Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the quick-someone-write-a-treacly-pop-song dept.

Education 212

It's not just the TRS-80; new submitter sebt writes "ZX Spectrum, the microcomputer launched in 1982 by Sinclair Research (Cambridge, UK) turns 30 today. The launch of the machine is seen by many today as the inspiration for a generation of eager young programmers, software and game designers in the UK. The events surrounding its launch, notably Sinclair's well-known rivalry with Acorn, later helped to inspire the design of the ARM architecture and most recently the Raspberry PI (based on ARM), in an effort to reboot the idea of enthusiastic kid programmers first captured by the Spectrum and Acorn's BBC micro. Happy birthday Spec!"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

My first computer (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767741)

... was a Timex Sinclair 1000. It had 16k of RAM and loaded programs on audio cassettes! You had to be pretty consistent with the volume or you'd "lose" programs. I programmed Monopoly into it, complete with color-pixel graphics, all in BASIC!

Re:My first computer (4, Informative)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767757)

My 2nd computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. absolutely hated it compared to my first computer (a Vic-20) because you couldn't just *type* your program, every key was a shortcut for a basic command, drove me up the wall :)

Re:My first computer (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768151)

My 2nd computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000.

Mine was the Australian equivalent, the MicroBee. They were another Z80 variant, very solidly built. The biggest draw for most of us was that the non-disk based versions had battery-backed CMOS RAM. They also had a Word Processor and other software on EPROM. I saw several Sinclair 1000s, in those days but never liked them, I think I would have gone crazy from frustration if I'd had to use one. Interestingly enough, they've started to make the MicroBees again... http://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/index.htm [microbeete...ogy.com.au] .

Re:My first computer (5, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768365)

Personally I think the keycodes was kind of elegant. It meant less syntax errors, simplified parsing and meant the program occupied less space in memory. The ZX Spectrum inherited the feature from the ZX81 and ZX80.

Later ZX Spectrums from the the Spectrum 128 onwards actually allowed you to type programs manually but only in 128K mode. If you booted into 48K mode the ROM still enforced the old style. The first Spectrum 128 printed all the keycodes onto the buttons but the +2 and +3 only printed a couplemaking it enormous fun trying to figure out which button meant what. Most Spectrum owners can probably still recall the sequences for calling LOAD "", POKE and cursor keys with little trouble.

Re:My first computer (4, Interesting)

earthloop (449575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768405)

Most Spectrum owners can probably still recall the sequences for calling LOAD "", POKE and cursor keys with little trouble.

One of the emulators is called "jpp" for this very reason. ;o)

Re:My first computer (5, Informative)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768541)

the program occupied less space in memory

Unlikely. Back then, every BASIC interpreter (certainly all of those for 8-bit home computers) used to "tokenize" commands to save costly RAM (and CPU cycles on interpretation, too). Tokenization usually meant translating every command to a 1-byte index to a lookup table. That's what is called "bytecode" nowadays.

Re:My first computer (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768941)

Unlikely.

So in a nutshell:

* 8Bit computers stored a tokenising program (a few hundred bytes maybe?).
* The spectrum didn't need a tokeniser (a single keycode maps directly to the BASIC instructions).

That tokeniser is not free - it uses up memory.

Re:My first computer (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39769065)

So, in a nutshell, wrong. The tokenizer was in ROM, along with the rest of the BASIC interpreter. The amount of RAM used was unchanged.

Re:My first computer (1)

Jerry Atrick (2461566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39769105)

The tokeniser uses some ROM space, RAM use is temporary and not at runtime - so irrelevant. The ROM space is why the original ZX80 BASIC used direct token input, it had a tiny ROM. It remained in there on the ZX81 then the Spectrum because Sinclair never allowed enough time to rewrite the interpreter rather than any need to save space. Which sadly meant BASIC on it was pitifully slow and didn't improve till the 128.

Given the poor quality of the Spectrum keyboards (and the ZX ones before it) it was probably an advantage anyway. Just drove me crazy and one of the reasons I refused to program any Sinclair machines.

Re:My first computer (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768823)

Actually if you look into the BASIC interpreters of the time, I can't think of a single one that actually stored entire keywords in memory. They used codes for keywords and variables, such that most keywords were encoded as a single byte.

The Sinclair just made it possible to TYPE those codes explicitly instead of having to spell out the words and let the interpreter do the primitive compression.

In particular, I'm thinking of Commodore's implementation and the TRS-80.

Re:My first computer (2)

slartibartfastatp (613727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39769051)

Personally I think the keycodes was kind of elegant. It meant less syntax errors, simplified parsing and meant the program occupied less space in memory.

What I really liked about it is that all BASIC programming commands are available on the machine itself; so I just kept wondering what PUT# and GET# commands would do, as the manual for the Brazilian TK-90X won't give details and we never got the microdrive here.

And I think it was kind of cool to have that keyboard with so many stuff written in it, for me as a kid.

Re:My first computer (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768401)

I had a Sinclair ZX80 as a kid. My father fixed the keyboard issue for me with a real keyboard connected to it. The way it was set up, I could type BASIC commands normally, which was much nicer than the typical method. The standard peripherals were still a black and white TV and cassette deck; I'll always remember the lovely sound of a program loading from tape.

Re:My first computer (3, Interesting)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768561)

I had a Sinclair ZX80 as a kid. My father fixed the keyboard issue for me with a real keyboard connected to it. The way it was set up, I could type BASIC commands normally, which was much nicer than the typical method. The standard peripherals were still a black and white TV and cassette deck; I'll always remember the lovely sound of a program loading from tape.

I still have my Sinclair Spectrum ZX 48K, complete with joystick and other peripreals. My most enduring memory is not the sound of a program loading from tape it's the "Crrrcccswwwhhzzzzz" sound my cheapass cassette players occasionally made when they ate up my tapes and with them my precious programs. With time I became an expert in cassette player repair. Thankfully those days are over.

Re:My first computer (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768793)

Programming with tape machines was the real exercise in patience. Kids these days don't know how easy they have it with source files saved in a moment, automatically before each compile. It took us 5 minutes to save to tape. And we had to keep track of what version of what program we stored where on what tape.

If we didn't save before running we risked a crash and losing everything we'd added since the last save. Knowing when to take the risk and when it was time to save was the only way of making progress.

And yet, somehow, programming then was still more fun than today.

Re:My first computer (4, Interesting)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768501)

My first computer was a Spectrum. Not having been exposed to other machines before, the one-keystroke-per-command feature felt perfectly natural to me, and faster than having to type the commands by hand (in part because the rubber keyboard hindered fast typing).

It also made it easier to formulate correct programs: the system knew that certain keywords should only appear at the start of a line and made it impossible to put that keyword anywhere else in the line. An early form of syntax checking.

It made Spectrum Basic readable; it ensured that the commands and keywords were always written in full, rather than the shorthand that crept up everywhere else.

It had its drawbacks: hunting down infrequently-used commands could take more time than typing them, and the system was unique to Sinclair so the skill didn't transfer.

Ah, the Speccy. I still have mine, plus a box full of tapes. I wonder if they're still readable though.

Re:My first computer (3, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768529)

But you have to admit its nice to see the little guys that meant so much to so many actually get recognized. I remember how in the late 90s-early 00s all you would ever hear about on computing history was MSFT and Apple, maybe a little IBM. But many of us didn't have IBM or Mac money when we were kids so its nice to see Sinclair, Commodore, Tandy, Atari, BBC Micro, all the little guys that started so many of us down the road to a lifetime of computing.

So while i never got to own a Sinclair (Like you I had a VIC) I'm sure that those that had the Sinclair enjoyed much time with it and love computers to this day thanks to it. So happy BDay Sinclair, here's to you and all the little guys that started us on the road of computing.

As I said with the TRS while I'd love to be a teen again frankly i wouldn't trade our childhood for the teens of today with all these locked down cell phones and tablets, the teens of today I doubt will get a love of tinkering and tweaking that we got from our little guys.

Re:My first computer (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768739)

My first computer was a spectrum too. I recently I downloaded the excellent open source FUSE [sourceforge.net] emulator which when combined with .TAP format games from World of Spectrum [worldofspectrum.org] and the right settings, you can watch the tape loading screens.

For the "R Tape loading error" gambler in you, some emulators even let you connect a cassette player to your audio interface's line in for that authentic experience.

Re:My first computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768859)

Most people I know that started with a Spectrum are gamers today, as they were then. Others that begun with a commodore or Sony MSX (like myself) are developers.

Re:My first computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768983)

I think this had several benefits:
- you could not enter lines with syntax errors
- all the keywords were there which was an advantage when learning to program
- all keywords had their own numeric code so basic code had a smaller memory footprint

Frist Psot! (-1, Offtopic)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767759)

Lifetime achievement: unlocked!

Re:Frist Psot! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768117)

not so much

Re:My first computer (1)

mprinkey (1434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767801)

I had the Timex Sinclair 1000 as well, but not 16KB module. Paid $60 for it at Hills--I was in 6th grade. It learned quickly to be careful with my precious 2k of RAM, but I coded a fairly accurate image of the Space Shuttle and figured out how to make it "fly" across the screen. Hard to believe I have been writing code for almost 30 years!

Re:My first computer (4, Informative)

lord_mike (567148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767929)

The TS1000 was my first computer, too. I certainly had a love/hate relationship with that machine. I hated that it was so incredibly limited, but loved that it was mine. I didn't have to sign up for programming time anymore at the school or library. The machine was all my own whenever I wanted it even if it sucked. It was cheap and it was mine! Mine, mine, mine!! It was at least a good learning machine. There were a surprising number of programming books available, and even a decent amount of off the shelf software. The TS1000/ZX81 was certainly a brilliant example of engineering efficiency. Although it wouldn't compare to Woz's work with the Apple II, the fact that the Sinclair was able to do everything with only 4 chips was an incredible achievement.

I always had a soft spot in my heart for Sinclair and his machines. I wish they had something like the Spectrum here in the states, but by then Commodore had initiated the price wars and it was pointless for Clive to invest in his newer machines here. I can see why they were so popular in England. They were inexpensive, easy to work with, and quite ubiquitous. While many Americans long for their Commodore 64's or Atari 800's, the Sinclair was a truly British machine made for Britons. It's understandable why that generation of users holds the Speccy near and dear to their hearts. Software is still being produced for the Spectrum, and it boasts the largest software library in the world (according to Wikipedia).

In many ways Clive Sinclair was both the Jack Tramiel and Steve Jobs of Europe. Like Jobs, he believed in simple elegance for all his products. He was also a ruthless leader. Unlike Jobs, though, and more like Tramiel, he also believed in making his products as inexpensively as possible... cutting corners wherever he could to bring prices down. He certainly should be considered one of the great computing pioneers and given the same due reverence of his American peers. After all, he was knighted for bringing computing power to the masses.

Nevertheless, I don't think I'd use my TS1000 to control a nuclear power plant, as Sinclair Research suggested in their advertisements. Unfortunately, my unit isn't going to be running power plants or anything else for that matter--it doesn't work at all anymore. The years of temperature changes in the attic on the cheap parts finally did that little wonder in. I still have it sitting prominently at my desk, though. It makes a great conversation piece.

Thank you, Sir Clive, for making my first computer!

Re:My first computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39767941)

The Timex Sinclair 1000 was monochrome..

Re:My first computer (3, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768129)

I programmed Monopoly into it, complete with color-pixel graphics, all in BASIC!

Well, that's funny, since the TS1000/ZX81 was B/W. It had no color to speak of.

That's what the ZX Spectrum fixed.

RE: Five million copies sold... (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768225)

How do you sell five million "copies" of a computer?

Re: Five million copies sold... (1)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768991)

1. Sell your company to sir Alan Sugar.
2. Re-house the spectrum internals inside a new box.
3. Make the new box look identical to the CPC-464.
4....
5. Go bankrupt?

Re:My first computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39769139)

You need to adjust the volume of your very own memory cassettes, as they are failing you right now. There was absolutely no way to make color pixel graphics in a Timex Sinclair 1000. I still have my still working TK-85 (the shamelessly ripped brazilian clone of Sinclair ZX81/Timex 1000) and my also still working TK-90X (the shamelessly ripped brazilian clone of the Spectrum).

Real programmers..... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39767751)

Real programmers started with an Apple II.

Re:Real programmers..... (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767791)

Yes, we did. Although I also owned a Vic 20, Commodore 64, and a ZX81.

Re:Real programmers..... (3, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767799)

in the UK probably used the Spectrums rival, the BBC Micro, as it had expansion ports, extension ROMs etc, it was used as the standard computing workhorse for both hobbyists and electronics labs around the country.

Apple ][ was for people who wanted to become accountants.... :-)

Re:Real programmers..... (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768257)

The BBC was better, but it cost, IIRC, twice as much. It was out of my budget, I remember that.

Re:Real programmers..... (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768299)

Nearly three times as much...

But there was really no comparison. The BBC had a proper keyboard and tons of connectors on the back/underneath. Not just connections for printers, serial ports and floppy disks either, it was the Arduino of its day.

The only real problem was the graphics eating up two thirds of the RAM.

Re:Real programmers..... (2)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768431)

The BBC model B cost a lot of money, far more than the C64 or ZX Spectrum. If people used the BBC it was most likely in schools where it enjoyed far more popularity than it did in the home. When Acorn finally released an affordable home computer called the Electron it was so gimped that it didn't really hold much attraction for anybody.

Re:Real programmers..... (4, Interesting)

Young Master Ploppy (729877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768547)

The BBC micro was the 'standard' educational model, not least because of the BBC brand and the association with the Beeb's educational TV programs. The home market was dominated by Spectrums and C64s.

After spending the summer playing with my friends' ZX81, I got a Spectrum for christmas at the age of 8, and every week I would pester my dad to buy me "Your Spectrum" and "Your Sinclair" magazines, with their pages upon pages of type-em-in program listings. I'd then piss off my sister by monopolising the TV for 3hrs while I typed in the latest greatest amazing game .... and spend 5 minutes playing the inevitable top-down scrolling dodge-em-up before thinking "surely I could do better than that!". So I set out to try.

30 years later, I'm making a good living as a senior programmer, and I put it all down to those early days of truly accessible computing. The Spectrum was the ideal balance between entertainment machine and experimentation platform, amazing a geeky 8yr old with its possibilities while its limitations positively encouraged anyone with the right mindset to try and work around them. Hacking infinite lives with PEEK and POKE... designing game graphics pixel by pixel and then converting them to integer data... figuring out how to give the illusion of full-colour graphics when you only had one foreground and one background colour per 8x8 character square... i learned so much about computing from those days. Thanks Sinclair, you were awesome.

Re:Real programmers..... (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768961)

Wow. Jog my memory, why don't you.

What was that game called? It was a up/down _and_ left/right scrolling shooter. Weapon power ups. Loads of sprites.

I'm talking about the first game on the ZX to dither the 8x8 character square in order to show 4 (four!) colours.

Still got my 128k upstairs somewhere.

Re:Real programmers..... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768639)

Didn't know a lot of kids with BBC Micros. The 48K Sinclair Spectrum and the Commodore 64 were the popular ones.

Although you might be right about the real programmers using the BBC. It had a better basic, with inline assembler.

Re:Real programmers..... (2)

sgunhouse (1050564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768435)

Sorry to predate all of you, but I started with an RCA VIP - no BASIC, 2K of RAM, hex keypad and 64x32 (pixel, not character) video. Later I did get a T/S 2068 (the US version of the Spectrum, with some additional sound hardware).

Inspiration to younger users - thing of the past? (5, Insightful)

acidradio (659704) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767773)

I wonder if the "old" generation of microcomputers - the TRS80, the Sinclair, Commodore 64, Apple II - were more inspirational to young programmers and coders than what we have today. The old computers were all command line. You *had* to know what you were doing to make the thing do anything! You couldn't break it because you had to know how the thing worked to make it do anything! And there was a joy or satisfaction of "Hey, I made this machine do 'this', exactly how I wanted it to do it!" Today's PCs/Macs/pads? Anyone can pick one up, use it, maybe even cause a lot of damage with it but never understand the inner workings of it because all you had to do to make it go is click on some icon somewhere. There is no command line to use (at least that most users would choose to work with). You can become a proficient user of it but without some real digging you will have a hard time writing any kind of usable software for yourself, even as rudimentary as a "Hello, world".

I liken it to giving a car to a starting driver. The Sinclair and other older microcomputers were like giving a kid a 20-yr old Honda Civic with a manual transmission. Slow, dependable, bland, hard to get in trouble with it, you have to know how to drive it to make it go, you can really get a feel for how the thing wants to drive. The newer, much more powerful computers of today could be like giving that same kid a Porsche - powerful, fast, stylish, easy to get in trouble with, easy to wreck at high speeds, you may never understand its inner-workings because they are too much to learn.

For the love of God... (4, Funny)

Amiralul (1164423) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767809)

Please STOP IT! [petitiononline.com] .

Re:For the love of God... (1)

Copperis (1076053) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767911)

Agreed on the bad analogies thing, especially the one GP wrote with a Honda. While it's a nice petition, I'm not signing anything that has a false dilemma in its description text!

Re:For the love of God... (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768043)

yeah, stop having fun, guys! i don't like something you all enjoy!

Re:For the love of God... (5, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768175)

What is that link supposed to be?
Is it like one of those flyers they put behind the windscreen wipers of your car?

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (5, Insightful)

wmac1 (2478314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767819)

The good thing about those computers was that

- they left something for the owners to do, today you can get ready made software for almost every need
- when you turned those computers you were in the programming interface, so that was in the focus and people would give a try to use it
- Personal computers were the magic new things of that decade, people were still appreciating it. Nowadays a PC with 16G of RAM and a quad core CPU is "just another" computer and more of a commodity than magic
- We loved to build things (like small electronic circuits, small programs) ourselves. Nowadays consumerism has taken everywhere. We just need to pay and buy.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (4, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767897)

The bad thing about those computers was that

- they left something for the owners to do, today you can get ready made software for almost every need, where as then if you needed a simple fucking 4 function calculator you needed to learn programming

- when you turned those computers you were in the programming interface, and with no software you had no other choice

- Personal computers were the magic new things of that decade, people were still cursing it. Nowadays a PC with 16G of RAM and a quad core CPU is "just another" computer and more of a commodity than some bullshit you needed a PHD to operate

- Only a certain segment of nerds loved to build things (like small electronic circuits, small programs) ourselves. Nowadays consumerism has taken everywhere. We just need to pay and buy for them to encroach on our elitism

Listen, I grew up with this batch of 30 year old computers, I love them, and I was inspired by them, but they were not magical boxes of imignation, they were devel boxes of fustration that took damn near 30 years for average people to be fully functional with. And frankly all the knowledge I gained as a child gave me fuck all nothing with modern computers, so what I can pull the zeropage address of a Apple II out of the top of my head, doesn't do me any good past 1990, neither does the programming techniques or basic operations, these computers may have inspired a generation of hard core nerds, but outside of that they had little or nothing in common with modern machines. ASM wont do a kid much good if they cant even make a spreadsheet now.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (5, Insightful)

lord_mike (567148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767943)

I disagree. Fundamentals are ALWAYS important even if they aren't practical. While 6502 assembly isn't practical anymore, the experience you gained programming with it provided you a foundation for future skills that many of your peers might not have. That not only gives you a competitive advantage, it makes you into a better, smarter professional. You can play the piano without learning music theory, but you will be a much better pianist if you do take the time to learn the fundamentals of music. It's the same for computer science or information technology.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768041)

Amen ! I was there @ 1980 ... and still coding strong ...

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (4, Interesting)

garry_g (106621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768051)

+1
I started out on a Spektrum, going to the department store almost every day, programming on the one they had on display for advertisement (they also had the ZX81, but with it being monochrome, awful keyboard and only 1K of RAM, who wanted that?). My friend would even bring his cassette player so we could save programs we wrote ... (cassette player as in "bulky, heavy, need a bag to carry it around").
After a while, my parents got fed up with my hanging around in the store constantly, so they decided to buy me one - while we were waiting for the clerk to get one from storage, we talked to some boy who convinced us to get a C64, as it had more RAM, more power, better keyboard, ... so we got that instead ...
Of course I was disappointed with the missing gfx commands on the 64, but quickly got around that (in part because of "Simon's Basic" IIRC), and ended up with the good ol' 6502/6510 Assembler programming ... heck, once you get around with 3 not-so-all-purpose registers and the limited ASM commands, you ought to be able to program in just about any language with a couple pages of syntax/command reference ... seeing how "well" kids nowadays are tought in business school as far as programming goes, I always wonder if we should put an emulator (or maybe even the "real thing"?) on their desk and let them learn coding in assembler for a while ... sure programming is easy with all the fancy tools and libraries, but if you never really learned the basics, how should they know that requiring a bigger, faster computer isn't the way you fix limitations and performance problems?

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39769077)

It's still one of the cheapest CPUs out there.
I think you can buy a 6502 with some RAM and 32Kbytes of ROM for cheaper than the ROM by itself (because it has fewer pins).
For a 16 bit or 32 bit part you are going to go into double digit cents per unit, by a fair way!

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768629)

There is a big shortage of people who know what a zeropage is now. I happen to work in Embedded software development and that sort of knowledge is vital (not the exact address, but the concept). It is hard to recruit people like me because we are few and far between.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39769175)

Thats just ungrateful bastardism talking. If you loved them, you was inspired by them, and they are still with you nowadays.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768339)

The good thing about those computers was that

- they left something for the owners to do, today you can get ready made software for almost every need

Most Spectrum owners never programmed them, they just put cassette tapes in the player and typed LOAD"".

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (3, Insightful)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768957)

Most Spectrum owners never programmed them, they just put cassette tapes in the player and typed LOAD"".

That's 7 characters (including the space) more code than kids type these days.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39769173)

Nope. Everyone I know that had one, at least bought papers where you could input cheat POKEs for infinite lives, times etc. Anecdote, I know - but still, where did you get your statistics of 'Most Spectrum owners' from?

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (4, Insightful)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767823)

Different time, different limitations.

I still say, give me a room full of Apple II's (preferable //e or IIgs) and eager students, and I'll give you room full of great developers. There is value in understanding how software interacts with hardware, something which has been missing in most programmers for a long time. That's not a new complaint, it existed in the mainframe and mini computer world before the microcomputer revolution. The pioneers of the micro revolution, the early adopters, etc broke that mold. But as operating systems and development environments have become more "friendly", much of that has fallen away.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39767919)

Y'know... rubbish. And I mean that in the nicest and most conversational way. I was there in 78 with a PET. It was engaging for a visibly large slice of pimply geeks simply because we had so little else to engage with. Broadcast TV and a Public Library. (Thank god for the Whole Earth Catalog to at least show me better books to ILL.) It was fabulously different, and anyone playing with it stood out because of that.

Kids got the Web now. The only reason you're not noticing them doing so much programming*, is because the smarter ones have so many more things to play with.

*I'll also suggest there are more kids doing more programming today than there was in 82. Definitely than in 78, when there was 2 in my 1000 student high school. Seriously, consider final years of most high schools then and now, and especially first years of college and uni.

Maybe what's tripping you up is you're connecting computer-use with computer-programming. In 82 the four or five computer-using kids were programming kids. In 2012 they're 100% computer users, but it's still a small fraction who are interested in things that need code.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768323)

I liken it to giving a car to a starting driver. The Sinclair and other older microcomputers were like giving a kid a 20-yr old Honda Civic with a manual transmission. Slow, dependable, bland, hard to get in trouble with it, you have to know how to drive it to make it go, you can really get a feel for how the thing wants to drive. The newer, much more powerful computers of today could be like giving that same kid a Porsche - powerful, fast, stylish, easy to get in trouble with, easy to wreck at high speeds, you may never understand its inner-workings because they are too much to learn.

Most "wide of the mark" analogy ever...?

Owning a civic doesn't require lifting the hood and tinkering with the engine.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (1)

luther349 (645380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768575)

that era of pcs was the best but it will never come back.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (3, Insightful)

luther349 (645380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768595)

80s computing will be missed by anyone who was lucky enough to be in it. back when users had control of there pcs. not what apple and microsoft and media company's think you should be allowed to do.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (4, Insightful)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768607)

Yes I think they were inspirational. I remember wanting to write a screen scrolling type Defender game on my Spectrum and learning Z80 machine code in order to do it. I couldn't afford an assembler though so I had to write out the programs in pseudo-code and manually look up their codes. It didn't seem a big deal at the time but it was immensely satisfying to actually produce a working program from a series of 8-bit numbers. I'm hoping the Raspberry Pi will do a similar job of stimulating young programming talent today.

Re:Inspiration to younger users - thing of the pas (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768679)

You had to _look them up_? You're weak!

I had all the opcodes memorized! Did wonders to my grasp of hex and bin, just memorizing opcode families like "00rr0001 - LD rr, imm16". Used it both ways (uphill, in the snow, etc.), for writing code and disassembling code with a hex editor to find the magic POKEs.

I disagree (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39769123)

I agree the computers were very inspirational - my first computer was a ZX-81.

But kids today are NOT suffering because the computers we have now are "too powerful"!!!?

Instead it is an AMAZING time to be growing up. I know a few ten year olds selling apps on the App Store!!! How is that not even more awesome and impressive than my writing a crossword puzzle generator at the same age?

The car analogy really falls down because there is no danger for younger kids with greater computing power and reach, just a much greater opportunity to share with others more complex development more early than has ever been possible before.

The only problem I can see is that despite this awesome opportunity you have a great deal of distractions through video games, movies and so on. Yet those with a real interest in programming will still I think find their way through the hedge of entertainment to the real world underneath it all.

Yep, my first computer.. (3)

jamax (228376) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767795)

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K....

I was good at school, so my dad bought me 48K version, instead of 16K one - oh, happy memories...

Still got mine! (2)

Billlagr (931034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767813)

Boxed, with the leads, manuals, tapes. Also still have my Vic-20, boxed, and C64 & 1541 - also all boxed, but they aren't particularly uncommon.

Re:Still got mine! (1)

Anaerin (905998) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767893)

One of my two is in my parent's loft. Working Commodore +4, and Commodore 64. And a 1541 and MPS-801 to go with them. There's also a boxed up (tower-modded) Amiga 1200 with '040 expansion card there too. Unfortunately that loft is in the UK and I'm in Canada.

Re:Still got mine! (1)

Spacejock (727523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767985)

I have my first ZX81 still, and I picked up another Spectrum a few years ago out of nostalgia. ZX Printer, microdrives, interface one ... a whole list of bits and pieces. I have a ton of nostalgia for my teen years in the 80s', and I can't help but smile when I crack open my copies of Crash magazine.

Re:Still got mine! (1)

Billlagr (931034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768009)

Oh yeah...I actually dug my C64 out weekend just gone and gave my son a hiding in International Karate + :). Mind you, I bought that 64 when I was about his age...

Nostalgic! (4, Funny)

putaro (235078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39767931)

Sinclair Computing - corporate motto: A computer in every closet!

Re:Nostalgic! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768163)

LOL))) Young Jeezy Albums [young-jeezy-albums.net]

I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768031)

...what is up with the ZX Spectrum's color capabilities? I often see the ZX Spectrum compared to the C64, but the screenshots I've seen aren't comparable at all. I doubt it had the sound capabilities of the C64 as well.

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768167)

You mean they're not muddy?

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (5, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768407)

It's a different style of graphics.

C64 hardware was good at character-map based, scrolling graphics but if you needed more than eight sprites on horizontal line you had problems.

The Spectrum was bitmapped graphics, it was bad at scrolling but you could have more sprites and do more 3D stuff, eg. there were quite a few fully-interactive isometric-view games and even some filled-3D-polygon games (Starstrike) which the C64 was really bad at.

Sound was pretty bad, yes, but it was a lot cheaper than a C64.

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (4, Insightful)

Dot.Com.CEO (624226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768437)

Sound was produced by the Z80 CPU on the Spectrum. That meant that you could not have a soundtrack in games because the processor would have to dedicate 100% of a given cycle to playing a sound. You could have a beep or two as soundeffects, but no soundtrack to speak of, unless the game was either very basic, or the programmer was very, very talented. For the life of me, I cannot think of another soundtrack except Manic Miner. Also, I had a ZX. Games on the C64 were much, much better looking than on the Spectrum. there was no comparison. The Spectrum had a near-fatal flow: you could not have a 8x8 square with more than two colours. So that meant that most games were two-coloured affairs - one colour for the background, another for the sprite, and even then you could have the colour clashing that made Spectrum gaming unique. Whatever the Spectrum's faults, this in my opinion was the biggest by far and since it was a hardware limitation, it meant that games simply could never be as nice looking as the competition.

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768527)

it meant that games simply could never be as nice looking as the competition.

That doesn't mean they were 'worse'.

Spectrum owners were jealous of C64 music, C64 owners were jealous of the isometric adventure games on the Spectrum.

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (1)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768625)

I always thought a lot of C64 games, though colourful had really blocky looking graphics. The Spectrum seemed to have better detail, but with the drawback it was mostly in monochrome.

In the Spectrum's later years programmers came up with a few clever tricks to get the appearance of full colour graphics. If I recall, Uridium's title screen had a full colour title? JetSet Willy and Gilligans Gold are two games with a soundtrack - can't think of anymore though!

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768777)

The C64 had two (or more) graphic modes - the 'blocky' mode, and one exactly the same as the Spectrum's - two colours per hires character square.

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39769093)

C64 resolution (without sprites in borders trick): 320*200.
Spectrum resolution: 256*192.

It was perfectly capable of less blocky graphics, especially in games that laid multiple sprites over each other to build up colours.
Also it had its own "extra colour" modes done by flickering the graphics every field to give the illusion of more than 16 colours,
but that was not used much until games that post-dated the Amiga (someone had to draw the graphics after all!)

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768661)

While first point was true until ZX Spectrum 128 added AY-8912 sound chip, second is not. Color clash is a problem, but many games just featured plain backgrounds with colourful characters - like this [worldofspectrum.org] or this [worldofspectrum.org] , and some went overboard like this [worldofspectrum.org] (Check those crates, there are FOUR colors on them! Can your C64 do that? Hell, no!) or this [worldofspectrum.org] . "Two colored affairs" in commercial games were mostly isometric engines, something, AFAIK, not very common on C64

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (1)

Truedat (2545458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768719)

I know what you're saying but I loved that two color limitation as it inspired a certain graphical creativity that was unique to the spectrum. The analogy would be that yes it's possible to produce a photo realistic animated movie but there's more charm in choosing not to and going with something a little more stylised. Yes I know I'm being overly nostalgic ;) Besides, games could have more than two colors but you'd have to be a little more sneaky about it by dividing the screen up into different color zones.

I cant agree that c64 games were always better looking, for example vector graphics based games such as elite [wikipedia.org] and isometric games such as knight lore [wikipedia.org] to my eyes looked superior on the spectrum. They struck me as kind of chunky for want of a better word than on the c64. And c64 sprites also looked squashed and dumpy for some reason. Ymmv.

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768847)

The limitations on the hardware sprites were why many C-64 games used software sprites for "characters", reserving the hardware sprites for "bullets" in most cases, and relying entirely on software to do the collision detection.

So although the C-64 had more "advanced" sprite hardware, in practice it wasn't used by anything but the simplest and most basic of arcade shooter games.

Hell, you couldn't even program Space Invaders using the hardware sprites, and that's about as basic as a game could get!

Re:I Think I Speak For All North Americans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39769067)

The c64 also had the same hi-res color-clash mode as zx. Head over Heels and Fairlight were two isometric titles in the style of the spectrum that I remember.
But most c64-games used sprites.
Delta, which was more advanced than invaders, used only sprites for ships and structures, and character graphics for bullets and background stars.

The good old times... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768053)

I still have both my Spectrum 48K and my Sinclair +2 Working, aswell as my +D disc interface.
I recently bought a Sinclair +3 to complete the set... And I plan to have my children discover them (well, my oldest, 3yr old, first contact with a computer was with Hunt the Wumpus on TI99/4A

These were nice pieces of hardware and developpers used to use every last bit of memory to make great programs. My favorite from that time is the Amstrad CPC (464/664/6128)... fast interrupt for sound control (and other), vector table for most system functions, support for up to 256 ROMs with autorun on some of them, ... Very elegant design... probably superior to the other from that generation (Commodore, Spectrum, Thompson, MSX, ...)

Re:The good old times... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768135)

I've still got two Spectrum +2's, a +3, a Spectrum+ 48K (well, two of those, actually - one with the rubber keys and one with a custom clicky board), a BBC Model A, Commodore 16K+, portable 8080 (a pre-x86 x86 with a SIX WEEK BATTERY LIFE!! Modern netbooks top off at ten hours, what's up with that!?), and a Casio FX 82S that I bought in 1990 for my high school exams. They all still work as well. One of these days I''m gonna hook 'em up and open a live museum in my garage.

Hey Hey 16k (5, Interesting)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768141)

This song [b3ta.com] sums up the nostalgia so well

The Spectrum was a big part of my youth and early career (I was writing for it into the early 90s).

Re:Hey Hey 16k (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768279)

Hey Hey 16K
What does that get you today?
You need more than that for a letter
Old skool rampacs are much better

What strikes me as funny (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768185)

What always strikes me as funny is how "local" computing was in those days. There are entire countries were people never heard of computer brand X or model Y because they used brand W and model V. Commodore, Amiga, Sinclair, Apple and god knows what else. The Sinclair I seem to reclass was available in Holland but it was the commodore that got used. The BBC even had their own computer! Imagine that, that would be MS-NBC getting into the OS market, you just would not think that was at all likely would you?

It is just amusing to see such local snobbery when a few years later, computing would be "the internet" which is the ultimate global product.

I have to laugh at this because the other side of the story is that once, I thought of this kinda of hardware as an upgrade... god I am old. When you still think of Unix as the new kid on the block, you know the grim reaper can't be far behind.

Not only in the UK (1)

21mhz (443080) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768237)

As the Warsaw Pact was crumbling and the people of the Soviet Union were exposed to Western influences, there was a surge of interest in DIY home computing. I think the availability of a local Z80 clone, as well as use of off-the-shelf consumer technology such as cassette tape and analog TV output, was what made Spectrum a popular choice for clone designs. One of those was my first home computer.

My Speccy was the gateway to a life of IT... (3, Interesting)

ttsiod (881575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768247)

My Speccy was the gateway to a life of IT (I ended up becoming a software engineer, and part-owner of a startup). Will always feel grateful to the designers of the 8-bit micros that started all this...

Oh, and I still remember my first hack - dissassembling JetPac and finding the POKE that gave me infinite lives. Now *that* was fun :-)

Re:My Speccy was the gateway to a life of IT... (4, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768445)

Ohh, I was lazier than that :) Montezuma Revenge on PC was coded in such a way, that when you searched for the byte with default number of lives (IIRC 3), it was before the 5th match that you'd hit the right byte to patch in the executable. No disassembly was involved. I'd patch the copy, run it, it'd crash or have a glitch, copy again, patch next location, and in IIRC 10 minutes I had 127 lives; IIRC the most significant bit couldn't be set. The key was not to get greedy: I initially tried incrementing the count only by one. Had I tried going directly to 255, I'd have never succeeded. I still remember it, even though it was 25+ years ago...

16K (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768303)

Ah - the good ol day - when programmers has to think and code in 16K

FYI; Google even devotes a doodle to this. (5, Informative)

Qwrk (760868) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768351)

On the google.co.uk domain today there's a special doodle devoted to the ZX and St. George's Day; all in one ;-)

Clive declined to take part in the conversation: (3, Funny)

s-whs (959229) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768371)

Sir Clive declined to take part in the conversation.

Actually, I heard he wanted to do participate via online conferencing, but his computer suffered from RAMpack wobble...

We still have fun with the Speccy! (4, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768565)

A few of us make hardware for the humble Speccy still, you can now go on the Internet with the Spectranet http://spectrum.alioth.net/doc [alioth.net] - at the VCF in 2010, much fun was had sending tweets from a Sinclair Spectrum, you can connect hard drives/CF cards with the DivIDE http://baze.au.com/divide/ [au.com] , there's a USB interface (although the developer seems to have disappeared, hmm...) and various other fun bits of hardware to play with. Retro enthusasts are still writing some really nice games for the Spectrum and there's a strong demoscene, too.

The ULA (the custom logic IC) has also been reverse engineered by actually de-encapsulating the chip and photographing it with a microscope http://www.zxdesign.info/ [zxdesign.info] - you can buy the book there, by the way... There were some interesting anecdotes from that. Today we have FPGAs and CPLDs and you can essentially make custom logic at home, but back in the early 1980s, companies like Ferranti made generic dies, and stored them, and you made your actual custom logic by specifying the interconnection layer. Richard Altwasser had only 6 weeks to design the circuit for the Spectrum's ULA (which handles video and all other I/O for the basic machine). When Ferranti completed the first wafer of Spectrum ULAs, they ran tests and found that they didn't work. It turns out that a Ferranti engineer had made a mistake when making the phototools to make the metallization layer, and basically half the chip lacked its clock signal. However, one single die on the whole wafer DID work. It turns out that despite all this being done in a clean room, a spec of dust had landed in precisely the right place on the phototools to connect the clock circuit, so they had one working ULA die on the wafer, and Sinclair could test and validate their ULA.

Incidentally if you're in London on the 5th/6th May, there's a 30th anniversary of the Spectrum celebration at the British Film Institute. It's free to enter. Details are here:
http://www.imperica.com/horizons [imperica.com]

Enthusiastic kid programmers ? (1)

Anonymousslashdot (2601035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768653)

Not me... Hated the keyboard with rubber keys and the crude T9 typing. Managed to retype one or two half-page listings of funny text animations from computer magazines and was totally fed up and non-enthusiastic about this programming thing. I became enthusiastic much later, when windows 95 and Borland Delphi came around.

But I admit I enjoyed playing games on it and I've broken a few joysticks on decathlon-type games.

Re:Enthusiastic kid programmers ? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768767)

Meanwhile, in those intervening 13 years between you tinkering with a machine and actually becoming enthusiastic with programming, the rest of us loved it and used it and learned to program on it and it lead us onto other platforms.

For instance, if you totally missed the Spectrum+ with it's hard keyboard, or the +2/+3 with a "real" keyboard, then you missed out on a great machine.

And the point of the "T9-typing", as you put it, was to reduce the amount of time you had to spend actually typing on that keyboard.

Re:Enthusiastic kid programmers ? (1)

Anonymousslashdot (2601035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768819)

I get your point. There are those who like it with rubber, and there are those who don't. As for me, rubber is rubbish :-)

Timex Sinclair 1000 (2)

Timtimes (730036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39768821)

You haven't really lived until you have experienced flight simulator on the Timex Sinclair. I had the full meal deal. Extra ram kit as well as the thermal printer. I was in hog heaven when I upgraded to the Timex Sinclair 2000 (color and sound!!). Enjoy.

Hip Hip Hooooray!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39768953)

Happy BB Speccy! Greetings from Knighs of Lore, BoulderDash, Tetris, R-Type, Raibow Islands, Underwulde, All Winter Olympics, Spy vs. Spy, Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Cybernoid, Nebulus, Dizzy, Tennis, Ping-Pong, Arkanoid, Breakout, PaperBoy, RoboCop & Elite! :-)

A piece of code (ah, the memories) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39769089)

Only those intimately familiar with the Speccy would understand and appreciate:

INC H
LD A,7
AND A,H
RET NZ
LD A, 32
ADD A,L
LD L,A
RET C
LD A,-8
ADD A,H
LD H,A
RET

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?