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12:26 pm: the Spectrum and me
The ZX Spectrum was launched 30 years ago today. I was not even three, so I don't remember exactly, but we had one by 1983, and it was the best £125 that my parents have ever spent. This was a hefty amount of money to them at the time (by RPI it's £375 in today's money), but they saw that it was the future, and found it. I am grateful.

So, I was dabbling with programming from a very early age. Somewhere, perhaps, there is still a programme listing I wrote out in longhand with very wonky childlike letters testifying that I could programme before I could write. And there was a fair bit of playing games, too. Some of my earliest memories are related to the Spectrum. When we sent it away to get upgraded to 48KiB, and the shop lost it and we got a brand new one. Happily playing in the garden while counting in binary (ugh, can you believe I used to say zero-one-ten-eleven-hundred? I am cured of that now). Playing Atic Atac, which has probably led to my life-long fear of mushrooms. Watching TV coverage of the 128 KiB and being upset that it wouldn't have a joystick. Being really upset when Amstrad bought out Sinclair. (I hated Alan Sugar 20 years before it was fashionable). Helping my father with his football orrery. Learning about machine code and trying to hand-assemble bits of code despite being 9.

I never did anything big on the Spectrum itself - we moved on to the SAM Coupé when I was 11 (that being an attempt to provide an upgrade path for the Spectrum), and my juvenilia is largely for that, in the native BASIC with the odd routine in Z80 assembler. Later we got a PC and I started writing VB and then when I started sixth form college Turbo Pascal. Maybe some of those things would have happened without the Spectrum. But such early exposure had a profound influence on me and how I think.

Can kids today get that experience and come to grok computers? I am a bit worried that this was only possible in a short window. The Raspberry Pi is all very good as a learning platform, but I think it was the excitement at the roll-out of computing, and the future possibilities, that was the real reason so many of us got so into it, rather than the kit itself. That can't be recreated artificially, can it?

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Date:April 23rd, 2012 06:12 pm (UTC)
I get the impression that a large number of Raspberry Pi's have been bought by the already skilled and folks intending to use it as a cheap media player (the same folks complaining that anything more sophisticated than a sandwich box as a container is not being sold at the same budget prices ho hum)
Date:April 23rd, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
Is a football orrery an orrery made of footballs (which would be very,very large I would have thought if Jupiter was a standard sized football)
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Date:April 23rd, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
It was a kind of football management game without any decisions. It just spat out simulated results. I can't remember why it existed. In retrospect it seems utterly bizarre.
Date:April 23rd, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
The initial lot of Raspberries are intended for people who already know what they are doing. That way, they can find the problems and write the instructions!
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Date:April 23rd, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
I loved our 48k spectrum. I learnt Basic using the children's guide, and my Dad did too when he foudn the adult version imprenetrable. I was especially good at drawing wonly bicycles and writng five notes of music. And it made the Atari ST such a futuristic wonder.
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