Happy (Belated) Birthday Speccy!

It always takes me a while to catch up with things, but it was recently the 30th Birthday of the Sinclair Spectrum. Like many of a certain age, the Speccy was one of the computers on which I cut my teeth.  I was lucky enough to have been exposed to most of the popular home computers of the late 1970s and early 1980s by virtue of my first job and the fact I wrote articles for the computing magazines of the time.

I’d already bought a ZX81, and became the Z80 Machine code Guru for my employer – I was also writing books for Melbourne House on the Z80 based MSX machines – and the two worlds overlapped when I was asked by my employer to develop a way of extending the BASIC language of the Sinclair Spectrum to allow new commands to be added to the language.  I managed to deliver the goods – oddly enough around the same time a magazine article was published that detailed a similar approach to my own – and I added writing books on Spectrum Machine Code programming to my repetoire.

I also wrote a fair number of articles about programming and interfacing the Sinclair machines, designed interface cards for it for my employer, dabbled in a little light robotics, but rarely actually USED the machine for anything!  When I needed to write these articles and books I used my BBC Model B which had a proper keyboard.  How I hated that rubber monstrosity on the Spectrum – the later Spectrum 2 had a better keyboard and made life easier, but one still had to deal with the multi-function behaviour of the keys.  I think that that was the single biggest hitch with the Spectrum; had the ‘dead flesh’ keyboard just had ‘normal’ keyboard functionality, where you typed stuff in letter by letter, I think it would have been easier.

Still, I can’t grumble.  This was in the days when if you were good enough to write and have your material accepted by a publisher, you got paid for it.  This may seem something of a novelty these days when blogging and other forms of self-publishing seem to have ripped the heart out of traditional (OK, paid!) technical writing, but those magazine cheques of £40 or £50 went a long way!

I think that the Spectrum was one of two machines I bought (the other being an Amstrad 6128) that actually paid for themselves from my writing.  That immediately makes the Spectrum special to me.  I also learnt a HELL of a lot from it about low level programming, hardware interfacing, robotics and the Zen like patience needed to manage that keyboard and a tape recorder for saving and loading programs…..

Funnily enough, 30 years later, I spent several hours in my current day job looking at an interfacing problem involving a PIC Microcontroller.  And the solution I eventually suggested was one that I dragged up from my Spectrum interfacing days….

0 thoughts on “Happy (Belated) Birthday Speccy!

  1. Have recently owned your book msx exposed and read it several times. A huge fan of your writing. I have been searching for your other book regarding machine code for msx but in vain.
    Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your work and the insights it has brought to my knowledge of the machine. Thank you.

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