Saturday, 18 September 2021

ZX Spectrum of possibilities



The passing of Sir Clive Sinclair, the British inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, at the age of 81, has reminded me of the joy of discovery.

Christmas 1982 was all about the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K, Horace Goes Skiing and Disney's Tron (available on Disney+)! Not to mention Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial breaking the collective hearts of cinemagoers the world over.

The first time I saw a computer in person was at dad's lighting shop in Truro. The Commodore PET looked like something out of Star Trek and captured my young imagination. Soon after, a BBC Micro materialised in middle school. However, having our own 8-bit home computer (a year after my folks bought a VCR so I could record The Five Faces of Doctor Who) was transcendental!

Computing leaned into an insatiable appetite for learning, buoyed by a reading age of 16 (I was 10).

Hours were spent and lost inputting basic code from the pack-in manual and Crash magazine at weekends. Although my coding skills fell far short of any lofty ambitions I may have had to create Tron's Master Control Program (MCP), programming helped to take my mind off of weekly rehabilitation from a life-changing brain injury.

This was further compounded by a diagnosis of asthma (after my parents sought a second opinion), which saw me missing weeks of schooling (not for the first time) until preventative medication was prescribed.

And games! So many games in the age of Atari!

Most notably from Ultimate Play the Game AKA Rare. Plugging in the Currah ╬╝Speech peripheral unlocked voices in Atic Atac years before Atari's Gauntlet gobbled up my allowance at the arcades! Titles such as Knight Lore were revolutionary. And Ocean's Daley Thompson’s Decathlon culminated in the premature demise of lesser joysticks.

I would go on to own a Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ (the beloved original handed down to a younger cousin who soon broke it), Commodore 64 and all things Apple thereafter. But nothing will surpass discovering that little 8-bit home computer, with the rubbery keyboard, filled with infinite possibility under the Christmas tree in 1982...

Thank you, Sir Clive Sinclair. RIP.

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