Your Ups and Downs at the touch of a button

Since the dawn of personal computing there has been the Biorhythms program. Desparate for something to show to the powerful computational power [and perhaps the graphics too] of your new machine, we would dutifully type in the program which would map our physical, emotional and intellectual ‘cycles’ so we could explain away our miserable mood swings. A pointless and scientifically unfounded exercise, but one that may result in some pretty graphs on the screen.

Here is a dedicated device for calculating these meaningless equations. Type in your birthdate and be instantly rewarded with three LED integers, use these numbers to explain to your mum why you haven’t tidied your bedroom, not done your homework, or why you need a sick-note to get of PE this week – worth every penny of £19.95

red light indicates critical period

red light indicates critical period

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

Sinclair ZX Spectrum from only £125!

It seems many of the visitors to retrogeek are spectrum enthusiasts, for your delictation here is the original 2-page spread advert from 1982. Notable not only for the hyperbole of the descriptions, but also the glamorous assistant shown squelching his way into the world-of-tomorrow on his tiny rubber keyboard.

Also of note is the ‘coming soon’ ZX Microdrive, a strange early storage device with a loop of cassette tape stuffed into a plastic cartridge. Holding up to 100k with a seek time of 3.5 seconds it promised simplicity and speed, but delivered tangled tape, data-loss and despair.

ZX Microdrive

ZX Microdrive