It must have been when I was about 8/9 years old1 my dad came home with an amazing machine, our first home computer! We were the owners of a ZX Spectrum: those colors!
I had already seen a computer up close when I visited a cousin who was the proud user of the Commodore64, but for me the ZX Spectrum was just too awesome. Loading games using a cassette player, listening to the weird noises and seeing the cyan/red or yellow/blue lines on the tv screen? Magic!
After a while I was allowed to run games myself. I loaned books from the library on BASIC programming and I felt wonderfully powerful2. One of my favorite games was a strategy game with Romulans and Klingons3, but I don’t remember the exact name. I am still searching the awesome archive over at Archive.org: ZX Spectrum Games. So far, the only game I recognized as a game we had at home is Redhawk 1986.
I have good memories of running games in BASIC, but as I look back, I wonder why I ever stopped programming. I guess because it was not encouraged at school. It was only in high school4 that I saw computers in an educational environment and by then, I knew more than most, so my interest in these classes was low.
At home, the ZX Spectrum+5 was followed by a Philips P2000 which was connected to a Brother printer. Now my parents could do some serious text processing and I think the first address spreadsheets were created, probably using Lotus123?
Pretty soon we had a regular computer, running an early DOS version, with WordPerfect: easy to use when creating school reports. I also spent many hours trying to keep my Prince of Persia alive! My dad was able to convince his work that he needed a laptop, so a clunky, bunky Toshiba came into the house: so awesome!
However, after the ZX Spectrum+ was relegated to a box, I did not pick up programming again, at least, not until – during a year in Edinburgh, Scotland – I decided that with GeoCities, I too could create my own website:
Looking back, today I have absolutely no fear of computers or their peripherals. Weird screens or error messages? On a Mac with a smidgen of Linux knowledge: not a problem. A broken mobile phone? I’ll have a go myself first to see if I can get running again. Learning to program on the ZX Spectrum with its gummy keys gave me the confidence in and love for all things running on bits and bytes in zeros and ones.
Back in 1983/84. ↩︎
Powerful, yes, because I was in control of this machine. However my frustrations were very real as well, because I often was unable to finish a game or unable to copy the BASIC lines successfully to save and load my own games. ↩︎
I will have to search around my parents' attic to see if they have saved all the ZX Spectrum paraphernalia. Hopefully I can find the games and try to run it using my own tv! ↩︎
I think my dad spent a long weekend converting the ordinary ZX Spectrum to the more powerful ZX Spectrum+. I remember missing those funky gummy keys. We also briefly had a working MicroDrive, but it was so buggy, it never worked properly. ↩︎
That must have been around 1988/1989. ↩︎