Name: Spectrum ZX81
CPU Speed: 3.5 mHZ
ROM: 8 kbyte
RAM: 1 kbyte
Colour: 2 bit (b/w)
22 years with a computer in the home this month. We got the zx81 when I was 5. It connected to our small black and white television, and I would bring home books from the library with games in them. I would type them in, line by line, in Basic to get such great games as “J-walker” where you had to (frogger-style) move a letter J across the screen, avoiding the cars, or an ambulance (H I believe) would come and take you away. I heard rumours that you could record all that typing onto a cassette, and then play it back to the computer, but sheesh, how old did they think I was? 4? I wasn’t buying that…
RUN meant gaming heaven was seconds away.
Some flashy gits got “the colour spectrums” a while after, but I wasn’t too worried, we didn’t have a colour telly. They did however convince me that the tape-deck trick was for real. The possibilities of this astounded me…
A while after, our C64 came home to live with us. The colours were astounding, the graphics amazing, it was like having a real arcade game at home. And it had a tape deck…
I started to code a little, I had picked up quite a bit from those years of typing in the games by hand. I made little PIMs and text adventure games and recorded them to tape. Mainly though, I rented games. A tape for a week was 50p, and sometimes, if you were lucky, you could copy the tape with a tape deck. If you couldn’t, there was always the option of swiching the reels with a blank. Games started to come with copy protection, you would get a special decoder ring, or have to look up magic words in the inch-thick manual, or perform other arcane activities.
Cheats became common as the game selection grew. Oh, not todays in-built cheats compliments of the gamemaker, no…
Real cheats… “Smack the left side of the keyboard repeatedly with the flat of your hand to get extra lives”. “Stop the tape half way through (the rainbow coloured loading screen), fastforward a second or two, and then hit play again, you will be invincible”. That last one worked especially well on Midnight Resistance, the player sprite wouldn’t load, but the gun did.
One xmas, my parents managed to get me something I had been obsessed with for an age. They had to send away to england for it, and pick it up barely in time for christmas eve. Domark Softwares 3d Construction Kit. Un. be. lieve. able.
LOAD was now the key command.
Time went on and I grew into an Amiga500 (decked out to 1meg natch) and sold my soul to Delux Paint III, where I made animations and pictures, and traded them with my friends. On the Amiga was also Hunter, one of the most amazing games ever to fit onto one diskette.
Didn’t get my hands on a pc until the mid early 90s, there was a PS2 at school, that we were able to “get to” shall we say. The only computers otherwise available to the students were the BBC micros in the “computer room” as well as some big-ass Apple ][ that we were not allowed to touch. My uncle was a musician, and I seem to remember him telling me he had a HD with something like a Gig of space, and I remember him gesturing to something that looked like an electric heater, stood about hip-high on the floor, but I could be missremembering.
From here on in, it was PCs all the way, my mother has given away my other machines without asking me, and I am not pleased. I hold out hope though, that the ZX81 is still in that box, at the back of the garage… Must check next time I am home…