23.03.2011 07:26 - It Was Thirty Years Ago Today, We Would Program The Day Away.
I remember well the first time I heard about the Sinclair ZX81. I was off school, because I had broken my leg. I'd broken my leg on a walk with my father, and he was taking me to Stafford Hospital to have it X-rayed. It had broken because, unknown to everyone, I had a cyst in my leg that was eating through the bone, and so breaking it had burst the cyst and started the bone growing back to normal : hence me being off school due to the leg, and the regular x-rays. Anyway, on the way back my father started telling me that Sinclair was bringing out a new computer to replace the ZX80. Not only was it better-built than the ZX80, it was cheaper and more robust, and came with an extra 16k RAM if you could afford it.
I couldn't. £40 was an enormous amount in those days, especially if your pocket money was only just £1 per week if you were lucky. However, I managed to get my hands on one by borrowing it off a friend. I already knew BASIC because of access to the School Tandy Model I Level I, but here was a chance to actually code stuff in my own time. The summer holidays were spent typing listings into the tiny machine, only to see all the hard work disappear due to rampack wobble and overheating. I eventually discovered you could avoid both by getting a tub of ice-cream out of the freezer and balancing the machine so the rampack hung over the side. Doubtless this was the beginnings of the "supercooling" PC tuning brigade, but it was forbidden by my mother after they discovered that reheated and frozen ice cream didn't taste very nice. Plus time was limited, as my sister would want to watch Television, and as we only had one in the entire house, then time had to be allocated. Added to that that saving a program to tape and hoping it would reload was, at that time, pretty touch-and-go.
Nowadays, not only do I have a separate flat-screen monitor built in to my laptop, which is quite capable of emulating the ZX81 in software, at faster speeds than the original hardware, but I also have a computer built-in to my TV, which can also quite happily read and display high-resolution video from USB sticks and hard drives, as well as downloading it off the Internet itself.
Sometimes, though, I miss those days.
But not much.