4/23/2007

Remembering the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and its rubber keys


It is the 25th birthday of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the "daddy" of British home computers and arguably the reason why British programmers are still world leaders.

We first got our "speccy" 24 years ago, but fondly remember sitting in front of the screen for several hours, typing in programs from the magazine "Sinclair Programs". Getting a new game was always a buzz, but when a new game came out from certain manufacturers, particularly the iconic "Ultimate - Play the Game", who are latterly known as Rare and design software still for Nintendo and Xbox.

Another part of the whole Spectrum experience were the magazines. Sinclair Programs and Sinclair user were early ones, but no magazine could touch "Crash - Micro Games Action" to give it its full title. i still have the first 60 editions somewhere I my loft. I seem to recall in taking delight in being the best in the country at an odd game galled "bugaboo the flea", and getting my name in about issue 8 in the high score table !


I also remember how notoriously breakable the machines were, constantly having to but a new keyboard membrane every 9 months or so and the joystick ports, when launched, were as likely to make the computer crash as anything else, so wobbly were they in the back of the Spectrum's expansion port.

Some people moaned about the keys and the odd cursor keys arrangement, but personally, I found it dead easy for gaming and more intuitive than traditional keys on a keyboard. Okay, I wouldn't want to type on it, but for gaming it was no problem.

Overall though, a fabulous machine, and for all my gadgets (I have a DS, a Wii and an Xbox 360), I still also play Spectrum games on my PC (through an emulator), with my current favourites still being Chuckie Egg, Lunar Jetman (an emulated PC version available HERE), The Lords of Midnight, Doomdark's Revenge, Jetpac, Halls of the Things, Skooldaze (which you can play on this emulator over the net HERE) and Dynamite Dan.

Any other people with happy memories of home computing, I'd love to read what you have to say.

4 comments:

Nick said...

25 years? That makes me feel old...

We jumped from a ZX81 to a Commodore 64 but I had a couple of friends with Speccies. I remember that they were incredibly sensitive to being nudged or jostled whilst in action... we were once celebrating winning a crucial game in Football Manager, a knee nudged the table, and the entire thing just froze up.

Rob said...

I remember the awful bug in the pgame Jet Set Willy which the publishers , Software projects, claimed was deliberate to make the game harder to complete. Actually, it wrecked the game and it required a reload.

Stonch said...

Hi. I used to have Skool Daze on my C64. It was a direct port of the Spectrum version, of course. Great to see someone has emulated it directy on the web - but how do I get it to move slower?? Any ideas?

Great blog, check out mine -
Stonch's Beer Blog
- if you like the odd pint.

Cheers

Hywel said...

From what I remember my Speccy was pretty robust though I did upgrade the keyboard to a "proper" one after about 4-5 years. At least compared to the ZX81 and it's wobbly RAM pack. I even had a

The joys of typing in pages of code manually is something which can provoke "4 yorkshiremen" style reminisces among people of a certain age. Mind you I have some street-cred as I had a ZX80 :-)

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