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Education United Kingdom Hardware

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary 212

Posted by timothy
from the quick-someone-write-a-treacly-pop-song dept.
It's not just the TRS-80; new submitter sebt writes "ZX Spectrum, the microcomputer launched in 1982 by Sinclair Research (Cambridge, UK) turns 30 today. The launch of the machine is seen by many today as the inspiration for a generation of eager young programmers, software and game designers in the UK. The events surrounding its launch, notably Sinclair's well-known rivalry with Acorn, later helped to inspire the design of the ARM architecture and most recently the Raspberry PI (based on ARM), in an effort to reboot the idea of enthusiastic kid programmers first captured by the Spectrum and Acorn's BBC micro. Happy birthday Spec!"
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Sinclair ZX Spectrum 30th Anniversary

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  • by acidradio (659704) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:48PM (#39767773)

    I wonder if the "old" generation of microcomputers - the TRS80, the Sinclair, Commodore 64, Apple II - were more inspirational to young programmers and coders than what we have today. The old computers were all command line. You *had* to know what you were doing to make the thing do anything! You couldn't break it because you had to know how the thing worked to make it do anything! And there was a joy or satisfaction of "Hey, I made this machine do 'this', exactly how I wanted it to do it!" Today's PCs/Macs/pads? Anyone can pick one up, use it, maybe even cause a lot of damage with it but never understand the inner workings of it because all you had to do to make it go is click on some icon somewhere. There is no command line to use (at least that most users would choose to work with). You can become a proficient user of it but without some real digging you will have a hard time writing any kind of usable software for yourself, even as rudimentary as a "Hello, world".

    I liken it to giving a car to a starting driver. The Sinclair and other older microcomputers were like giving a kid a 20-yr old Honda Civic with a manual transmission. Slow, dependable, bland, hard to get in trouble with it, you have to know how to drive it to make it go, you can really get a feel for how the thing wants to drive. The newer, much more powerful computers of today could be like giving that same kid a Porsche - powerful, fast, stylish, easy to get in trouble with, easy to wreck at high speeds, you may never understand its inner-workings because they are too much to learn.

  • by maroberts (15852) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:53PM (#39767799) Homepage Journal

    in the UK probably used the Spectrums rival, the BBC Micro, as it had expansion ports, extension ROMs etc, it was used as the standard computing workhorse for both hobbyists and electronics labs around the country.

    Apple ][ was for people who wanted to become accountants.... :-)

  • by wmac1 (2478314) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:58PM (#39767819)

    The good thing about those computers was that

    - they left something for the owners to do, today you can get ready made software for almost every need
    - when you turned those computers you were in the programming interface, so that was in the focus and people would give a try to use it
    - Personal computers were the magic new things of that decade, people were still appreciating it. Nowadays a PC with 16G of RAM and a quad core CPU is "just another" computer and more of a commodity than magic
    - We loved to build things (like small electronic circuits, small programs) ourselves. Nowadays consumerism has taken everywhere. We just need to pay and buy.

  • by gstrickler (920733) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:00AM (#39767823)

    Different time, different limitations.

    I still say, give me a room full of Apple II's (preferable //e or IIgs) and eager students, and I'll give you room full of great developers. There is value in understanding how software interacts with hardware, something which has been missing in most programmers for a long time. That's not a new complaint, it existed in the mainframe and mini computer world before the microcomputer revolution. The pioneers of the micro revolution, the early adopters, etc broke that mold. But as operating systems and development environments have become more "friendly", much of that has fallen away.

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:22AM (#39767897)

    The bad thing about those computers was that

    - they left something for the owners to do, today you can get ready made software for almost every need, where as then if you needed a simple fucking 4 function calculator you needed to learn programming

    - when you turned those computers you were in the programming interface, and with no software you had no other choice

    - Personal computers were the magic new things of that decade, people were still cursing it. Nowadays a PC with 16G of RAM and a quad core CPU is "just another" computer and more of a commodity than some bullshit you needed a PHD to operate

    - Only a certain segment of nerds loved to build things (like small electronic circuits, small programs) ourselves. Nowadays consumerism has taken everywhere. We just need to pay and buy for them to encroach on our elitism

    Listen, I grew up with this batch of 30 year old computers, I love them, and I was inspired by them, but they were not magical boxes of imignation, they were devel boxes of fustration that took damn near 30 years for average people to be fully functional with. And frankly all the knowledge I gained as a child gave me fuck all nothing with modern computers, so what I can pull the zeropage address of a Apple II out of the top of my head, doesn't do me any good past 1990, neither does the programming techniques or basic operations, these computers may have inspired a generation of hard core nerds, but outside of that they had little or nothing in common with modern machines. ASM wont do a kid much good if they cant even make a spreadsheet now.

  • by lord_mike (567148) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:39AM (#39767943)

    I disagree. Fundamentals are ALWAYS important even if they aren't practical. While 6502 assembly isn't practical anymore, the experience you gained programming with it provided you a foundation for future skills that many of your peers might not have. That not only gives you a competitive advantage, it makes you into a better, smarter professional. You can play the piano without learning music theory, but you will be a much better pianist if you do take the time to learn the fundamentals of music. It's the same for computer science or information technology.

  • by Dot.Com.CEO (624226) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:09AM (#39768437)
    Sound was produced by the Z80 CPU on the Spectrum. That meant that you could not have a soundtrack in games because the processor would have to dedicate 100% of a given cycle to playing a sound. You could have a beep or two as soundeffects, but no soundtrack to speak of, unless the game was either very basic, or the programmer was very, very talented. For the life of me, I cannot think of another soundtrack except Manic Miner. Also, I had a ZX. Games on the C64 were much, much better looking than on the Spectrum. there was no comparison. The Spectrum had a near-fatal flow: you could not have a 8x8 square with more than two colours. So that meant that most games were two-coloured affairs - one colour for the background, another for the sprite, and even then you could have the colour clashing that made Spectrum gaming unique. Whatever the Spectrum's faults, this in my opinion was the biggest by far and since it was a hardware limitation, it meant that games simply could never be as nice looking as the competition.
  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:39AM (#39768529) Journal

    But you have to admit its nice to see the little guys that meant so much to so many actually get recognized. I remember how in the late 90s-early 00s all you would ever hear about on computing history was MSFT and Apple, maybe a little IBM. But many of us didn't have IBM or Mac money when we were kids so its nice to see Sinclair, Commodore, Tandy, Atari, BBC Micro, all the little guys that started so many of us down the road to a lifetime of computing.

    So while i never got to own a Sinclair (Like you I had a VIC) I'm sure that those that had the Sinclair enjoyed much time with it and love computers to this day thanks to it. So happy BDay Sinclair, here's to you and all the little guys that started us on the road of computing.

    As I said with the TRS while I'd love to be a teen again frankly i wouldn't trade our childhood for the teens of today with all these locked down cell phones and tablets, the teens of today I doubt will get a love of tinkering and tweaking that we got from our little guys.

  • by luther349 (645380) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:56AM (#39768595)
    80s computing will be missed by anyone who was lucky enough to be in it. back when users had control of there pcs. not what apple and microsoft and media company's think you should be allowed to do.
  • by TheMathemagician (2515102) on Monday April 23, 2012 @03:58AM (#39768607)
    Yes I think they were inspirational. I remember wanting to write a screen scrolling type Defender game on my Spectrum and learning Z80 machine code in order to do it. I couldn't afford an assembler though so I had to write out the programs in pseudo-code and manually look up their codes. It didn't seem a big deal at the time but it was immensely satisfying to actually produce a working program from a series of 8-bit numbers. I'm hoping the Raspberry Pi will do a similar job of stimulating young programming talent today.
  • There is a big shortage of people who know what a zeropage is now. I happen to work in Embedded software development and that sort of knowledge is vital (not the exact address, but the concept). It is hard to recruit people like me because we are few and far between.

  • by robthebloke (1308483) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:42AM (#39768957)

    Most Spectrum owners never programmed them, they just put cassette tapes in the player and typed LOAD"".

    That's 7 characters (including the space) more code than kids type these days.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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