stuff – most in BASIC but I did a few cool things in Z80 assembler. I wrote a very basic sampler that could digitise sound via the microphone socket but it was a bit crap though due to the lack of memory and slow processor. It could record about a second of sound but when your a kid, being able to record the sound of your burps into a computer was the height of hilarity.
It was also my first introduction to the dark world of piracy. Not being blessed with a dual-deck hi-fi like the posh kids, nor the needed cables I’d come up with a rather odd arrangement for my nefarious deeds. One (borrowed) tape recorder playing the game back over the loudspeaker with the other trying to record it to another tape via it’s built in microphone. With a bit of volume tweaking you could get a pretty good copy as long as there wasn’t too much background noise – like your Mum coming in and asking what that “God awful screeching sound” was.
Oh the memories…
(c) 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd.
Responses to “We must perform a quirkafleeg…”
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