A Tribute To The Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was the first computer I ever owned. Although its' 48K (yes K!) of RAM and 1Mz 8-bit processor made it laughably underpowered by todays standards, it gave me hours of entertainment and launched my career in software development.

Sir Clive Sinclair

The Spectrum was created in 1982 by British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair. It was preceded by other models in the ZX line but the Spectrum was the first one with enough power to do really interesting things. As a result it quickly became the UKs' best-selling computer. It would maintain this position for several years until the rise of the PC made all 8-bit computers obsolete. Sinclair moved on to other things and he is still inventing to this day.

Jetpac Game

For my 11 year old self, the best thing about the Spectrum was the games. The screenshot above shows JetPac which was one of my favorites. The old generation of computers such as the Spectrum didn't have hard drives. You had to hook up a tape recorder to them and load games from cassette tape. This made them very easy to pirate which I'm sorry to say my friends and I did on a large scale. Still, enough legitimate copies of the best games were sold to make some of their authors millionaires sometimes while they were still in their teens. The idea that you could get rich making games even without finishing school captured the imagination of my entire generation.

Programming in Basic

8-bit computers such as the Spectrum usually had the BASIC programming language built in. Computer magazines of the day often had listings of BASIC programs (especially games!) you could type in and save on your own cassette tapes. Reading those listings carefully was a good way to learn coding especially when the accompanying articles would explain the techniques the authors were using. Also tracking down and fixing the invariable typos you would make was excellent practice in debugging. After a while you felt confident enough to alter the graphics or the gameplay and eventually to make your own games. Sadly my own attempts never amounted to anything but I credit the Spectrum scene for influencing me to become a software developer.