PCW Reviews the Spectrum, May 1982


The BBC just pipped Sinclair to the post when it released the first UK colour home computer, the BBC Micro, in 1982, but it was the ZX Spectrum which stole the hearts and minds of the nation. Clive Sinclair was very much the Steve Jobs of the day, as evidenced by his quote from the review:

“We believe the BBC makes the best TV programmes – and that Sinclair makes the world’s best computers!”

You can read some more about the spectrum in a previous post

byte by byte

BASIC was pretty much the de facto language of the 80s home computer. Simple to learn, dog slow to run. To do anything really interesting with these little 8-bit beauties involved programming machine code. Instructions are inserted into the memory, byte by byte, then executed directly by the CPU. Whizzy fast. impossible to read.

Here we find a fine example of a machine-code listing from PCW. Take a good look at those long lists of numbers, and realise that getting a single one wrong means hours of debugging. Interestingly the author has included a rudimentary checksum for each line, which I presume would have made the process somewhat less painful – typing in listings was frequently a two person job, one to read out the list of numbers, the other to type them in. For pale and wan little boys, with no interest in fresh air and exercise, this was a perfect passtime.

SYS 24576 TO RUN

SYS 24576 TO RUN

The pac man war

In 1982 pac man was a phenomenon. It was the most popular arcade game by far, and hence generated a huge demand for versions to play at home. In the 80s enthusiasts in their bedrooms were the generators of much of the content, and to them, copyright, corporate branding and legal protection were unknowns – hence we saw numerous pac-man clones, some more accurate than others. However, even in 1982 it was apparent that video-gaming was to be a highly lucrative market, and as a result, a more ‘grown-up’ heavyweight approach to the scene emerged.

This news report is of a clash between mighty american titans Atari and Commodore, and caught in the cross-fire the plucky Brits Bug Byte, all over a little yellow circle who liked to eat dots.

PCW 25 November 1982

PCW 25 November 1982

This op-ed piece from Computer and Video Games puts it into some perspective.

Computer & Video Games October 1982

Computer & Video Games October 1982