The A to Z of the ZX Spectrum

Remembering Sir Clive Sinclair and his wonder machine

The 1980s was a very grim time for many people. There was high unemployment and high inflation. The Labour Party – who should have been hitting the right notes in attacking the Thatcher-led government – was split between its left and right wing factions of the party. If you substituted Thatcher for Johnson, you could be forgiven for thinking ‘deja vu’.

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The Duffers’ Guide to 8-Bit Computing #2: Cartridge Games

The second part of a new Duffers’ Guide, celebrating the joys of 8-bit computing

Back in the 1980s, there was two main storage media for software and documents: cassette tape or floppy disc. At the start of the decade, our floppies were 8″ and 5.25″ in width. By the end of the decade, 3″, 3.5″ and 5.25″ discs. For many people, floppy discs were too expensive – especially in the UK when floppy disc drives costed almost as much as the computer itself. (Unless you had an Amstrad CPC 664 or 6128 which also came with a monitor).

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RadioShack Tape Recorder, J. Smith, 2006

The Duffers’ Guide to 8-Bit Computing #1: Software on Tape

The first of a new Duffers’ Guide, celebrating the joys of 8-bit computing

I have recently found a YouTube channel that celebrates the wonder of audio tape. It is headed by a fellow from Lancashire who knows his TDKs from his Maxells, and his chrome tapes from his ferric tapes. What has amazed me is how no two audio cassettes are the same in terms of quality.

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Now on the ZX Spectrum: Bobby Carrot

Games Review: why the ZX Spectrum version of FDG Mobile’s smartphone game is worth a bash

  • Coder: Couvej;
  • Will run on: any ZX Spectrum with 48k or 128k of RAM (including +2s and +3s), emulators;
  • Available file formats: .tap and .tzx – 48k and 128k versions available to download;
  • Controls: Keyboard (Q, A, O, P, and Space), Cursor keys, Sinclair Joystick and Kempston Joystick interfaces.

At this time of the year, rabbits seem to be the flavour of the month. Easter is less than a month away and a certain rabbit themed film is taking box offices by storm. For lovers of 8-bit computers, spring is associated with 1982’s launch of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Continue reading “Now on the ZX Spectrum: Bobby Carrot”

1992: The Last Great Year of 8-Bit Computing

Remembering the commercial twilight era of the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC

1992 was a strange yet eventful year in British home computing. The Sega Mega Drive rose in popularity, the NES was replaced by the 16-bit SNES in many homes. In Dear Old Blighty, there were two factors which delayed their supremacy (for another year at least). One was the recession. Another was the dominant home computer market. Former C64 users were just as likely to plump for an Amiga, which led to 1993 being some sort of a memorable year for Jay Miner’s wonder machine. The console may have been an extra, filed under ‘nice to have’. Continue reading “1992: The Last Great Year of 8-Bit Computing”

Did I Really Want One of Those? 23. The Cascade Cassette 50 Compilation

50 games, and a calculator watch for £9.99?

15 January 2014: Continuing the subject of electronic atrocities, I was taken aback by my youngest child’s reaction when I brought my Commodore 64 downstairs from the attic. She asked:

‘Where’s the mouse?’
‘Try under the floorboards’ I flippantly said.
‘Strange USB port’ she replied ‘And what do you call this? How do you load a game?’

She was somewhat mystified by the vagaries of the C2N Datasette which I pointed to, and the selection of cassettes. She chose Turbo Outrun. Bad move I thought, especially that horrific multiload. Still better than Fido on Firebird’s Don’t Buy This compilation though.

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Forgotten Video Game Characters: The Not So Perfect Ten

Ten forgotten silicon heroes of computer gaming

I don’t get today’s computer games. The graphics are somewhat overloading and the gameplay seems to be tagged on as an afterthought. I mean, what happened to games which were instantly playable? Far Cry or EVE requires manuals the size of an Argos catalogue and a machine which puts NASA’s original supercomputers to shame. Then there’s DRM, updates and the like… take me back to when a 14 minute loading time on audio tape was the only inconvenience! Continue reading “Forgotten Video Game Characters: The Not So Perfect Ten”

A Tale of Two Platform Games: Hyde’s and Rochdale’s Place in ZX Spectrum History

Two derivative platform games, two towns east of the M60 motorway, and their role in the history of Sinclair ZX Spectrum gaming

In reference to 8 bit computer gaming, Greater Manchester is often associated with Ocean Software. At one time, the Manchester software house was the last name in 8 bit and 16 bit computer gaming with film tie-ins and arcade game conversions their forte. In 1982, they had modest beginnings with a bolt hole on Stanley Street, on the banks of the River Irwell. Within five years, they would absorb Imagine Software, the Liverpudlian software house who imploded following its ‘Mega Games’ concept and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. By 1987, they were among the big boys, alongside Birmingham’s US Gold, Microprose in Tetbury and Thalamus, a small up and coming software house bankrolled by Newsfield Publications, creators of Crash and Zzap! 64 magazines. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Platform Games: Hyde’s and Rochdale’s Place in ZX Spectrum History”

When the Computer Age Came to Tameside

Computer gaming in the Tameside area

Today, we think nothing of spending a few hours on our favoured games console, or on social networking sites like Facebook. The personal computer and games console has become part of our lives, possibly responsible for dwindling TV viewing figures, along with multichannel television channels. The X-Box 360 has become as ubiquitous as The X Factor, likewise has the Wii and the PS3 in today’s homes. Continue reading “When the Computer Age Came to Tameside”