It’s older than many people who will read this but today in 1982, Sinclair Research released the ZX Spectrum. It was the successor to the monochrome, 1k ZX81 and completely revolutionised home computing by being affordable, easy to use and having tons of software.
I was 7 when my Dad brought home a Speccy for all of the reasons that the rather brilliant song below describes:
My dalliances with programming didn’t last long though. I remember spending hours typing in a programme from Your Sinclair or Sinclair User only for it crash when I hit run, losing all my code. I’d obviously made an error somewhere but that was it, I was a consumer rather than a creator from thereon in.
What were my favourite games as a nipper? Well…
A platform game that required pixel perfection on the jumps and almost always terminal death a lot. When you’re 7 this is a hard game. In fact, given the limitations of 16k, most games were hard because there simply wasn’t the storage for them to be long without being multiload. Loading additional data into your Spectrum was a bit different to what it’s like today, everything was on tape. Imagine making it to the end of a level with 1 life left, spending 5 minutes faffing about to load the next level, only to die 3 seconds later. Game over, and you have to reload the first level…
The best dungeon game ever, Gauntlet was the game in the arcades that I always stood by watching the bigger kids play. It had cool voice synthesis, and was really colourful. Needless to say the Spectrum version wasn’t as colourful, but it was still fun.
Back in the day, adventure games were text based and driven by a very primitive set of typed commands, “East”, “Smack Thorin”, “Open door”, that sort of thing. The Hobbit had an incredible command set up which was years ahead of the field. Each time you moved from a screen to another one, it took a minute or two for the image to be drawn. It was time consuming but quite involving for a 7 year old. The bonus was, our copy came with the book.
I got fed up with dwarves singing about gold, and getting hopelessly lost in the mountains but that was me all over.
JetPac saw you as a space-suited chap having to reassemble his rocket ship and escape each level that was infested with aliens. It was very colourful and pretty addictive, especially for such an early release. I spent far too much time playing this game. It was a little more forgiving than Manic Minor, is as much as you could make the odd mistake but recover enough to carry on.
It also introduced me nicely to the world of attribute clash- the issue the Spectrum had when two sprites of different colours passed each other.
The Speccy was particularly good as isometric 3D games, and Knight Lore was my favourite. The games were often 3D exploration and puzzle solving games, not particularly suited for very small kids but it wasn’t as if there was a lot else to do on a rainy day if you’d finished reading your library books and the Beano wasn’t out for another day or so. The amount of graph paper that kids used up making maps for games like Knight Lore or graphic adventure games like the Hobbit was mind boggling!
So it’s happy 31st birthday to the Spectrum today then!